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Bible Commentaries

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

John 6

Verses 1-13


The Passover Of The Jews, And The Manna Of The Jews. The Passover Of Christ, And Christ The Manna From Heaven. Miracle Of Feeding In The Wilderness. Miracle Of The Flight And Escape Over The Sea, Wherein Christ Withdraws Himself From The Chiliastic Enthusiasm Of Earthly-Minded Admirers, And Hastens To The Help Of His Disciples. Decisive Declaration Of Christ. Offence Of His Galilean Admirers And Many Of His Disciples At His Refusing To Give Them Bread In The Sense Of Their Chiliasm, And Presenting Himself In His Spirit With His Flesh And Blood As The Bread Of Life.

John 6:1-43.6.65

(John 6:1-43.6.15, Pericope for Lætare Sunday. Parallels: Matthew 14:0; Mark 6:14-41.6.56; Luke 9:7-42.9.17; John 6:1-43.6.21.)

1.The Miraculous Feeding

1After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. 2And a great multitude followed him, because they saw1 his [the]2 miracles which he did on them that were diseased. 3And Jesus went up into a [the] mountain, and there he sat with his disciples. 4And the passover, a [the] feast [ἡ ξορτή] of the Jews, was high. 5When Jesus then lifted up his [the] eyes, and saw a great company come [coming] unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall [are we to]3 we buy bread 6that these may eat? And [But] this he said to prove him [proving him, πειράζων αὐτόν]: for he himself knew what he would do [was going to do]. Philip answered him, Two hundred penny-worth [denâries’-worth]4 of bread is not sufficient for them,that every one of them [each one]5 may take a little. 8One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him, 9There is a [one]6 lad here, which [who] 10hath five barley-loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? And [omit And]7 Jesus said, Make the men sit [lie] down. Now there was much11grass in the place. So the men sat [lay] down8 in number about five thousand. And Jesus [therefore]9 took the loaves: and when he had given thanks, he distributed (to the disciples, and the disciples)10 to them that were set [were lying]down; and likewise [in like manner] of the fishes, as much as they would [desired]. 12When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that13remain [over], that nothing [may] be lost. Therefore [So] they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the [omit the] fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.

2. The Miraculous Withdrawal Over The Sea

14Then those [the] men, when they had seen [seeing] the miracle [sign] that Jesus [he]11did, said, This is of a truth [truly, ἀληθῶς] that [the, ὁ] Prophet that should come [is coming, or, is to come] into the world. 15When Jesus therefore perceived [Jesus therefore, knowing] that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed [withdrew] again12into a [the] mountain himself alone.

16And [But]when even was now come [when evening came], his disciples wentdown unto the sea [or, lake]13 17and entered into a ship, and went [having entered a ship, they were going] over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark18[darkness had now come on], and Jesus was not [yet]14 come to them. And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew [And as a strong wind was blowing, 19the sea began to rise]. So when [When therefore] they had rowed [in vain] about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see [behold] Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid. 20But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid.

21Then they willingly received him [they were willing to take him]15into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went [were going].

3. Decisive Declaration Of Christ, And Offence Of Many Disciples

22The day following, when [omit when]16the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw17that there was none [no] other boat there, save that one [but one], whereinto his disciples were entered [omit wherein to his disciples were entered],18 and that Jesus went not with his disciples into the boat, but that his disciples were gone [went] away alone [so that they for a time supposed that Jesus was still somewhere in their23vicinity]; (Howbeit [And though the disciples had been seen to go away without Jesus] there came other boats [among which they might have returned] from Tiberias nigh unto [near] the place where they did eat [ate the] bread, after that [when] theLord had given thanks:)1924When the people therefore saw [at last perceived] that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they also20 took shipping [they themselves21 entered into the boats] and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus.

25And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him,Rabbi, when camest thou hither? 26Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the [omit the] miracles [signs], but because ye did eat [ate] of the loaves, and were filled.

27Labour not [Work not, Busy not yourselves] for the meat [food] which perisheth, but for that meat [the food] which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give [giveth]22 unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed [for him hath the Father sealed, even God].

28Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might [may] work the works of God? 29Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath [omit hath] sent. 30They said therefore unto him, What sign showest [doest] thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? whatdost thou work? 31Our fathers did eat [ate] manna in the desert [wilderness]; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ [Psalms 78:24.]

32Then said Jesus unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that [the] bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread fromheaven. 33For the bread of God is he [that] which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. 34Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.

35And23Jesus [therefore] said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me, shall never [not]24hunger; and he that believeth on me, shall never thirst.36But I said unto you, That ye also [omit also] have [even] seen me,25 and believe not. 37All that the Father giveth me, shall [will] come to me; and him that comethto me, I will in no wise cast out. 38For I came down [have, or, am come down, καταβέβηκα] from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.39And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me [the will of him that sent me],26hat of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up 40again at the last day. And [For]27this is the will of him that sent me [the will of my Father],28 that every one which seeth [who looketh on] the Son, and believeth on [in] him, may [should] have everlasting life: and I will [and that I should] raise him up at the last day.

41The Jews then [therefore] murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. 42And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith [how then doth this man say],29 I came [have come] down from heaven? 43Jesus therefore answered44and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. No man [no one] can come to me, except the Father which hath sent [who sent] me draw him: and I will45[shall] raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall be all taught of God’ (Isaiah 54:13). Every man therefore30 that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father [or, that heareth from the Father and learneth],31 cometh unto me. 46Not that any man [one] hath seen the Father, save he which is of God [but he who is from God], he hath seen the Father. 47Verily, verily, I sayunto you, He that believeth on me32 hath everlasting life. 48I am that [the] bread of life. 49Your fathers did eat [ate the] manna in the wilderness, and are dead [died].50This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof,and not die. 51I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man [one] eat of this [of my] bread,33he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give34 for the life of the world.—

52The Jews therefore strove [contended] among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? 53Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except [Unless] ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his 54blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso [He that] eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will [shall] raise him up at the last day. 55For my flesh is meat indeed [true food, ἀληθὴς βρῶσις],35and my blood is drink indeed 58[true drink, ἀληθὴς πόσις]. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood,dwelleth in me, and I in him. 57As the living Father hath [omit hath] sent me, and I live by [by reason of, or, because of] the Father: [even] so he that eateth me, evenhe shall live by. [by reason of] me. 58This is that [the] bread which came down from heaven: not as your [the] fathers did eat [ate] manna,36 and are dead [died]: he that eateth of this bread shall [will] live forever.

59These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught [while teaching] in Capernaum.

60Many therefore of his disciples [themselves], when they heard this, said, This is anhard saying [This saying is hard];37 who can hear it? 61When Jesus knew [But Jesus knowing] in himself that his disciples murmured at it [were murmuring at this],62he said unto them, Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see [What then if ye should behold] the Son of man ascend up [ascending, ἀναβαίνοντα] where he was before? 63It is the Spirit that quickeneth [giveth life]; the flesh profiteth nothing:38 the words that I speak [have spoken, λελάληκα]39 unto you, they [omit they] arespirit, and they [omit they] are life. 64But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who 65[it was, τίς ἐστιν, that] should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you [For this cause I have told you], that no man can come unto me except it were [be] given unto him of my Father.

1. The Miraculous Feeding


See the parallels in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and the comments in the first two vols.

[The double miracle of the feeding of the multitude, and the stilling of the tempest, is the only miracle which John has in common with all the Synoptists (Luke alone omits the stilling of the tempest). But he relates it chiefly as the occasion and basis of a lengthy discourse of Jesus, which is omitted by the other evangelists, and which brings out the symbolical meaning of the miraculous feeding. He represents Himself here as the Bread of Life, as in the 4th chap. He exhibits Himself as the Water of Life. Thousands upon thousands in all ages and countries of the world have satisfied their spiritual hunger by feeding on Him, and yet He remains to this day, and will remain to the end of time the same inexhaustible source of supply. The miraculous feeding bears also a striking resemblance to the miracle of the change of water into wine in chap. 2. The nearness of the typical paschal feast (John 6:4) gives the discourse a bearing on the great paschal sacrifice of the Lamb of God for the life of the world. Chap. 4. develops the national unbelief or false belief in the people of Galilee, as chap. 5 reveals the national unbelief of the leaders in Judea; but both chapters bring out the crisis. Alford says: “In chap. 5 Christ is the Son of God, testified to by the Father, received by faith, rejected by unblief; here He is the Son of Man, the incarnate Life of the World, and the unbelief of the Jews and His own disciples is set in strong contrast with the feeding on Him as the Bread of Life.” But He is this Bread of Life by virtue of His descent from heaven, as the incarnate Son of God, and by sacrificing His flesh and blood, i.e., His whole human life on earth, in holy obedience and atoning suffering for the life of the world. The discourse of the sixth chap. bears the same relation to the Lord’s Supper as the discourse with Nicodemus (chap, 3) does to baptism, i.e., it expresses the general idea which precedes and underlies the sacramental rite as subsequently instituted. See remarks on John 6:27 and the Excursus at the close of the Exeg. Notes.—P. S.]

The history of the miracle. The time, place, and essential features are those of the first of the two miraculous feedings which Jesus performed (Matthew 14:13; Mark 6:30; Luke 9:10. See the Comm. on Matt.). The historical connection of it in John is not, as Meyer asserts [p. 249], different from that in the synoptical Gospels. In John the miracle is preceded by a voyage over the sea to the eastern side from the vicinity of Tiberias, and followed by the miraculous walking upon the sea. In Matthew also Jesus “departed by ship into a desert place,” because Herod had executed John and was curious to see Jesus; and the feeding is followed by the walking on the sea. In Mark it is further specified that the sending out of the twelve, in other words Christ’s setting out towards Jerusalem (to the feast of Purim), had occurred shortly before, and that the apostles had just gathered themselves together again to Jesus. The order is exactly the same in Luke, though Luke gives not the walking on the sea.—The single external difference, therefore, in regard to the cause of the voyage is, that John gives the attempts to ensnare Jesus in Jerusalem as the cause of His return to Galilee, and the synoptical Evangelists mention the more immediate occasion of His going over the lake, to wit: Herod’s intention to bring Jesus before him. The two motives are manifestly akin, and might easily coexist. See Com. on Matt., chap. 14.

John 6:1. After these things Jesus went away over the sea of Galilee.—[Με τὰταῦτα, i.e., after the transactions related in chap. 5. Christ probably returned to Galilee soon after the feast of Purim (John 5:1), which took place in March, and performed this miracle between the feast of Purim and the next passover, which was celebrated a month later, but which Jesus did not attend for the reason mentioned in John 7:1. He continued in Galilee till the feast of Tabernacles, which occurred in October, and which He attended (John 7:1-43.7.2; John 7:10). This gives us seven consecutive months in Galilee during this year, including the last month of the first and six months of the second (or, third, according to the view taken of the ἑορτή in John 5:1, see remarks there) of our Lord’s public ministry. John relates in chap. 6 only the most salient events of this period, and takes much for granted and well understood from other sources.—P. S.]

Ἀπῆλθεν is not to be referred, as by Baumgarten and Meyer, to the departure of Jesus from Jerusalem.40After the return of Jesus to Galilee, which of course took place very soon after the feast of Purim, since Jesus was no longer safe in Judea, one more circumstance came in, which the synoptical Evangelists record (see Leben Jesu, II. 2, p. 779). Yet Tholuck groundlessly supposes a long intervening ministry in Galilee, because the passover came not long after the feast of Purim, and the passover was now just at hand (John 6:4).41 Meyer disputes the view of Brückner and earlier interpreters, that the ἀπῆλθεν must be referred to some place in Galilee, and the view of Paulus, that the genitive,τῆς Τιβερ., indicates that He crossed the sea from Tiberias;42 following John 5:1, the phrase must amount to: ἀπολιπὼν Ιεροσόυμα ἦλθε πέραν. This is undoubtedly right so far as it represents the crossing of the sea as occasioned by the experiences in Jerusalem; and John also calls the sea of Galilee in John 21:1, θάλασα τῆς Τιβεριάδος, after the manner of the Greeks (λίμνη Τιβερίς, Pausan. v. 7, 3). But in the verse before us the first designation, τῆς Ταλλαίας, certainly was not necessary in addition to the second; for any one would understand the second, though it differed from the expression of the synoptical Evangelists (Matthew 4:18). The second designation, therefore, must be taken as an additional specification.43 Thus large seas often have particular names from particular districts on their coasts; the Bodensee is also the Lake of Constance, and the Vierwaldstätter See, or Lake of the Four Forest Cantons, the Lake of Lucerne. After all is said, the Evangelist of course does not intend to make the Lord embark at Jerusalem. And the interest which Herod Antipas was just now taking in the appearance of Christ, and the Lord’s own rapid escape, as well as the straggling ships from Tiberias mentioned immediately after (John 6:23), imply that Christ embarked from the part of the coast about Tiberias. Respecting the lake, see note on Mat 4:18.44

We must further consider that if Jesus, returning from Jerusalem, wished to pass as soon as possible over the sea, He must rather sail from the region of Tiberias, than from Capernaum.
Respecting the eastern coast (Matt. chap. 14) comp. von Raumer’s Palästina, p. 60 and 205 sqq. “The ancient Bashan, about the time of Christ, embraced five provinces: Gaulanitis, Trachonitis, Auranitis, Batanæa, and Ituræa. Gaulanitis corresponded nearly to the present Tsholan, and lay between the upper Jordan, the sea of Tiberias, and the lower Mandhur.” The eastern shores of the sea (chalk, interspersed with basalt) rise to a height of from eight hundred to a thousand feet, and spread into a table-land cut up with wadys; the western mountains are about half as high. The eastern coast was an asylum for the Lord on account of its solitude, and on account of its being under the jurisdiction of Philip, a son of Herod the Great, and a mild prince, who after his father’s death had become tetrarch of Batenæa, Gaulanitis, Trachonitis, and Paneas. He died childless at Julias, A. D. 34, and his dominions were attached to the province of Syria (not to be confounded with the Philip whose wife Herodias was married to Herod Antipas; see on Matt. chap. 14.)

Tiberias.—A city in Galilee, and in the most beautiful part of it, on the western shore of the lake, south of the middle, oil a narrow plain (Joseph. Antiq. xix. 8, 1; xviii. 2, 3), a then modern, Herodian city of Palestine, adorned with a royal palace and a race-course, inhabited mostly by heathens, named by Herod Antipas in honor of the emperor Tiberius. Herod seems to have usually resided here; and this, according to Bachiene, was the reason why Jesus never visited this city. From Herod Antipas to the accession of Herod Agrippa II., it was the capital of the province. Fishing and lake transportation were the chief employment of the inhabitants. After the dissolution of the Jewish state, for several centuries, it was the seat of a renowned Jewish school (Lightfoot), and one of the four sacred cities of the Jews. In the vicinity, at the village of Emmaus, were warm baths (sulphur, salt, iron; medicinal). Some, without sufficient reason, identify the place with Cinneroth (Joshua 19:35, belonging to the tribe of Naphtali), with Hammath (Ibid.), and with Rakkath (Ibid.). Now Tabaria, with about three thousand inhabitants, Jews. An earthquake in the year 1837. See Von Schubert III, 233, Robinson III, 500. [Boston ed. of 1856, vol. II, 380–394. Robinson describes the present town, called in Arabic Tûbarîyeh, as “the most mean and miserable place” in Palestine, “a picture of disgusting filth and frightful wretchedness.” It suffered much from an earthquake in 1837, when about 700 persons died out of a population of 2500.—P. S.]

John 6:2. And a great multitude followed him.—It seems not to be a multitude which has just now gathered (ἠκολούθει); it possibly consisted in part of the remnants of the Galilean caravan returning from the feast of Purim, but certainly for the most part of the beginnings of the Passover caravan; without doubt Galileans. Many might have attached themselves to the returning disciples, who also wrought miracles. Yet the text implies that new miracles of the Lord, performed on the western shore, were the particular attraction.

John 6:3. Into the mountain.—This standing phrase is accounted for (1) by the character of the Palestinian landscape, affording every where heights on which Christ could withdraw from intercourse with the people in the plain; (2) by the Lord’s habit of retiring upon a mountain; (3) by a symbolical view which has insensibly connected itself with this habit: taking the solitude of a high mountain for the stillness of prayer. The region is more particularly stated by Luke (John 9:10); it was near the eastern Bethsaida in Gaulanitis.

John 6:4. And the passover, the feast of the Jews, was nigh.—The feast, i.e, the principal feast. The passover of the same year, 782. Lücke groundlessly supposes that Jesus attended this feast. The absence from the principal feasts was nothing inconceivable, as may be inferred from the questions in John 7:11; John 11:56. (Paulus, contrary to the usage of the language, John 2:13; John 12:2., etc., renders: not long past.) [The nearness of the passover accounts for the multitude of people ready for a journey to Jerusalem, and suggested in part the subject of the following discourse on the sacrifice of Christ’s life for the life of the world, which was typically foreshadowed in the Jewish passover.—P. S.]

John 6:5. A great company come unto him.—Meyer: “It was a new company [pilgrims to the festival], not that of John 6:2, which had followed Him on His way to the sea.” The contrary is plainly stated by the synoptical Gospels, Matthew 14:13; Mark 6:33; Luke 9:11. According to Lampe, Bruno Bauer, Baur, and Luthardt [Hengstenberg], the subsequent discourse of Jesus concerning the eating of His blood relates to the passover, and reveals the antitype of that type. Meyer disputes this, because the discourse lacks the slightest hint of it. Some hint, however, lies in the very choice of the striking terms and in the subsequent words of institution.

To Philip.—To this disciple the question must have been a peculiar test. See the note on John 1:45. It is possible, however, that Philip was the one who first solicited the Lord to send the people away, Matthew 14:15.—According to Bengel, Philip had charge of the res alimentaria. Meyer urges against this that Judas was the treasurer [John 13:29], which is not a sufficient reason; with better reason he refers also to the individuality of Philip, as exhibited in John 14:8, which, however, he calls verstandesmässig [jejune and calculating, and somewhat skeptical, like Thomas. Chrysostom also infers from John 19:8, that Philip was weaker in faith or tardier in spiritual apprehension than the rest. Alford takes the circumstance as simple matter of fact, implying perhaps that he was nearest the Lord, at the moment .—P. S.] John’s omission of the circumstance that Jesus had previously been teaching this multitude and healing their sick (see on Matt.), making the Lord ask immediately: “Whence shall we buy bread [ἀγοράσωμεν, conjunct. deliberat.]?” is of course only an abridgment of the history sustained by many examples (see John 6:1; Lücke, Neander), not a difference, as Meyer holds, nor a sign of defective testimony, according to Baur. By the circumstance that Andrew had already made the acquaintance of a baker’s errand boy, or bread vender in the caravan, John himself indicates that the scene did not occur abruptly. Also by the aorists. [John represents the Lord as first suggesting the question how to feed the multitude; the Synoptists relate that the disciples came to the Lord and asked Him to dismiss the multitude from this desert place into the villages where they might buy themselves food. John’s narrative is abridged. But in every important point the agreement is complete. See the remarks of Alford in loc.—P. S.]

John 6:6. To prove him.—Plainly a test of faith; which Meyer without reason denies, and then himself confirms; Philip must be more ready to experience the power of faith. But it was also a test of love which the disciples stood bitter than the test of faith. [For he himself knew.—Jesus did not need the counsel of Philip.—P. S.]

John 6:7. Two hundred denaries’ worth.—A hundred denâries were equivalent to about fourteen dollars and a half. Comp. on Mark 6:37. Grotius supposes, this was the contents of the treasury. John represents it as the prompt calculation of the quick-minded Philip. The representation in Mark is not inconsistent with this; yet seems to imply that the disciples are ready to apply all their fund to the feeding of the people. Yet, according to Philip, even the high estimate of two hundred denâries would not suffice.

John 6:8. Andrew … saith unto him.—Here again, as in John 12:22, Andrew appears near Philip and in like manner in an act of friendly interest and assistance.—Andrew seems to be a master in mediation and advice, John 1:40 sqq., and John 12:22. On that other occasion also he supplements Philip. But why is it said: “One of His disciples?” Wassenbergh considers the apparently superfluous and disturbing words to be a gloss. But John intends to mark that it was one of the disciples who first, though with trembling heart, directed his eye to that little store with which Jesus wrought the miracle.

John 6:9. There in one here. ΙΙ αιδάριονἕν. One little boy; one young slave; one little apprentice.45 The last, most likely a bread vender or sutler accompanying the caravan. The sense is: there is only one little trader here, and he has only so much.

Barley-loaves.—The food of the poorer classes. Tr. Pesachim [fol. III. 2]: “Rabbi Johannan said the barley is fine. He was answered: say this to horses and asses [nuntia hoc equis et asinis].” Two small fishes.—O̓ψάριον [Lat. opsonium], a diminutive of ὅψον [from ὀπτάω, or ἔψω, to cook, to roast], any thing cooked or roasted, to go as a relish with bread (προσφάγιον): generally fish [little fish], as here. [Of later Greek usage. In the New Testament ὀψάριον is peculiar to John who employs it five times (John 6:9; John 6:11; John 20:9-43.20.10; John 20:13). The Synoptists use here the word ἰχθύες.—P. S.]

John 6:10. Much grass in the place.—A mark of the eastern spring about the time of the passover.46 [After the rainy season.]—The men. Constituting, no doubt, according to the idea of the festival caravans, the great mass. They appear here as heads of families, around whom in many cases women and children were grouped. [οἱἅνδρες, a touch of accuracy; the men alone were arranged in companies and numbered, while the women and children were served promiscuously. (See Meyer and Alford in loc.) According to Mark the multitude reclined on the green pasture ground by parties or in groups of hundreds and fifties. They probably formed two semicircles, an outer semicircle of 30 hundreds, and an inner semicircle of 40 fifties. A wise symmetrical arrangement for the easy and just distribution of the food.—P. S.]

John 6:11. Given thanks.—Matthew 14:19. According to the best authorities, the distribution by the disciples, which is in the Textus Rec. supplied here from Matthew, is left by John to be supposed. See the Textual Note.

[Εὐχαριστήσας, for which the other Evangelists use εὐλογεῖν, is in accordance with the blessing or grace of the father of a Jewish family at meals, and has here a special bearing on the miracle. John describes the distribution (διέδωκε τοῖς ) as being the act of Christ, without, however, excluding the intervention of the disciples as mentioned by Matthew, Mark and Luke. John 6:11 is the place for the miracle, but the exact moment and manner of its performance eludes the grasp of the senses. It must have taken place immediately after the prayer of Christ as He distributed the bread through the apostles to the eaters. The evangelists show their good sense in omitting a description of what is indescribable. Augustine’s and Olshausen’s ingenious idea of a divinely hastened process of nature (to which must be added an accelerated process of art, or the combined labors of the reaper, miller and baker, by which wheat or barley is changed into bread) does not help the understanding of the matter, and has only the value of an analogy. We cannot conceive, philosophically, of supernaturally, yet visibly growing loaves, and of supernaturally growing or multiplying fishes. A miracle, like the primitive creation, can only be apprehended by faith, which, is the organ of the supernatural. It is, indeed, not a strictly creative act by which things non-existing are called into existence, for a miracle is always performed on matter already existing, but it is as great and difficult as a creative act, and is produced by the same divine power which, in one case, originates nature, and, in the other, acts from above and beyond nature upon (not against) nature. Comp. my notes on the miracle at Cana, chap. 2, pp. 106 f., 109 f., and the notes on Matthew pp. 267.—P. S.]

John 6:12. The gathering of the fragments here appears as directed by the Lord. [A lesson of economy, which is consistent with the greatest liberality. “Make all you can, sate all you can, give all you can.” κλάσμαα (from κλάω, to break, as fragments from frango), broken pieces, not crumbs. More fragments were left than the original supply of five loaves, which would not have filled five baskets.—P. S.]

John 6:13. Filled twelve baskets with the fragments.—[Probable reference to the twelve apostles, each of whom gathered the fragments and brought his basket full. Basket, the ordinary furniture of a travelling Jew for carrying his food. Some commentators refer the number to the twelve tribes of Israel as the type of the church which is fed by the bread of life to, the end of time.—P. S.] Meyer urges that the twelve baskets were filled only with the fragments of the bread, and adds: Mark 6:43, states otherwise. Yet he would conceive the miracle only as a creative act, which operates here on quantity, as it operated on quality in the changing of the water into wine.


1. On the miracle and the different explanations of it, see the Com. on Matt., chap. 14. [Am. ed., pp. 266, 268, where the rationalistic, the mythical, the symbolic, and the orthodox views of the miracle are fully noticed. Comp. also my remarks on John 6:11 (p. 210), and Prof. van Oosterzee in the Com. on Luke, p. 146.—P. S.] Not simply “a miracle of satisfying would Lange consider it,” as Tholuck inaccurately states. [Dr. Lange admits an actual increase of the substance and nourishing quality of the bread by a power which went forth from the Logos, but assumes at the same time a modal or mystic medium in a corresponding moral and religious disposition awakened by Christ among the eaters, so that it was a heavenly feast of the soul as well as a literal meal for the body. See his remarks below, and in Matthew, p. 267, also his Leben Jesu, III. p. 786, where he says: “Christ fed the people with His bread, His faith, His divine power and the blessing of His love.”—P. S.] Meyer: “A creative act.” But we have here, by all means, a miracle of the Son, the Redeemer, not an absolutely creative act [ex nihilo]. If we know what creative is, we also know that all the days of creation were applied to it, till there was first the herb, not to say bread; therefore (1) a miracle of the increase of force in the element of divine power; then (2) of the increase of substance in the element of love; the whole being (3) a miracle of the heavenly kingdom, in which one fares very ill if he leaves the heart out of account.

2. In John this miracle gains a peculiar significance from its relation to the miracle of the turning of water into wine. Wine and bread. It receives further light from the history which follows.

[3. The miracle of the miraculous feeding an illustration of the truth that Christ is the bread of eternal life to His people in the “desert place” of this world, on their journey to the “feast” of the heavenly Jerusalem. In this spiritual sense the miracle is continued from day to day. On its relation to the Lord’s Supper, see the Excursus at the close of the Exegesis of this passage.—P. S.]


See the Com. on Matthew, Mark, and Luke, on this passage.
Jesus hastens from the tribunal of the Jews away beyond the sea into the mountain of God.—So the pious heart has a right to betake itself, from the pain which legalistic jealousy has ready for it in human schools and temples, to the great temple of God. (But to find refuge and elevation in nature is one thing, and to run wild in nature is another.)—Over the sea and upon the mountain: the great, bold course of Christ: In His life; in history; in the leading of His people.—The passover-feast, the passover-journey, and the passover-sermon of Christ before the passover of the Jews; the Lord ever in advance of His people. (The whole chapter.)—The trial of Philip’s faith.—What he saw, and what he did not see.—The character of Philip.—The arithmetic of Philip and the arithmetic of the Lord.—In the reckoning of men there is always a deficit, in the reckoning of Christ there is always a surplus.—How the Lord has led His apostles to interest themselves even in the bodily wants of men.—How He has trained His ministers and messengers to care also for the poor and sick.—The sentiment of Andrew, compared with the sentiment of Philip. (The one would begin with much, the other seems at least inclined to begin with little.)—How in a Christian consultation we gradually come nearer the right.—The little bread vender; Christ founds His great miracle on a small, every day incident.—“Make the men sit (lie) down:” a word of perpetual application.—When once a Christian people sit down together in peace and quietness, then the Lord works His wonders.—So He still works His miracle when the people sit down at His bidding (in the church, at the holy Supper, etc.).—Christ’s giving of thanks, the seal of His confidence.—The wonder-working table-blessing of Christ.—The divine miracles of faith at the supper in the desert.—The miraculous feeding; miraculous 1, in the sitting down of the people at the bidding of Christ; 2, in the thanksgiving of Christ before the feeding; 3, in the distribution and breaking of the bread according to the appetite of all; 4, in the satisfaction of all; 5, in the surplus (more at the end than at the beginning).—Even the superfluity of God we should carefully economize.—The effect of the miraculous feeding on those who were fed: 1. Their true interpretation (that this is that Prophet, i.e., the Messiah); 2, their false application of it (desiring to make Him a king to their mind).—The Lord must withdraw Himself as often from the homage of men, as from their persecution.—Christ escaped to the mountain, and He alone: 1, the humble One, who offers up to the Father His miracle-working blessing; 2, the self-possessed One, whom no fanaticism of men excites; 3, the exalted One, above the ambition of the world; 4, the holy One, who mingles not His affairs with human doings.—“They would make him a king:” in the midst of this temptation, in which nobles fall by thousands, He stands erect, because He is the King.

Starke: Hedinger: God uses all sorts of means, most rarely curiosity, for the conversion of sinners.—The nearer a feast, the more the children of God seek to dress their hearts for Him; they keep the feast in honor of Him.—Jesus is so high that He can overlook all His children, and can know what each one wants.—Cramer: The Lord cares for all, and is kind even to the unthankful.—Nova Bibl. Tub.: It is the weakness of our unbelieving heart, that, in our necessities, we always consider only their greatness and the slenderness of the means of relief, and not the infinite wisdom, power, and goodness of God. If we have possessions, we have heart; but lack of money brings lack of faith.—Quesnel: We sin as well when we think that God will pass by the ordinary means of His providence as when we limit the providence of God to outward means.—Zeisius: Christ can make bread in the desert, and abundance in want.—Canstein: Whenever we eat, we ought to pray and thank God.—Cramer: Every creature, and therefore food, is sanctified by prayer and the word of God, 1 Timothy 4:5.—Happy are those ministers of the word who receive from the Lord what they deliver to their hearers.—He to whom God in trusts temporal blessings, should not keep them to himself, but share them with others.—To eat and be filled, is the blessing of God; and to eat and not be filled, is His curse, Hag. 1:16.—Osiander: The common mass is unintelligent; now it will exalt one to heaven, and soon after it will thrust the same one down to hell. Let no one intrust himself to the favor of the multitude.—Hedinger: In the beginning of illumination, in the first glow, a man usually falls to extravagant undertakings, not according to the rule of divine prudence.—Zeisius: Flee, according to the example of thy Saviour, from that which the world, with its carnal mind, holds high, and seek that which is above.—Gossner: Jesus purposely caused the bread to pass through the hands of the disciples, that they might grasp it in their hands, who in their unbelief had seen it to be too little.

Braune: The creative power of God which every year makes much grow from little, the harvest from the seed, even to superabundance, here also works. As it wrought in the beginning of the world, and works yearly in secret, here it comes forth openly.—The gathering frugality, which saves at the right time, belongs to the art of beneficence.—Jesus is the Redeemer from the sin which man loves, from the devil in whom man does not believe, from the death of which man does not think, from the hell which man does not fear; therefore He is not a Redeemer for all. Were He but a Redeemer from hunger and from labor for a living (by means of material abundance), then He would be acceptable to all. The people wished to make Him a king; He was to be their work; they wished to have their hand in everything, even where they did not understand, and nothing should have honor which they did not give,—not even Jesus, the Prophet, the Messiah.—Lisco: Philip and Andrew both looked at the visible; the one at the insufficient money, the other at the insufficient food.

Heubner: The power of Jesus to draw men to Himself. The power to do good draws more than the power to punish.—Unbelief everywhere looks at the small means and the feeble power. But God can accomplish much with little.—The purpose and the wonderful help of God are ever revealing themselves to the astonishment and shame of unbelief.—Jesus has regard for order and division, by means of orderly arrangement the multitude was easily viewed. So everywhere in the kingdom of God. Men are divided, every one in his place.—In the hand of Jesus everything becomes blessing.—The disciples were hodmen of Jesus; and so are we.—To cover political plans under the cloak of religion, is scandalous abuse of religion.—The Christian should strive to keep clear of worldly distinction.

John 6:1-43.6.15, the pericope for Lætare Sunday. How Jesus performs His miracles: 1. With holy design. 2. In love, only to relieve the actual stress of want and suffering. 3. With divine power. 4. With quietness and dignity. 5. With earnest precaution.

Schleiermacher: The Lord even feeds and nourishes those who truly gather round Him.—Draeseke: It is not we that make Him king, but He that makes us kings, because citizens in His kingdom.—Reinhard; Thoughts on the constancy with which Jesus holds to the great end of His life.—Marheineke: The Christian insolitude.—Greiling: We should learn from Jesus to do much with little.—Schultz: On the earthly blessing which God diffuses among men. Schuderoff: The earthly mind always miscalculates.—Lisco: The gospel for the day, a history of the feeding, seems to have been appointed for this Sunday47 not so much on account of the incidental remark that “the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh,” as because Jesus was called by the people, whom He had miraculously fed, “the Prophet that should come into the world;” for it is plainly the design of the last three Sundays of Lent to hold before us the threefold office of our Mediator, the suffering Jesus, as Christ: Prophet, Priest, and King.—Ibid: In Christ is full satisfaction for us.—The behaviour of Jesus towards weak and insincere friends: 1. He condescended to the necessities of their weakness. 2. He avoided their well-meant, but impure homage.—Bachmann: How urgently the Lenten season invites us take the bread of life.—Ahlfeld: The Lord makes everything come out gloriously: (1) Where man is at his wits’ end, (2) God goes right on.—Kraussold: Our daily bread a guide-board to heaven—Ibid.: How faithfully the Lord cares for His people.—Rautenberg: The eating of the bread from heaven: (1) How it is performed; (2) how much it includes.—Ibid.: Christ’s kingdom is not of this world: This (1) brings Him suffering in this world; (2) draws my heart from this world; (3) remains my comfort, when all things fail—Harless: The need, which receives the blessing of the Lord: 1. The need. 2. The testing. 3. The confirming. 4. The blessing.—Rautenberg: The miracle at the table of the Lord: 1. The love which prepares the table. 2. The food which it offers. 3. The satisfaction which it gives.—Jaspis: Jesus, ever the helper of the poor.—J. J. Rambach: The victory of faith in the exigencies of life.—Ahlfeld: How goes it with the Christian who goes with Christ? 1. He cleaves to his Lord, and forsakes Him not. 2. The Lord may hide from him His face for the time, till 3. He at last breaks to him the bread of grace.—Wiesmann: The miraculous feeding shows us that Christ has for His people: (1) A warm heart; (2) a clear eye; (3) an open hand.—See the next section.

[Hilary: There is no catching by eye or touch the miraculous operation; it only remains for us to believe that God can do all things (consistent with His nature and character).—Augustine [Tract. in Joh. 24; Serm. 130, 1): Christ multiplied in His hands the five loaves, just as He produces harvest out of a few grains: there was a power in His hands; and those five loaves were seeds, not indeed committed to earth, but multiplied by Him who made the earth. (The same idea is revived by Olshausen, but the comparison is only serviceable as a remote analogy. See the Exegesis.)—Trench: Here is a miracle of creative accretion, by which Christ proclaimed Himself the bread of the world, the inexhausted and inexhaustible source of all life for the spiritual needs of hungering souls in all ages.—The twelve baskets, an apt symbol of Divine love which after all its out-goings upon others, abides itself far richer. Comp. 2 Kings 4:1-12.4.7; Proverbs 11:24 : “There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth.”—Analogies of this miracle: the manna in the wilderness; the multiplying of the widow’s cruse of oil and her barrel of meal by Elijah, 1 Kings 17:16; Elisha satisfying a hundred men with twenty loaves of barley, 2 Kings 4:42-12.4.44.—Ryle: Learn from this miracle: 1) Christ’s almighty power; 2) a lesson about the office of ministers—to receive humbly and to distribute faithfully what Christ provides and blesses; 3) the sufficiency of the gospel for the wants of mankind.—P. S.]


John 6:2; John 6:2.—[Two readings, but the same sense, ἐθεώρουν and ἑώρων. john uses ὁρᾶν only in the perfect. See Tischend. and the crit. Note of Meyer.—P.S.]

John 6:2; John 6:2.—αὐτοῦ is wanting in the principal MSS.

John 6:5; John 6:5.—The subjunctive aorist ἀγοράσωμεν [instead of the indicative future of the Recepta, ἀγοράσομεν is established by A. B. D. [Cod. Sin.], etc.

John 6:7; John 6:7.—[διακοσίων δηναρίων ἄρτοι. Denarius is a Roman silver coin, at first equal to ten asses (hence the name), afterwards increased to sixteen, and equivalent to the Greek drachm. From the parable of the laborers in the vineyard it would seem that a denarius was then the ordinary pay for a day’s labor, Matthew 20:2. Its value was about equal to 7 English pence, or 15 American cents. The E. V. should have retained the Latin term, as the Evangelists did in Greek, or it should have rendered it shilling, rather than penny, which is too far below the value.—P. S.]

John 6:7; John 6:7.—[The rec. inserts αὐτῶν after ἕκαστος. Omitted by א. A. B. L., and the recent edd.—P. S.]

John 6:9; John 6:9.—The ἕν [of the Recepta: a single lad], omitted by B. D. L., might have more easily dropped out [after the preceding παιδάριον] than crept in. It is wanting also in the Cod. Sin., thrown cut b4 Tischend., bracketed by Lachm. and Alford.—P. S.]

John 6:10; John 6:10.—[The rec. inserts δέ after εἶπεν, without good authority.—P. S.]

John 6:10; John 6:10.—[The verbs ἀναπίπτω (f. ἀναπεσοῦμαι, aor. 2. ἀνέπεσον) and ἀνάκειμαι signify in the N. T. the ancient custom of reclining at table, upon the couch or triclinium, which was usually higher than the low table. The English equivalent is to sit at table or at meat. In this case they lay upon the ground. Mark and Luke describe the manner. See Mark 6:39-41.6.40.—P. S.]

John 6:11; John 6:11.—[οὖν, therefore, is much better supported than δέ of the text. rec., and is adopted by Lachm., Tischend., Alf. (Lange, in his version, follows here the text. rec., but usually the readings of Lachm. Probably an oversight.)—P. S.]

John 6:11; John 6:11.—The words: “the disciples, and the disciples to” [τοῖς μαθηταῖς, οἱ δέ μαθηταί, text. rec]. are wanting in A. B. L. [and in the Cod. Sin.], etc., and in almost all the Versions. They have been supplied from Matthew 14:19.

John 6:14; John 6:14.—[The text. rec. inserts ὁ Ἰησοῦς after σημεῖον,—beginning a church lesson, omitted by the critical editors.—P. S.]

John 6:15; John 6:15.—Πάλιν (omitted by Tischendorf), with reference to John 6:3, is sufficiently supported by A. B. D. [In the 8th crit. ed., Tischendorf has restored πάλιν, probably influenced by Cod. Sin. He also now reads φεύγει instead of the usual ἀνεχώρησεν with the remark that the latter is a correction from Matthew, and φεύγει was thrown out as not being consistent with the dignity of Jesus. Certe φεύγει alienissimum est a correctors.—P. S.]

John 6:16; John 6:16.—[Dr. Lange puts a period here, and several editions of the Greek a semicolon, instead of the comma of the Recepta.—E. D. Y.]

John 6:17; John 6:17.—The reading οὔπω, not yet, in B. D. L., etc., and in the Versions and the fathers [and Cod. Sin., instead of the οὐκ of the rec. adopted] by Lachmann [Tischend., Alf.], is hardly an explanatory gloss (Meyer), but was more probably dropped on account of its difficulty. See the Exegesis.

John 6:21; John 6:21.—[Cod. Sin. reads ἦλθον for ἤθελον. See the Exeget. Notes.—P. S.]

John 6:22; John 6:22.—[This “when” is simply an anticipation of the ὅτε at the beginning of John 6:24. It is the English Version’s solution of the grammatical difficulty of the whole sentence, John 6:22-43.6.24. The Vulgate and Luther avoid the difficulty by following the reading εἶδον or εἶδεν, instead of the participle ἰδὼν (see below). Lange’s ingenious construction I have not attempted to represent in the text. It will be found in full in the Exegesis. But the substance of it may be carried along in the very words of the English Version, as I have indicated.—E. D. Y.]

[17]Ibid.—Cod. A. [B. L.], Chrysostom, the Versions, Lachmann [Tischend., Alf.] read εἶδον; D. [א.]: εἶδεν. A grammatical conjecture. [Meyer defends the text, rec. ίδών, and says that the definite tense was inserted to ease the grammatical structure.—P. S.]

[18]Ibid.—The words ἐκεῖνο εἰςἐνέβησαν οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ [text. rec. א.* D.] are wanting in A. B. L., the Vulgate and the Itala, and appear as an elucidation with many variations. [Omitted by Lachm., Tischend., Alf.]

John 6:23; John 6:23.—[The parenthesis of this verse in the Text. Rec. is removed by Dr. Lange, or rather is extended to the whole passage from ὁ ἑστηκώς πέραν τ. θ., John 6:22, to the end of John 6:23. See his construction in the Exegesis. Meyer entirely obliterates the parenthesis.—E. D. Y.]

John 6:24; John 6:24.—The καὶ before αὐτοί is lacking in the best MSS. [and in Cod. Sin.].

[21]Ibid.—[ Αὐτοὶ].

John 6:27; John 6:27.—[For the future δώσει Cod. א. D. Syr., Chrys. and Tischend. (Exodus 8:0) read the present δίδωσιν—P. S.].

John 6:35; John 6:35.—[Text. rec. inserts οέ, and, after εἶπεν, א, D. Tischend. οὖν. Omitted by B. L. T., Alf.—P. S.]

John 6:35; John 6:35.—[The E. V. connects πώποτε with οὐ μὴ πεινάση as well as with οὐ μὴ διψήσει.—P. S.]

John 6:36; John 6:36.—The με, wanting in Cod. A., bracketed by Lachmann, is sufficiently attested. [It is wanting in the Cod. Sin., and omitted by Tischend., but retained by Afford. Lange translates καί in this verse correctly sogar, even.—P. S.]

John 6:39; John 6:39.—According to the best Codd. πατρός is an addition. [In the Cod. Sin. the whole clause Τοῦτοπατρός is wanting (homæotel.)—E. D. Y.]

John 6:40; John 6:40.—Γάρ, according to A. B. C., etc. [and Cod. Sin.], instead of the δέ of the Recepta.

[28]Ibid.—Most Codd., B. C. D. [Cod. Sin.], etc., Clement and other fathers, and some versions read πατρός μου, instead of the πέμψαντός με. A third reading, M. Δ., etc., πέμψαντος πατρός, aims to adjust the two. The text. rec. comes from John 6:39.

John 6:42; John 6:42.—The second οὖτος has several MSS. against it, but could have more easily dropped out than crept in. [The Cod. Sin. has the οὖτος, and reads: οὖτος λέγειἘγώ ἐκ, instead of the text. Rec.: λέγει οὐτος’ “Οτι ἐκ’—E. D. Y.]

John 6:45; John 6:45.—Οὖν, therefore, after πᾶς is not sufficiently supported.

[31]Ibid.—The readings ἀκούσας and ἀκούων are both strongly attested; the former somewhat the more strongly, while the latter is favored by the probability that the tense of μαθών following would react. [The Cod. Sin. has ἀκούσας.—E. D. Y.]

John 6:47; John 6:47.—[The words εἰς ἐμέ are omitted by א. B. and other ancient MSS., and by Tischend., but inserted by other MSS. and the Versions, and retained by Lachm., bracketed by Alf.—P. S.]

John 6:51; John 6:51.—[Tischend., ed. viii., reads with Cod. Sin., etc., ἐκ τοῦ ἐμοῦ ἄρτου (Hil. ex meo pane; Cypr. de meo pane), instead of ἐκ τούτου τοῦ ἄρτου with B. C. L. The latter looks like a correction.—P. S.]

John 6:51; John 6:51.—On the omission of these words: which I will give,—in Codd. B. C. L. D., etc., see the Exegesis. [In the Cod. Sin. the whole clause: ἣν ἐγὼκόσμου ζωῆς, is wanting.—E. D. Y.]

John 6:55; John 6:55.—Lachmann and Tischendorf read ἀληθής [true] both times (according to B. C. K. L., etc.) instead of ἀληθῶς [truly, indeed]; the latter is probably explanatory, since ἀληθινή (Cyril, Chrysostom) is the word to be expected. [Tregelles, Alford, Westcott and Hort unanimously adopt ἀληθής. So also Tischend., 8th ed., Meyer, 5th ed., and Lange, who renders: wahrhafte, i.e., real, substantial, Speise, Trank. Cod. Sin. has here several corrections which Tischendorf notes: א* ab αληθως priore ad posterius transiluit; אc supplevit omissa ac bis αληθης dedit, nisi quod alterum (a.cb?) rursus in αληθως mutatum.”—P. S.]

John 6:58; John 6:58.—The omission of ὑμῶν by important MSS., B. C. L., etc. (adopted by Lachmann and Tischendorf), may be due to theological reasons. Likewise the omission of τὸ μάννα in C. T., etc. (adopted by Tischendorf). The former reading is supported by D., etc., the latter by B. [The Cod. Sin. lacks both ὑμῶν and τὸ μάννα. Tischend., 8th ed., Tregelles, Alford, Westcott and Hort do the same, and read simply: καθὼς ἔφαγον οἱ πατέρες καὶ , as the fathers ate and died.—P. S.]

John 6:60; John 6:60.—[Tischend., Alf., etc., read: σκληρός ἐστινλόγος οὖτος. which is supported by א. B. C. D., etc., against the text. rec. which putsοὺ͂τος beforeὁ λόγος.—P. S.]

John 6:63; John 6:63. [Lange inserts after flesh the gloss: as such, separately considered, and after nothing: doeth nothing towards it. See Exeg.—P. S.]

John 6:63; John 6:63.—The perfect λελάληκα is supported by decisive authorities, B. C. [Cod. Sin., Tischend., Alf., etc.]. The Recepta [λαλῶ] generalizes the word.

[40][Meyer arbitrarily supplies: “having left Jerusalem.” All older commentators, as also Brückner, Hengstenberg, Godet, refer ἀπῆλθν to Capernaum or some other place in Galilee. Alford, agreeing with Lücke, says that ἀπῆλθενἸησ. πέραν τῆς θαλάσσης, if connected with the preceding discourse, would be unintelligible, and can only be understood by the fragmentary (?) character of John’s Gospel as relates to mere narration, and the well known fact being presupposed, that His ministry principally took place in Galilee.—P. S.]

[41][Ewald, with his usual oracular self-assurance, as if he had been present at the composition of the Gospel of John, asserts that by a sad accident a whole sheet (he does not specify the precise number of chapters and verses) between chap. 5 and 6, was lost before the Gospel came into general circulation. Die Johanneischen Schriften, I, p. 221.—P. S.]

[42][This would require ἀπό or ἑκ Τιβεριάδος.—P. S.]

[43][Τιβεριάδος is a geographical genitive, inserted for the easier understanding of Gentile readers (comp. John 21:1), who knew the lake best by that name (Pausan. v. 7, 3; αὑτὸς οἶδα Ἰόρδανον λίμνην Τιβερίδα ὀνομαζομένην διοδεύοντα), though Matthew and Mark always call it θαλ. τῆς Γαλιλαίας, Luke once (John 5:1), λίμνη Γεννησαρέτ, Josephus (De bello Jud., III. 10. 8, etc.), usually Γεννησάρ or Γεννησαρῖτις. Hence the Vulg. and Beza correctly translate: “mare Galilææ, quod est Tiberiadis;” so also the E. V.—P. S.]

[44][Dr. Robinson (Lex. sub Γεννησαρέτ, p. 141) thus describes the sea of Tiberias: “It is about 12 miles long, and 5 or six broad, and is still celebrated for the purity and salubrity of its waters and the abundance of its fish. It presents, indeed, a beautiful sheet of limpid water in a deep depressed basin, with a continuous wall of hills on the sides; but the hills are rounded and tame; and although after the rainy season the verdure of the grass and herbage gives them a pleasing aspect, yet later in the year they become naked and dreary. Its position exposes it to gusts of wind.” Comp. his Researches, Boston ed. of 1856, Vol. II, 380, 386, 415–417.—P. S.]

[45][Wordsworth: One person, and he a child; and he has only five loaves, and they of barley; and two fishes, and they small. Then Dr. W. goes on allegorizing about the elements of the sacrament.—P. S.]

[46][Wordsworth: A beautiful figure of the ‘green pasture’ (Psalms 23:0), in which Christ feeds His people in the ministry of His word and sacraments, whore He prepares a table for them in the wilderness. This may do for homiletical application.—P. S.]

[47][The Fourth Sunday in Lent.—E. D. Y.]

Verses 14-21

2. The Miraculous Withdrawal Over The Sea

John 6:14-43.6.21


See the parallels in Matthew 14:22-40.14.33; and Mark 6:45-41.6.56. [Omitted by Luke. Alford: “An important and interesting question arises, Why is this miracle here inserted by St. John? That he ever inserts for the mere purpose of narration, I cannot believe. The reason seems to me to be this: to give to the Twelve, in the prospect of so apparently strange a discourse respecting His Body, a view of the truth respecting that Body, that it and the things said of it were not to be understood in a gross corporeal, but in a supernatural and spiritual sense. And their very terror and reassurance, tended to impress that confidence in Him which kept them firm, when many left Him, John 6:66.”—P. S.]

John 6:14. The Prophet that is to come.—This denotes here not the fore-runner, but the Messiah, referring to Deuteronomy 18:15; as is proved (1) by the addition: “that should come into the world;” (2) by the inclination to make Him a king.

John 6:15. Take him by force.—Carry Him forcibly into their circle, and conduct Him in triumph—in order to make Him a king; as festival pilgrims, lead Him to Zion in triumphal procession. The arbitrary, confused, and premature idea of the subsequent triumphal entry.

He withdrew again into the mountain. The πάλιν denotes not only return to the mountain, but also a second withdrawal of Himself from the pressure of the people. He sought solitude, to escape the people; but this of course does not exclude His sanctifying the solitude by prayer.

John 6:16. And when evening came.—It would not appear from John 6:17, but it certainly does from the parallels, that this was the “second evening,” i.e., the later even-tide, from the decline of the day till night.

John 6:17. Having entered a ship.—The ἐμβάντες before ἤρχοντο is hardly intended to repeat once more that they had already gone to sea which had been said in John 6:16, but to express that, after embarking, they took an involuntary course, driven by a fearful storm. See Com. on Matthew and Mark on the passage. According to Mark the disciples were to go before the Lord in the direction of Bethsaida. This must mean the eastern Bethsaida, not the western, because the return itself was to Capernaum; therefore a coast-wise passage northerly is intended. Christ wished to embark in a solitary place, unseen by the people. The storm intervened; the disciples were driven out into the midst of the sea. Then Jesus came to them on the sea; i.e., He met them as a helper in their distress under a contrary wind; not merely went after them as they were driving with a favorable wind. [Dr. Thomson (The Land and the Book, 2 p. 30) maintains, in opposition to the usual view, that there was but one Bethsaida, and that it was situated at the entrance of the Jordan into the lake, a few miles north-east of Tell Hûm, the supposed present site of Capernaum. The disciples would naturally sail from the southeast toward Bethsaida in order to reach Capernaum.—P. S.]

And Jesus had not yet come to them.—As the disciples were not expecting Jesus to walk on the sea, the “yet” has been found troublesome, and has been dropped. But the sentence means: They had not yet been able to take up Jesus according to the original plan of the voyage. [See Text. Notes.]

John 6:18. And the sea began to rise.—An explanation of their misfortune. We repeat: A violent gale, by which they would have come immediately twenty or thirty furlongs westward, could not have been to them a contrary wind, if they had intended to go westward without Jesus.

John 6:19. Five and twenty or thirty furlongs.—The lake was forty stadii wide (Joseph. De Bell. Jud. III., 10, 11).48 The indefinite measure is very graphic; it reflects the situation: Darkness and an angry sea, in which accurate measurement of distance was impossible at the time. Matthew says “the midst” of the sea, John 14:24; denoting, however, an earlier moment, when Jesus was still on the shore. John marks the later moment, at which the disciples saw the Lord. The στάδιον is a Greek measure (Luther: Feldweg, furlong). Eight stadia made a Roman mile. A stadium is the fortieth part of a geographical or German mile [a little less than an eighth of an English mile, and nearly equal to the English furlong; so that the twenty-five or thirty stadia would come between three and four miles.—E. D. Y.]. Of the full two leagues’ breadth of the lake the ship had therefore already passed a league and a quarter or a league and a half.

They behold Jesus.—Graphic present. And they ware afraid.—Moderate expression of a powerful feeling. Compare the synoptical Evangelists. So little had they expected His coming to them in this way.

John 6:21. Then they desired to receive him.—They still desired to take Him into the ship; that is, they still stood to their purpose. In the effort to take up the Lord on the eastern shore, the ship had already gone nearly to the western. The Evangelist finds it superfluous to state that the Lord now embarked, and sailed the small remaining distance with the disciples. He likewise passes over the falling of the wind.

According to the usual view of the event, in which Jesus went after the disciples, instead of meeting them, the expression of John is very hard to be explained. And here again Meyer (after the example of Lücke and De Wette) brings out a collision with the synoptical Evangelists. “They wished to take Him into the ship, and immediately (before they carried out the ἐθέλειν) the ship was at the land.” He seems even to introduce here a wondrous agency of Jesus bringing the ship immediately to land, notwithstanding its distance of five or ten stadia and the “surging ” of the sea. “An unfortunate attempt at harmony [it is then said by Meyer, p. 255, 5th ed.]: They willingly received Him (Beza, Grotius, Kuinoel, Ammon, and many others; see against it Winer, p. 436); which is not helped by the assumed antithesis of a previous unwillingness (Ebrard, Tholuck).” The sentence says simply this: They were still occupied with the effort to take Him up on the eastern coast, when by this miraculous intervention of Christ they at once reached the western side.

The ὑπῆγον, in the versions and expositions, to a great extent fails of its full force. It often denotes a secret, skilful or mysterious removal, escape, or disappearance. And so especially here, where the Lord was put upon extreme deliberation, and could properly use a miracle to rid Him of the multitude. If they still followed Him in spite of all, we must consider that certainly all could not follow Him in the boats which had come from Tiberias, and that Christ still found it necessary in the synagogue at Capernaum to put off the people by meeting them sternly and with the boldest declarations.


1. The culmination of the enthusiasm of the Galilean populace for Jesus is here brought out, and by John alone, with great distinctness. The great popular mass, a host of five thousand chiliastically excited men, would violently lift a Messianic standard with Him and for Him. But because Jesus cannot yield Himself to this project, the culmination of their enthusiasm is at the same time its turning-point.
2. In respect to the miracle of Christ’s walking on the sea; compare the Com. on Matthew and Mark.


The misinterpretation of the divine sign of Christ by the perverseness of earthly-minded men.—They draw from the sign a correct conclusion (a true doctrine) and a false application (a false moral).—So with orthodox faith a false (ecclesiastical or secular) morality is often associated.—The flight of Jesus before the revolutionary design of the people: It occasions (1) His retiring in solitude to the mountain; (2) His sending the disciples before Him with the ship; (3) His hastening in the night, ghostlike, over the sea.—Jesus on the mountain above the political designs of men; He alone: 1. He alone the free One, who is more a king than any prince of earth. 2. He alone the clear-sighted One, who sees far above all craftiness of policy. 3. He alone the silent but decisive Disposer of all things.—The flight from the sedition and tumult: 1. The flight of Christianity (Christ). 2. The flight of the Church (the ship).—The disciples in the ship, driven from east to west, a foreshadowing of the fortunes of the church.—The miracle of the walking on the sea, as to its holy motives: Occasioned (1) by a holy flight; (2) by a holy solicitude.—Christ’s superiority to nature.—Christ the sea-king (He, not Mary, the true Stella Maris).—Christ as master of the water—the helper in perils of the sea (not the holy Nepomuc).—Christ the helper in perils of water and of fire.—While they were wishing to take Him up on the eastern shore, they were ready to land on the western.—The hour when the Church becomes perfectly joyful in the presence of her Lord in this world, is the hour when she lands on the shore of the other.—How the Lord suddenly puts an end to the reverses of His people.—Every new necessity of the Christian, a new revelation of the glory of Christ. Every new necessity of man, a new revelation of the miraculous help of God.—Perils of the night; perils of storm; perils of the sea. Sufferings from night, from storm, and from sea; Christ, the Deliverer.

Starke: God’s wonders among them that go down to the sea in ships. Psalms 107:23.—Proverbs 30:19.—Wis 14:3.—Be not troubled when thou must journey from one place to another, etc. The goal is all rest.—Comest thou into a dark night of tribulation, etc.: Jesus is there.—The perils of one’s calling.—Good fortune is followed again by ill; but to believers all is for the best.—Canstein: Christ lets His people come almost to extremity, but then loses not a moment. —In our troubles we commonly set God before us in a different character from the true; as an object of terror.—Zeisius: What a mighty hero is thy Saviour and mine!—Quesnel: Christ’s word and presence make everything good and tranquil again.—Cramer: Christ has more ways of helping than one.—Zeisius: Thus the saints come through great storms and trouble to the haven of eternal peace and safety.—Gossner: When Christ is in the ship, the ship receives more help from Him than He from it. So is everything which we call the service of God more profitable to the servant than to the Lord whom he serves.—Heubner: Distance, mountain, and sea cannot separate Him from His.—Schleiermacher: We see here at first a certain dependence on an immediate and bodily presence, which is always united with a certain want of faith in the spiritual, and of a sense of spiritual power and agency.—Schenkel: How do we stand towards Christ? (1) So as to have Him flee from us? (2) Or so as to have Him come to us?

[Wordsworth: John 6:20. “I am (Ἐγώ εἰμι), the Ever-living One, Jehovah, the Author of Life. I am always at hand and never pass by you, therefore be not afraid, but trust in Me. Our Lord allows us to be in trial and danger, to struggle in the storm, to endure for a long time, in order that our patience and perseverance and faith may be proved, and that we may resort to Him who alone can save us. We are often in darkness and in storms, and the devil and evil men assail and affright us: but let us listen to Christ’s voice, Ἐγέ εἰμι, μὴ φοβεῖσθε, and when human help fails, then divine aid will come. Terrors pass by, but Christ never passes by. He ever says, ‘It is I.’ I am He who always am, who ever remain; therefore have faith in Me. And if we are rowing in the Apostolic Ship of the Church, doing our duty there in our respective callings, and if we desire to receive Christ into the Ship, He will not only quell the storm, but give us a fair breeze, and we shall soon be at the harbor where we would be—the calm harbor of heavenly peace. They who are in the Ship, and are rowing in the storm; they who labor in the Church, and continue in good works to the end, will receive Christ, and will at length arrive at the waveless haven of everlasting life.”—A fine Greek poem of Anatolius on Christ in the tempest, translated by J. M. Neale: “Fierce was the wild billow” (see Schaff’s Christ in Song, p. 451).—P. S.]


[48][According to Robinson, the lake is about twelve English miles long, and five or six broad.—P. S.]

Verses 22-65

3. Decisive Declaration Of Christ, And Offence Of Many Disciples

John 6:22-43.6.65


[After a brief historical introduction, John 6:22-43.6.25, John gives that wonderful discourse which unfolds the symbolic meaning of the miraculous feeding of the multitude, namely, the grand truth that Christ is the Bread of everlasting life, which alone can satisfy the spiritual wants of men. It may be divided into four parts, each of which is introduced by an act of the audience and determined by their moral attitude. 1) The first part is introduced by a simple question of the Jews; “When and how didst Thou come hither?” It exhorts them not to busy themselves about perishing food, but to seek food which endures forever, and which the Son of Man alone can give, John 6:25-43.6.35. John 6:2) The Jews asking for this imperishable bread, Jesus declares Himself to be the Bread of life that came down from heaven, John 6:35-43.6.40; John 6:3) The Jews murmured at this extraordinary claim; whereupon Jesus repeats the assertion with the additional idea, that His flesh which He was to give for the life of the world, is that Bread of life, John 6:41-43.6.51. John 6:4) This causes not only surprise but offence and contention among the Jews (John 6:52), but Jesus, instead of modifying and explaining, declares in still stronger language that eating His flesh and drinking His blood, i.e., a living appropriation of His person and sacrifice is the indispensable condition of spiritual life reaching forward to the resurrection of the body, John 6:52-43.6.58. John 6:5) The rest, from John 6:59-43.6.65, describes the crisis produced by this discourse and furnishes at the same time, in John 6:63, the key to the proper understanding of the same.49—The authenticity of this discourse is sufficiently guaranteed by its perfect originality, sublimity, and offensiveness to carnal sense, as well as its adaptation to the situation and the miracle performed. No writer could have invented such ideas and dreamed of putting them into the mouth of Jesus. Nor could any mere man in his sane mind set forth his own flesh and blood as the life of the world. We are shut up here to the conclusion of the divinity of Christ. As to the difficulty of the discourse, we must always keep in mind that Christ spoke for all ages, and that history furnishes the evidence of the wisdom and universal applicability of His teaching. The disciples and the hearers were prepared for it by the two preceding miracles which raised them, so to say, to a supernatural state. The sacramental interpretation will be discussed below in an Excursus.—P. S.]

John 6:22-43.6.24. The construction of these verses is a matter of great difficulty. [Such complicated sentences are exceedingly rare in John. Two other instances occur in John 13:1, and 1 John 1:1 ff. In this case the parenthetical and involved construction is, as Alford remarks, characteristic of the minute care with which the evangelist will account for every circumstance which is essential to his purpose in the narration.—P. S.] De Wette: “As regards the construction, the sentence is interrupted by the parenthesis of John 6:23, and resumed in John 6:24 (ὅτε οὗν εἶδεν = ἱδών, John 6:22), except that while ἰδών, John 6:22, relates to the circumstances under which the departure of Jesus seemed impossible, and the resumptive ὅτεεἶδεν expresses the certainty nevertheless reached, that he was no longer there.” Meyer: “The construction resumes ὁ ὄχλος, the subject of the whole, with ὅτε οὖν εἶδενὄχλος, John 6:24; and John 6:23 is a parenthesis which prepares the way for the following apodosis. The participial sentence ἰδὼν, ὁτι to ἀπῆλθον is subordinated to ἐστηλὼς πέραν τ. θαλ., and explains what made the people linger there and stand again the next day in the same place: They thought Jesus must still be on the eastern side of the sea, since no other ship had been there except the one in which the disciples had gone away alone, John 6:22, and even the disciples might again be there, since other boats had come from Tiberias, in which they might have returned.” [Somewhat modified in ed. 5th, p. 256.—P. S.] We suppose that here, as often elsewhere in the New Testament a supposed clumsiness and irregularity of expression arises in the sphere of exegesis from our overlooking the conciseness resulting from the vividness of the oriental style. The present passage may be elucidated by the remark that Christ made His escape from the people with extreme deliberation and care, and that the people pursued Him with intense expectation; and the sentence takes this shape: And immediately the ship (in which they were escaping) was at the land whither they were going (for escape from the people); the day following the people (also) which stood (still remained standing, like a wall) on the other side of the sea, because they saw (in the first place) that there was none other boat there, save that one, and that Jesus went not with His disciples into that, but that His disciples were gone away alone (whence it seemed to follow, that Jesus was still in the neighborhood); but (in the second place) that other boats had come from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they had eaten bread by the power of the Lord’s thanksgiving (boats in which the disciples also might have returned). When the people therefore, etc.

John 6:24. They themselves entered into the boats.—Took those boats which had come from Tiberias. As these vessels are called πλοιάρια [small boats], and besides were probably not very numerous, having accidentally arrived, it is not to be supposed that the whole five thousand came across.50 Tholuck supposes that the festival-pilgrims would have left, probably finding it necessary to go immediately on to the temple at Jerusalem. This mistakes the point of their extreme excitement. The αὐτοί is not antithetic to a previous passive behaviour of the people (Meyer), but to their wrong supposition that the disciples had been in the ships, and had returned by them. They sought the Lord in the place of His residence, Capernaum.

John 6:25. On the other side of the lake.—With reference to the eastern point of departure. According to John 6:59, they find Him in the synagogue at Capernaum. Meyer correctly: “The πέραν τ. θάλ. is intended to suggest that the object of their wonder was their finding him on the western side.” When camest thou?—[ΙΙ ότεὦδεγέγονας; In Greek this implies the double question of when and how, as Bengel remarks: Quæstio de tempore includit quæstionem de modo. When didst Thou come hither? and how didst Thou get here (perf. γέγονας) so unexpectedly, like a ghost?—P. S.] The question how seemed the more natural. Yet they appear to suppose immediately that He went round the sea, or crossed at some other point. They ask, when He arrived just here. Meyer thinks they suspected some miracle, and Jesus did not enter into their curious question; but the passage leads rather to the opposite inference. The Lord must expect, not that they had been led by the feeding to think of the walking on the sea, but undoubtedly that they expected of Him so much of the miraculous as to make the question of when superfluous. This triviality is the very thing that betrays the sensuous confusion of their enthusiasm itself.

John 6:26. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me.—The term here is particularly strong, because it emphasizes a severe personal judgment. Considering this strength of the expression, the interpretation of the correlatives οὐχ’—ἀλλ’ by non tam—quam, in Kuinoel and others, entirely obliterates the thought. Not because ye saw the miracles.—Lücke explains the plural by the healing of sick before the feeding (see the other Evangelists); Meyer groundlessly rejects this, observing that the antithesis is simply the eating of the loaves; that the plural is a plural of category, and goes no further than the feeding. But if they had waited for the kingdom of God as true believers in the Messiah, they would have perceived the spiritual glory in all the miracles. On the contrary, the sensuous expectations of the Messiah fastened selfishly on the eating of the loaves. (Comp. Matthew 4:3-40.4.4.)

John 6:27. Work not for the food.—We think the first word must be emphasized. It is aimed at the chiliastic inclination to laziness in the enjoyment of miraculous food, and resembles the word of Paul in 2 Thessalonians 3:11-53.3.12. But the injunction immediately takes a turn designed to lead their mind to the essential point. Direct your labor not to the food which perisheth, but, etc.—The radical meaning of ἐργά́ζεσθε it is difficult here to preserve in its precise force; and yet we are led to do so by the spirit of the transaction. Luther: wirket, work, produce; De Wette: erwirket, work out; Van Ess: mühet euch, trouble yourselves. Luther also translates ἐργαζόμενος, Ephesians 4:28, by schaffen, work. There is a double oxymoron or paradox: (1) that they should not labor for the perishable food, which is the very thing they must get by working; (2) that they should labor for the heavenly food, which is not to be earned by labor. The solution lies (1) in the position of the exclamation: Labor, at the beginning of the sentence: Be earnest workers; (2) in the addition of the next words to elucidate the first. Work not for the earthly food, which perisheth; even work for daily bread should not aim at mere material support and sensual enjoyment, but at the eternal in the temporal; (3) in the doing away of all thought of human production in matters of faith by the further words: “Which the Son of Man shall give unto you.”—The food that perisheth; or rather, which spoils, corrupts. Earthly nourishment enjoyed in idleness, without sanctification of the Spirit, is not merely perishable. This word is too weak for ἀπολλυμένην (comp. Matthew 9:17 : οἱ ); the food goes to destruction, and with it the man who seeks his life in it. It therefore leaves not only hunger, but also loathing (Numbers 21:5, in regard to the manna). Decaying food loses not only (1) its efficiency, but (2) its healthful nature, and (3) its very nature itself. On the contrary food which endureth unto everlasting life has (1) eternal efficiency; (2) eternal freshness; (3) eternal durability.—The difference between this and the water which quenches thirst, John 4:14. That passage concerns the life of Christ refreshing, quickening, and satisfying the soul; this describes the life of Christ refreshing, nourishing, and supporting the whole being of the man.—Everlasting life;—viewed here in the main as an outward object, but including the internal operation of it.

Which the Son of man shall give unto you.—Undoubtedly based on the figure of laborer and employer, as in John 4:36, and in the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, Matthew 20:1 sqq. In His service they must work only for the eternal food, and this He would give them. And as the eternal food can come from God alone, He declares that He is sealed as steward of the Father; appointed and accredited with commission and seal (σφραγίζειν also denotes confirmation, appointment with a seal). He is sealed (accredited in particular by the miraculous feeding as a sign) as the Son of His Father’s house, commissioned or sent from God. He thus seems to appoint them as laborers of God; and hence the question that follows.

John 6:28. What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?—They seem ready to consent to the requirement of Christ. They wish to be in a general sense the servants of God, and do His work. But that their spirit in the matter is rather chiliastic than moral (Meyer) is shown (1) by their asking about works in the plural; (2) by their stress on their doing. The case is like that in John 8:30 : an apparent or conditional readiness, arising from chiliastic misconception. Not exactly a merely moral legalness of mind, though it includes this. Two interpretations: 1. The works which God requires, has commanded (De Wette, Tholuck). [Alford: the works well pleasing to God, comp. 1 Corinthians 15:58.—P. S.] 2. The works which God produces (Herder, Schleiermacher). The former interpretation is true to the mind of the people.

John 6:29. This is the work of God, that ye believe in him whom he sent.—Jesus meets the plural with the singular,51 and their proposal to do with the demand of faith in Him whom God sent. The connection of ideas is close: As servants of God they must yield themselves with unreserved confidence to the messenger of God; through Him alone do they become capable of doing anything, John 6:50; Joh 17:3; 1 John 4:17. Bullinger, Beza: Faith is called a work per mimesin. Tholuck, on the other hand: Faith is itself a work. It is the decisive work of the man, in which resides the decisive work of God. [Mark the distinction between believing Christ, which is simply an intellectual assent to an historical fact and which may be ascribed to demons and infidels, and believing in Christ as an object of confidence and hope, which implies vital union with Him. This is both a work of Divine grace and the highest work of man. Godet finds here the germ of the whole Pauline theology and also the bond of union between Paul and James. Faith is the greatest act of freedom towards God; for by it he gives himself, and more man cannot do. In this sense James opposes works to a faith which is nothing but an intellectual belief; and in an analogous sense Paul opposes active living faith to dead works of mere outward observance. The faith of Paul is in fact the work of James, i.e., the work of God. Schleiermacher calls this passage the clearest and most significant declaration that all eternal life proceeds from nothing else than faith in Christ,—P. S.]

John 6:30. What signs shewest thou then?i.e.: To prove that Thou art the one sent of God? For that He professed Himself to be this messenger, is evident from what He had said. The term Messiah is indeed not used, but it is implied. Some have considered the question strange, because the people had just yesterday been miraculously fed. Grotius supposed it to be put by persons who had not been present at that feeding; the negative critics found in it a contradiction of the preceding account (Bruno Bauer, and others): De Wette considers the conversation as having no reference to the feeding. But we must bear in mind, that the people presumed that Jesus, if He were the Messiah, must have accepted their acclamation and their proclamation of His royalty; and that, instead of doing so, He had, to their great chagrin, eluded their design. They therefore demanded that He more satisfactorily attest Himself than He did by that feeding. A sign from heaven they probably did not, like the Sanhedrists and Pharisees, intend; but no doubt a perpetual miraculous supply of bread under the new kingdom now to be set up. This is indicated by the explanatory addition: “What dost Thou work?τί ἑργάζῇ. What dost Thou produce? Ironically pointed at His demand that they should work. The chiliastic Messiah must take the lead of all the people as the greatest master-workman. The expression is doubly antithetic: putting His working against theirs, and especially putting a working in testimony of His Messiahship against His declaration of it.

John 6:31. Our fathers did eat manna.—Meyer: “The questioners, after being miraculously filled with earthly bread, rise in their miracle-seeking, and demand bread from heaven, such as God gave by Moses.” What they wanted was, no doubt, primarily continuance; though not this alone. The thought is: If Moses perpetually fed his people with bread from heaven, it is too little that the Messiah, the greater than Moses, should give His people only one transient miraculous meal, and as it were put them off with that, He ought to introduce the Messianic kingdom by giving every day a miraculous supply, and that by all means finer than barley loaves, superior manna. Comp. Matthew 4:3.

As it is written, He gave them bread from heaven. (Exodus 16:4; Psalms 78:24; Psalms 105:40). Meyer: The Jews considered the manna the greatest of miracles.52 As Moses was the type of the Messiah (Schöttgen, Horæ Talm., II., p. 475), a new manna was expected from the Messiah Himself: “Redemptor prior descendere fecit pro iis Manna; sic et redemptor posterior descender faciet Manna.” Midras Coheleth. Fol. 86, 4. (Lightfoot, Schöttgen, Wetstein.)

The manna (מָן), which miraculously furnished the Israelites in the Arabian desert [for forty years] the means of support, Exodus 16:0; Numbers 11:0, etc., fell during the night, and in the morning lay as dew upon the earth, Exodus 16:14, in small grains (like coriander-seed, Exodus 16:31), sweet, like honey, to the taste. It had to be gathered [every day except the Sabbath] before the sun rose, or it melted, John 6:21. “The quantity divided daily to each person, Exodus 16:16, Thenius (Althebräische Masse) estimates at somewhat over two Dresden quarts” [about three English quarts.—P. S.]. On the well-known oriental (medicinal) manna of natural history, see Winer, sub v This appears even in southern Europe on various trees and shrubs; then in the east (manna-ash, oriental oak, especially the sweet-thorn), likewise tarfa-bush; abundant in Arabia, particularly in the vicinity of Sinai. A resinous exudation, resembling sugar, appearing sometimes spontaneously, sometimes through incisions made by insects or by men; appearing specifically on leaves and twigs. Several travellers assure us that in the east the manna falls as dew from the air. Even in this case a vegetable origin must be presumed. Our idea of the miraculous manna must be formed after the analogy of the Egyptian plagues: A natural phenomenon miraculously increased in an extraordinary manner by the power of God for a special purpose.53 At present scarcely six hundred-weight are gathered on the peninsula of Petræa in the most favorable years.—According to Chrysostom and others the manna came from the atmosphere, and so from just below the real heaven.

John 6:32. It is not Moses [οὐ before Μωυσῆς] that gave you the bread from heaven.—Introduced with a: Verily, verily. Not questioning the miraculousness of the manna (Paulus), but denying that the manna of Moses was from the real heaven, and was real manna. The question is not of a manna in an ideal sense, but of the real, true manna. Tholuck: “The negation is to be taken not absolutely, but only relatively.” It is relative, of course, considering the affinity of the symbol to the substance; but it is also absolute considering the infinite difference between them. According to Meyer the words “from heaven” in both cases (and in John 6:31) relate not to the bread (for then the phrase would be τὸν ἐκ τ. οὐρ.), but to δέδωκεν and δίδωσιν; and “in like manner in Exodus 16:4, מִן הַשָׁמַיִם belongs not to לֶחֶם, but to מַמְטִיר.” But we must not forget that the nature of the bread is described with the source of it: Bread of heaven, Psalms 78:24; Psalms 105:40. Just on account of the former of these two passages, to which the words before us refer, and where the Septuagint has ἄρτου οὐρανοῦ, Tholuck, not without reason, prefers the usual interpretation.

[My Father giveth you; δίδωσιν, now and always, opposed to δέδωκεν, which is said of Moses. Bengel: Jam aderat panis, John 6:33.—P. S.] The true bread from heaven.—[ἀληθινός, genuine, veritable, essential, as opposed to derived, borrowed, imperfect, while ἀληθής, true, is opposed to false. Comp. note on John 1:9, p. 66.—P. S.] Exactly parallel with the true light (John 1:9); the true vine (John 15:1); and to the same class of expressions: the true well of water, the true medicinal fountain, the true shepherd, etc., substantially belong.

John 6:33. For the bread of God is that which cometh down from heaven.—The decisive declaration by way of a description of the bread of God; ὁ καταβαίνων referring to ἄρτος, not to Christ (against Paulus, Olshausen).54 Without this bread there is no substantial life, and no substantial nourishment of life. [Unto the world, i.e., all mankind; in opposition to the Jewish particularism which boasted in the manna as a national miracle. Bengel: Non modo uni populo, uni ætati, ut manna cibavit unum populum unius ætatis.—P. S.]

John 6:34. Lord, evermore give us this bread.—Comp. the request of the woman in John 4:15. The people presume that Christ is the agent of the Father’s gift. Interpretations: 1. Dim suspicion of the higher gift [perhaps the heavenly manna which, according to the Rabbis, is prepared for the just in heaven; comp. Revelation 2:17] (Lücke, Tholuck, and others). 2. They think the bread something material, separate from Christ (De Wette, Meyer, [Godet]). And in any case their prayer is more decidedly sensuous and chiliastically perverted, than the prayer of the woman of Samaria. [Some take the prayer as an irony based on incredulity as to the possibility of such bread. Not warranted.—P. S.]

John 6:35. I [Ἐγώ] am the bread of life.—[Transition from the indirect to the direct form of speech, as in John 6:30, and a categoric answer to the request of the Jews: “Give us this bread,” together with the indication of the way how to get it. Here is this bread before you, and all you have to do is to come unto Me. I am the bread, and faith is the work or the means of getting it.—P. S.] Most emphatic and decisive assertion. Still stronger than that in John 4:26, since it was more open to contradiction; though here it is not the profession of Himself as the Messiah by name. (Philo, Allegor. legis, lib. III.: λόγος θεοῦ ψυχῆς τροφή)—He that cometh to me.—Is willing to believe, and uses the means of faith that he may believe. Conversion in its Christian aspect. Not, as Meyer makes it, only a different phrase for πιστεύων.55 According to Meyer the expression: “Shall never thirst,” is a confusion of the figure, and anticipates the drinking of the blood of Christ, which follows. But it is rather an introduction to Christ’s further declaration of Himself. As faith is developed, it brings, besides the importation and sustenance of the spiritual life, the satisfaction also of having drunk. It is less natural to make this addition, with Lücke [and Alford], a description of the excellence of the heavenly bread over the manna [which was no sooner given, than the people began to be tormented with thirst and murmured against Moses, Exodus 17:1 ff.—P. S.]

John 6:36. But I said unto you.—He said this to them not, as Lücke and De Wette have it, at John 5:37; for there He was speaking to the Sanhedrists in Jerusalem; but, as Grotius [Bengel] Luthardt and others, [Stier, Olsh., Hengstenberg, Godet] make it, at John 6:26; though He there said it to them in other words. [Christ quotes Himself here, as He often quotes the Old Testament, more after the spirit than after the letter.] According to Euthymius Zigabenus [and Alford] the Lord refers to some utterance not recorded; according to Meyer it means: I wilt have said [εἶπον=dictum velim] to you just now; which it can mean,56 as to the letter, but must not mean here. That ye have even seen me.—They have already seen Him in a Messianic function at the feeding, and yet did not see the sign in His miracle, and so did not truly see Him. So near were they to salvation; but they lacked faith. A paraphrase of John 6:26. [The two καί are correlative and bring out the glaring contrast of the two facts of even seeing the Son of God in His glory, and yet not believing in Him.—P. S.]

John 6:37. All that the Father giveth me.57—As to the connection: The judgment just uttered is true of the body of those who were before Him. It is not intended to exclude the thought that there were some among them, whom the Father had given to Him. It is, therefore, not in absolute antithesis to what precedes (as Meyer makes it). All. Neuter. The strongest expression of totality, as in John 3:6, [totam quasi massam, as Bengel has it; comp. also John 17:2, where πᾶν is likewise used of persons in this emphatic sense of totality.—P. S.]58 That the Father giveth me. [The same as whom the Father draws, John 6:44.—P. S.] Not only the gratia præveniens, operating through nature and history, conscience and law, (comp. John 6:44), but also the effectual call to salvation—the gratia convertens—itself, is the work of the Father. The conversion, the coming to Jesus, is the answer to the call. Tholuck: It runs through the Gospel of John as a fundamental view, that all attraction towards Christ presupposes an affinity in the person for Christ, and then this affinity is the operation of the Father; and so here the un-susceptibility of the people is traced to this want of inward affinity. The phrase δίδοσθαι παρὰ τοῦ πατρός is also in John 10:29; John 17:2; John 17:6; comp. in the Old Testament, Isaiah 8:18 : “I and the children whom the Lord hath given me.” The Predestinarians refer this passage to the eternal election [Augustine, Beza], the Arminians to the gratia generalis, the ability to believe [Grotius: pietatis studium], the Socinians to the probitas, natural honesty and love of truth, etc. We consider that in the “giveth” the three elements of election, predestination (fore-ordination), and calling are combined, Romans 8:29. But undoubtedly fore-ordination is very especially intended. [Shall come unto me, πρὸς ἐμὲ ῆξει. By an act of faith. Comp. the following τὸν ἐρχόμενον. Godet distinguishes ἥξει from ἐλεύσεται, and explains it: will arrive at Me, will not suffer shipwreck, but infallibly attain the goal. He calls the usual interpretation tautological, in as much as the gift consists in the coming, but this is not correct; the δίδωσι is the act of God, and the ἔρχεσθαι the act of man, i.e., faith in actual motion towards Christ.—P. S.]

And him that cometh to me, I Will in no wise cast out.—Every one who comes to Him is welcome. The only criterion is the coming or the not coming; no matter what the previous condition or guiltiness; the coming bespeaks the will of the Father, which it is the office of Christ to fulfil. [Οὐ μὴ ἐκβάλω ἐξω does not refer to Christ’s office as Judge at the resurrection, but to the present order of grace, and is a litotes, i.e., it expresses in a negative form more strongly the readiness of Christ to receive with open arms of love every one that comes to Him.—P. S.]

John 6:38. For I came down from heaven, etc.—Expressing the complete condescension and humiliation in the estate of the Redeemer. But how could His will be different from the Father’s? The ideal will of the Son of man, in and Of itself, must continually press towards the perfecting of the world and of life, and therefore legitimately lead to judgment. But in the spirit of redemption Christ continually directs this current of rightful judgment by the counsel of that redemption which is in operation till the end of the world; and this is His humiliation to the death of the cross, and this His patience, in the majesty of His exaltation.

John 6:39. And this is the will of him that sent me [according to the correct reading instead of the Father’s will] that of all which he hath given me.—The decree of redemption. Hence the perfect: Which He hath given me. Spoken not from a point of view in the future (as Meyer says); nor with reference to election, but with with reference to the perseverance of the divine purpose of salvation, to which the perseverance of the patience of Christ and the perseverance of believers correspond (see Romans 8:29 ff.). I should lose nothing.—Let nothing be lost by breaking off before the final decision of persistent unbelief in every case. But should raise it up.—Evidently meaning the resurrection to life. The Son is not only to continue, but to carry to its blessed consummation the work of resurrection. It is not, therefore, the day of death (Reuss),59 nor specifically the first resurrection (Meyer), which is intended. The last day, ἐσχάτη ἡμέρα.—The period of judgment and resurrection from the second coming of Christ to the general resurrection, Revelation 20:0.

[The resurrection of the body is the culmination of the redeeming work beyond which there is no more danger. Bengel: Hic finis est, ultra quem periculum nullum. Citeriora omnia præstat Salvator. This “blessed refrain,” as Meyer calls it, is three times repeated, John 6:40; John 6:44; John 6:54; comp. John 10:28; John 17:12; John 18:9. What stronger assurance of final resurrection to life everlasting can the believer have than this solemnly repeated assurance from the unerring mouth of the Saviour: “I shall raise him up on the last day.” But true faith is no carnal confidence, it is always united with true humility. The more we trust in Christ, the less we trust in ourselves. All is safe if we look to Christ, all is lost, if we look to ourselves alone. Christians should pray as if all depended upon God, and watch and work as if all depended upon themselves.—P. S.]

John 6:40. That every one that seeth the Son.—A stronger putting of the gracious will of God in its final intent. Hence again naming the Son in the third person. “What John said to his disciples, Jesus now says openly to the Jews: Faith in the Son has everlasting life. Who the Son is, He gives them to know by declaring that He will raise up these believers.

John 6:41. The Jews therefore murmured at him.—A new section of the affair, occasioned by the Jews’ taking decisive offence at the preceding discourse. The οὖν is again very definitive. The verb γογγύζω, of itself, denotes neither, on the one hand, a whispering, nor, on the other, a grumbling or fault-finding; but the murmuring is here the expression of fault-finding, and is made by the context (“among yourselves,” and by the antagonism (“at Him”) synonymous with it.—The Jews. In the ὄχλος itself the Jewish element was aroused (De Wette); but no doubt the Pharisaic members of that synagogue are here especially concerned; and even Judas, whose very name is Jew, here seems to have already become soured (see John 6:64).

The bread which came down from heaven.—This declaration transcended their idea of the Messiah; and that in it which, unconsciously, most offended them was its offer of a suffering or self-sacrificing Messiah. Hence the Lord afterwards brought this out with special prominence. But they seized the declaration in another aspect. When, without directly claiming it, He indicated His divine sonship by saying that He came down from heaven, they considered Him as contradicting His known origin. A sensuous, narrow, literalistic apprehension.

John 6:42. Is not this Jesus.—The οὖτος, primarily, strongly demonstrative. The same person, of whom we know that He sprang from Nazareth and rose to be a Rabbi, pretends to have come down from heaven. This contrast and the skepticism of the people add a contemptuous tone to the pronoun. The son of Joseph.—These words do not imply that both the parents were still living (Meyer), but that the people considered both (whom they once knew) to be His parents. Of Joseph, whom the tradition represents as advanced in years at the time of his marriage to Mary, we have no trace in the Gospels after the childhood of Jesus (comp. Matthew 13:55). [John introduces here the Jews as speaking from their own stand-point. They, of course, knew nothing of the mystery of the supernatural conception, and would not have appreciated it, if Jesus had corrected them. This was a truth for the initiated, and was not revealed even to the disciples before they were fully convinced that Christ was the Son of God.—P. S.]

John 6:43. Murmur not among yourselves.—Jesus intended not to draw out their thoughts, but goes on to expose their defect.

John 6:44. No man can come to me.60—Here: reach Me; in particular: reach an understanding of My nature, apprehend the Spirit in the flesh, Deity in humanity, the Son of God in the Nazarene. Except the Father draw him.Ἑλκύειν denotes all sorts of drawing, from violence to persuasion or invitation. But persons can be drawn only according to the laws of personal life. Hence this is not to be taken in a high predestinarian sense (Calvin: It is false and impious to say non nisi volentes trahi;61 Beza: Volumus, quia datum est, ut velimus; Aretius: Hic ostendit Christus veram causam murmuris esse quod non sint electi). Yet on the other hand the force of the added clause, denoting a figurative, vital constraint, subduing by the bias of want, of desire, of hope, of mind, must not be abated. The drawing of the Father is the point at which election and fore-ordination become calling (the vocatio efficax), represented as entirely the work of the Father. Meyer: “The ἑλκύειν is the mode of the διδόναι, an internal pressing and leading to Christ by the operation of divine grace (Jeremiah 30:3, Sept.), though not impairing human freedom.” The element of calling is added through the word of Christ. Hence: The Father who sent Me. As sent of the Father, He executes the Father’s work and word. The congruence of the objective work of salvation and the subjective operation of salvation in the individual.

[Ἑλκύειν (or ἕλκω, fut. ἕλξω, which is preferred to έλκύσω by the Attic writers), to draw, to drag, to force, almost always implies force or violence, as when it is used of wrestling, bending the bow, stretching the sail, or when a net is drawn to the land, a ship into the sea, the body of an animal or a prisoner is dragged along, or a culprit is drawn before the tribunal (comp. John 18:10; John 21:6; John 21:11; Acts 16:19, and the classical Dictionaries, also Meyer, p. 266). It is certainly much stronger than δίδωσι, John 6:37, and implies active or passive resistance, or obstructions to be removed. Here and in John 12:32, it does, of course, not mean physical or moral compulsion, for faith is in its very nature voluntary, and coming to Christ is equivalent to believing in Him; but it clearly expresses the mighty moral power of the infinite love of the Father who so orders and overrules the affairs of life and so acts upon our hearts, that we give up at last our natural aversion to holiness, and willingly, cheerfully and thankfully embrace the Saviour as the gift of gifts for our salvation. The natural inability of man to come to Christ, however, is not physical nor intellectual, but moral and spiritual; it is an unwillingness. No change of mental organization, no new faculty is required, but a radical change of the heart and will. This is effected by the Holy Ghost, but the providential drawing of the Father prepares the way for it.—P. S.]

John 6:45. It is written in the prophets, etc.—[This verse explains what kind of drawing was meant in the preceding verse, viz., by divine illumination of the mind and heart.] Prophets, i.e., the division of the Holy Scriptures called the Prophets. Yet the phrase is no doubt intended to assert that the particular passage, Isaiah 54:13, (quoted freely from the Sept.), is found in substance throughout the prophets (which Tholuck calls in question; comp. Isaiah 11:0; Jeremiah 31:33; Joel 3:1). Taught of God.—Taught by God; the genitive with the participle denoting the agent. The promises of universal illumination in the time of the Messiah. In the prophet the point of the passage quoted lies in the “all” in contrast with the isolated enlightenment under the Old Testament. And here, too, this universality is not denied, though it is to be limited to all believers. The children of the Messianic time are the “all” from the fact that an inward, immediate divine illumination gives them faith in the word spoken by Christ. Cyril, Ammonius, and the older Lutheran expositors: Taught of God, per vocem evangelicam; the mystics: by the Spirit working with the outward word, by the inner light; Clericus, Delitzsch, and others: by the prevenient grace.—It is the calling provided for by election and fore-ordination; but it is this calling considered inwardly, as the operation of the Father by the Spirit;—an operation distinct from the spiritual life which proceeds from the Son, but not separate from it. Effectual calling, on its intellectual side: the enlightening of the mind.

Every man that hath learned of the Father.—According to the reading ἀκούων, we suppose the hearing the Father is to be conceived as continuous. As soon as the having learned is thereby effected, the man, as one taught of God, comes to Christ. The reference is of course to the whole discipline of the Father, which proceeds from His election; but it is to this (1) as becoming manifest in the effectual calling, and (2) as therein reaching its goal. Hence it is not the elect simply in view of this election (Beza), that are intended; still less the elect in a predestinarian sense.

John 6:46. Not that any one hath seen the Father.—Explaining, that those who are taught of God in the Messianic age, still have need of the Messiah. Different interpretations: (1) The Lord would contrast His true seeing of God with that of Moses (Cyril, Erasmus). (2) He would forestall the spiritualistic view, that the inward manifestation of God supersedes the historical Christ (Calovius, Lampe). (3) He would mark a difference in degree and kind of revelation (Bengel: Videre interius est, quam audire; Tholuck). The third interpretation does not, as Tholuck thinks, set aside the second. The same fact, that the historical Christ is the positive fulfilment of all previous revelation and knowledge of God, and is therefore indispensable, is expressed in a different way; but all such facts as that He is Reconciler, King, Redeemer, are rooted in the fact that, being the Son; He is, in His perfect vision of God, the absolute Prophet (comp. John 1:18). Save he who is of God.—The full divine nature was necessary to the full view of God.

John 6:47. He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.—Here again it must be observed, (1) that Christ has put His previous Messianic statements in a general form, not in the first person, but that He connects His soteriological statement, His declaration of salvation, directly with His person; and (2) that He asseverates: Verily, verily. This is, therefore, Christ’s positive offer of Himself as the personal Saviour; and now follows the declaration.

[Mark the present tense hath (ἔχει), not shall have. Eternal life is not confined to the future world, but is ever present and becomes ours as soon as we lay hold of Christ who is eternal life Himself. The resurrection of the body is only the full bloom of what has begun here. Mark also that faith, and nothing else, is laid down here, and in this whole discourse (comp. John 6:40; John 3:15-43.3.16,) as the condition of eternal life. The eating of Christ’s flesh and the drinking of His blood, to be consistent with this, is only a stronger form of expressing the same idea of a real personal appropriation of Christ by faith. This refutes all forms of ecclesiasticism which throw any kind of obstruction between the soul and Christ, as an essential condition of salvation, whether it be the authority of pope or council or creed or system of theology, or the intercession of saints, or good works of our own. Salvation depends solely and exclusively upon personal union with Christ: all other things, however important in their place, are subordinate to this. Without faith in Christ there can be no salvation for any sinner: this is the exclusiveness of the gospel; but with faith in Christ there is salvation for all of whatever sect or name: this is its charity.—P. S.]

John 6:48. I am the bread of life.—Tholuck (like Meyer), on John 6:47-43.6.51 : “After repelling the objection of the Jews, Jesus returns to His former theme in John 6:32-43.6.40, and in the first place repeats the same thought.” We find here not a return, but an advance, carrying the thought forward from the person of Christ to His historical work. This appears from what follows. “Of the life.” Referring to the preceding promise of eternal life. “Τῆζ ζωῆς. Genitiv. qual. and effectus.” Or probably, conversely, the genitive of form or mode of existence. [That is, not: “the bread which has the quality and effect of life, the bread which is and which gives life;” but: “the life which is bread; the life existing and offered in the form of bread, and operating as bread.”—E. D. Y.] Previously the bread was the subject, with various predicates (the person); now the bread becomes an attribute of the life (the giving and the effect of the person). The life as bread, not the bread as life. That Jesus is the life, follows from John 6:46-43.6.47. This thought is expanded further on.

John 6:49. Your fathers did eat manna.—The manna gave no abiding life, because it was not essential life.

John 6:50. This is the bread.—By this the bread may be known as the true bread: that it comes down from heaven for the purpose and to the effect that whosoever eateth of it shall not die; or, more precisely: It cometh down from heaven, in order that men may eat of it (the μὴ affecting this first clause), and that he who eateth of it may not die. The definition of the true bread by its origin, its design, and its effects. The μὴ is more exactly expressed in the κἂν of John 11:25.

John 6:51. I am the living bread.—I am the bread living. The life is now the logical subject. The Vulgate: Ego sum panis vivus (,) qui de cœlo descendi; the bread living, who [1st pers.] have come down from heaven.

If any man eat of this bread.—Because Christ is the living bread, He offers Himself as bread, and communicates by the eating of this bread a living forever. Christ, therefore, now distinguishes Himself as life from the bread of life as a gift.

And the bread that I will give.—No longer: The bread which I am. The καίδέ, [atque etiam] is to be noted [i.e., καὶἄρτος δέ, ὃν έγ. δ.: “And the bread, now, which I will give.”] See Tholuck.62 Is my flesh.—The bodily, finite, historical form of Christ, which He yields up for the world in His death, and thus gives to the world for its nourishment, John 2:19; John 3:14. Not only the sacrifice of Christ in His atoning death to procure the eternal life of the world (Meyer), but also the renewal and transformation of the world by its participation of the sacrificed life of Christ; as, in John 2:19; John 3:14, death and resurrection are combined. It seems strange that the second ἣν ἔγὼ δώσω [after ή σάρξ μου ἐστίν] should be wanting in Codd. B. C. D. L. T. [and א.], the Itala, the Vulgate, and three times in Origen; so as to be stricken out by Lachmann and Tischendorf [Tregelles, Alford, Westcott and Hort—P. S.] Tholuck accordingly says, with Meyer: “A pregnance like this: The bread which I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world,—would be as contrary to the style of John as the repetition ἣν ἐγὼ δώσω is agreeable to it.” And he conjectures: “The omission may have been caused by the preceding δώσω.” But the addition, too, may very easily have been made for doctrinal elucidation, to make the sentence point more distinctly to the atoning death. If, therefore, we let the above manuscripts decide, the death and resurrection are united; the point of the sacrificial death by itself is not yet so distinctly brought, out in this place; and this seems more congruous with John 3:14 (and with the conception of the Jews in the sequel). Therefore: My flesh for the life of the world. The manifestation in the flesh is necessary to the full life. The flesh of Christ will be the life of the world. That is, the giving up of His flesh in death and the distribution of His flesh in the resurrection will be the life of the world. Yet in the giving up of His flesh, His sacrificial death is mainly intended, and in the eating of it, faith in the atonement; and as this element in the conception is to be distinguished, on the one hand, from the fact that Christ is the bread in His person, in His historical life itself, so, on the other hand, it is to be distinguished from the fact that He, in His flesh and blood, prepares His life, glorified through death, for a eucharistic meal for the world.

John 6:52. The Jews therefore strove among themselves.—Here a dispute arises concerning the sense in which the Lord could give men His flesh for the life of the world. And this dispute is described as a dispute of the Jews. Yet it is not a question of the interpretation of Christ’s word, but of the offensiveness of it, which here sets the Jews at strife. The skeptics and cavillers lead, saying: How can this man, etc. They seem disposed to charge the word with an abominable meaning, taking it literally.

John 6:53. Unless ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood.—Jesus recedes not for the offense, but with a verily, verily, He goes further, and now divides the flesh into flesh and blood, and to the eating adds drinking, which He had first introduced at John 6:35.

Mark further: (1) This truth, enforced with verily, verily, is now expressed in four different forms; four times the Lord speaks of eating and drinking His flesh and blood. (2) The first time in a conditional injunction on the Jews with reference to the Messiah, in the negative form of threatening: “Unless ye eat, etc., ye have no life in you.” The second time in a positive statement referring to Jesus Himself, in the form of promise. The third time, in a statement of the nature and substantial effect of the flesh and blood of Christ, on which the preceding practical alternative is founded: “For my flesh is meat indeed,” etc. The fourth time, in explication of all these three propositions: “He dwelleth in Me, and I in him.”

For the interpretation, we must remember that elsewhere flesh (σάρξ), by itself, denotes human nature in its full concrete manifestation (John 3:6); hence the flesh (σάρξ) of Christ, likewise, is the manhood of Christ, His personal human nature. But flesh and blood (σὰρξ καὶ αἶμα) elsewhere denotes inherited nature; in Peter (Matthew 16:17), for example, his old, hereditary Jewish nature, with its associations and views; in Paul (Galatians 1:16), his Pharisaic descent, spirit, and associations; in Christians (1 Corinthians 15:50), the mortal, earthly nature and form, received from natural birth, which cannot inherit the kingdom of God. Accordingly the flesh and blood of Christ are the peculiar descent and nature of Christ in historical manifestation; the historical Christ. As the flesh and blood of historical mankind are reduced to the material and nutriment of its culture and development, its humanity; so the flesh and blood of the historical Christ are given to be the nutriment of mankind’s higher spiritual life, its divinity. And when the partaking of His flesh and blood is made the indispensable condition of salvation, the meaning is: The life of man proceeds only from the life of Christ completed in death; only by Christ’s actual person being made the especial vital element of mankind, the nourishment and refreshment of the real life of man,—by this means alone does man receive true life.

The four sentences of this passage may be arranged in the following system:
(1) The flesh and blood of Christ are really the food and drink of man; i.e., the sacrifice and the participation of the actual, divine-human Christ are for mankind the only escape from death, and the only way to the higher, spiritual life.

(2) Because nothing but the full reception of the historical Christ can effect full communion with Him, consisting in the believer’s dwelling in Christ (justification), and Christ’s dwelling in the believer (sanctification).
(3) Therefore he that eats, takes the nutriment of eternal life, which works in him to resurrection.
(4) He who takes not this nourishment, has no true life, and can attain to none.
Note: (1) the phrase flesh and blood (σὰρξ καὶ αἶμα) in our passage differs from body and blood (σῶμα καὶ αἷμα) in the words of institution of the holy Supper: the former applying to the whole historical, self-sacrificing Christ, the latter simply to His individual person just coming forth from the sacrifice. (2) In the preparation of the σὰρξ καὶ αἷμα for food, the life, death, and resurrection of Christ are blended in one, the leading element being the death; as in σῶμα καὶ αἷμα the two are blended under the leading aspect of the new life.—Tholuck: “The addition of αἷμα to σάρξ abates nothing from the notion (Matthew 16:7; Ephesians 6:11; 1 Corinthians 15:20), but only expresses still more definitely, that is, by its two main constituents, the sensible human nature.” This, therefore, in its earthly manifestation (John 6:50; John 6:58), is to be spiritually received, and John 6:50, continuing to qualify the succeeding verses, shows that it is to be received especially in its atoning death, to which also the αἷμα may perhaps particularly point. The addition of αἷμα, however, denotes primarily the generic life in the individualized σάρξ. The flesh and blood of Christ are the historical Christ in His entire connection with God and man (as the “Son of God and of Mary”), as made by His death the eucharistic meal of the world;—certainly, therefore, a new point, with death as the most prominent aspect. [It should be added that the blood of Christ in the New Testament always signifies His atoning death for the sins of the world, comp. Romans 3:25; Colossians 1:14; Colossians 1:20; Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 9:20; Heb 10:10; 1 Peter 1:2; 1Pe 1:19; 1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5. It must refer to the same sacrifice here, and flesh must be interpreted accordingly. Flesh and blood are the whole human life of Christ as offered on the cross for the propitiation of the sins of the world, and thus become the fountain of life for all believers.—P. S.]

Various Interpretations:

1. The atoning death of Christ: Augustine,63 Luther, Melanchthon, Calvin, Beza, [Grotius, Calov.] Lücke, and many other modern expositors (see Meyer).64

2. The entire human manifestation of Christ including His death (Paulus, Frommann, De Wette, etc.)

3. The deeper self-communication of Jesus, faith eating and drinking in the human nature of Jesus the life of God (Hofmann, Schriftbeweis, [ΙΙ. 2, p. 245 ff.]. “Not the giving of His flesh, but His flesh itself Jesus calls food.” (Delitzsch).

4. A prophetic discourse in anticipation of the Lord’s Supper (Chrysostom, most of the fathers [Cyril, Theophyl., Euth. Zigab., Cyprian, Hilarius, perhaps also Augustine, but see p. 228,] and Roman Catholics [Klee, Maier], Calixtus [a moderate Lutheran, strongly opposed by the high Lutheran Calovius], Zinzendorf, Bengel, Michaelis, Scheibel, Olshausen, Kling, etc., Kahnis,65 Luthardt [Wordsworth]; according to Heubner, the Reformed Church [he should say the Reformed theology] with the exception of Calvin).

5. A mythical discourse here anticipating the Lord’s Supper, as John 3:0 anticipates baptism. (The negative critics, Bretschneider, Strauss, Baur, etc.).

6. The Lord does not speak here of the Supper itself, but expresses the idea on which the Supper is founded. (Here Meyer names Olshausen, Kling, Lange).
As to the first interpretation: Unquestionably the atoning death is in view, but in connection with its antecedent (the historical fact of Christ) and its effect (the historical gospel).
As to the second: The subject is no longer only the living person of Christ itself, but that which it will yield by its sacrifice of itself.
As to the third: The further pressing of the words themselves takes us to the very mode by which the life of Jesus is changed into the food and drink of mankind (death).
As to the fourth: The Lord’s Supper itself cannot be the subject. (Heubner quotes the Lutheran church as denying this hypothesis, especially Luther. Yet it is plain from the foregoing that this exegetical antagonism is not confessional.) (a) The discourse would anticipate too much, and be unintelligible. (b) John 6:53 would teach the absolute necessity of taking the communion rather than of evangelical saving faith. (“Even the Lutherans consider the Supper not absolute but only ordinarie necessary.”) (c) The expression σὰρξ καὶ αἷμα; is not equivalent to σῶμα καὶ αἷμα. (d) A manducatio spiritualis is here intended; for the partaker is assured of eternal life, which is only conditionally the case in the fruitio oralis. (e) The eating here described is perpetual.

As to the fifth: It is disposed of with the assumptions of that school of criticism in the Introduction. (The σὰρκα φαγεῖν of Ignatius and Justin can prove nothing. It has its origin here.)

As to the sixth: As the specific ordinance of baptism is, in chap. 3, lodged in germ in the general idea of baptism as already known to history, so the specific ordinance of the Lord’s Supper is here present in germ under the general idea and historical forms of the evening meal.
The hearers of Jesus were on their way to eat the paschal lamb; He says to them: Ye must eat Me, the real paschal lamb now offered in the history of the world. This then unquestionably contains a prophecy of the holy Supper, though it is not the Supper itself that is directly described.—The emphasizing of the person is the decisive point. Personal reception of the historical person of Christ in its communication and sacrifice of itself (through the medium of the word and sacrament) is the fundamental condition of personal eternal life.

Respecting the copious literature of this section, see Tholuck: Meyer [p. 273]. The dissertations of Kling, Müller,66 Tischendorf [De Christo pane vitæ, 1839], the works on the Lord’s Supper by Ebrard, Kahnis, Lindner, [Rückert, Nevin], Dieckhoff, the Excursus of Lücke,67 etc., are of mark.

John 6:53-43.6.54. Unless ye eat [φάγητε] … and drink. … He that eateth [τρώγων] my flesh and drinketh my blood.Eating and drinking denotes full, actual faith, full, actual appropriation by faith. According to Hofmann, faith is not the thing directly in view, but is presupposed. The reception here meant is distinct from faith.68 Against this see John 6:40; John 6:47, and the many passages in which the πιστεύειν is represented as the sole condition of the ζωὴ αἰώνιος. Τρώγειν [to gnaw, to crack, to chew, repeated four times, 54, 56–58.—P. S.], though in its general meaning equivalent to φαγεῖν, is a stronger expression (De Wette, et al., against Tholuck);69 and to it πίνειν is added. The tropical phrase is interpreted not so well by Ephesians 3:17 and Sir 24:21, as by the institution of the paschal lamb, and from the eating and the manna from which the discourse started. It is the strongest assertion of the personal aspect of salvation. In you, ἐν ἑαυτοῖς; see John 5:26.

John 6:55. My flesh is true food [ἀληθὴς βρῶσις].—Ἀληθής is better attested than ἀληθῶς. [See Text. Notes.] Tholuck considers it the antithesis of the real to the pretended, and disputes the sense ἀληθινός [genuine, veritable] (Origen, Lücke, etc.). Rightly, if it be understood that the ἀληθινός, as opposed to the symbol (in this case, e.g., the manna), is strengthened to ἀληθής, and the symbol falls to nonentity and falsehood, the moment men put the symbol against, the reality for which it stands.70 And my blood, etc.—“The life of the flesh is in the blood,” says Leviticus 17:11. Here it is said, in ver John 63: “It is the Spirit that quickeneth;” and in 1 Corinthians 15:45. If, now, as we have said on John 6:53, the flesh denotes rather the individualized nature of man, and the blood rather the general, then the blood of Christ also bears a reference to His generic life as Christ in distinction from His flesh, His personal manifestation in history. The connecting notion between His blood and His flesh is His life. We must eat His distinct historical form in believing, historical contemplation, but His life we must drink in spiritual contemplation and in the appropriation of fervent faith.

John 6:56. Dwelleth in me, and I in him.—A Johannean phrase (John 15:4; John 17:23; 1 John 3:24; 1 John 4:16). Denoting personal community of life with Christ in its two correlative fundamental forms which appear singly in Paul: We in Christ, is the first (Galatians 2:17); Christ in us, the second (Galatians 2:20). From this effect of the heavenly food the reception of it may be more precisely defined: The vital appropriation of the whole person of Christ. This is not a unio mystica (Meyer, Tholuck) in the stricter theological sense, though the living faith contains the basis for it. That an effect like this cannot be claimed for the reception of the Lord’s Supper in and of itself, is plain. Yet the reception of the holy communion is the most efficient and copious medium, and the appointed seal; the believing participation is the highest specific act and form of this vital communion; and for this reason the unbelieving participation forms the most violent collision with this vital communion to judgment.

John 6:57. And I live by the Father.—Here also the vital correlation is the main thing; Christ lives in the Father; that is, by the contemplation of the living, almighty Father, who is life absolute, and pure life, Christ is living and is sent by the Father. The Father lives in Him; that is, Christ has His own life by the Father’s living in Him for the Father’s sake, i.e., He lives for the Father. (Διά with the accusative denotes not the cause: by the Father,71 and hardly the ground: because the Father has life;72 but the entire purpose and direction. “The Father will and must have such, He seeks such,” John 4:23. Angelus Silesius: “I am as much to Him as He is to me”). So he … shall live by me.—Here the eating is again the eating of Christ Himself. He to whom it is the nourishment of His life to sink Himself in the personal presence of Christ, as Christ has sunk Himself in the contemplation of the Father,—he is sent forth by the life of Christ, and lives for Him, as Christ is sent forth by the life of the Father, and lives for the Father. (“He shall divide the spoil with the strong” [German version: “He shall have the strong for a prey”]. Isaiah 53:0.

John 6:58. This is that bread. Conclusion of the whole matter. As Christ had passed from the bread which He in Himself presents, to the bread which He gives, He here returns to the bread which He Himself is. Yet not merely in the same sense as before is He now Himself the bread. There it was Christ in His historical manifestation; here it is the eternal Christ, by the eternal intuition (τρώγων) of whom we live forever.

John 6:59. These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum.—A historical note, accounting, in particular, for the fact that not only the Judaistic spirit in the popular mass which followed Him, but also many of His old adherents and disciples in Capernaum itself took offence at His words. From this locality of His discourse the sensuous construction of the eating of the body of Christ has been styled a Capernaitic eating.

John 6:60. Many therefore of his disciples, when they heard this.—Many of His adherents in Capernaum and the vicinity. Μαθηταί in the wider sense. See the woe of Christ on Capernaum, Bethsaida, and Chorazin, Matthew 11:20 ff. Hard; σκληρός, harsh, stern, rigorous; opposed to μαλακός, soft, tender, gentle. דִּבַר־עֶצֶב, Proverbs 15:1. Hard to solve, hard to do, hard to bear. The interpretation is contained in the next words: Who can hear it? i.e., bear it. Hence not: hard to understand (Chrysostom, Grotius, Olshausen). According to Tholuck and others: presumptuous, for its making life depend on a scandalous eating of His flesh and blood (on man-eating). De Wette (Kuinoel, Meyer): Because they would not admit the thought of the death of the Messiah; not because they understood literally the eating of His flesh (Augustine, Grotius, Lücke). Unquestionably in the sequel, the suffering Messiah and His death on the cross were, as Meyer observes, the standing and specific σκάνδαλον of the Jews (John 12:34; 1 Corinthians 1:23). This interpretation is further commended by the fact that on this occasion Judas seems to have conceived his first aversion. Yet the succeeding utterance of the Lord gives a still more distinct clew. Formally, they certainly stumbled at the idea of eating flesh and drinking blood, in consequence of their Jewish laws of purity in reference to such acts and in reference to the abomination of human sacrifice. But then, materially, the thought of His sacrifice for their salvation which shone out intelligibly enough, was most certainly hard to them. They sought the Messianic kingdom in a rain of miraculous manna and other blessings from heaven; He would have them find everything in His own person, and even in the sacrificial suffering of that person. And the more repugnant to them the suggestion of this idea, the more they inclined to stick to the letter in which it was expressed, and to find it hard.

John 6:61. Knew in himself.Ἐν ἑαυτῷ. Bengel’s sine indicio externo is too strong. There were indications, no doubt, of their aversions; but He also knew how to interpret them as the searcher of hearts. Doth this offend you?. Σκανδαλίζει. The Jewish idea of offence, σκάνδαλον; i.e., the taking offence or occasion of falling (see σκάνδαλον, מוֹקֵשׁ et מִכְשׁוֹל in Bretschneider; (comp. Rom 9:33; 1 Corinthians 1:23; Galatians 5:11; 1 Peter 2:8).

John 6:62. What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascending where he was before?Aposiopesis [from ἀπο σιωπᾶν, to be silent]. That the form of the broken sentence may be completed by What shall ye say then? (τί ἐρεῖτε; according to Euthym. Zig., Kuinoel, and others) is groundlessly disputed by Meyer. The only question is whether the meaning then would be: shall ye then still take offence? (ἔτι τότε σκανδαλισθήσεσθε;) or shall ye then not he more offended? (οὐχὶ μᾶλλον δκανδαλισθήσεσθε;) Opposite interpretations:

1. Meyer, after De Wette: The ἀναβαίνειν, etc., denotes the dying of Jesus (comp. John 7:33; John 13:3; John 16:5; John 16:28),73 and to the beholders, who saw only this humble, ignominious fact of the death of Jesus, this amounted to the highest offence (so Beza, Semler, etc.; the οὖν also is adduced in support).

2. Olshausen [Hengstenberg, Godet, Alford] and others, after the expositors of the ancient church: Ἀναβαίνειν denotes (as in John 20:17) the ascension of Christ, and with this, or with His exaltation, offence must cease. Thus the question is: Will ye then still be offended? Augustine, et al.: Then will a deeper insight into the φαγεῖν τὴν σάρκα come.74 Calvin: Then will the offence which they took at His sensuous manifestation, be done away. Lyser: Then, by His glorification, the glorification of His flesh for food will also be provided for. Luthardt: The glorified state of existence will take the place of the fleshly.

Meyer groundlessly urges, that the ascension, as a visible occurrence, is not attested by any apostle,75 and in the unapostolical accounts76 none but disciples in the narrower sense are mentioned as eye-witnesses.77 The fact itself was nevertheless a visible one.

Meanwhile it is doubtless no more the ascension exclusively which is here in view, than it was exclusively the atoning death a little while ago. There the death includes the life and the exaltation; here the exaltation includes the death, chaps. 3 and 12 But it is evidently the exaltation viewed especially as produced by the Spirit, of which the next verse speaks. Hence in the same general sense as in Matthew 26:64. It must also be considered, that Christ throughout gives to the Jews not only His death, but with it also carefully His resurrection, for a sign (John 2:19; Matthew 12:39; Matthew 16:3, the sign of Jonah). The resurrection destroyed the offence of the cross itself for the believing; and therefore for such it does away also the offensive word. At the same time it glorified the personal life of Jesus by the outpouring of the Holy Ghost for the world’s believing participation. Nevertheless the Judaists continued to be offended, and perhaps for this reason the word of Christ remained an aposiopesis. [ὅπου ἦν τὸ πρότερον clearly implies the pre-existence of Christ; comp John 1:1; John 8:58; John 17:5; John 17:24; Colossians 1:17; Revelation 1:8.—P. S.]

John 6:63. It is the Spirit that maketh alive, the flesh profiteth nothing.—[Christ does not say My Spirit (τὸ πνεῦμα μου), and My flesh (ἡ σάρξ μου); the sentence is general and contains a hermeneutical canon which applies not only to this, but to all the discourses of Christ, and the proper mode of apprehending and appropriating Him. It must not be understood so as to conflict with the preceding declaration concerning His flesh. The flesh without the Spirit, or the flesh as mere matter and materially eaten, is worthless; but the flesh with the Spirit is worth much, most of all the flesh which the Logos assumed for our salvation (John 1:14) and which He sacrificed on the cross for the sins of the world.—P. S.] Interpretations:

1. Of the holy Supper: spiritual participation [πνεῦμα], as opposed to Capernaitic or material [σάρξ]. So Tertullian, Augustine,78 Rupert v. Deutz, Calvin, [Grotius] Olshausen, Kahnis [Lehre vom Abendmahl, p. 122]: “That which imparts to the eater of My flesh the virtue of eternal life, is not the flesh as such, but the Spirit.”

2. The Spirit is put for the spiritual apprehension of the word of Christ, the body representing the carnal apprehension (Chrysostom and many others, Lampe).
3. The πνεῦμα is the human soul, which animates the body (Beza, Fritzsche).

4. Not His bodily manifestation, the approaching dissolution of which was so offensive to them, but His Spirit is the life-giving thing. His bodily substance merely of itself profits nothing towards the ζωοποιεῖν. Under the figure of physical life, in which the spirit animates the flesh, Christ expresses the truth that the historical side both of His life and of His word, needs to be animated and glorified by His Spirit. This they should and might see clearly in His very words. The substantives assert: They are pure spirit, pure life.

How Luther and Zwingle contended over the sense of these words, see in Heubner, p. 321 sqq. Zwingle appealed to these words against the Lutheran doctrine of the Lord’s Supper79; Luther distinguished the flesh and My flesh, and explained “the flesh” as the carnal, corrupt mind of man. The verse no more supports Zwingle against a bodily presence of Christ, than it speaks, according to Luther’s interpretation, of the corrupt flesh of the sinner.

John 6:64. For Jesus knew from the beginning.Ἐξ means not, metaphysically from the beginning of all things (Theophylact), nor from the beginning of His acquaintance with each one (De Wette, Tholuck), nor from the beginning of His collecting of the disciples around Him, or the beginning of His Messianic ministry (Meyer; comp. John 16:4; John 15:27), nor from the very murmuring (too special: Chrysostom, Bengel), but from the first secret germs of unbelief. So also He knew His betrayer from the beginning. [On Judas see note to John 6:71.]

John 6:65. Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me.—That is, He expressly gives them again to understand that He had spoken that sentence not as a mere theoretical proposition, but with reference to the faith and the unbelief towards Him which was forming itself in particular persons.

[Excursus on the Sacramental Interpretation of this discourse.—The relation of the passage, John 6:51-43.6.58, to the Lord’s Supper involves two questions: 1. Whether the flesh and blood (σὰρξ καὶ αἶμα) of Christ here spoken of, are the same as His broken body and shed blood (σῶμα καὶ αἶμα) in the words of institution of that sacred ordinance (Matthew 24:26-40.24.28 and parallel passages), or the living humanity of Christ (comp. the meaning of σάρξ in John 1:14, and the note there); 2. Whether eating and drinking (τρώγειν or ἐσθίειν80 and πίνειν) signify, literally, sacramental fruition (manducatio oralis), or, figuratively, the spiritual appropriation of Christ by faith. If the discourse had been preceded by the institution of the sacrament a reference to it could not be mistaken; but as it was spoken long before the institution of this ordinance, and to hearers who as yet knew nothing of it, such a reference is made doubtful. This doubt is strengthened, first by the use of the term flesh instead of body; secondly by the substitution of Me, i.e., the living Person of Christ (John 6:57τρώγων με, comp. the ἐγώ in 35, 40, 51) for His flesh and blood, as the object of appropriation; and thirdly and mainly by the fact that Christ presents here the eating of His flesh not as a future, but a present act, and as the essential condition of spiritual and everlasting life, which, if understood sacra-mentally, would cut off from the possession of this life not only the disciples present on that occasion, but also all the saints of the old dispensation and the large number of Christians who die before they receive the holy communion (infants, children, death-bed converts, Quakers, and all unconfirmed persons). If participation in the Lord’s Supper were a necessary prerequisite of salvation, Christ would undoubtedly have said so when He instituted the ordinance. But throughout the Gospels, and especially in this discourse (comp. John 6:40; John 6:47), He makes faith the only condition of eternal life. He first exhibits Himself as the bread of life, and promises eternal life to every one who eats this bread, i.e., who believes in Him. He then holds out the very same promise to all those who eat His flesh and drink His blood, which, consequently, must be essentially the same act as believing. The discourse, therefore, clearly refers to a broader and deeper fact which precedes and underlies the sacrament, and of which the sacrament is a significant sign and seal, viz., personal union of the believing soul with Christ, and a living appropriation of His atoning sacrifice. This union culminates in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper and is strengthened by it; and so far the discourse had, in the mind of Christ who looked at the time forward to His death (John 6:51 : “My flesh which I shall give for the life of the world,” comp. John 6:60; John 6:70), a prospective bearing on the perpetual memorial of His sacrifice, and may be applied to it indirectly, but not directly, or in a narrow and exclusive sacramentarian sense. We must distinguish between a spiritual manducation of Christ by faith, and a sacramental manducation; the former alone is essential to everlasting life, and is the proper subject of the discourse. John omits an account of the institution both of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which was known to his readers from the gospel tradition and the Synoptists, but he gives those profound discourses of Christ which explain the spiritual meaning of the sacraments, namely the idea of regeneration which is signed and sealed in baptism (chap. 3), and the idea of personal communion with Him, which is celebrated in the Lord’s Supper (chap. 6). This suggests a very important doctrinal inference, viz., that the spiritual reality of regeneration and union with Christ is not so bound to the external sacramental sign that it cannot be enjoyed without it. We must obey God’s ordinances, but God is free, and we should bless whom He blesses. High sacramentarianism is contrary to the teaching of Christ according to St. John.

As to the history of interpretation we may distinguish three views:
1. The discourse has no bearing either direct or indirect on the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. So Tertullian, Clement of Alex., Origen, Basil among the fathers, Cardinal Cajetan, Ferus and Jansen among Roman Catholics, Luther, Melanchthon, Calov, Lücke, Tholuck (wavering) among the Lutherans, Calvin, Zwingli (doubtful), Beza, Bullinger, Grotius, Cocceius, Lampe (tom. II., 258 sq.), Hammond, Whitby, Barnes, Turner, Owen, Ryle among the Reformed, Paulus, Schulz, De Wette among the rationalists.
2. It refers, by prophetic anticipation, directly and exclusively to the Lord’s Supper. This interpretation has consistently led to the introduction of infant communion in the early Catholic and in the Greek church. So Chrysostom, Cyril, Theophylact among the fathers, the Schoolmen and Roman Catholic expositors with a few exceptions, Calixtus, Zinzendorf, Scheibel, Knapp among Lutherans, Wordsworth among Anglicans, Bretschneider, Strauss and Baur among the Skeptics.
3. It refers directly to the spiritual life-union of the soul with the Saviour by faith, and indirectly or inferentially to the sacramental celebration of this union in the holy Supper. So Augustine (perhaps),81 Bengel, Doddridge, Kling, Olshausen, Stier, Lange, Luthardt, Alford, Godet.82

It cannot be said that the question has a denominational or sectarian interest. The sacramental interpretation has been both opposed and defended by divines of all confessions and in the interest of every theory of the Lord’s Supper, the Roman, the Lutheran, the Calvinistic, and the Zwinglian. The Romanists (Cardinal Wiseman, e. g., who wrote an elaborate treatise on John 6:0) urge the literal meaning of the very strong language used repeatedly and without explanation by our Lord, as an argument for the dogma of transubstantiation; and even Tholuck is of the opinion that the Catholics have the advantage of the argument if the discourse be understood of the sacrament. But it seems to me that both transubstantiation and consubstantiation are clearly excluded 1) by the canon of interpretation laid down in John 6:63; John 2:0) by the declaration of our Lord concerning the effect of the fruition of His body and blood which is in all cases eternal life, John 6:54; John 6:56-43.6.58; while Romanists and (symbolical) Lutherans agree in teaching that unbelievers as well as believers may sacramentally eat the very body and drink the very blood of Christ, the one unto judgment, the others unto life. No such distinction has any foundation in this passage, but is at war with it.83 Moreover the Romish withdrawal of the cup from the laity is (as was already urged by the Hussites) incompatible with John 6:54-43.6.56 where the drinking of Christ’s blood is made as essential as the eating of His body. As far as the discourse bears a sacramental interpretation at all, it favors the Reformed theory. But by this I mean not the now widely-prevailing Zwinglian view, which is hardly compatible with the strong and mysterious language of our Lord, but the Calvinistic, which acknowledges the mystery of a spiritual real presence and a communication of the vital power of Christ’s humanity (σάρξ) to the believer by the Holy Spirit.—P. S.]


1. See the exegesis itself, particularly on John 6:31-43.6.32 ff.; and John 6:52 ff. [And the Excursus above.—P. S.]

2. Christ, the life of the world is, as the bread of life, the necessary means of life for the awakening, quickening, and strengthening of men to a personal eternal life. Salvation is not in outward enjoyment and outward things, but in the heavenly life of the Spirit (antithesis of the heavenly and earthly mind); the striving after heavenly things consists not in legal, perfunctory works, but in the inward, single, personal, divine work of faith (antithesis of the spiritual and the legal nature); life consists not in the doing of spiritual things as such, but in the person of Christ Himself (antithesis of personal and perfunctory Christianity). The personal life, however, manifests itself (1) in the total, undivided consciousness (Christ Himself), (2) in its giving of itself (His flesh), (3) in its impartation of life (flesh and blood).

The Spirit (chap. 3) brings the heavenly birth to life; the well

of life (chap. 4) gives the first thing in regeneration, the refreshment of the soul thirsting for life with the peace of God; the healing waters of life (chap. 5) give the restoration of the life from disease and death (spiritual and bodily); the bread of life, the heavenly manna (chap. 6), gives an eternal, substantial existence.

By the idea of the personal life of Christ all personal relations are glorified. (1) Calling becomes a laboring in the service of God. (2) Labor becomes a production of heavenly food. (3) Bread becomes the person of Christ, the flesh and blood of Christ; eating and drinking become a real corporeo-spiritual participation and receiving into one’s self of the highest life. Hearing is a hearing of the voice of God, which invites to this feast; seeing is the perfect knowledge of intuition.
This chapter thus contains the symbolism of bread, of industrial calling, of labor, of eating and drinking, of hearing and seeing; the symbolism of the whole life of sense in its central relation to the personal life and to the highest personality.

3. Laboring in manifold divided earthly works for earthly food in the service of the world has the perishing of the life itself, with the perishing of the meat, for its reward (Galatians 6:8; 1 John 2:17); but the working of the one divine work in the service of God, faith in Christ, has the heavenly manna for its reward. He who is intent upon partaking of the supreme person, comes to the delight of personal, eternal existence in the kingdom of God.

4. The exaltation of the manna of the desert as a symbol of the real manna. Without this real manna the life of man is a breadless desert in the strictest sense. The marks of the bread of God: (1) It must come down (not fall down) from heaven: be Spirit-life, personal life, divine life. (2) It must give life to the world. Not merely give respite to physical life now and then, but first awaken, then sustain and renew, personal life forever.

5. Earthly interest in Christ and in Christianity in distinction from heavenly. The chiliastic spirit in opposition to the spirit of the kingdom.

6. It is remarkable how this discourse of Jesus not only kindled strife, among the Jews, but has also fed the controversy of different confessions [denominations] in the evangelical church. Controversies over the doctrine of predestination have hung upon the words of John 6:37; John 6:44; John 6:64-43.6.65; and upon the words of John 6:53 sqq., and 68 sqq., controversies over the holy Supper. The middle age has transmitted to the evangelical church a far too meagre doctrine of spiritual personality; else would the doctrine of personality be found to yield the higher synthesis of the Reformed and the Lutheran doctrines both on predestination and the Lord’s Supper.

Without the personal drawing of the Father no coming to Christ is conceivable; but the Father, too, draws only in a personal way, i.e., under the form of freedom. Hence in John 6:44-43.6.45 divine determination and human freedom are linked together.

Without the appropriation of the entire historical personality of Christ, spirit and body, no full, saving partaking of the redemption purchased by Christ is conceivable; but in this partaking every medium of redemption is conditioned through the life and the Spirit of the Redeemer. Hence, on the one hand, we are required, with a fourfold emphasis, to eat and to drink the flesh and the blood of Christ, and on the other, we hear the strong condition: “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing.”
7. Honest striving, the unconscious drawing of God to holy living.

8. Whispering and murmuring, the indication of narrow-minded offence at the word of truth.

9. The mark of those who are truly taught of God: They pass (1) from the old world [paganism] into the Old Testament, (2) from the Old Testament into the New, (3) through the New Testament into a new world.

10. He that believeth on me hath (1) life, (2) eternal life.

11. Christ the bread of life in the three stages of the manifestation of His life: (1) In His person and history. (2) In His “flesh,” or “His giving Himself a sacrifice,” whereby He is transformed from the curse of the world and the burnt-offering and expiation of God into a pure and entire thank-offering of believing man. (3) Therefore is His “flesh and blood,” wherein He makes His historically finished life, by historical ordinances, the life of the world. The first stage represents the true bread itself; the second, the preparation of it for eating; the third, its being perfectly ready for believing participation: flesh and blood.

And then there are also three stages in the partaking of Christ: (1) The putting of confidence in Him as personally the source of life. (2) Firm faith in the life which is in His sacrificial death. (3) The ideal communion, which on the one hand receives the life of Christ in spirit and body through His historical ordinances, the summit of which is the Lord’s Supper, and which, on the other hand, ever refers the actual world more and more to Christ, and makes it, in labor and in enjoyment, the manifestation of Christ. The Christian must first of all eat the flesh and blood of Christ, in order at last to eat this flesh and blood in all things.
12. The four great words concerning the flesh and blood of Christ, confirmed with the “Verily, verily.” (1) John 6:53. The want of this eating and drinking of the flesh and blood of Christ is the want and loss of life (even of one’s own, personal life; “No life in you”). (2) John 6:54. The eating and drinking of the flesh and blood of Christ yield eternal life even now, and resurrection hereafter. (3) John 6:55. The first reason: His flesh and blood are the real staff of life (meat and drink). (4) John 6:56. The highest reason: The partaking of His flesh and blood is the condition of community of life with Him (“dwelleth in Me, and I in Him”). The transfiguration of the passover, of the paschal lamb, of the paschal feast of the Jews.

13. The living of Christ in God is not only the root, but also the type of the living of believers in Christ. So surely as God is the source of life, Christ, as the pure revelation of God, is the focus of the life in the world. But so surely as Christ is this focus, he who refers his life and his world to Christ, and Christ to his life and his world, stands in the kingdom of eternal life.

14. The most comforting and most glorious of all the words of Christ a hard saying to the Jewish mind.

15. The transfiguration of the humiliation of Christ and of its blessings by His exaltation. Christian morality, the union of spirit and nature in Christ. The organization of the Spirit (sacraments and church); the spiritualizing of the organization (the natural life of man), till God shall be all in all.

16. “It is the Spirit that quickeneth,” etc., hold true (1) in our natural life, (2) of the word of Christ, (3) of the historical manifestation of Christ, (4) of the sacraments, particularly of the Supper of the Lord. The revelation of the Spirit glorifies the Lord as the life of the world, which makes the new world the body of Christ, wherein everything is bread of life for all.

17. It is the problem of faith, and of theology, to carry out the synthesis of Spirit and flesh in the right way, (1) in regard to the relation between God and the world in general, taking the world not, indeed, as the body of God, yet doubtless as a revelation of Him; (2) in regard to the word’ of Holy Scripture; (3) in regard to the person of Christ; (4) in regard to the ordinances of Christ, the church, and especially the sacrament of the Supper. The first step in this process is the simple, direct recognition of the actual manifestation of Spirit and flesh in concrete unity. This simple recognition, under the symbolical primitive religion, sees God revealed in the world; under the religion of revelation in general, it sees the Spirit of God revealed in the theocracy and the Scriptures; in the apostolic Christianity, it sees the Son of God in the several miracles of His life; in the primitive church, the unity of the Spirit of Christ and His ordinances.

Yet the consciousness of a distinction and antithesis between the Spirit and the flesh is everywhere present. And because the earthly mind, along this whole line, is inclined to lose the sense of this opposition, and because, in the mass of men, it does actually lose it, the strong distinction becomes a necessity (“It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing”).
The Old Testament distinguishes between God and the world in opposition to heathenism. Christ distinguishes between the living revelation and outward theocracy and the letter of Scripture, in opposition to Judaism. The Antiochian criticism and the mediæval mysticism distinguish between the spiritual personality of Christ and its several relations and manifestations, against the traditional exegesis. The Reformation distinguishes between the spirit of the true church and its external form; and between the substance and the form of the sacrament.
But these distinctions look to the restoration of the true union. Christ exhibits the true union of God and the world both in His person and in His consciousness (the incarnation of God); Christian theology works out the known synthesis between revelation and Scripture (the word of God in its organic life); sacred criticism aims at a view of the gospel history whose heart and pulse is the personal Christ (religious history is not documentary); evangelical dogmatics seizes the kernel of the true church in the visible church (ideal tradition is not external tradition), and in place of the mediaeval identification of grace and the external sacramental performance it puts, in the Lutheran view which is more fervent for the union, the organic synthesis, and in the Reformed [Calvinistic] view which is more careful of the distinction, the symbolical synthesis (inseparableness of word and sacrament).

Hence it follows that the dangers of the Lutheran view lie in the direction of confusion, and the dangers of the Reformed view in the direction of separation; and that therefore the two views themselves can have their safest operation only in living synthesis. And the true union, the third and highest step, consists in the recognition of the Spirit as in relation to the flesh, (1) the sole power, (2) a transforming, renewing power, (3) a glorifying power, taking on itself the flesh as its transparent crystal-like organ. Hence, also, Christ here points on to exaltation.
18. Jesus, the heart-searcher in reference, above all, to the faint germs of faith and unbelief.


See the Doctrinal and Ethical reflections.

The flight of Jesus over the sea, and His discourse in the synagogue at Capernaum, a continuation of His victory over the tempter in the wilderness, Matthew 4:0—The decisive and divisive discourse of the Lord concerning salvation in personal life-union with Himself.—Those who seek salvation in impersonal Christian things with an impersonal conduct, cannot find salvation in the person of the Lord with personal faith.—The hoping of the mere mind in Christ is vain: 1. Vain both in ifs naked form of earthly-mindedness and selfishness and in its sanctimonious dress of chiliastic enthusiasm. 2. Vain both in its standing and lingering (on the eastern side of the sea), and in its haste and running (to the western shore). 3. Vain whether in its effort to magnify Christianity in secular style (to make Christ king of bread), or in its effort to belittle it according to a worldly standard (to deny its heavenly descent and its heavenly nucleus, the atonement). 4. Vain in its desire to alter Christianity, instead of itself becoming altered by it. Conclusion: Vain, i.e., ruinous.—The true servants and workmen of God, and the true work of God.—The demand of the sensuous and legalistic way of thinking, that Christ should in an Old Testament manner go beyond the Old Testament: Christ should surpass Moses: 1. In miracles of outward benefit (“What dost thou work?”). 2. In requirements of eternal law (“What shall we do?”). 3. In terror of external judgment (as king of the Jews ruling over the heathen).

Verily, verily, not Moses, but the Father in heaven, gives the bread of God.—Christ is the bread of God in His personal divine life, John 6:32-43.6.40 : (1) The typical and the true bread of God, John 6:32-43.6.33. (2) The false and the true appetite for this bread, John 6:34-43.6.38. (3) The liberating and quickening operation of this bread, John 6:39-43.6.40.—Christ gives the bread of life in His giving up of His flesh in His atoning death, John 6:41-43.6.51 : (1) He gives it not to the murmurers, but to them that are drawn and taught of the Father, John 6:41-43.6.47. (2) He gives with it the full partaking of eternal life, John 6:48-43.6.50. (3) He gives it in giving Himself, John 6:51. (4) He gives it in giving His flesh for the life of the world, John 6:51.—Christ institutes the meal of life in making His flesh and blood a feast of thank-offering to the world, John 6:52-43.6.59 : (1) The offence at the words concerning the flesh of Christ; John 6:52. (2) The heightening of the offence by the fourfold assertion concerning the flesh and blood of Christ, John 6:53-43.6.56. (3) The ground of this assertion: the life of Christ in the Father, John 6:57. (4) The conclusion of this assertion, John 6:58-43.6.59.—Christ transfigures the meal of life into a meal of the Spirit, John 6:60-43.6.65 : (1) By His exaltation, John 6:62. (2) By the sending of the Spirit, John 6:63. (3) By His word, John 6:63. (4) By the excision of unbelievers, John 6:64.

On single sentences: John 6:25. To these Jews the second miracle of Jesus (the walking on the sea) remains a close secret, because they do not recognize the divine sign in the first (the breaking of bread).

John 6:26. “Verily, verily, ye seek Me,” etc. They have seen not the miraculous sign in the feeding, but only the feeding in the miraculous sign.—Thus they are a type of all false friends of religion, who seek not the kingdom of heaven in earthly advantages, but only earthly advantages in the kingdom of heaven.

John 6:27. Christ, who has not where to lay His head, intrusted by God with the official seal which makes Him steward for the whole world.

John 6:28-43.6.29. The legalistic Christian thinks he can do works which earn for him the blessing of God; whereas the gospel requires a work in which God is the agent: faith.—Faith is a work of man from God, with God, for God; and for this very reason as much the work of God as it is the highest, freest work of man. The miraculous feeding the seal and sealing of the divine steward.

John 6:30. Ingratitude towards the Lord: how it always forgets the past sign from God, and demands a new one.

John 6:31. How an earthly mind can pervert even the Scripture.—The true bread from heaven can be given to us not by man, but by God alone (the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ).

John 6:33. Marks of the bread of God: 1. It comes down from heaven. 2. It gives life to the world.

John 6:34. “Lord, evermore give us,” etc.: the vain prayer, to the very face of the Lord: 1. Because it recognizes not the Giver in the bread. 2. Because it recognizes not the bread of life in the Giver.

John 6:35. The answer of Jesus aims to disclose their spirit (1) by insisting on the figure, the representation of the bread in His person; (2) by enlarging the figure: bread for hunger and thirst; (3) by explaining the figure: Come to me, believe on me.—Christianity the truth and the true sanctification of eating: 1. Making faith an eating. 2. Making eating faith.

John 6:36. The incapacity of the earthly-minded man to see into the mystery of the divine life. One can see Jesus, the church, her reformers, her great spirits, with the eye, without seeing the spirit, or the glory of the personal life.—They will see and believe things, but they have not seen nor believed His person.

John 6:37. It needs a stirring of the personal life of love descending from God, to see the glory of the personal life in Christ.—Christ draws all divinely chosen and kindred ones into His kingdom, since (1) all that the Father gives Him, come to Him, and (2) none who come to Him, does He cast out.

John 6:38. Him that cometh, etc. He casts out none, because He judges men not by the perfection of their life, but by the dispositions, affinities, and beginnings of it.—As the Spirit attaches Himself everywhere to the work of the Son (John 14:26; John 16:13), so the Son everywhere to the work of the Father,—Christ aspires not, according to His own will, to an ideal position of life for Himself, but enters, according to the will of His Father, into the historical duty of life. His will is of heavenly purity, and yet His life is a continual sacrifice of His will.

John 6:38-43.6.40. The gracious will of the Father: 1. In regard to the Redeemer. 2. In regard to those to be redeemed and those redeemed. 3. In regard to the way of redemption.—The purpose of the Father in Christ: 1. What it forbids (John 6:39 : “lose nothing”). 2. What it enjoins (John 6:40).—Thus He is in both views the bread of life: 1. Redeeming from death. 2. Imparting eternal life.—The unfolding of personal life in redemption: 1. In the first phase of redemption (in John 6:39) personality is but feebly developed; the needy life is spoken of (in the neuter), which is in danger of being lost; in the next phase (in John 6:40), we have no longer the mere rescue from destruction, but the conferring of the highest life; and here personality comes clearly to view. 2. In the first case redemption has to do with lost men in the mass; in the second, with individuals. 3. There the redeemed one is comparatively passive; here he is an active person, turned to the Redeemer, finding life in the beholding of His life. 4. There redemption bears chiefly the impress of divine predestination; here it takes that of human freedom.—The gracious operations of Christ go on to glorious completion in the last day.—The greatness of the promise of a new, infinite fulness and freshness of life at the end of the world.—How often the Lord points forward to the completion of His work at the last day.

John 6:41. “The Jews then murmured:” The characteristics of the illiberal partisan spirit: 1. They murmured. 2. They murmured to one another. 3. They murmured against the Lord and His word.

John 6:42. The old and ever new offence at the words of Christ respecting His heavenly origin: 1. Because He is from Nazareth, He cannot be from heaven. 2. Because He is the Son of Man, He cannot be the Son of God.—The sinful world’s condemnation of itself in its sundering of the divine and human natures in Christ.—The deceptions of vulgar conceit in matters of the Spirit. 1. The people think they know Him, because they know His parents. 2. They think they know His origin, because they know His foster-father. 3. They think they know His mother, because they know her poverty and lowliness. Comp. John 7:27; Matthew 13:55.

John 6:43-43.6.44. “Murmur not among yourselves:” the drawing of partisan spirit a drawing of the earth, against the drawing of the Father from heaven.—The drawing of the Father to the Son.

John 6:45. As one must first be a believer, to become a true disciple of God, so must one, in another view, be first taught of God, in order to become a believer.

John 6:46. The revealing of God, as it was the peculiar property of Christ, is above every experience of God in sinful men. Comp. John 1:18.—We begin the new life by hearing an obscure word (see Genesis 12:1); He has seen from eternity the face of the Father.

John 6:47. “He that believeth on me, hath,” etc.

John 6:48. Christ the bread of life: (1) The bread as life. (2) The life as bread: (a) the true manna; therefore (b) the bread of God, bread of heaven, bread of life.—The true bread to be known especially by the fact that it gives itself.—It is the nature of a loving personality, to give itself.—He gives Himself, as the Father has given Him.—He gives His only life to death, to awaken the world out of death to life. While He was dead, the life of the world hung on the single seed and glowing spark of His life, which broke forth for the resurrection and re-animation of the world.

John 6:52. They wonder that they should eat His flesh; then Ho speaks of eating His flesh and blood.—Christ the true paschal lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7).

John 6:53-43.6.56. The four great asseverations of the Lord concerning the eating of His flesh and the drinking of His blood. See above.—The appropriation of the historical personality of Christ in its vital, heavenly operation by means of Christ’s historical ordinance.—How Christ still gives Himself even now in His flesh and blood, in His full human form and His entire heavenly nature, to be eaten by men.—How the eating of the flesh and blood of Christ is effected: 1. Through His word, particularly His history. 2. Through His sacraments, particularly the sacrament of His body and blood.—In ourselves also Christianity must in a holy sense, become flesh and blood.—How Christ does away the opposition between the spiritual and the bodily in His kingdom: 1. Corporealizing the spiritual (word in sacrament, gospel in church). 2. Spiritualizing the bodily (members into instruments of righteousness, the world into His Father’s house).

John 6:57. As Christ lives by the Father, we should live by Him.—He who lives in Christ, stands at the focus of eternal rejuvenation.

John 6:58. All who have lived only under the law and in symbols, have eaten manna and are dead. Most have died under heavy judgments, Hebrews 3:17. Comp. the history of the mediæval church (Corpus Christi, festivals, battle-fields, the plague).

John 6:59. The wonderful sermon of Christ on the bread of life delivered in the synagogue of the Jews at Capernaum.

John 6:60. The grandest living word of Christ, a hard saying to the Jewish mind.

John 6:61. Offence at the word of salvation.

John 6:62. How that which is dark and enigmatical in the humiliation of Christ is cleared up by His exaltation.

John 6:63. “It is the Spirit,” etc.

John 6:64. The words of Christ as spirit and life, and as a type of His whole administration. The spirit and life hidden from unbelievers, even when they gush with spirituality and vitality.—Christ knows the beginnings of unbelief as well as of faith.

Starke. John 6:26. Hedinger: Self-interest may lurk under the holiest works.—Zeisius: O how subtle a poison is selfishness!

John 6:29. Quesnel: The great work of God in us is the work of a living faith which works by love.

John 6:32. Majus: Christ the most precious gift of God, in which and with which are given to us all things. Romans 8:32.

John 6:33. Quesnel: O Bread of God, thou art life indeed, true life, eternal life, life of body and of soul, life not of one people only, but of all nations!

John 6:35. Canstein: Not only in His person is Christ the life, but from Him life goes forth to all men; natural life, since He is the Word of the Father, Genesis 1:3; Acts 17:28; the life of righteousness in His believing ones before the judgment seat of God, Romans 8:10; spiritual life in regeneration, 1 Peter 1:23; and eternal life, inasmuch as all the glory of believers not only comes from Him, but also consists in their partaking of Him and in His being all in all to them.—Osiander: No temporal possessions and bodily pleasure can truly satisfy and quicken the heart; nothing but Christ.

John 6:37. Quesnel: Pastors after the example of the chief Shepherd, should receive all whom God sends to them, and labor for their salvation.—So surely as Christ did not suffer in vain, so surely shall no penitent be cast out.—Jesus not only does not cast out a penitent sinner, but will also lead him into His inmost sanctuary.

John 6:39. Romans 8:31. What belongs to Christ, though esteemed lost in the eye of the world, is not therefore lost in truth; in the resurrection of the dead all shall come together again in universal joy.

John 6:41. Here we find the counterpart of the murmuring of the Israelites in the wilderness, where they were fed with manna. Here the Jews murmur against the true manna.—Hedinger: Reason stumbles at divine teaching, 1 Corinthians 1:18; 1 Corinthians 1:23-46.1.24.

John 6:42. Jesus, subjected to great contempt. If thou, dear Christian, art now thought meanly of, thou art like the Saviour, and thou shalt be honored for it forever.

John 6:44. The drawing of God is not a drawing by force, yet it is a drawing with power. Augustine: “Ramum ostendis ovi et trahis illam. Nuces puero demonstrantur, et trahitur, etc. Trahit sua quemque voluptas. Quomodo non traheret revelatus Christus a patre. Ergo tractio illa non fit violenter sed mediate.Philippians 2:13.

John 6:45. Zeisius: Every one who comes to Christ by faith is taught of God.—Hearing, learning of the Father, and coming, are intimately joined together.—The Holy Ghost teaches in experience as in His own school.

John 6:47. The spiritual life of faith is a beginning of the eternal life which consists in vision.

John 6:48. If thou art full of the most costly dainties, and hast not eaten of the bread of life, thou wilt soon be hungry enough, and must be hungry forever.

John 6:49. John 6:31 has “our Father;” here the our is changed with design into “your.”—He means by it not all the fathers; for the believing received a spiritual food (1 Corinthians 10:3); but the unbelieving whose footsteps they were following, Matthew 23:32 : 1 Corinthians 10:5.—If we do not rightly use the riches of God’s goodness, we incur the heavier judgment.

John 6:57. Lampe: The power which gives heavenly food to the inward man, must be applied to walking in the way of the Lord, and earnestly carrying forward His work.—Gossner: The weightiest and highest truths, which most quicken and comfort the faithful, confound the ungodly.

Braune: The sacrament, which did not exist till after the institution, is not intended here; but, as in the conversation with Nicodemus we have the idea of baptism, so here we have the idea of the Lord’s Supper.—Before His resurrection His Spirit was hidden under the flesh; but since the resurrection the Spirit so pervades and advances the flesh that it now can make good everything He here says of it. So may it be said of our eye: What is hidden in the little bit of flesh? (Then follows a contrast between the living eye and the dead.)—Lisco: 1. Jesus enjoins laboring for the imperishable meat, John 6:25-43.6.31. (a) He rebukes the earthly mind, John 6:25-43.6.26; (b) He exhorts to labor for the imperishable food, John 6:27; (c) He points out that the labor is faith, John 6:28-43.6.29. John 6:2. Jesus Himself is the true bread of life (John 6:30-43.6.31), John 6:32-43.6.40, etc.—Gerlach: All earthly food only nourishes here below the perishable life, and perishes with it; but as the man whom it is given to nourish, does not perish, it points to and produces hunger for an imperishable food for his immortal spirit.—The manna was primarily only an earthly food, etc.; though it was certainly an emblem of the nourishing, fostering faithfulness of God, a pledge of grace, a sacrament in a certain sense, 1 Corinthians 10:3. However since it primarily nourished only the body, while in virtue of the nature of this nourishing it gave food to the spirit, etc., Christ could contrast it with the true bread of heaven.—On John 6:37 (Luther): This is spoken after the manner of the Scriptures, which, where they deny, do in the very strongest manner assert; when Christ says: “I will in nowise cast out,” it is as if He said: I will receive with joy; and this depicts as well His willing and hearty obedience to the Father, as His most precious love.—The word flesh in the New Testament is never equivalent to the word body. The former signifies primarily the mass, the substance, of which the earthly body distinctively consists; the latter, the skilfully constructed whole.—This discourse also explains the double form of the Holy Supper, and shows how those who withhold the cup from the laity, deprive them of their free personal communion with Christ (the spiritual priesthood, 1 Peter 2:5; 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6), and so far as in them lies, reduce the laity to a general mass of Christian people governed by a few full members of the Lord.

Heubner: False love to Jesus may be (1) sensuous, sentimental; (2) selfish; (3) hypocritical; (4) ostentatious, ambitious.—The earthly mind and love to Jesus are absolutely incompatible.—Contrast between Moses and Christ.—Moses could not communicate inward spiritual life.

John 6:36. O, to think of the theologians who have been occupied for years with the New Testament, yet have no love to Jesus,—what ossified hack souls84 they must be!—The nearer Christ comes to the heart, the more life, love, light.

John 6:37. The gospel of Christ is a message of salvation to all.

John 6:43. Unbelief has infectious power.

John 6:45. A more particular explanation of the drawing. Being taught of God. The phrase eating and drinking frequent among the Jews for spiritual enjoyment (see Lightfoot, etc.)—Besser, John 6:30 : They degrade the “believe on him,” to a “believe thee.”

John 6:38-43.6.40. Chemnitz calls attention to the terms in this discourse, seeing (John 6:36), beholding [the “seeing” of John 6:40], believing, and eating and drinking,—as denoting so many steps of faith: 1. Historical knowledge (notitia). 2. Hearty assent (assensus) 3. Trusting (fiducia). 4. Personal appropriation (applcatio). Schleiermacher: They were quite mistaken in looking upon the manna miracle of Moses as one which had been to their fathers a ground of faith in the mission of Moses. The first thing with which the Lord consoles Himself, (over their unbelief), is His great, indomitable long-suffering.—The Lord’s invitation to vital union with Him.

[Christ the source of spiritual and eternal life. 1. Natural life in the plant, the animal, and in man; its character, pleasures, miseries, vanity and death; 2. Spiritual life, its origin, character, development, and final consummation in the resurrection to glory everlasting. Augustine [Tract. in Joh. xxvi. 13. Tom. iii. 499): O sacramentum pietatis, o signum unitatis, o vinculum caritatis! Qui vult vivere, habet ubi vivat, habet unde vivat. Accedat, credat, incorporetur ut vivificetur.—Ibid. (iii. 501): Hoc est ergo manducare illam escam, et illum bibere potum, in Christo manere, et illum manentem in se habere. (John 6:57.)—Burkitt (John 6:51-43.6.59). Carnal persons put a carnal sense upon Christ’s spiritual words, and so occasion their own stumbling.—Learn, 1. That the Lord Jesus Christ is the true spiritual food for all believers; 2. That those and those only who feed upon Him by faith, shall obtain a life of grace and glory from Him.—Ibid. If the passage be understood of the sacramental eating and drinking (which Burkitt rejects), then woe to the Church of Rome for denying the cup to the laity.—As meat is turned into the eater’s substance, so believers and Christ become one; and by feeding on Him, i.e., by believing on Him, there follows a mutual inhabitation; Christ dwells in them, and they in Him.—P. S.]

Verses 66-71


Apostacy Of Many Disciples. Incipient Treason In The Circle Of The Twelve. Confession Of Peter

John 6:66-43.6.71

66From that time [upon this]85 many of His disciples went back, and walked no 67more with him. Then [Therefore] said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also [do ye 68also wish to] go away? Then [omit Then]86 Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go [go away, ὰπελευσόμεθα]? thou hast the [omit the] words of eternal life. 69And we believe and are sure [we have believed and have known] that thou art that Christ [the Christ],87 the Son of the living God [the Holy One of God].88 70Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, [Did I not choose 71you the twelve?] and one of you is a devil? [!] He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon [Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot]John 89: for he it was [it was he] that should [was about to] betray him, being90 one of the twelve.


John 6:66. Upon this many of his disciples.Ἐκ τούτου. (1) From this moment (Lücke, De Wette). (2) Meyer, more correctly, according to c. John 19:12 : On account of this discourse, “which disappointed their carnal messianic hopes.” And in addition had become the strongest positive offence.

Went back; εἰς τὰ ὀπίσω.—Comp. c. John 18:6; John 20:14.

John 6:67. Will ye also, etc.—So Luther, Baumgarten-Crusius [and the English version], not accurately. Rather, “But ye will not go away, will ye?”91 Expressing confidence mingled with suspicion in reference to the traitor. Giving occasion for a volutary decision. [The Lord asked the question in order to test their faithfulness, to elicit their confession, and to attach them more closely to Himself, but not, as Alford suggests, for His own comfort and encouragement; for as He knew the future treason of Judas (John 6:64; John 6:71), so He foresaw also the faithfulness of the eleven. In this place, John first mentions the Twelve, without a word about their previous calling.—a clear proof that he took for granted a general knowledge of the gospel history.—P. S.]

John 6:68. To whom shall we go.—So also Luther’s version. More accurately: To whom shall we go over, go away from Thee? Meyer: ἀπελευσόμεθα, future, ever go away. [Denying the future possibility.—P. S.] No second Messiah will appear. [Augustin: Da nobis alterum Te]. Prelude to the confession of Peter in Matthew 16:16. [Peter quickly, resolutely and emphatically speaks and acts here as elsewhere in the name of the Twelve. He is the mouth-piece of the apostolic college. This gives him a certain primacy and priority down to the day of Pentecost and the calling of Paul, who was the independent head of Gentile Christianity by Christ’s own appointment. The Romish Church turns the temporary and personal primacy of Peter into a permanent and official supremacy of the Bishop of Rome. This, and the identifying of the church of Rome with the Kingdom of Christ, is the πρῶτον ψεῦδος, the fundamental error and the fundamental sin of the papacy.—P. S.]

Words of eternal life. And we.—The objective and subjective grounds of cleaving to Him. Words which come forth from, possess, and lead to, eternal life. See John 6:63.—And we: [καὶ ἡμεῖς] the answer of faith to the object of faith. Not excluding, of course, the other “antithesis to the deserters.” (Meyer.)

[John 6:69. And we have believed and have known.—The perfect: πεπιστεύκαμεν καὶ ἐγνώκαμεν, expresses the completed action and permanent result: assured faith and firm knowledge. Fides præcedit intellectum, “faith precedes knowledge.” This Augustinian and Anselmic maxim (which Schleiermacher also adopted; see the motto of his Dogmatics) may be derived from the order of πίστις and γνῶσις in this verse.92 But the reverse maxim: Intellectus præcedit fidem (Abelard), is also true, though not in a rationalistic sense, and is supported by the order, John 10:38 (that ye may know and believe) and 1 John 5:13. We must first be made acquainted with Christ before we can believe in Him (“faith comes by hearing,” Romans 10:17), but we must believe in Christ in order to attain an experimental and saving knowledge of Him. Faith itself is an intellectual as well as a moral and spiritual act.—P. S.]

The Holy One of God [see Textual Notes.] The One consecrated by and for God. Comp. John 10:36; Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34; Acts 4:27; Revelation 3:7. [The coincidence of the original text with the testimony of the demoniacs (Mark 1:26), who with ghostlike intuition perceived the higher character of Jesus, is remarkable.—P. S.] More indefinite designation of the Messiah. The full, matured confession, born of the Spirit, we find first in Matthew 16:0;—a fact mistaken by Weisse, when he makes this passage a variation of that in the Synoptical account.93 Peter’s answering here in this complete way for all the twelve could not be entirely of the Spirit, [as the later confession Matthew 16:0 was]. It unconsciously served to sustain Judas in his false and cold self-command, and to cover the aversion which was in him at the very time; and thus it gave occasion for the severe words of Jesus.

John 6:70. Did I not choose you the twelve?—A more definite exposition of the words of John 6:67. Meyer: “Not the language of reflection, but of sudden pain over the tragic result, in contrast with that joyful confession which Peter was convinced he could give in the name of all.” It probably refers not to the “tragic result,” but to the moral alienation, the germ of apostasy, which from this time forth developed itself in Judas. The distribution of the emphasis is very significant. “I” is first; then “you;” then “the twelve.” I, as the Holy One of God; have chosen you, to the highest honors.

And now the fearful contrast: One of you is a devil!94—Interpretations: An informer (Theophylact, [DeWette]); an adversary or betrayer (Kuinöl, Lücke, et al.); devil, devilish, of a diabolical nature (Meyer).95 In New Testament designations, however, an ideal meaning is always lodged; the word is not a mere nomen; as Matthew 13:39; Revelation 12:10 prove. And this is the more sure to be the case in this figurative designation. In Matthew 16:23 the term “Satan” is chosen, because Jesus intends to describe a tempter instigated by the devil; so here also “devil” denotes an actual traducer instigated by the devil. We must by all means abide by the term. The expression: “sons, or children of the devil,” (John 8:44; 1 John 3:10), is not so strong. The mention of the number twelve shows that the brothers of the Lord also were by this time in the circle. [? See below, p. 241.—P. S.]

John 6:71. He spoke of Judas.—That is, He meant him. See the Textual Notes. On Judas Iscariot see the Com. on Matthew, John 10:0 [p. 182.] Not to be confounded with the other Judas (son of James), John 14:22.

For it was he that was about to betray him.Ἤμελλεν is hard to translate. Traditurus erat.96 The betrayal germinated in him from this time forth. Meyer, groundlessly: “Not that he was already meditating the betrayal, (see, on the contrary, John 13:2), but that the betrayal was the divinely appointed result.” John 13:2 speaks of the final resolution; this passage of the first swerving of the temper and inclination. One of the twelve.—Showing up the monstrous, diabolical character of this incipient infidelity. The silence of Judas is in keeping with his character. It now firmly lodges the seed. On the Lord’s choosing of Judas see Meyer [p. 285, 5th ed. See also the Literature quoted below in Doctr. and Ethical No. 3.—P.S.]

[The call of Judas is only one of the innumerable mysteries in God’s moral government, which no system of philosophy can solve at all, and which even Christianity solves but in part, reserving the final answer for a higher expansion of our faculties in another world. It involves the whole problem of the relation of God to the origin of sin, and the relation of His foreknowledge and foreordination to the free agency of man. The question why Christ called and received Judas into the circle of His chosen twelve, is more dogmatical than exegetical, yet cannot be passed by unnoticed. It admits of three answers, none of which, however, is entirely satisfactory:

1. Christ elected Judas an apostle, not indeed for the very purpose that he might become a traitor (which no sensible divine ever asserted, at least not directly); but that, through his treason, as an incidental condition or a necessary means, the Scriptures might be fulfilled (comp. John 13:18; John 17:12), and the redemption of the world be accomplished. So Augustine (electi undecim ad opus probationis, electus unus ad opus tentationis), supralapsarian Calvinists, also Daub who (in his speculative treatise: Judas Iscariot) represents the traitor as an incarnate devil, predestinated to exhibit wickedness in its worst form in contrast with the highest manifestation of goodness in Christ. This view, although it contains an element of truth, seems after all to involve our blessed Lord in some kind of responsibility for the darkest crime ever committed.

2. Jesus foresaw the financial and administrative abilities of Judas (comp. John 12:6; John 13:29), which might have become of great use to the apostolic church, but not his thievish and treacherous tendencies, which developed themselves afterwards, and He elected him solely for the former. This explanation is rather rationalistic and incompatible with the prophetic foresight of Christ, as well as the express remark of John ἤδει ἐξ , John 6:64, and John 6:70-43.6.71.

3. Jesus knew the whole original character of Judas from the beginning, before it was properly developed, and elected him in the hope that the good qualities and tendencies would, under the influence of His teaching, ultimately acquire the mastery over the bad. So Meyer, Park and many others. This implies that Jesus was mistaken, if not in His judgment at the time, at least in His expectation, and is likewise at war with His perfect knowledge of the human heart.
Alford despairs of solving the difficulty. Wordsworth and other English commentators pass it by in modest or prudent silence.
I must add that the fall of Judas does not necessarily interfere with the doctrine of the perseverance of saints. For by his election is evidently meant the external historical call to the apostleship which was confined to the twelve, (ὑμᾶς τοὺς δώδεκα ἐξελεξάμην, John 6:70), not the eternal election of the Father and the drawing of the Father to the Son, which applies to all true disciples who persevere to the end (Romans 8:28 ff.; John 10:28-43.10.29; John 13:18). With this important distinction we may endorse Bengel’s remark: “There is therefore a certain kind of election from which man may fall away (Est igitur aliqua electio ex qua aliquis potest excidere),” but we must add: there is another kind of election which is as certain and unchangeable as God.—P. S.]


1. The turning-point in the life of Jesus which John here brings to view is of the highest importance in the history. It accounts for the falling away of the majority of the Galilean followers of Jesus, and that in a way perfectly agreeable to the Galilean character, which was inclined to boisterous insurrectionary projects. Because Jesus refused Himself to the fanatical proposal of these people to make Him a king, and demanded in stringent terms an inward, submissive faith in His person, instead of an outward hoping for the things of an earthly kingdom, many began to fall back.

2. Undoubtedly also the first disaffection now formed itself in the mind of Judas; since after the explanation of Jesus, he must have felt that he had been deceived in his glowing expectations. How little the disciples in general noticed this, appears from the protestation of Peter. Yet, besides the all-seeing eye of Christ, the feeling of John seems also to have caught an impression of this alienation. (See Leben Jesu, II p. 609.)

3. On the calling [and character] of Judas, comp. Matthew, p. 183; Meyer in loco [5th ed. p. 285]; Lücke II p. 182. [Also Schaff’s treatise on the Sin against the Holy Ghost (Halle, 1841), pp. 35 ff., the article Judas in Winer and in Smith, especially the analysis by Prof. Park of Andover in Hackett’s edition of Smith, Vol. II pp. 1495–1503.—P. S.]

4. The protestation of Peter forms a beautiful contrast to the sullen silence of Judas, in whose apostasy three periods are to be marked: 1. The beginning of alienation from this time forth; 2. The thought of betrayal and the dalliance with it after the anointing in Bethany; 3. The full purpose and the execution of it after the pass-over. And yet the beautiful contrast is not perfect, because Peter indiscreetly and without misgiving answered for the whole company, including Judas himself. Even the grand sentence: “Thou hast the words of eternal life,”—does not fully reach the deep meaning of Jesus in His discourse, if it refers to it. The word of the disciple falls something short of the self-presentation of the Master. The confession in Matthew 16:16 is an expression of purer and riper faith. Hence Jesus answers here with the stern word: “One of you is a devil,” while after that other confession he blesses him. Even in the latter case it is true, that the sharp rebuke, “Get thee behind me, Satan,”—follows the benediction; for in that case also the divine enthusiasm of faith had not yet matured in Peter into a firm spirit of faith; Peter was not yet free from all sympathy with Judas in chiliastic ambition.

5. It is not to be supposed that the disciples in general received any definite idea as to whom the Lord meant. Least of all do they seem to have fixed on Judas, who, on the contrary, appears from the account of the anointing at Bethany in Matthew and Mark to have enjoyed high consideration among them. That Judas felt himself in some way hit, is very probable; and also that John was led to suspect who the forbidding fellow disciple was (see John’s account of the anointing). The stern word of Christ must therefore have burdened the minds of the disciples as a heavy riddle, giving them continuous warning, even amidst the great successes of His subsequent ministry.
The turn we here mark in the history of Jesus now comes fully to view in His subsequent conduct as depicted in the next chapter.


The first apostasy from Christ in its solemn and typical import: 1. Its motives; 2. Its extent; 3. Its consequences.—The majestic calmness of the Lord in the apostasy of false disciples, as revealed in His stern dealing with those who remain.—The deep grief of the Lord visible even through His free and tranquil conduct, 1. His calmness: He begs not, flatters not, makes no terms; He remains sure of Himself and of His word. 2. His grief: He sees a danger to all His disciples; seems even to miss hearing the fair words of Peter; declares with a shudder that one of the chosen twelve is a devil.—The first apostasy, the first sifting of the hosts of Christ’s disciples, 1 John 2:19.—However great the apostasy may be, it never can be universal.—The stages of apostasy: 1. Retention of the earthly mind in discipleship, Matthew 13:5. Matthew 13:2. Development of unbelief, of rupture with Christ. 3. The actual apostasy itself.—Apostasy: a total view of the mournful thing: 1. Its main features in the gospel history. 2. Its preludes in the Old Testament history. 3. Its development in the history of the Christian church. 4. Its final form as depicted in the prophecies of the Bible. The affinity of the apostasy in Galilee with the hostility in Judea.—The apostasy of the Jews a prelude to the traitorous apostasy of Judas.—The malignant silence of Judas a bad sign.—Falsehood of the diabolical nature.

“Nothing more grimly holds thee back
Than falsehood of thy being.”

—The silence of Judas and the out-speaking of Peter.—The striking contrast in the circle of the twelve: Peter and Judas: 1. Honest loyalty and false adherence. 2. Fresh, clear openness and dark obduracy. 3. Happy confession and unhappy reserve.—Peter, Judas and John.—The declaration of Peter in its light and shade.—“Lord, to whom shall we go?”—We must continue with Jesus our Lord, because (1) no other Christ will come; (2) no one will bring a better word; (3) there remains no other faith; (4) there remains no brighter knowledge.—The solemnity and dread with which Jesus answered the declarations of Peter.—The fearful contrast: To be chosen to a higher service than angels, and to prove a devil.—The terrible omen, that from among the twelve arose a traitor to the Lord, and a betrayer of the Lord Himself.—The depravity germinates slowly, but ripens rapidly to judgment.—The second turn in the life of Jesus (in Galilee), compared with the first (in Judea).—Because Christ presented Himself to His disciples as the bread of eternal life, many feared they should starve, and fell away.—They wish only things, things, things (worldly things, spiritual things, ecclesiastical things), and so come not to personal life in the beholding and partaking of the glorious personality of Christ.—As a man’s ideal is, so is he: he who wishes only idols and stocks, is like idols and stocks; he who wishes only creatures and things, is himself but creature and thing; and this leads to apostasy. [comp. Psalms 115:8.—Tr.]—Hence apostasy is from Christianity to Judaism, from gospel to law.—It needs courage to trust oneself to Christ, the focus of life, and let the world go; but a believing courage which the Lord gives to him who asks.

Starke: Quesnel: A preacher may lose his hearers through no fault of his own.—Majus: As Jesus unkindly thrust no one away, so He will forcibly retain none. Let those go who wish not to stay. He who forsakes Christ, the Life, follows Satan to death.—Canstein: Christ needed none, but no one can do without Him.—It often fares with faithful teachers as with Christ (in the history here before us).—There is hardly a company, but the devil finds one or another in it.—Preachers may certainly rebuke the sins of their hearers, yet with care that they call no one by name; for this embitters without edifying.—In unbelievers Satan so nestles, that they themselves are as it were the devil. Ephesians 2:2.—Trouble thyself not and doubt not for the truth of the gospel, when one of the most distinguished ministers becomes a Mameluke and proves faithless to Christ.—Osiander: Even those who are adorned with excellent gifts, may still forfeit the grace of God.—Beware of presumptuous security! False brethren give more pain to the faithful servants of God, than open enemies.—Bengel: Christ is concerned not for the number, but for the purity of His disciples.—Gossner, on John 6:67 : By this He would show that He forces no one, but would have all voluntary disciples.—Heubner: There is a gross apostasy from Jesus; this is rare; but there is also a subtle apostasy, which is the more frequent.—The voluntary departure of spurious disciples is no loss, but a gain.

John 6:67 : Jesus pours out His whole heart in this question, His sorrow and His love.—He still puts this question continually to all believers (i.e. in every solemn test) for the trial of their fidelity.—Upon the least likelihood that Jesus might doubt their fidelity, Peter breaks out the louder; so the Christian will attach himself the more fervently to Jesus at the faintest trace of apostasy.—Have believed and known. A hint that the believing, child-like posture of mind must precede the attainment of knowledge.—Jesus still knows all the faithful and the faithless (“The Lord knoweth them that are His”).—Christ bore with Judas; the hardest test of His love. Bear cheerfully with men, in whom thou canst not find thyself.—Not to be upright towards the most upright One, betrays a wicked heart. The richest grace of intercourse with the most holy One can turn to perdition with a wicked heart. Judas wont out of the school of Jesus far worse than he went in.—Besser: Unbelief towards this single article (the eating and drinking of His flesh and blood) brought on a complete renunciation of Christ. [More accurately: Offence at being required to find all salvation in His whole self-sacrifice and self-imparting person itself, led them to separate from His person. Offence also at the last utterance of Jesus, John 6:65, which runs as a companion thought through the whole discourse, must in some way come into the account. As the doctrine of the divine person of Christ and its impartation of perfect life through a sacrificial death which made it a sacrificial meal was an offence to them, so was the doctrine of a distinction made by a gracious spiritual drawing of God between the small election of the spiritual Israel and the mass of the theocratic Israelitish church.]—Judas represents what is befallen to the Jewish people as a whole. How immeasurably deep must be the grief of love, that what was intended for Israel’s salvation became its hardening! He chose Judas. He turned upon him the full earnestness of His saving love, and He endured that one of the twelve should do the service of the devil to Him, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, John 17:12; Psalms 109:0—Schenkel: Why we are resolved not to go away from Jesus Christ. We answer, with Peter, to the question of the Lord: 1. Whither would we go? 2. The Lord has the words of eternal life. 3. We have believed and known that He is Christ, the Son of the living God.

[Themes for discourses: The sifting power of truth. The sin of backsliding (John 6:66).—Peter the Confessor.—The first and fundamental Christian confession.—Christ, the best of teachers, the truest friend, the only refuge of the sinner. —Words of everlasting life.—Christ and Peter,—Christ and Judas.—It is better, with Peter in regard to Judas, to err on the side of charity than severity of judgment.—Christ, the purest of the pure, and the holiest of the holy, bore the traitor in His company to the close of His public ministry! What self-denial, what condescending mercy, what a rebuke to our intolerance and pride,—The mercy and severity of Christ in dealing with Judas.—The unknown sufferings of Christ in foreseeing the betrayal of one, and the treason of another disciple.—Peter called “Satan” for his human weakness (Matthew 16:23), Judas, a “devil” for his lurking treason.—Christ’s wisdom and mercy in withholding the name of Judas, while giving him a clear hint of his danger.—A hypocrite may for a long while deceive all men, but he cannot deceive Christ.—Judas an involuntary instrument for the greatest good.—The overruling power and wisdom of God.—Christ, the true prophet of human nature who knows and reveals the secrets of the heart.—P. S.]


[49][For a somewhat similar division see Godet, II. 97.]

[50][Strauss unnecessarily creates this difficulty.—P. S.]

[51][So Bengel “Jesus singularem numerum opponit plurali Judæorum, qui dixerant, opera Dei, John 6:28.” Alford: “Because there is but this one work, properly speaking, and all the rest are wrapt up in it,”—P. S.]

[52][Josephus called it θεῖον καὶ παράδοξον βρῶμα.]

[53][Others regard the Scripture manna as wholly miraculous, and not in any respect a product of nature. So the writer of the article Manna in Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, who thus sets forth the difference between the natural and this supernatural manna: “The natural products of the Arabian deserts and other oriental regions, which bear the name of manna, have not the qualities or uses ascribed to the manna of Scripture. They are all condiments or medicines rather than food, stimulating or purgative rather than nutritious; they are produced only three or four months in the year, from May to August, and not all the year round; they come only in small quantities, never affording any thing like 15,000,000 of pounds a week, which must have been requisite for the subsistence of the whole Israelitish camp, since each man had an omer (or three English quarts) a day, and that for forty years; they can be kept for a long time, and do not become useless in a day or two; they are just as liable to deteriorate on the Sabbath as on any other day: nor does a double quantity fall on the day preceding the Sabbath; nor would natural products cease at once and for ever, as the manna is represented as ceasing in the book of Joshua.”—P. S.]

[54][Alford: “The words ὁ καταβ … are the predicate of ὁ ἄρτος, and do not apply, in the construction of this verse, to Christ personally, however truly they apply to Him in fact, The E. V. is here wrong: it should be, The bread of God is that (not He) which Cometh, etc. Not till John 6:35 does Jesus first say, ‘I am the bread of life,’ The manna is still kept in view, and the present participle, here used in reference to the manna, is dropped when the Lord Himself is spoken of.” The note of Wordsworth on John 6:33 is a curious specimen of the wild allegorizing of this learned and devout patristic and Anglican antiquarian. He sees here everywhere allusions to the sacrament. Even the meaning of the word Manna, “what is it,” is made to indicate the wonderful double nature of Christ and the mystery of His presence in the eucharist.—P.S.]

[55][So also Godet: “Les deux termes, venir et croire, expriment, avec et sans figure, une seule et meme idée: le joyeux et confiant empressement avec lequel le cœur affamé et pressé de besoins spirituels s’empare de l’aliment céleste qui lui est présenté en Jesus Christ.” Coming to Christ is faith indeed, yet not in repose as mere trust and confidence, or as a state of mind, but in active exercise and motion from the service of sin to the service of Christ; comp. 37, 44, 45, 65; John 7:37-43.7.38.—P. S.]

[56][In classical usage (see Kühner, II. § 443, 1, and Hermann Ad Viger., p. 746) but not in New Testament unless it be the εἶπον in John 11:42.—P. S.]

[57][Yet the absence of a connecting particle seems to indicate a pause of reflection intervening between the preceding reproof (οὐ πιστεύετε), and the following description of the true children of God.—P. S.]

[58][Bengel’s observation on πᾶν is longer than is usual with this epigrammatic commentator, but well worth quoting: “A most weighty word, and, in comparing with it those things which follow, most worthy of consideration; for, in the discourses of Jesus Christ, what the Father hath given to the Son Himself, that is termed, both in the singular number and neuter gender, all (omne): those who come to the Son Himself, are described in the masculine gender, or even the plural number, every one (omnis), or they (illi). The Father hath given to the Son, as it were, the whole mass, in order that all whom He hath given, may be a unit (unum): that whole (universum) the Son evolves individually (one by one), in the execution of the Divine plan. Hence that expression, John 17:2, that all which (πᾶν ὅ, omne quod) thou hast gives Him, he should give them (αὐτοῖς, eis) eternal life. In the Greek style of the New Testament, especially of John, wheresoever fastidious minds would say the construction was a solecism, an elegance truly divine, which to the Hebrews never seemed harsh, is usually found to lie beneath. That remark especially holds good of this passage.”—P. S.]

[59][Against this false interpretation of Reuss (Hist, de la théol. Chrétienne, II p. 462), comp. Godet 2 p. 114.—P. S.]

[60][In John 6:37 Christ had declared that the totality (πᾶν which is to be taken collectively as of one integral whole) of those whom the Father giveth Him, shall come to Him; in John 6:44 He declares that no one can come in any other way except by the drawing of the Father. The effect follows in every case from a certain cause, but this effect will follow from no other cause.—P. S.]

[61][Calvin, however, says before (ad loc.) that the efficient motion of the Holy Spirit first makes unwilling men willing (“homines ex nolentibus et invitis reddit voluntaries”). So also Augustine who expressly says that faith is inseparable from will (credere non potest nisi volens), and: “Non ut homines, quod fieri non potest, nolentes credant, sed ut volentes ex nolentibus fiant.” He quotes from Virgil: trahit sua quemque voluptas, to show that the drawing is that of choice not of compulsion. Calvin expressly guards in this connection against the abuse of his doctrine. “They are madmen,” he says ad. John 6:40, “who seek their own salvation or that of others in the labyrinth of predestination, not keeping the way of faith which is proposed to them.… Since God has elected us to this very end that we believe, we destroy the election if we set aside faith (tolle fidem, et mutila erit electio) … If God calls us effectually to faith in Christ, it is of the same force to us, as if by an engraved seal He confirmed His decree concerning our salvation. For the testimony of the Spirit is nothing else but the sealing of our adoption. To every man, therefore, his faith is a sufficient attestation of God’s eternal predestination, so that it is impious and an insult to the testimony of the Holy Spirit to search beyond it.”—P. S.]

[62][Tholuck says: καίδέ designates a more detailed statement, as in John 1:3, or a correction, as in John 15:27. Zwingli (as quoted by Tholuck), “Dixi diu me panem esse vitæ, sed nondum quo facto id fiat, hoc jam aperiam.Δέ introduces here something of special importance. Comp. Meyer in loc.—P. S.]

[63][On Augustine’s interpretation see note in the Excursus below, p. 228.—P. S.]

[64][M*ver (p. 270) adds to the above names, as favoring this view, Tholuck, Neander, Jul. Müller, Lange, Ebrard, Keim, Weiss, Ewald, Kahnis, Godet. But Lange, Ewald, Kahnis, Hengstenberg and Godet should be classed with No. 6 below.—P. S.]

[65][In his work on the Lord’s Supper, p. 104 ff., but later, in his Dogmatics, Vol. I. p. 624, Kahnis denies that John 6:0 refers directly to the Lord’s Supper, and explains the eating and drinking to be identical with believing for the reason that the same effect is made dependent on both, viz., eternal life. He should be classed with No. 6.—P. S.]

[66][Latin dissertations on the difference between Luther’s and Calvin’s views on the Lord’s Supper, 1853, now reproduced in German by Dr. Jul. Müller, of Halle, in his Dogmatische Abhandlungen, just published, Bremen, 1870, pp. 404–467.—P. S.]

[67][In the second Excursus to the second edition of his Commentary on John (which is omitted in the third edition), and in the third edition, Vol. II. pp. 149–159.—P. S.]

[68][Alford likewise makes this distinction, which is not sustained by the context. He says: “What is eating and drinking? Clearly not merely faith; for faith answers to the hand reached forth for the food,—but is not the act of eating. Faith is a necessary condition of the act: so that we can hardly say with Augustine, ‘crede, et manducasti;’ but crede et manducabis. Inasmuch as faith will necessarily in its energizing lead to this partaking, we sometimes incorrectly say that it is faith: but for strict accuracy this is not enough. To eat the flesh of Christ, is to realize, in our inward life, the mystery of His Body now in heaven,—to digest and assimilate our own portion in that Body. To drink His Blood is to realize, in our inward life, the mystery of His satisfaction for sin,—to digest and assimilate our own portion in that satisfaction, the outpouring of that Blood. And both these definitions may be gathered into one, which is: The eating of His Flesh and drinking of His Blood import the making to ourselves and using as objectively real, those two great Truths of our Redemption in Him, of which our faith subjectively convinces us. And of this realizing of faith He has been pleased to appoint certain symbols in the Holy Communion, which He has commanded to be received; to signify to us the spiritual process, and to assist us towards it.”—P. S.]

[69][Meyer thinks that the change implies no intention of a stronger expression, since τρώγειν καὶ πίειν is used Matthew 24:38 (τρώγοντες καὶ πίνοντες), by Demosthenes, Plutarch and Polybius without perceptible difference from φαγεῖν or ἐσθίειν. Τρώγων expresses the present of φαγών, which must be either τρώγων or ἐσθίων. So also Alford: The real sense is that by the very act of inward realization the possession of eternal life is certified. Wordsworth on the other hand presses the difference and, in fanciful sacramentarian exaggeration, says that τρώγειν presents the climax of the difficulty, and shows the need of coming to Christ in the holy communion with devout cravings and earnest longings of a famished soul for heavenly food.—P. S.]

[70][Meyer: ἀληθής expresses in opposition to mere appearance the actual reality (1 John 2:27; Acts 12:9), which the Jews could not comprehend, John 6:52. Alford: “ἀληθής is here not=ἡ , nor is the sense, ‘My flesh is the true meat,’ etc., but ‘My flesh is true meat,’ i.e., really to be eaten, which they doubted. Thus ἀληθῶς is a gloss, which falls short of the depth of the adjective. This verse is decisive against all explaining away or metaphorizing the passage. Food and drink are not here mere metaphors;—rather are our common material food and drink mere shadows and imperfect types of this only real reception of refreshment and nourishment into being.” Godet: ““L’adverbe (ἀληθῶς) ou l’adjectif (ἀληθής) exprime la pleine réalité de la communication vitale opéré par ces éléments.”—P. S.]

[71][Per Patrem, as the fountain of life. So Beza, De Wette, Alford, etc.—P. S.]

[72][As Meyer takes it: wegen des Vaters, d. i. weil Mein Vater der lebendige ist. He quotes Plat. Conv., p. 203, E.: ἀναβιώσκεται διὰ τὴν τοῦ πατρὸς φύσιν.—P. S.]

[73][Comp. also the ὑψωθῆναι ἐκ τῆς γῆς, John 12:32. To make this interpretation at all plausible, the ἀναβαίνειν ὅπου ἦν τὸ πρότερον must be understood from the standpoint of Jesus whose death was a return to the heaven whence He descended, and to the glory which He had before the foundation of the world, comp. John 17:5. But the hearers could not have understood ἀναβαίνειν in this sense.—P. S.]

[74][Aug.: Certe vel tunc videbitis, quia, non eo modo, quo putatis, erogat corpus suum; certe vel tunc intelligetis, quia gratia ejus non consumitur morsibus. Harless and Stier: Then you will understand that, and how my glorified heavenly humanity and corporeity can be food and drink. But this would make Christ speak of a future act. Meyer remarks against Harless: The glorified body of Christ is, as flesh and blood, inconceivable (1 Corinthians 15:49 f.)—P. S.]

[75][Comp. against this assertion of Meyer John 3:13; John 20:17, where the ascension is clearly alluded to. Usually Jesus speaks of His death in John as a going to the Father or to Him that sent Me, John 7:33; John 13:3; John 14:12; John 14:28; John 16:5; John 16:28; John 17:11; John 17:13.—P. S.]

[76][Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9.—P. S.]

[77][But Christ may have addressed here some of the apostles. Hengstenberg says, the witnesses of the resurrection were the representatives of all the disciples.—P. S.]

[78][Aug. Tract, in Joh. 27, § 13 (Opera III. 503):’ Caro non prodest quidquam quomodo illi intellexerunt… quomodo in cadavere dilaniatur, aut in macello venditur, non quomodo spiritu vegetatur…Accedat spiritus ad carnem, quomodo accedit caritas ad scientiam, et prodest plurimum. Nam si caro nihil prodesset, Verbum caro non fieret, ut inhabitaret in nobis. Similarly Bengel: Caro mera nil prodest: qualem scil. Judæi putabant esse carnem illam, de qua loquebatur Jesus. Loquitur sub conditione eaque impossibili, si sola caro esset…Caro est vehiculum virtutis divinæ omnis vivificantis, in Chris to et in credentibus: et Christus, carne mortificatus, spiritu vivificatus, virtutem suam maxime exseruit, 1 Peter 3:18; John 12:24; John 16:7.—P. S.]

[79][He and (Œcolampadius regarded John 6:63 as a ferreus murus of their doctrine of the Lord’s Supper; yet Zwingli, like the other reformers, did not directly understand the passage, John 6:51-43.6.58, of the sacrament.—P. S.]

[80][John uses here τρώγειν four times, φαγεῖν once; Matthew, Mark and Luke, in the words of institution, use φαγεῖν only, (which is employed as the second aorist of ἐσθίειν from an obsolete φάγω). On the peculiar meaning of τρώγειν, manducare, see note on John 6:54. It cannot be essentially different here from φαγεῖν, since John uses the latter, John 6:53, in the same sense.]

[81][I say perhaps, for Augustine is not clear and is sometimes (e. g., by Meyer) quoted in favor of the first, more frequently in favor of the second interpretation. In his Tract. 26 in Joh. Evang. § 15 (ed. Bened. III. 500) he says, in expounding this passage, that the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ is received by some ad vitam, by others ad exitium (1 Corinthians 11:29), but he adds: res vero ipsa cujus sacramentum est, omni homini ad vitam, nulli ad exitium, quicunque ejus particeps fuerit. Comp. § 18 in the same homily (III. 501): Qui non manet in Christo et in quo non manet Christus, procul dubio nee manducat (some MSS. insert here spiritualiter,—evidently a Romish correction) carnem ejus, nec bibit ejus sanguinem, licet carnaliter et visibiliter premat dentibus sacramentum corporis et sanguinis Christi. In commenting on John 6:29 (Tract. 25, § 12, Tom. III. 489) he identifies the eating with believing: Crede et manducasti. At all events, Augustine cannot be quoted in favor of either transubstantiation or consubstantiation. Comp. on his doctrine on the eucharist my Church History, Vol. II pp. 498 f.—P.S.]

[82][This third view which I have defended myself in the text, was first clearly brought out by that profound, acute and devout commentator, Bengel, in his Gnomon on John 6:51, where he says: “Jesus purposely framed His words so skilfully that immediately at that time, and at all times subsequently they would indeed apply in their strict literal sense to the spiritual enjoyment of Himself (de spirituali fruitione sui); and yet that afterwards the same words should, by consequence, be appropriate to express the most august mystery of the Holy Supper when that should be instituted. For He applied to the Holy Supper the thing itself which is set forth in this discourse; and of so great moment is this sacrament, that it may be readily thought possible, that Jesus, as He foretold the treachery of Judas at John 6:71, and His own death in this verse, so also foretold, one year before the institution of the Holy Supper, concerning which He most surely thought Within Himself whilst speaking these words: and with this object in order that the disciples might afterwards remember His prediction. The whole of these words concerning His flesh and blood have in view the passion of Jesus Christ, and along with it the Holy Supper. Hence arises the separate mention of one flesh and of the blood so invariably; for in His passion the blood was drawn out of His body, and the Lamb was thus slain.” The same view is substantially held by Olshausen, who says: “The Saviour could indeed not with propriety speak of a rite before it was instituted, so that nobody could understand Him; but He might touch the idea, out of which the rite subsequently grew. This idea is that Jesus is the principle of life and nutriment to the new, regenerate man, not only for his soul and spirit, but also for his glorified body” (which, according to Olshausen is prepared here in germ to appear in full bloom at the final resurrection). Kahnis (Luth. Dogmatik, Vol. I., p. 625): “The discourse of Christ, John 6:0, does not treat directly of the Lord’s Supper, but of faith which unites us in living union with Christ. But He purposely veiled this faith in the image of eating and drinking His flesh and blood in order to express the mysterious idea embodied in the Holy Supper, just as John 3:5 expresses the idea of baptism.” Alford says: “The question whether there is here any reference to the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, has been inaccurately put. When cleared of inaccuracy in terms, it will mean, Is the subject here dwelt upon the same as that which is set forth in the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper? And of this there can surely be no doubt. To the ordinance itself, there is here no reference; nor could there well have been any. But the spiritual verity which underlies the ordinance is one and the same with that here insisted on; and so considered, the discourse is, as generally treated, most important towards a right understanding of the ordinance.” Webster and Wilkinson: “What our Lord said at this time He afterwards expressed in a permanent form by the sacrament of His Body and Blood. He is not here alluding to that sacrament; but what He here teaches, and what He afterwards taught by it, are the same.” Godet (II. p. 135): “This mystery of our perfect union with the person of Christ (Ephesians 5:30-49.5.32) which in this discourse is expressed in words (en paroles), is precisely the same which Jesus desired to express by an act (par un acte) in the rite of the holy Supper. It is not necessary to say that in this discourse He alluded to the holy Supper; but we must say that the holy Supper and this discourse refer to one and the same idea, expressed here by a metaphor, there by an emblem. Hence in the institution of the Supper, holding and breaking one piece of bread, He used the term σῶμα, body, which as an organism corresponds to the broken bread; in the discourse at Capernaum where He treats only of nourishment in adaptation to the miraculous multiplication of loaves of bread, He represents His body more as substance (σάρξ) than as an organism. This perfect propriety of terms proves the originality and authenticity of the two forms.”]

[83][Luther, Melancthon and the orthodox Lutherans of the 17th century felt this, and for this reason (not, as Tholuck thinks, from fear of transubstantiation) they repudiated the sacramental interpretation altogether. Luther says: “Eating in this passage means believing: he who believeth, eateth, and drinketh Christ.” Melanchthon: “I do not understand this discourse as referring to the Lord’s Supper or the ceremonial manducation, but as the words of Christ which preceded above were about faith, whereby we believe that God’s wrath was propitiated by the death of His Son, who offered His body and shed His blood for us,—so I understand all the rest of the same faith.” This interpretation was sanctioned by the Form of Concord, p. 743. When Calixtus came out in favor of the sacramental interpretation, he was charged with heresy by Calovius of Wittenberg.]

[84][Verknöcherte Handwerksseelen.]

John 6:66; John 6:66.—[Ἐκ τούτου is causal, and expresses, according to Lange and Meyer, the reason, not the time. Alford and Godet combine the temporal and causal meaning. Alford translates: Upon this. Noyes and Conant: From this time.—P. S.]

John 6:68; John 6:68.—[The οὖν of the text. rec. is omitted by the best authorities.—P. S.]

John 6:69; John 6:69.—[The text. rec. inserts from Matthew 16:16Χριστός, which is wanting in the oldest sources, and is omitted by critical editors.—The original text is simply, ὅτι σὺ εἶἅγιος τοῦ θεοῦ, that thou art the Holy one of God. This, however, is equivalent to Christ or the promised Messiah.—P. S.]

John 6:69; John 6:69.—Codd. B. C.* D. L., etc., Griesbach, Lachmann, and Tischendorf, read ὁ ἅγιος τοῦ θεοῦ. The Recepta conforms to Matthew 16:16. [Cod. Sin. supports the ὁ ἅγ.τ.θ., which also appears to have been a characteristic phrase with Peter; comp. Acts 2:27; Acts 2:31; Acts 3:14; Acts 4:27; Acts 4:30.—E. D. Y.]

John 6:71; John 6:71.—The reading Ἰσκαριώτου is here supported by B. C. G. L. (Lachmann, Tischendorf), against Ἰσκαριώτην. Also at c. John 13:26, by decisive authorities. On the other hand at c. John 14:22, after the treasonable decision, Judas himself is distinguished as Ἰσκαριώτης. This evinces a historical delicacy, which Meyer misses when he proposes to read Ἰσκαριώτης in all the places on the strength of c. John 14:22. [Stier and Theile adopt Ἰσκαριώτην in this place and in John 13:26; while the Cod. Sin. has in the latter case Ἰσκαριώτου, belonging to Σίμωνος, and in our passage ἀπὸ καρυώτου, also referring to Σ.—E. D. Y.]

John 6:71; John 6:71.—[The ὤν of the text. rec. after εἶς is wanting in the best authorities and probably inserted from Mark 14:43.—P. S.]

[91][Μὴ καὶ ὑμεῖς θέλετε ὑπάγειν. The interrogative μή looks to a negative answer (doch nicht?) comp. John 7:31; John 21:5; Romans 3:5, etc. and Winer’s Gr. p. 476. Godet, discarding this rule, wrongly explains: Si vous le voulez, vous pouvez aller.—P. S.]

[92][So Bengel: Fidem sequitur cognitio, 2 Peter 1:5. Perversi sunt qui cognitionem prius postulant.—P. S.]

[93][Meyer justly remarks against Weisse that in the nature of the case a confession that filled the hearts of the apostles, must have been repeated on similar occasions.—P. S.]

[94][The interrogation stops with τοὺς δώδεκα, and what follows is an exclamation of holy sadness. So Meyer and Lange. Alford follows the wrong punctuation of the A. V.—P. S.]

[95][So also Alford, and rightly, for Christ had in view the treason of Judas which was inspired by the Evil One. The strong term corresponds to the profound indignation at the hypocrisy of the traitor who covered himself under the confession of Peter.—P. S.]

[96][It is more than the mere future (Alford), and yet not quite as strong as intended; it represents the future as an accomplished fact, the germ of which was already in existence at the time, and was detected by the penetrating eye of Christ.—P. S.]

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Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on John 6". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.