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Bible Commentaries
John 8

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

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Verses 1-11

A. CHAPTER John 8:1-11

[Christ And The Adulteress, And Their Accusers.]


Discussion of the genuineness of this section.—The difficulty of handling the question of the genuineness of this section, we have already indicated in the Introduction [p. 31]; and we have there indicated also the present state of the question. Four points are to be considered: 1. The authorities. 2. The condition of the text. 3. The historical connection of the occurrence. 4. The connection of the section with what precedes and what follows.

1. “Griesbach and Schultz give a list of more than a hundred manuscripts in which the pericope appears.23 Among them are D. G. H. K. M. U.24 Jerome, in his day, asserts that the pericope appears in many Greek manuscripts,25 and some scholia appeal to ἀρχαῖα�,” etc. Lücke. On the contrary, “the majuscules B. C. L. T. do not contain the passage;26 neither do the older manuscripts of the Peshito, nor the Nestorian manuscripts; and it is certain that it was not translated into Syriac till the sixth century. Of the manuscripts of the Philoxenian version, in which it occurs, some have it only on the margin, and others have it in the text with the note that it is not everywhere found. So in most manuscripts of the Coptic version, and in the Arabic version which was based upon the Coptic, we seek it in vain. Of the manuscripts of the Armenian version, some have it not, others have it at the end of the Gospel. In the Sahidic and Gothic versions it is also wanting. Among the fathers, the Greek expositors Origen, Cyril of Alexandria, Chrysostom, Nonnus, Theophylact, entirely omit the pericope, and seem to know nothing of it. So the Catenæ, both published and unpublished. Euthymius expounds it, as a προσθήκη which is not without use.27 The current mention and use of the pericope in the Latin church begins with Ambrose and Augustine.” Ibid. “Furthermore, several manuscripts in Griesbach contain the passage, but add either the sign of rejection nor of interpolation. Others put the passage at the end of the Gospel; others again, after John 7:36, or John 8:12; still others place it after Luke 21:0. It not rarely appears in the manuscripts mutilated.” Ibid.

This position of the authorities presents a great critical problem, which at best makes the section in its present place suspicious; especially when we consider that Origen has not the passage, that Tertullian and Cyprian, when they write on subjects which would bring it in, do not mention it, and that the older manuscripts of the Peshito are without it.
2. The condition of the text. This is the sorest side of the passage. Reading disputes reading. Compare Griesbach, Lachmann, Tischendorf.28 “We have three very different texts,—an unheard-of case in the Gospel of John. Besides the received text, Griesbach gives two others: first the text of Cod. D., secondly one compiled from other manuscripts.” Lücke. This diversity seems unaccountable, unless a traditional apostolic relic (oral or in Hebrew, or preserved in substance with free variations was scattered through different copies before it resulted in this passage.

[To this unusual number of variations must be added the entire diversity from the narrative style of John, which Meyer and Alford regard as the most weighty argument against the passage. Here belong the terms ὄρθρου, πᾶς ὁ λαός, οἱ γραμματεῖς καὶ οἱ φαρ., ἑπιμένειν, ἀναμάρτητος, καταλείπεσθαι, κατακρίνειν, which are net otherwise used by John, the absence of his usual οὗν which occurs but once in this passage, while δέ is here found eleven times. Hengstenberg misses also the “mystic twilight” which is characteristic of John’s style. Upon the whole, the style is more like that of the Synoptists. Tischendorf (ed. VIII. p.829) says categorically: “Locum de adultera non ab Johanne scriptum esse cerctissimum est.”—P. S.]

3. The historical connection of this with other occurrences in the Gospel.
A. In this respect many doubts have been raised, which must, of course, be carefully weighed.
(a) That John 7:53 refers to Sanhedrists returning to their houses, not to festal pilgrims returning to their homes, is obvious. This, however, yields a very suitable connection. They had expected Christ to be brought before their bar, and now were compelled—to go home disappointed and divided.

(b) The statement in John 8:1, that Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. It is thought that this method of securing Himself against the snares of His enemies was not employed by Jesus till the time of the last passover. Yet the fact that this was necessary is here evident enough; for the Sanhedrin was seeking to arrest Him. Lücke’s reasoning (p. 255) overlooks this point.

(c) John 8:2 : “All the people came unto Him.” Even if the great day of the feast, on which Jesus made His last appearance, was the eighth, there would be nothing to prevent all the people who did not immediately leave Jerusalem, from assembling the next day in the temple.

(d) The Scribes, γραμματεῖς, who do not elsewhere appear in John, are strange here.29 Their appearance here, however, is in keeping with the immediately succeeding fact that a question of the law comes up; the strangeness of it is not decisive. Other differences of expression are less important (see Lücke, p. 257).

(e) It seems not clear whether the Scribes appear as witnesses, or as accusers, or as judges. Plainly as accusers, or as judges who would refer their decision, in irony, to the tribunal of Jesus; not as zealots, according to Wetstein.

(f) There is no mention of the adulterer (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22; Deuteronomy 22:24). This signifies nothing at all.

(g) According to the Rabbins the legal punishment of adultery was strangulation (Lücke, p. 259). On this point Michaelis has justly denied the authority of the Talmud, and has asserted, on a comparison of Exodus 31:14; Exodus 35:2 with Numbers 15:32-35, that the formula put to death, generally means stoned. Besides, strangulation is frequently used first only as an alleviation of the prescribed penalty, as in the burning in the middle ages.

(h) But what temptation was there in the question? Chiefly the fact that Jesus had not yet officially declared Himself Messiah, while He nevertheless was largely acknowledged as such among the people, and seemed Himself to give occasion for such recognition. The procedure with the adulteress was, therefore, in its very form, a temptation to Him to declare Himself concerning His authority (with reference to Moses). Then in the matter of the case lay a further temptation, to wit, in the conflict between the so-called commandment of the law on the one hand, and the prevailing milder practice and the known gentleness of Christ on the other. To this question, however, we must return.

B. But now the apparently strange features are offset by a number, which speak for the genuineness of the narrative.
(a) The feast of tabernacles was pre-eminently a joyous popular feast of the Jews; it was celebrated in the good time of the year; such a sin as the one here narrated, might easily occur.

(b) The writing of Jesus on the ground is so peculiar a feature, that it would hardly have been fabricated.

(c) The same may be said of His challenge; “He that is without sin among you,” etc., and of His closing word to the woman.

[(d) the peculiarity of the whole incident, as presenting to the Lord a case of actual sin on its direct merits, is in its favor. Such an incident might be said to meet a want, or at least to fill a place of its own, in the gospel history. And if such an incident occurred at all, John would be the Evangelist most likely to notice and record it; since he is the one to record the somewhat kindred issue raised by the disciples over the man born blind, chap. 9. With so many cases of actual human misery, and of general sinfulness, brought before the Lord for His treatment, “whether in pretence or in truth,” and with various hypothetical cases of conscience put to Him, it would seem suitable that we should have one case of actual and flagrant crime.—E. D. Y.]

Nothing, therefore, can be adduced against the details of the story or its connection with other facts of the Gospels; it is even a question, whether there are not special data in its favor.

4. As to the connection of the section with the preceding and following portions of the Gospel: It is clear that the story of the adulteress in this place not only introduces no disturbance, but even serves to elucidate the discourse of Christ in John 8:12 sqq. The woman had walked in darkness; her judges had admitted that they found themselves in darkness in regard to the disposal of this case; but for the very purpose of making an assault of the power of darkness upon the Lord with their captious question. This connection does not exclude a further reference to the temple-lights and the torch-light festivities in the celebration of the feast of tabernacles.

One of the principal questions is the question of internal criticism: Is it conceivable that the Jewish rulers would so early make a captious attack upon the Lord by an ironical concession of His Messiahship? We must here, in the first place, remember that the enemies of Jesus at the last passover made a whole round, a very storm, of such assaults upon Jesus (Leben Jesu, II. 3, p. 1218). The situation there was this: They first endeavored, by their authority, to confound Him before the people in the temple-enclosure with the question, by what power He thus appeared; but He baffled them with counter-questions. He maintained His position before the people, and seemed unimpeachable; while they were impotent. Then they had recourse to craft; they ironically assumed that He was the Messiah, in order to catch Him in entangling questions. It is now asked, Is it conceivable, that they had already attempted this trick before? In the Synoptical Gospels there could be no mention of this, because they relate only the last attendance of Jesus at a feast. But in John we should expect earlier attacks of the same sort to be mentioned, if any had occurred. A decisive preliminary question, however, is this: How came the Jewish rulers to their diabolical irony and the ensnaring questions which proceeded from it? The history answers: by the sense of impotence which came with the perception that with force and authority they accomplished nothing.

This condition already existed here at the feast of tabernacles, when even the officers who had been sent to take Jesus, returned paralyzed by His word and unsuccessful, and when a division began to appear even in the Sanhedrin itself. The impotent embarrassment of force was there, and with it the devilish counsel of craft.

Accordingly this maneuvre was thrice repeated; first at the feast of tabernacles as recorded in this section; then at the feast of dedication in the winter, as recorded in John 10:24; finally at the last passover, when these tempting proposals became so thick, that, we may well infer the rulers of the Jews had accustomed themselves to it by former practice. Of course in this first instance their assumption of His Messiahship is very equivocal; it does not reach the full measure of its insolence till the last passover.

But the same condition of things which brought the rulers of the Jews to this stratagem—that is, the previous failure of their forcible attempt,—led Jesus, for the purpose of security, to withdraw for the night to the mount of Olives. He would therefore be here just in the right place according to John 8:1.

That the gospel history thus gains much in lifelike development, connected progress, is palpable. And at the same time the exhibition of the Jewish feasts in their religious and moral degeneracy becomes more complete. We have already observed that, in the view of John, the tragic dissolution of Judaism in the gradual completion of the murderous design of the Jews against Christ at their successive feasts. This is the one side; the other is the religious and moral decay of the people themselves, which comes to light at the great feasts. At the passover, the great passover of the Jews, this decay manifests itself in the transfer of the whole traffic in sacrificial animals and money into the temple itself, chap. 2. At the feast of Purim, the feast of brotherhood and deliverance, it shows itself in the leaving of the sick without attendance, help, or sympathy in their Bethesda, chap. 5. The feast of tabernacles, the great feast of popular thanksgiving and joy, appears defiled by licentiousness, scenes of adultery, and partizan, temporizing policy among the Pharisees (who here let the guilty man run free), chap. 8, while the blind brother is left to beggary and Pharisaic alms, chap. 9, against the law of Deuteronomy 15:4. The feast of dedication, John 10:22, seems not distinguished by any similar mark of corruption, unless it is symbolical that the storm of winter blows through Spirit-forsaken halls which the Spirit of Christ alone still quickens, and that the multitude of the people, who at other times always gathered to protect the Lord, have fled before wind and weather, so that the Jews can suddenly surround Him, and at last propose to bury him under a heap of stones in the middle of the very court of the temple.

Internal evidence, therefore, speaks decidedly for this, as the proper place for the section in hand. If the alternative is, either that the tradition of the early church for definite reasons partially overlooked and then dropped this section, or that it inserted the passage here as an ancient relic of Ephesian tradition from John,—the former theory is not more difficult than the latter. Indeed the prevalence of the ascetic spirit in the church might almost make the omission of a larger section of this character more probable than insertion. We observe a late interpolation of a few words in 1 John 5:7-8. We consider the passage, 2 Peter 1:20 to 2 Peter 3:2, an interpolation, but entirely taken in substance from the Epistle of Jude (Apostol. Zeitalter, I., p. 155). On the other hand, the conclusion of Mark, John 16:9, seems to afford an example of omission rather than of interpolation. Now it is easy to imagine that the centuries of ascetic austerity, from the end of the second century to the end of the fourth, might scruple to read in public this passage, in which the guilt of adultery seemed to be so leniently dealt with.

We must, therefore, by all means consider any words of the fathers which speak of such a scruple. Ambrose: Profecto si quis ea auribus otiosis accipiat, erroris incentivum erroris incurrit [quum legit … adulteræ absolutionem, Lubrica igitur ad lapsum via] (Apol. Davidis posterior, chap. 1). Augustine: Hoc infidelium sensus exhorret, ita ut nonnulli modicæ vel potius inimici veræ fidei, credo, metuentes peccandi impunitatem dari mulieribus suis, illud quod de adulteræ indulgentia Dominus fecit, auferrent de codicibus suis, quasi permissionem peccandi tribuerit, qui dixit:Deinceps noli peccare” (De adulterinis conjugiis, II. 7). Nicon [from the 10th century in Coteler. Patr. Apost., I. 238]: The Armenians expunged the pericope from their version: βλαβερὰν εἷναι λέγοντες τοῖς πολλοῖς τὴν τοιαύτην� (see Lücke, p. 249). Augustine’s declaration we have only to change from one of pastoral animadversion to one of historical criticism. The scruple was begotten not of the interested unbelief of some individual husbands, but of the ascetic, weak faith of a legalistic age. (Against this Lucke, p. 248 and 252, can bring nothing that amounts to more than assertion.)30

It may be supposed that the disuse of the passage passed through different stages. 1. The narrative stood in its place, but was left standing and passed over in the public readings, or in discussions of the question of marriage. The ascetic Tertullian could form a very suitable predecessor to Cyprian in such a step, and Origen an equally suitable predecessor to others. 2. Next, perhaps, the pericope began to undergo improvement by other readings (e. g., Cod. D, ἐπὶ ἁμαρτίᾳ instead of ἐν μοιχείᾳ), and especially abbreviation. 3. Some transcribers then went further, and transferred the pericope to the end of the Gospel as an appendix. 4. This led to the last stage of entire omission. But now the codices which had kept the pericope reacted. The passage came to be inserted again in various places, either where we have it now, or after John 7:36, or after John 8:12, or, with the view of combining this temptation with those of the last passover, after Luke 21:0. In this process some accepted it with a mark of addition or even of rejection. From this twofold procedure the critical confusion in regard to this section resulted.

In any case the passage is an apostolic relic.31

But another thing in favor of the genuineness of it is the πάλιν οὖν αὐτοῖς ἐλάλησεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς, John 8:12, and the εἶπεν οὖν πάλιν αὐτοῖς, John 8:21. The words in John 8:21 literally refer to the words of John 7:34. It is harder to see the reference of the first πάλιν, if we have to take in the idea; “I am the light of the world,” The Lord, however, already implied this to them in John 5:35-36 sqq. John was a light, and yet only a witness to Christ who was appointed for their deliverance, John 8:40. Apart from this, the terms of John 8:12 : “Then spake Jesus again unto them,”—must be taken absolutely, meaning simply that He addressed them again. In other words: by their attack upon His life they had, in all reason, already brought His intercourse with them to a close. But then, John 8:1-11, they had apparently relented, and though He knew that their question was put to Him in malicious hypocrisy, yet He let it pass in the official form which it assumed before the people. He was committed to the people, after this recognition of the rulers, to resume intercourse with them; but that He might soon say to them once more, that He shall forsake them and give them up. Thus the two occurrences of πάλιν in chap. 8 form, in our view, a distinct demand for the section concerning the adulteress.

As to the opponents, as well as the advocates, of the genuineness of this passage, compare Lücke, p. 243, and Meyer [p. 320–323, 5th ed.].

John 8:1. Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.—This retirement for the night to the mount of Olives (Gethsemane or Bethany) was caused by the direct demonstration of the Sanhedrin against the freedom and life of Jesus. At the same time it forms a significant counterpart to the words: “Every man went unto his own house.” To them everything, meantime, remained in the old way; but not to Him, for He saw further. During His last residence in Jerusalem this method of spending the night in the mount of Olives appears as a fixed rule, Luke 21:37.

John 8:2. And early in the morning.—Ὄρθρου. John writes elsewhere πρωί̈ (John 18:28; John 20:1; πρωί̈α, John 21:4), Luke, on the contrary, ὄρθρου. It is to be observed here, however, that the term ὅρθρου denotes more precisely the dawn of morning, and that it is intended to denote just this time. And all the people.—Πᾶς ὁ λαός. If John elsewhere prefers ὁ ὄχλος, the multitude, or οἱ ὄχλοι, the multitudes, we must consider that He here intends to signalize the gathering of the whole remaining mass of festal pilgrims to Jesus in the temple. The same may be said respecting the καθίσας ἐδίδασκ. αὐτ. [which is not used by John]; He again set Himself right down among them, as if He wished to begin again, after He had provisionally foiled the attack of the Sanhedrists. That the γραμματεῖς, the scribes, are here named, though not elsewhere, arises from the fact that a question of scriptural law comes up in the sequel. And the frequently recurring δέ, too, instead of the Johannean οὗν, has an internal reason in the great series of unexpected incidents which here begins. That Jesus goes to the mount of Olives, is accounted for by the beginning of the hostile machinations, John 8:1. That He returns to the temple in spite of the persecution (John 8:2), is due to the fact that the scribes and Pharisees now make as if they would acknowledge Him (John 8:3), though they mean only to tempt Him, John 8:6. The like may be said of most, of the subsequent occurrences thus introduced. Only the great accumulation of the δέ seems certainly strange; but in these unusual turns there was less occasion for an οὖν.

John 8:3. And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him, etc.—Certainly not as a distinct act of zealotry (Wetstein); nor as a formal deputation of the Sanhedrin. Probably it is the committee of a particular synagogue-court, with which on the one hand the zealots who had taken the woman in her crime, leagued themselves as witnesses, and which, on the other hand, acts in concert with the Sanhedrin. The case was just now brought before a Jewish court; it is thought well fitted to be made a trap for the Lord, by an ironical concession, for reasons above-mentioned, that He is the one to decide it. The party cannot be described as “not official” (Meyer), because in that case it could not have deferred its judgment to the Lord. As the death-penalty was involved, the Sanhedrin must have been in concert.

John 8:5. Taken in the very act.—Ἐπαυτοφώρῳ, i.e., ἔπὶ [ἐπ’] αὐτοφώρῳ, in ipso furto.32 “The man, who was likewise liable to death (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:24), might have escaped.” Meyer. Though stoning, according to Deuteronomy 22:23-24, was ordered for the particular case in which a betrothed bride yielded herself to unchastity (because she was regarded as already the wife of her spouse), it does not follow that this guilty woman must have been a betrothed bride (Meyer), since in the passage referred to the death-penalty uniformly appointed for adulteresses (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22) seems only to be more particularly described (Michaelis, Tholuck, Ewald, and others). The sentence of the Talmud: Filia Israelitæ si adultera, cum hupta, strangulanda, cum desponsata, lapidanda, on the one hand cannot be decisive for that period, on the other may only mean a modification of the general penalty of stoning for a nupta.

John 8:6. Tempting him.—That this means a malicious temptation, not innocent questioning (Olshausen), the clear sense of the term in other places proves. But wherein consisted the precarious alternative, which was to entangle Him? Interpretations: 1. The antagonism between the Roman criminal law, which did not punish adultery with death, and the law of Moses. Their expectation was that He would declare Himself for Moses against the Roman law, and then they would accuse Him to the Romans. Hence the σὺ οὗν τί λέγεις, John 8:5. A plan, therefore, similar to that of the question about tribute-money, Matthew 22:0 (Schulthess, Meyer). It is nothing against this, as Lücke thinks, that the criminal law of the Romans in the provinces did not override the peculiar customs or ordinances of the respective peoples. But this interpretation is, no doubt, opposed by the fact that a declaration of the woman’s being worthy of death might be joined with a reference of the plaintiffs to the legal court, besides the fact that they would either have to execute the penalty themselves, or, as informers against Jesus, openly violate the precept of Moses.

2. The issue lay between the traditional tribunal of the people and the supposed new tribunal of the Messiah: the question being, whether Jesus would leave the decision to the ordinary course, or would at once take it upon Himself. Undoubtedly this was a leading point in the temptation; this gave the temptation its form (see above); but it was not the whole of it (Baumgarten-Crusius, et al.).

3. The alternative was the old, strict letter of the law, and the looser popular practice which had gained prevalence, which no longer visited adultery with death; hence the question of a judicial process or none at all (Ebrard). But with this alternative in full view their question would have condemned themselves. The popular practice had a sort of indulgent tradition on its side.
4. The alternative was the Mosaic law literally applied and the known gentleness of Christ. A negative answer would appear, therefore, as in contradiction with Moses; an affirmative answer, as in contradiction with Himself (Augustine, Erasmus, Luther, and others). A modification of this view is, that they certainly expected the lenient decision, in order to charge Him with opposition to Moses (Euthymius, Bengel, Neander, et al.). This modification increases the tangling dilemma. But this was not simply an issue between the rigor of Moses and the mildness of Christ; it had reference to the old legislation of Moses and the new reformation of the law by Christ as opposed to the traditional practice of the Jews. If He had simply affirmed the Mosaic letter, He would have invaded the rabbinical tradition and practice, the existing order of things, the popular opinion and feeling concerning Himself; they would have turned the tradition against Him. If He had affirmed the popular practice, they would have turned the letter of Scripture against Him. But they wished above all things to find out whether He would venture, with Messianic authority, to lay clown a new law. On another interpretation, by Dick (Stud. und Krit., 1832), and Baur’s view, see Meyer.

And with his finger wrote33 on the ground.34—Some manuscripts, such as E. K., add μὴ προσποιούμενος [dissimulans], others καὶ προσποιούμενος [simulans]; that is, according to Lücke, in the one case: not merely feigning; in the other: only feigning. Manifestly exegetical additions. According to the correct interpretation of Euthymius Zigabenus, the whole act of stooping down and writing on the ground was symbolical, and was meant to express inattention to the questioners before Him. Lücke: “This gesture was familiar to antiquity as a representation of deep musing, perplexity or languor of mind;” see the examples in Lücke, p. 269, note 1, where Wetstein also is quoted. It is, therefore, contrary to the spirit of the text to ask what Jesus might have written (Michaelis: the answer: “As it is written” Bede: the sentence in John 8:7; conjectures in Wolf and Lampe).35

If we ask, why Jesus does not here enter upon the question, as He did in like cases at the last passover,—it is not enough to answer, that He would not interfere in civil matters (Matthew 22:0; Luke 12:13 sq., Meyer), or that He would intimate that the question was too malicious to deserve an answer (Luthardt). We have rather to consider that He has not yet received His distinct introduction as Messiah in Jerusalem by the public hosanna, and now abstains from any official offer of Himself as Messiah, and indeed intends not to appear at all as Messiah, according to their idea. Therefore, as this matter is still in suspense, He also leaves His position towards their question in suspense; He neither rejects nor accepts it. But He certainly does already assume the expression of a calm majesty which is not pleased to have its leisure and recreation intruded upon with a street scandal. If they really take Him for the Messiah, they must consent to this.

John 8:7. He that is without sin among you, etc.36—The test just named, they stand. They continue in their questioning. Hence He now gives them the New Testament decision, “Without sin.” As ἀναμάρτητος, sinless, occurs only this once in the New Testament (though frequently in classic usage), it cannot be made into an inconsistency with the style of John. How is the word “without sin,” to be understood?

1. Erasmus, Zuingle, Calvin, Baur, Hase [Owen] make it absolute sinlessness. Hase therefore thinks that the answer is a proof of the apocryphal nature of the section; so do Paulus and Baur, since the demand that only sinless men alone should act as judges and pronounce sentence, is utterly inadmissible.
2. Meyer [p. 330], after Lücke: “Whether He means freedom from the possibility of fault (of error or of sin), like Plato in Pol. I., p. 339 B., or freedom from actual fault [comp. γυνὴ� Herod. v. 39]; and likewise, whether He means this latter in general (2Ma 8:4), or in respect to a particular category or species of sin (2Ma 12:42; Deuteronomy 29:19), is to be decided solely by the context. And here freedom from sin must be understood, not indeed of adultery specifically, because Jesus could not presume this of the whole hierarchy even in view of all their moral corruption; but of unchastity, because one guilty of this stands in question and before the eyes of all as an actual opposite of ἀναμάρτητος [sinless one]. Compare ἁμαρτωλός, Luke 7:37. Ἁμαρτάνειν, Jacobs’ ad Anthol. X., p.111; and in John 5:14, in μηκέτι ἁμάρτατε, a specific sort of sinning is meant; and the same injunction given in John 8:11 to the adulteress, is the authentic commentary on this ἀναμάρτητος.” So De Wette also, and Tholuck [and Alford]. Yet Lücke (and De Wette likewise) takes in addition the moral point of view: Jesus would not trench upon the office of civil justice; He looked at the case solely in its moral aspect and with reference to the βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ (Luther: “Therefore we have preaching in the kingdom of Christ, and when this preaching comes, it supersedes swords, judge, and all”).

The question is: In what relation did Christ place Christian morality to the theocratic civil law of Moses? And here it must be remembered that, with the Pharisees, the idea of being a sinner, and of being without sin, had reference to the law. Publicans and sinners are such as are fallen under Levitical discipline, liable to excommunication. But now the Levitical discipline was, according to the spirit of the law, so ideal that, strictly taken, it made every one necessarily unclean (see Haggai 2:12 sqq.; our Comm. on Matt. chap. 3). And this is most especially true with regard to sexual impurities and offences. The law, therefore, in its full ideal consistency, could not be carried out; and the mitigations of it in practice partook not only, on the one hand, of laxity, but, on the other, of moral earnestness, which must scorn to apply the law with hypocritical rigor in particular cases, when it could not apply it consistently in all. (Luther and Zwingle had scruples about the discipline of church law in similar consistency.) Christ, therefore, by His word, approves the prevalent leniency, but at the same time leads His hearers back to the principle of the ideal stringency.

His expression means, in the first place: Whosoever among you knows himself to be Levitically clean, particularly in respect of sexual defilements and unchastity, let him begin the execution of the penalty upon the woman. It presumes that no one will venture to proceed, and the conscience of the accusers must sanction this judgment. Then, secondly, in this actual impossibility of restoring the Mosaic rigorism is couched the deeper moral principle, that, in the Christian point of view, any condemnation of a guilty person by a host of accusers and judges who deem themselves guiltless, must be abandoned. For it must be considered that the legal condemnation presupposed this guiltlessness; and, at the same time that theocratic penalty of death stood for damnation (the cutting off of its soul from its people). Christ could no longer recognize either the innocence of those supposed to be clean, nor the liability of the culprit to damnation (which in fact the Mosaic system had only aimed to exhibit symbolically). The Old Testament had now unfolded itself into the New, which laid down on the one hand, the liability of all, even of human judges, to damnation, and on the other hand, the capacity of all even of the fallen, for salvation.
This, however, in the third place, does not supersede human acquittal and condemnation; it only shows that they must proceed upon a new basis (sympathy of the sentence with the sinner) and caution against hasty and over-stringent judgment). How, far, then, this principle should allow the civil punishment of seduced or infatuated women, Christ leaves to the future, but intimates that, on the part of severity, stringency and pride, there is a motive equally ready to hold the culprit to punishment. It was itself a death-penalty, that the adulteress was socially outlawed and condemned.
It must further be considered how singularly Christ distributes His decision between Himself and the appellants or Jewish court. He states the principle, that is the vital idea of the law; but they are left to apply it according to their best knowledge and conscience: First judge themselves, then others.

Let him be the first to cast a stone at her [not the first stone; βαλέτω, not only permission, but command].—According to Deuteronomy 17:7, the witnesses were to cast the first stone. But here the first one means him who will have the courage to condemn as being himself innocent.—According to the Rabbins the first blow struck the breast, often with fatal effect.

John 8:8. And again he stooped down.—The Prophet, the Messiah, had solved His problem and returned to His rest, and represented His leisure in symbolical recreation, that they may understand that it now rests with them to act, that is, in the first place to condemn themselves. He is discharged of the matter. And as He has previously not looked nor glanced at the woman in her conscience of guilt, so He now does the same with them. Jerome: He would give them room to make their escape. [Inconsistent with John 8:6.]

John 8:9. [They went out, ἐξήρχοντο, descriptive imperfect.—One by one, εἷς καθ’ εἷς, or εἶς καθεῖς (instead of καθ’ ἕνα). A later Greek formula.—The preposition is here adverbial. Comp. Mark 14:19; Romans 12:5; Acts 21:21; the Hebrew לְאַחַד אֶחָד, and Winer, p. 234.—P. S.].—Being convicted by their own conscience.—Tholuck: “It is historically attested, that at that time many prominent Rabbins were living in adultery.” Wagenseil on the Sota, p. 525. And some of them must have feared that when He should lift up Himself again, they might hear something further, which would be still less pleasant (Musculus).

Beginning at the eldest.37—Fritzsche and others construe so as to make ἀρξάμ. ἀπὸ τ. πρεσβυτέρ. substantially a parenthesis; the main statement being, that they went out even to the last; this being more particularly described by the parenthesis; the eldest made the beginning. Winer and Tholuck: They went out, the eldest leading off; and the ἕως τ. ἐσχ. is a breviloquent addition. The former interpretation seems clearer; and in many manuscripts this last addition is wanting. The eldest went out first, partly because of a guilty conscience, partly because they were the more shrewd. Is not πρεσβύτεροι here an official name? This is at least probable, because the group is a judicial one; hence Lücke, De Wette and others take it of rank. Meyer (and Tholuck, 7th ed.), on the contrary: This is not yielded by the contrast; there would then be no proper antithesis; it is a phrase: from the first to the last. But from the oldest to the last is no antithesis. On the contrary, a sufficiently clear antithesis is: from the elders (of the synagogue) to the last, i.e. the servants, 1 Corinthians 4:9. The expression: to the last, might, however, have been afterwards added, to destroy the definiteness of the term elders, which perhaps might have given the section a wrong and offensive bearing in the Christian congregations.

[“They went out—what else could they do? Not stop there, with the people gazing alternately at them, and at the finger moving to and fro on the ground! They retreat, but observe how orderly they do it. The Evangelist is careful to inform us that they ‘went out, one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last.’ Perhaps they hung back for a moment, no one disposed to go first, lest he should thereby seem to betray himself the greatest sinner in the lot. So, to avoid suspicion, they will depart in the order of age. As well-bred men, they give precedence to seniority, the younger bowing out the elder.—‘Not before you, sir, reverend Doctor—Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Jehudi,’ etc. They leave; the people staring after them: their long robes and broad phylacteries not quite so imposing as when they came in. They are gone. The court has adjourned. There has been an adjudication, not precisely that for which the court was called. There has been a conviction not of the accused, but of the accusers, and they, self-convicted, not daring to look the Judge in the face, who could see them through and through.”—From a sermon of Dr. Mühlenberg on the Woman and her Accusers. N. Y., 1867.—P. S.]

Left alone, and the woman.—Only the band of accusers had gotten away; the disciples and the people who were looking on could remain. But that the woman remained standing as if bound, and did not withdraw, seems to show what an impression Jesus made upon her conscience. She stood, as if bound to His judgment-seat.

John 8:10. Hath no man condemned thee?—The οὐδείς is emphatic; but so is the condemn, κατακρίνω [not found elsewhere in John]. It denotes the sententia damnatoria of theocratic judgment, a sentence of death considered at the same time as a religious reprobation. Meyer remarks that since these people came asking advice, the vote of each one is the only thing intended. But in asking advice they wished to refer to the Lord a judicial sentence, which He referred back to them, and this is therefore the thing in question. Hence it is neither, on the one hand, the actual “stoning” (Wolf) which is meant, nor on the other hand a mere moral condemnation (Tholuck), nor any dismissal of the reference (Meyer).38 The people had left the decision to Him, though in irony; and they did the same again, when He in a conditional way cast the decision back upon them. When He now says: if they have desisted from their condemnation, I also condemn thee not,—unquestionably He means this in the New Testament sense, as in John 3:17; Matthew 18:11. But in this case her acquittal is included in His decision, so far as He interprets the tacit practical verdict of her accusers. This is proved by His next words. This withholding of moral condemnation is, however, no withholding of moral judgment. Augustine (Tract. xxxiii.): Quid est Domine? faves ergo peccatis? Non plane ita. Attende, quod sequitur: ‘vade, deinceps jam noli peccare.’ Ergo et Dominus damnavit, sed peccatum, non hominem” [Ambrose: Emendavit ream, non crimen absolvit.—P. S.]


1. See the exegesis particularly on John 8:1-2; John 8:6-7, etc.

2. If the section of the adulteress can be restored to the credit of genuineness, it materially enriches the history of the life of Jesus. A systematic view of the progress of the persecution of Jesus by the Sanhedrin commends the theory of its genuineness according to the rules of internal criticism. It would be natural, that the temptation of Jesus which proceeded upon the ironical assumption that He was the Messiah, should form a series and climax. And the conduct of Jesus perfectly accords with the existing state of the Messianic question, on account of His official position towards the question whether He was the Messiah.

3. The conduct of Christ in this situation exhibits majestic elevation, calmness, prudence, wisdom, and boldness.

4. The only mention of Jesus’ writing; and that in the sand of the earth, no one knows what. His usual form of writing was a writing of the law of the Spirit in hearts with the flame of His word.

5. He that is without sin among you: (1) Acknowledgment of the Mosaic law in their view. Stone her if you please; she has deserved death according to the law of Moses. (2) Assertion of His New Testament ground. But first judge yourselves. Stone her not till one without sin be found who may begin the stoning. (3) Indication of the relation between the Old Testament and New Testament points of view. Christ declares the principle and spirit of the law of Moses. Then they may act according to their best knowledge and conscience. It must not be forgotten that the death penalty according to the letter of the Jewish law was at the same time a reprobation.

The Roman church considers Christ a second Moses, a new law-giver; and according to her He must have given a stricter law of marriage. But with a properly religious legislation a ministry of death also is connected (2 Corinthians 3:0). And of those who in this view insist on remaining under the law, the words of the apostle in Galatians 3:10 hold good.

6. On the other hand, here in the group of accusers and judges are fulfilled the words of 1 Peter 4:17 : “The time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God.”

7. Christ can transform the tribunal of the legalists into an asylum of criminals, into a means of repentance and of the call of grace.
8. The New Testament gentleness the source of a New Testament severity in questions of moral conduct.


The retirement of Christ to the Mount of Olives outside the city of Jerusalem, an example for the persecuted company of believers.—The first temptation of Christ by a show of recognition on the part of the rulers of the Jews.—This temptation compared with the other (subsequent) ones.—The adulteress: or, a life-like and warning scene from the joyous ecclesiastical and popular festivals of Israel.—The law of marriage a favorite question of the Pharisees.—Conjugal infidelities a measure of the spiritual decay of popular life.—The diabolical craft, which would make the show of a holy zeal for the law a snare for the Lord.—Analysis of the temptation: (1) Crafty plotting. Apparent homage was to impose upon them all. (2) Malicious assault they aim not at the execution of the woman, but at the execution of the Lord. (3) Heartless, cruel procedure. The woman, in a form of judicial process no longer practised, was to be sacrificed as a means to an end. (4) Shameless law question. They sought to make either zeal for Moses or an approval of their own tradition and custom a capital charge against the Lord. (5) Unsuspecting blindness. They know not how soon their double judgment against the woman and against the Lord is to be turned into a judgment against themselves. (6) The most headstrong obduracy. Though in their conscience convinced of their unworthiness to condemn the woman they still do not perceive their sin against the Lord.
The conduct of the Lord towards His tempters: 1. Their hypocritical homage to the Messiah He meets with the calm, stately action of Messianic majesty (He stooped down, etc.). 2. Their tempting of His Spirit He meets with the searching of their conscience. 3. Their Pharisaic question concerning the highest grade of punishment He meets with the question of the gospel concerning the innocent Judges 4:0. Their judgment was to work death and damnation; His judgment aims at deliverance and salvation. 5. They come as accusers and judges, they go as condemned. 6. They intended to destroy a holy one; He rescues a lost sinner.—Or: 1. His silence a condemnation of their craft and excited passion. 2. His stooping and looking down a condemnation of their shameless treatment of the woman’s shame. 3. His writing, a mysterious action, pointing to the wicked mysteries of their life.—Christ and the Pharisees compared as judges of the adulteress: (1) With respect to rigor. Their rigor is an uncharitable delight in the damnation of the sinner after gross outward sins. His rigor delights in salvation, and presses on their conscience with a wholesome condemnation of the Spirit. (2) In respect to gentleness. Their gentleness is carnal laxity which encourages sin. His gentleness is overpowering grace which destroys sin.—Christ is not a new Moses, but the Redeemer from sin by the law of the Spirit.—The position which Christ takes toward civil legislators and judges: (1) He stands distinct from them, in that He makes no civil laws. (2) He stands in connection with them, in that He furnishes them the law of the Spirit, the fundamental principles for their legal administration.—The glorification of the ancient light and law in the new covenant: (1) The perfection of rigor. The perfect knowledge of sins recognizes all as worthy of death and perdition. (2) The perfection of gentleness. The full gracious perception of faith recognizes all as called to the salvation of the children of God. (3) The perfection of administration. The decided life of the Spirit fixes the standard of law and discipline between the perfect rigor and the perfect gentleness.—The judgment of Christ a word of terror for the guilty consciences on both sides: (1) The woman must tremble under the words: “Let him be the first to cast a stone at her.” (2) The accusers under the words: “He that is without sin among you” (i.e. he that is not himself worthy of death).

The guilty woman before the judgment seat of Christ: (1) How she stands bound to the judgment seat, till He has spoken. (2) How she is released with a Saviour’s word: Sin no more.—The Christian spiritual care of released criminals, particularly of penitent fallen ones.—The silence of the woman an intelligible language of penitence to the Lord.—The judgment of the Pharisees in the light and judgment of Christ.

Starke: Nova. Bibl. Tub.: The wickedness of the ungodly knows how to abuse even the law, the punishment of faults, the best and holiest things. Shame, that stupidity and silliness undertake to tempt wisdom itself. It does not become teachers and preachers to try to have one foot in the pulpit and the other in the council chamber.—Hedinger: Thou hypocrite, look into thine own bosom.—Though no magistracy can be without sin it should nevertheless not be chargeable with the sins which it must visit with bodily punishment upon others. Magistrates ought to be honest persons who fear God, Exodus 18:21.—Quesnel: Prudence and love require that we should give persons an opportunity to withdraw, without ado and disgrace, from a bad cause, into which their passsion has seduced them.—Zeisius: What a mighty, and in truth irresistible witness is the conscience of man! Thus must they themselves come to shame who seek to put others, especially faithful teachers, to shame; treachery comes home to him that forges it.—Preachers must be no doubt earnest and zealous with great sinners, but not with gross harshness, for this does not improve and edify.—Hedinger: The pulpit should not meddle in secular affairs, and much less should the secular order meddle with spiritual matters.—Canstein: If any one is rescued from the hands of justice, he should be diligently exhorted not to abuse his deliverance, but prove his gratitude to God and men.

Gerlach: The answer of Jesus puts their cunning to shame, without infringing the law, justice, or love.—At the same time His sentence guards the woman against despair by pointing at the sinfulness of all. He does not extenuate the sin of the adulteress; but He hints at inward sin which puts one further from God than gross outward transgressions.—To drive these hypocrites away needs only a word of the Lord which strikes the heart like a hammer that grinds the rock.—Now Jesus could exercise His saving office. He forgives her the sin, etc.—This implies not the slightest disapproval of legal punishments. [But it no doubt does imply a Christian principle for the criticism and reformation of civil punishments].

Braune: Early in the morning, with much watchfulness, Jesus was in the temple, the place where He loved to labor all the day. The thought of His approaching death and the various impressions of His work upon different hearts; it seems as if this doubled His zeal.—The sins which in Christendom also attach to Sundays and feast-days.—The previous evening that session against the Redeemer had been held; then (during the night) this case comes. How natural the thought, that Jesus might be caught by means of it. And now the Pharisees and scribes are in concert, etc.—She says: “Lord;” she feels the majesty of Jesus, and this implies that she certainly condemns herself, Matthew 21:31.—Deliverance from the hand of civil justice is not yet deliverance from the almighty hand of the holy God.—Jesus with His meekness showed a greater judicial earnestness than the severest condemnation to death can express.

Heubner: Unto the Mount of Olives. John gives a hint that Jesus is approaching the time of His passion.

John 8:3. “But the Scribes and Pharisees” [instead of the Eng. Vers. And], intimates the contrast: these scribes had spent the night in working out new plans against Jesus.—(The woman). To all her shame, to her fear of death which already took hold of her soul, was now added the eye of the pure and Holy One who judged without respect of persons.—It is no good fortune to remain undiscovered in transgressions.—The heavy guilt and shame of adultery are evident from all laws of antiquity against it (and also the evil of that neglect, oppression and improper use of woman, which have been gradually done away with by Christianity alone).—Men may be zealous for the divine law with evil hearts.—Worldlings and hypocrites have a passion for bringing good people into perplexity with entangling questions. But Jesus shows us the way of Christian wisdom to escape the snares of men.—Thunder from a clear sky could not have so terrified the sinners as the word of the Lord, which must have smitten them with the fear that He knew their secret sins.—Cicero Ad Verrem 3. exord.: Vis corruptorem vel adulterum accusare? Providendum diligenter, ne in tua vita vestigium libidinis appareat. Etenim non est ferendus accusator is, qui quod in altero vitium reprehendit, in eo ipso deprehenditur.—The wonderful power of conscience even in hypocrites.—No man, Lord: It sounds like a sigh of anguish, shame and faith.—Christ’s office is not to condemn, but to show mercy and redeem.—We should never uncharitably bring the secret sins of our neighbor into the light.—Despair not of improving those who have fallen very low.—Gossner: He went early to His work; the people came early to hear Him. Early let our souls be given to Him, for He comes early into His temple, the heart.—O poor men, let the stones lie which ye would cast at your fellow-sinners and fellow-pilgrims on this earth.—Besser (after Bengel): Your names are written in the earth, Jeremiah 17:1; Jeremiah 17:13.—(From Luther): They fancy that the stones are looking at them and it seemed long to them before they could find a hole and get to the doors.—The difference between the Pharisees and the woman: They, convicted by their conscience, get away from Jesus; she, convicted by her conscience, stays by Jesus.—The two were left alone: Misery and commiseration (miseria et misericordia, pitiableness and pity), says Augustine.—What malice prompted the Pharisees to do, was made to drive a lost sheep into the arms of the good shepherd.

[Schaff: A suitable text for the Midnight Mission and at the dedication of Magdalene asylums, but to be wisely and cautiously handled. See an excellent sermon on the text by Dr. Muhlenberg, of St. Luke’s Hospital, preached and published in New York, 1867.—The startling contrast: a woman guilty of a most heinous crime and exposed to public ignominy worse than death, confronted with the Purest of the pure, who condemned even an impure look as adultery in germ.—Christ acts here not as an avenging judge, whose duty is to administer the law, but as a merciful Saviour and Sovereign with the privilege of pardoning. So He acted towards the Samaritan woman and Mary Magdalene.—He does not make light of sins against the seventh commandment, but, in His parting word: “Sin no more,” He recognizes the enormity of the woman’s guilt and exhorts her to break off from all sin (not adultery only) at once and forever.—The wisdom of our Saviour in avoiding the snare of the Pharisees and rebuking their conscience, and His tender and holy mercy in dealing with the poor woman.—The heartless cruelty of modern society in turning the seduced adulteress over to perpetual infamy, while winking at the greater crime of the seducing adulterer.—Christ metes out the same truth and justice to great and small, respectable and disreputable alike. “He reverses the judgment of the world which casts the stone of infamy at the ruined and leaves the author of the ruin unharmed.”—Social respectability was the shield of the character of the Pharisees and Scribes, and yet their spiritual pride, hypocrisy and secret unchastities made them more guilty in the eyes of the Lord than the open shame of the poor woman at whom they were ready to cast stones. “The publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you,” Matthew 21:31-32.—(From Muhlenberg): The service of the Midnight Mission is to approach fallen women in the spirit of the Saviour, “with the voice of brotherly and sisterly concern; to let them feel that they are not utterly friendless; to address them with unaffected sympathy; to whisper in the ear words of the one true Friend; to be Christ’s missionaries to them by night, like Himself seeking the lost in a benighted world: this is no dark mission, but a mission of blessed light, illumined of heaven, cheered too with the light of penitence and gratitude.”]


[23][Wordsworth (p. 309) says that it to found in more than 300 cursive MSS—P. S.]

[24][Also E. F. S., but in N. the passage is marked with asterisks in the margin, in S. with obeli. Ten cursive copies put it at the end of John, some insert it at the end of Luke 21:0—P. S.]

[25][“In multis et Græcis et Latinis codicibus; Adv. Pelag., II. 17. It should also be added that moot of the copies of ties Itala and Vulgata contain the section—P. S.]

[26][To which must be added Cod. Sin. Tiechendorf (I., p. 826) enumerates the following uncial MSS. as witnesses against the section: א.A.B.C. L. T. X. Δ.; but A. and C. are here defective, and L. and Δ. have an empty space, though not sufficient for the whole passage.—P. S.]

[27][Euthymius remarks that the pericope from John 7:53 to John 8:12 παρα τοῖς�, ἥ ὠβέλισται. Διὸ φαί νονται παρέ γγραπτα καὶ προσθή κη—P. S.]

[28][Also Tregelles, Alford and Wordsworth. Godet (II., 199) says: un sari text apostolique n’ a jamais été exposé à des altérations si considérable.—P. S.]

[29][John names the Pharisees twenty times,—four times in connection with the chief priests, but never with the Scribes as here.—P. S.]

[30][Wordsworth also urges this point, especially the severe discipline of the Eastern church towards adultery. According to Bingham (Antiqu. XVI, chap. 11), S. Basil’s Canons prescribe fifteen years’ penance for adultery, the Council of Ancyra seven years’, the Council of Eliberis (in Spain) five years’ for a single act, and ten if repeated. Webster and Wilkinson: “The views of the fathers of the nature and objects of Christ’s mission, and of the distinction between the covenants of the law and the gospel, were imperfect and limited… If the story appeared improbable, from moral considerations, to expositors of the third and fourth century, it would appear far more so, on the same grounds, to those of the seventh and eighth.”—P. S.]

[31]See Leben Jesu, II., p. 952; Hitzig, Ueber Joh. Mark., p. 208 sqq.; and Meyer’s designation of it as an “apocryphal document” is therefore extremely unbecoming. [In his fifth edition (p. 320), Meyer does not call it so, but rather “ein aus der apostolischen Zeit herrührendes Schriftstück, eine ural’e Reliquie evangelischer Geschichle.”—P. S.]

[32][Also the adjective αὐτόφωρος, caught in the very theft, and generally in the very act.—P. S.]

[33][κατέγραφεν or έγραφεν, a descriptive imperfect, He kept writing.—P. S.]

[34][This minute circumstance Hengstenberg considers as a mark of fiction unworthy of Christ; Meyer, Stier and Alford, correctly as a mark of originality. The hypocritical malignant questioners well deserved this contemptuous treatment. Writing or figuring on the ground may indicate ennui or distraction of mind or embarrassment or deep reflection or intentional indifference to what is going on. The last case is the only one that is applicable to Jesus, and the gesture here has the same meaning as His words, Matthew 22:28 : Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? (Comp. also Luke 12:14.) This disregard and rebuke implied in the act itself, is the thing essential, not the words or signs written; else they would have been recorded. It is therefore idle to ask what he wrote on the ground.—P. S.]

[35][Some MSS. add after the word κατέγραφεν (John 8:8): the sins of every one of them. Wordsworth: An emblem that the law which He Himself had given, had been written on earthly and stony hearts. Very fanciful. Lightfoot and Besser: the curses written by the priest against unfaithful women, Numbers 5:17. Augustine and others: reference to Jeremiah 17:13 : “They that depart from me shall be written in the earth.” Wolf and Lampe, like Bede, conjecture that he wrote the sentence in John 8:7; Godet: the sentence of the judge which must be written. But Christ evidently did not wish to listen to them or to act as judge, and when asked the second time, He did not answer their question about the woman, but reminded them of their own sins.—P. S.]

[36][Owen remarks on this verse: “This is one of the most profound and searching remarks to be found in the whole gospel. ‘Who are you that you should be so clamorous for the meting out of punishment to this woman? Have you no sins of your own to be repented of? Is it your appropriate task to sit in judgment upon your fellow-men, as though you yourselves were perfect and deputed of God to do this! Look to your own hearts, inspect your own conduct in the light of God’s law (Matthew 5:28; Matthew 5:32), and be less solicitous in respect to the exact degree or kind of punishment to be meted out to your fellow-men.’ ”—P. S.]

[37][Or as Lange below explains πρεσβύτεροι from the elders, the presbyters of the synagogue.—P. S]

[38][In his fifth edition, p. 332, Meyer says on,οὐδὲ ἐγώ σε κατακρ: “This is not a sentence of forgiveness, like Matthew 9:2; Luke 7:48, nor yet mere refusal of jurisdiction,… but a reversal of the condemnation, in the consciousness of His Messianic mission, which was not to condemn, but to seek and to save the lost, John 3:17; John 12:47; Matthew 18:18.”—P. S.]

Verses 1-30


Christ, The Light Of The World, The Real Fulfilment Of The Jewish Torch-Light Festivities, As Against The Pretended Seers, The False Lights, In Israel. The Adulteress, And Christ’s Sentence. His Ideal Appearance At The Court Of The Jews, And The Two Witnesses. The Judges Shall Come Into Judgement. A Twofold Lifting Up Of Christ At Hand. Appearance Of Yielding; Or, A Great Vacillation Towards Faith

(John 7:53) John 8:1-30

John 7:53. And every man went unto his own house. [;]

John 8:1 [But]1 Jesus went unto the mount of Olives: 2And early in the morning lie came again into the temple, and all the people2 came unto him; and he sat down and taught them.3 3And the Scribes and [the] Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery [or in sin],4 and when they had set her in the midst, 4They say unto him [The priests say unto him, tempting him that they might have to accuse him],5 Master, this woman was taken6 in adultery, in the very Acts 5:0 Now Moses in the law commanded 6us, that such should be stoned: but what [what then] sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him.7 But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger, wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not [omit as though he 7heard them not]8 So [But] when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast [be the first to cast] a stone at her. 8And again he stooped down, and wrote [with his finger]9 on the ground. 9And they which heard it being convicted by their oivn conscience [And when they heard this, they], went out one by one, beginning at [with] the eldest [or, elders, ὰπὸ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων], even unto the last:10 and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman [omit and saw none but the woman],11 he said unto her, Woman,12 where are those thine accusers? [where are they?]13 hath no man condemned 11thee? [Did no one condemn thee?] She said, No man [no one], Lord. And Jesus [he] said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and [henceforth]14 sin no more.

12Then spake Jesus [Jesus therefore spoke] again unto them [see John 7:37 sqq.], saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in [the]15 darkness, but shall have the light of life. 13The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record [witness] of thyself; thy record [witness] is not true. 14Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record [witness] of myself, yet [omit yet] my record [witness] is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go: but ye cannot tell [know not] whence I come, and [or]16 whither I go. 15Ye judge after the flesh, I judge no man. 16And yet if I judge [But even if I myself judge], my 17judgment is true:17 for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me. It is also [Moreover, it is] written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true. 18I am one that bear [he who beareth] witness of myself; and the Father that sent me, beareth witness of me. Then said they [They said therefore] unto him. Where 19is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know [neither] me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known [would know] my Father also.

20These words spake Jesus [he]18 in the treasury, as he taught [while teaching] in the temple: and no man [no one] laid hands on him, for his hour was [had] not yet come.

21Then said Jesus again [Again therefore he said] unto them, I go my way [I go away], and ye shall [will] seek me [in vain], and shall [will] die in your sins [sin]: 22whither I go, ye cannot come. Then [Therefore] said the Jews, Will he kill himself? because he saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come. 23And he said to them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above; ye are of this world; I am not of this world. 24I said therefore unto you, that ye shall [will] die in your sins: for if ye believe not 25that I am he, ye shall [will] die in your sins. Then [Therefore] said they unto him, Who art thou? And Jesus saith unto them, Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning [For the beginning; or, To begin with (I am) that which I even say to you].19 26I have many things to say, and to judge of you [before I fully express myself concerning myself]: but he that sent me, is true; and I speak20 to the 27world those things which I have heard of him [what I heard from him]. They 28understood not that he spake [spoke] to them of the Father. Then [Therefore] said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall [will] ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself, but as my21 Father hath taught me, I speak these things. 29And he that sent me is with me: the Father [he]22 hath not left me alone; for I do always those [the] things that please him.

30As he spake [spoke] these words, many believed on [in] him.


[The whole section concerning the adulteress, from John 7:53 to John 8:11, is omitted as spurious, or bracketted as doubtful by the critical editors of the Gr. Test. Hence I have italicized the E. V. to distinguish it from the undisputed text. (The same course should be pursued with Mark 16:9 ff.) Without anticipating the very full and judicious discussion of the genuineness by Dr. Lange in the Exeg. and Chit, below, I shall only state the chief authorities for both opinions, and the conclusion to which I have attained:

1. The section is defended as genuine by Augustine (who comments on it in Tract. xxxiii., and suggests, in another place, De conj. adult., II. 7, that it was thrown out of the text by enemies or weak believers from fear that it might encourage their wives to infidelity), Mill, Whitby, Fabricius, Lampe, Maldonatus, Corn. a Lapide, Bengel, Michaelis, Storr, Kuinoel, Hug (R. C.), Scholz, Klee, Maier (R. C.), Home, Owen, Webster and Wilkinson, Wieseler, Ebrard, Stier, Lange.

2. It is rejected as an interpolation (though not on that account as untrue) by Erasmus, Calvin (?), Beza, Grotius, Wetstein, Semler, Paulus, Knapp, Lücke, Tholuck, Olshausen, Bleek, De Wette, Baur, Reuss, Luthardt, Meyer, Ewald, Hengstenberg (who regards it as an apocryphal fiction of some strongly anti-Jewish Christian of the second century), Godet, Wordsworth (?), Scrivener. So also Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles, Alford, Wescott and Hort.
The prevailing critical evidence, though mostly negative (especially from the Eastern Church), is against the passage, the moral evidence for it; in other words, it seems to be no original part of John’s written Gospel, but the record of an actual event, which probably happened about the time indicated by its position in the 8th chapter. The story could not have been invented, the less so as it runs contrary to the ascetic and legalistic tendency of the ancient church which could not appreciate it.

It is eminently Christ-like and full of comfort to penitent outcasts. It breathes the Saviour’s spirit of holy mercy which condemns the sin and saves the sinner. It is a parallel to the parable of the prodigal, the story of Mary Magdalene and that of the Samaritan woman, and agrees with many express declarations of Christ that He came not to condemn, but to save the lost (John 3:17; John 12:47; Luke 9:56; Luke 19:10; comp. John 5:14; Luke 7:37 ff.). His refusal to act as judge in the case, has a parallel in a similar case related by Luke 12:13-15. The conduct of the Scribes and Pharisees in trying Jesus with ensnaring questions is characteristic and sustained by many examples of the synoptical Gospels. Calvin, who is disposed to reject it, admits that it “contains nothing contrary to the apostolic spirit.” Meyer (p. 321), while disowning its Johannean origin, says: “It entirely agrees with the tone of the Synoptical Gospels, and betrays not the least indication of a dogmatic or ecclesiastical reason which might account for its later invention.” It is moreover so manifestly original, and has so many positive witnesses in its favor, especially in the Western church, that it may be regarded as a genuine relic of the primitive evangelical tradition which was handed down in various recensions, but treated with great caution from fear of abuse in a licentious age, until in the second, certainly in the third, century it found its way into many copies of the Gospel of John. (Comp. Meyer.) Some older critics supposed that it is the same story as that which Papias (perhaps from the mouth of John) related of “a woman taken in many sins” (ἐπὶ πολλαῖς ἁμαρτίαις, not one ἁμαρτία, as in our case), and which was contained in “the Gospel of the Hebrews ”(Euseb. H. E., III. 39); but this Judaizing Gospel would hardly have given currency to a story so strongly anti-Jewish. Alford suggests that John himself may have, in this solitary case, incorporated a portion of the current oral tradition into his narrative; Wordsworth and others, that John delivered the story orally, and that another hand wrote it first on the margin from which it afterwards passed into the text. But these are mere conjectures.

The number of readings is unusually large. There are two main recensions, that of the received text (from which the E. V. is made), that of Cod. D. (Cod. Bezæ) which is somewhat abridged; both are given with the lectiones variantes by Tischendorf, ed. VIII., I. pp. 830–836, and Tregelles, p. 417. To these may be added a third and more lengthy recension of other MSS. differing from those on which the received text is founded (see Griesbach and Wordsworth, p. 309).

For the critical details, the reader is referred to Dr. Lange’s discussion below, Lücke's Com., Vol. II, pp. 243–279; Meyer, pp. 320–323; Tregelles on the Text of the Gr. Test., pp. 236–243; Tischendorf (ed. VIII.), Bloomfield’s Recensio Synoptica, Alford (ed. VI), and Wordsworth.—P. S.]


John 8:1; John 8:1.—[Δέ, unquestioned in the original, does not appear in the English Version.]

John 8:2; John 8:2.—Codd. G. S. U., ὄχλος; not decisive against λαός.

[3]Ibid.—[Cod. D. omits the words of the text. rec. καὶκαθί σας ἐδίδασκεν αὐτού ς. Not decisive.]

John 8:3; John 8:3.—Cod. D.: ἐπὶ ἁμαρτίᾳ γυναῖκα είλ. [instead of ἐν μοιχεία]. Euphony.

John 8:4; John 8:4.—[The insertion is from Cod. D.: λέ γουσιν αὐτῷ ἐκπειράζοντες αὐτὸν οἱ ἱερεῖς, ἵνα ἔχωσιν κατηγορείαν ὐτοῦ The text. rec. omits these words here, but has them in John 8:6. Cod. M. has them at the close of John 8:11.—P. S.]

John 8:6; John 8:6.—[Different readings and spellings: κατειλήφθη (aor. I., with augmentum for κατελή φθη, as εἴληφα stands instead of the unusual λέ ληφα, see Winer, p. 69), κατελήφθη, κατείληπται, εἴληπται, κατειλημμέ νην, καταληφθεῖσαν.—P. S.]

John 8:6; John 8:6.—[This clause must be omitted here, if it is inserted with Cod. D. in John 8:4.—P. S.]

[8]Ibid.—In e.g. K., μὴ προσποιούμενος is added. In others, καὶ προσπ. Both exegetical.

John 8:8; John 8:8.—[The rec. omits here τῷ δακτύλῳ, which Cod. U. supplies. Cod. D. and others have the strange addition: ἑυὸς ἕκάστου αὐτῶν τας ἁμαρτό ας.—P. S.]

John 8:9; John 8:9.—e.g. H., etc., omit ἕως τῶν ἐσχάτων; D. and others: ὥστε πά ντας ἐξελθεῖν. [Alford in his version adopts the reading of Cod. D.: “But each of the Jews went out, beginning with the elders, so that all went out.”—P. S.]

John 8:10; John 8:10.—Καὶ γυναικό ς (and seeing none but the woman), is wanting in D. M. S.

[12]Ibid.—Ἡ γυνή wanting in D. E. F., etc.

John 8:10; John 8:10.—[Ποῦ εἰσιν; So Cod. D., etc. The text. rec. inserts ἐκεῖνοι οἱ κατήγοροί σου.—P. S.]

John 8:11; John 8:11.—[The text. rec. reads καί, but Cod. D. ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν which is more forcible.—P. S.]

John 8:12; John 8:12.—Instead of περιπατήσει, Lachmann and Tischendorf, after Codd. B. C. K. T. have περιπατήσῃ.

John 8:14; John 8:14.—Codd. D. K. T. and many others read ἤ. The καὶ probably comes from the preceding sentence, [Codd. Sin., καὶ.]

John 8:16; John 8:16.—B. D. L., etc., ἀληθινή. So Lachmann, Tischendorf [Alford. Cod. Sin. supports here the text. rec., ἀληθής]

John 8:20; John 8:20.—The ὁ Ἰησοῦς interpolated after ἐλά λησεν.

John 8:25; John 8:25.—[On this difficult passage and its many interpretations, see the Exeg. and Crit. Alford renders τὴν�. In very deed (or essentially), that which I also speak (discourse) unto you. Noyes: In the first place, I am just that which I speak to you. Am. B. U. (Conant): That which I also say to you from the beginning. Lauge: Fars. Erste das, was ich auch euch sage (sagen mag).—P. S.]

John 8:26; John 8:26.—B. D. K., Lachmann, Tischendorf: λαλῶ, instead of λέγω. [Cod. Sin., λαλῶ.]

John 8:28; John 8:28.—Μου, an interpolation, according to many authorities [Cod. Sin. among them].

John 8:29; John 8:29.—According to B. D. L., etc., ὁ πατήρ should be dropped. [Cod. Sin. has it, but instead of μετ̓ ἐμοῦ ἐστίν• οὐκ�, reads οὐκ�• μετ̓ ἐμοῦ ἐστίν.]

Verses 12-30

B. John 8:12-30

[Christ, The Light Of The World.]


John 8:12. Again therefore Jesus spoke to them [πάλιν οὗν αὐτοῖς ἐλάλησεν ὁ ̓Ιησοῦς].—The connection varies according as the section on the adulteress is regarded as in its true place or interpolated.

On the supposition of its interpolation Meyer construes thus (and Lücke): “After the Sanhedrin had failed in their attempt to get possession of Jesus, and had become divided among themselves, as is related in John 7:45-52, Jesus was able, in consequence of this miscarriage of the plan of His enemies (οὗν), to appear again and speak to the assembly in the temple.” The πάλιν is supposed to show that the time of the discourse is one of the days following the day of the feast. De Wette, on the contrary, supposes that John has not intended to preserve closely the thread of the history. Tholuck considers it impossible to decide whether the discourse was delivered on the last day of the feast or after it. He says: “If the pericope is genuine, this exclamation must have occurred some hours later.” Rather, a whole night and some hours later.

If the section be genuine, the words following are connected with the affair of the adulteress (Cocceius, Bengel). We have given this connection the preference. In view of the remarks that the repeated πάλιν in John 8:12 and John 8:21 is quite unmeaning without this section, for Jesus has not been interrupted by the history John 7:45-52; only the evangelist has interrupted himself by communicating some things which preceded behind the scenes. But the official state of things after the production of the adulteress must have been essentially changed. The rulers who threatened to take Jesus, and occasioned His saying, I shall soon go away from you,—have given Him an involuntary token of acknowledgment before the people; now He has the field again for a time, and can speak once more. The transactions following took place, accordingly, after the scene just preceding, on the day after the last day of the feast.

I am the light of the world.—Opinions as to the occasion of this figurative utterance: 1. Sunrise, or sunset. But the former was long past, and the latter had not yet come; and Jesus appears here not as antitype of the sun, as in John 9:5, but as the essential light, the light of the night. 2. The reading of the section Isaiah 42:0; since the “light of the Gentiles” (φῶς ἐθνῶν) of John 8:6 is equivalent to the “light of the world” (φῶς τοῦ κόσμου) of this place, and designates the Messiah. Jesus, accordingly, here addresses Himself to the hope of the light of Israel and the Gentiles (Luke 2:32; John 1:4; John 1:9). Against this it has been observed that the reading of Scripture lessons belonged to the synagogues, not to the temple; even the temple-synagogue, which Vitringa adduces, was not in the temple itself (Lücke, p. 283). 3. The torch-feast, or the illumination at the feast of tabernacles. In the court of the women stood great golden candelabras, which were lit on the evening of the first day of the feast, and spread their light overall Jerusalem, while by the men a torch-light dance with music and singing was performed before these candelabras (see Winer, Laubhüttenfest. These lights are not to be confounded with the large golden lamps in the sanctuary). According to Maimonides this illumination took place also on the other evenings of the festival. Even apart from this, the exhausted lamps in the women’s court, or in the treasury-hall where Jesus according to John 8:20 was speaking, would on the day after the feast as distinctly suggest the symbolical transitory illumination of Jerusalem, as the eighth day of the feast would suggest the cessation of the symbolical streams of water; and this gave the Lord the same occasion for describing Himself as the true enlightener of the night, which the previous day had given for presenting Himself as the opener of the true fountain (Wetstein, Paulus, Olshausen; see Leben Jesu, II., p. 955). Opinions which lack a full appreciation of John’s symbolization, like Meyer’s, lose their weight by that very lack; though according to them we must take not the torch-light part of the feast, but, with Hug, the sight of the candelabras, as the occasion of our Lord’s expression. Of course the Messianic prophecies in Isaiah 42:6; Malachi 4:2; Luke 2:0, as well as the rabbinical figures (Lightfoot, p. 1041), assisted this application. But beyond doubt the illumination was specifically an emblem of the pillar fire which had accompanied Israel at the time of its pilgrimage in the wilderness and its dwelling in tabernacles; therefore also an emblem of the later manifestation of the δόξα of the Lord, the idea of the Shekinah (see Isaiah 4:5). To this was further added, as the immediate occasion, the fact that the adulterous woman had fallen into darkness, and that the tempters of Jesus had come and gone away in spiritual darkness.

The light of the world. Κόσμος is here, as in John 17:11, and elsewhere, the world of humanity in its obscuration. The true light, which enlightens the human night, the antitype of the temple light and of all lamps and night lights, is the personal truth and purity, which enlightens and sanctifies, or delivers from walking in religious and moral darkness. The substance or New Testament fulfilment of the pillar of fire.

Shall in no wise walk in the darkness [οὐ μὴ περιπατατήσῃ ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ].—According to the reading περιπατήσῃ,39 this is assuring: He shall surely not walk. A stronger expression of the assurance which is implied in the light of Christ; not to be understood as a demand, for this is precluded by the words: He that followeth Me. Darkness; the sphere of error, of delusion, of blindness. A fundamental conception of John.

Shall have the light of life.—Σκοτία, the fear of death, had literally brought the adulteress to the verge of bodily death itself. Hence the light of life is here not the life as light, but the light as life, as giving, securing, and sustaining the true life. He shall have it for a sure possession of his own, for the following of Christ by faith causes an enlightenment from Him which proves itself as a living light, the life turning into light, the light turning into life, a fountain of life; as the water which He gives becomes a fountain within.

John 8:13. Thy Witness is not true.—The Pharisees who were present rejected the great utterance of Jesus respecting Himself, “but, prudently enough avoiding the matter of it, they dispute its formal validity.” Meyer. In reference to the matter of it they perhaps felt half bound by the preceding hypocritical act of homage on the part of their fellows. Jesus Himself also seemed to them to have formerly, chap, John 5:31, suggested to them this rule which they now stated. But (says Lücke) the case is different. Matters of conscience, of the inmost sense of God and of divine things must be juged of otherwise than matters of outward experience. As God can only reveal and bear witness to Himself (ὁ δὲ θεὸς αὐτὸς ἑαυτῷ ἁξιόπιστος μάρτυς, says Chrysostom), so the divine life and light in the world are only their own evidence. “Lumen,” says Augustine, “et alia demonstrat et se ipsum. Testimonium sibi perhibet lux, aperit sanos oculos, et sibi ipsa testis est.” Yet the times differ. Christ must be first accredited and introduced by the Father on the testimony of Scripture and miracle; afterwards His own testimony of Himself is valid. The connection also in that place and in this is very different. There Christ professed Himself the awakener of the dead, and as such the Father had accredited Him by the miraculous raising of the sick. Here He presents Himself as the sure guide through the darkness of this world to the true life, and His credential in this character must be the certitude of His own conviction. The proof of the truth of this conviction lies in the fact that He is clear respecting the course of His own life, His origin and His goal, and this proof He soon states further on. [Comp. my note on John 5:31, p. 192.—P. S.]

John 8:14. Though I bear witness of myself, etc.—Even when I am in this situation, as I am just now. He hereby intimates, that in other respects He quotes also another witness (the Father), as immediately afterwards in John 8:17.

For I know whence I came.—The clear consciousness of His origin and appointment on the one hand, and of His destination on the other (His ἀρχή and His τέλος), gives Him also a clear knowledge of His path, clearness respecting His own way and His guidance of others. He comes from the Father and goes to the Father (John 16:28). Therefore He reveals the Father and is the way to the Father. Or He is in His essence pure person, He goes to the perfection of His personality, therefore He is in His holy personal conduct the quickener and restorer of erring souls to personal life.

But ye know not [ὑμεῖς δέ οὐκ οἵδατε] whence I come, and whither I go.—In the former case the aorist (ἧλθον), now the present (ἕρχομαι, ὑπάγω). They could not know whence He had come, but they ought to have seen whence He still at present came, to wit, that He was sent by God. And from His appearance they might then have inferred His origin. No more did they know whence He was going, though they fully intended to put Him to death; that is, they did not know that by the sacrifice of His life in death He would rise to glory. The reading: or [ῆ instead of καί, and] whither I go, is improbable, because the knowledge of Christ’s end depends upon the knowledge of His spiritual origin. Grotius accounts for Christ’s testifying of Himself from His being sent of God: “Legationis injunctæ conscius est is, cui injuncta est, reliqui ab ipso hoc debent discere.” A true point, but not the whole thought. Cocceius observes that no other man knows whence He comes and whither He goes, and in this respect Christ stands above others, and may testify of Himself. Unquestionably His clear divine-human consciousness was the bright star of salvation in the night of the world.

John 8:15. Ye judge according to the flesh [κατὰ τὴν σάρκα].—Tholuck (after De Wette): “The loose and floating progression of ideas looks as if the ideas were inaccurately reproduced.” Hardly! The train of thought is similar to that at John 7:24; except that here the emphasis falls on the judging itself. Ye already judge persons and actions according to the flesh, according to their outward, finite appearance, and according to finite standards (κατ’ ὅψιν, John 7:24). He means, therefore, primarily, judging by a false outward standard, but, in connection with it, judging by a false inward estimate (so Chrysostom, De Wette: after a carnal, selfish manner). Ye judge (condemn) the internal character of the Son of Man from His humble form; I judge (condemn) no person. Meyer justly observes that the addition: according to the flesh, is not to be here supplied (as Augustine and others would have it; Lücke: as ye do), but the κρίνειν is emphatic in the sense of κατακρίνειν. This is supported by the turn in John 8:16. The sentence, however, probably includes a reference to their theocratic judicial office, which in the affair of the adulteress had shown a thirst for reprobation, while His office consists not only in. not judging, but in delivering and saving. Hence modifications of the sentence: I judge no one. Now (νῦν, Augustine and others) is not untrue to the sense, but superfluous. So is the explanation: I have no pleasure in judging (De Wette). The maxim of Christ, however, is founded of course on the fact that He distinguishes between the original nature or essential constitution of persons and their caricature in sin (which Meyer disputes). It is just this which makes Him Redeemer.

John 8:16. But even if I myself judge.—Meyer supposes that this also means condemn, and that the Lord would say that there are “exceptions to that maxim of not judging.” But the exceptions would destroy the positiveness of the previous sentence. He judgeth no man (unfavorably), but He does judge in general, and in the special sense judges in condemnation of sin in every man. Thus in His decision respecting the adulteress and her accusers He judged. Thus He judges or forms His estimate of them and of Himself. But all His judging is κρίσις� (see the critical notes), the real, essential estimation (of persons), discrimination (of sinner and sin), and separation (of believer and unbeliever). The ground of this judgment, of His being thus true, is that the Father by the actual course of things executes these same decisions, separations, and judgments, which the spirit of Christ passes.

John 8:17. In your law.—From this turn it clearly appears that Christ was including judgment respecting Himself. After He has declared that His own testimony is alone sufficient for the declaration that He is the light of the world, He returns to the assurance that after all He is not limited to His own testimony, but has the Father also for a witness. In your law, i.e., in the law in which ye make your boast, and the very letter of which also binds you; not in the law which is nothing to Me (whether in the antinomian interpretation of Schweizer, or the doctrinal interpretation of De Wette). Comp. John 5:39; John 7:22; John 8:5; John 8:45-47; John 10:35.—Tholuck: In this way of speaking of the νόμος we must by no means fail to perceive a characteristic of John.—The testimony of two men is true. A free quotation from Deuteronomy 17:6. Two men is emphatic.

John 8:18. I am he who beareth witness, etc.—He produces two significant witnesses: His own consciousness and the power of the Father working with Him. Paulus would take the ἐγώ to mean: I, as one who knows Himself; Olshausen: I, as Son of God. But it means also in particular: I, as the one sent by the Father. That which makes two witnesses valid in law, is the agreement of two consciences in a public declaration under oath. And if there may be two false witnesses it must be one of those abnormal, horrible exceptions for which human society cannot provide. But when the power of God in the miracles of Christ and His word in the Old Testament agree with the word of Jesus, it is a harmony of testimonies, in which the testimony of the Father Himself joined with the testimony of Him whom He has sent must be acknowledged.

John 8:19. Where is thy Father?—An intentional misapprehension and malicious mockery. Therefore no doubt also a feint, as if they were inquiring after a human father of Jesus (Augustine, and others); the use of ποῦ instead of τίς is not against this. The Pharisees well knew that God is invisible; if their question had referred to God, it must have been: Where then does God, Thy Father, testify of Thee? They seem, in mockery, to look about for a human father of Jesus as His witness. This reference of the word to a human father does not necessarily involve, as Tholuck thinks, the calumnious intimation that He was a bastard (Cyril); for the thing in hand is not any exact information concerning His birth, but the presentation of His Father as a witness. Yet the irony might possibly have gone even to this wicked extent.

If ye had known me, etc.—Because they did not and would not perceive the divine Spirit in the words and life of Jesus, they were blind to the Spirit of God in His miracles, as well as to the testimony of God concerning Him in the Scriptures; and this proved that they did not know God Himself any more than they knew Jesus. Comp. John 16:9.

John 8:20. In the treasury.—Ἐν τῷ γαζοφυλακίῳ. We must in the first place distinguish between the treasury-hall, the γαζοφυλάκιον, which was in the court of the women (i.e., the court beyond which the women did not venture, but where the men also stopped or passed, see Mark 12:41), and the treasure-chambers of the temple, γαζοφυλάκια. Then we must again distinguish between the more special term γαζοφυλάκιον, applied to the thirteen chests, and the same term in its more general application to the whole hall of the chests, which was also called γαζοφυλάκιον, (see Tholuck, p. 241, where Meyer’s translation: at the money chests,—is also set aside). The evangelist names this locality, because it was the most public, here everybody deposited his temple gifts. The locality gives the bold words of Christ concerning Himself and concerning the Pharisees their full force; yet “no one laid hands on Him, for His hour had not yet come,” John 7:30. “The refrain of the history with an air of triumph.” Meyer.

John 8:21. Again therefore he said to them, I go away, and ye will seek me, and will die in your sin [ἐν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ ὑμῶν ἁποθανεῖσθε].—As He had said before, John 7:33. Not a new discourse, placed by Ewald and Meyer, contrary to the usual view, on one of the subsequent days. It seems unnecessary to assume (with Tholuck) a special occasion for this discourse; for the occasion in the preceding mockery of the Pharisees stands out strongly enough (hence the οὗν). The mockery of unbelief stands entirely on a line with persecution; mockery therefore is here to the Lord a new signal of approaching death, as persecution was at John 7:34. But for this reason He here declares still more strongly than He did there, both His freedom in His death and their condemnation. In the former case: Ye will not find me; now: Ye will die in your sin. The seeking again denotes the seeking of the Messiah amidst the impending judgments; not a penitent seeking of the Redeemer, but a fanatical chiliastic seeking of a political deliverer. Hence without any finding of Christ. And the not finding is, positively, a dying in sin. Lücke: The thing meant is natural dying in the state of sin, not a dying on account of sin or by reason of sin. But the former idea cannot here be kept apart from the latter. The sins are their sins as a whole, sealed by their unbelief and their murderous spirit towards the Messiah; the dying is dying in the whole sense of the word: perishing in woe, irremediable death, utter ruin in this world and in that which is to come; and lastly the persons meant are the people as a whole, deceivers and deceived. But as the ὑμεῖς does not mean every single Jew, so the sin of obduracy is not foretold of all, nor the prospect of death extended to hopeless damnation in every case. Only the sin and death of the nation as a body are without limit.

The extension of the condemnation into the future world Jesus declares in the words: “Whither I go, ye cannot come.” As they now could not spiritually roach Him, so hereafter even as suppliants they could not reach Him on the throne of His glory nor beyond in His heaven. A distinct opposite of hell is not to be thought of (as Meyer holds); a place of punishment is no doubt at least implied.

John 8:22. Will he kill himself?—Formerly He said: “Where I am;” now he says: “Whither I go.” Hence they now (the Jews in the Judaistic sense) give their mockery another and a more biting form. “The irony of John 7:35, rises to impudent sarcasm.” Tholuck. They assume that He spoke of His death; and as He called this a ὑπάγειν, they mock, because they have no conception of the element of voluntary departure in the violence of death: “Will He kill Himself?” They think He has set Himself far above them in saying that they could not reach Him; they revenge themselves by suggesting that He will sink far below them. An orthodox Jew, they would say, utterly abhors suicide. According to Josephus, De Bello Jud. III. 8, 5, the self-murderer goes to the σκοτιώτερος ᾅδης. Thus, according to the orthodox Jewish doctrine, to which the Pharisees bore allegiance, the suicide falls to the lowest hell of Hades, and is separated by a great gulf from Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:26), into which they hoped to go. Concerning a peculiar interpretation of Origen, see Lücke, p. John 207: [that Jesus would kill Himself, and so go to the place and punishment of suicides, to which the Jews could not go, because their sin did not subject them to it.—Tr.]

John 8:23. Ye are from beneath; I am from above.—Jesus meets their mockery with a calm assertion which turns the point of it against themselves. For from beneath hardly means here merely from the earth (Meyer), as in John 3:31; but, as in John 8:44, it denotes the diabolical nature which they have shown, and by virtue of which they belong to that dark nether world. They therefore could go thither, where they are spiritually at home; He could not, since He is from above, from heaven (John 3:3). The antithesis in these words is that of hades and heaven, says Origen; in the moral sense, says Stier; on the contrary Tholuck, with Meyer, makes the antithesis heaven and earth. But the parallel κόσμος οὗτος does not prove this; for that expression denotes not the visible world in itself, but the old bad nature of the world.

The more obscure first sentence He explains by the second: Ye are of this world.—Κόσμος οὗτος, also, according to the Jewish Christology, denoted pre-eminently the ancient heathen world, which was to come into condemnation. I am not of this world. Therefore in spirit and life belonging to the αἰὼν ὁ μέλλων, the new and higher world. The former antithesis denotes the principle of the life; the latter, the sphere of life corresponding.

John 8:24. I said therefore unto you, that ye will die in your sins.—That is to say, the words: “ye will die in your sins,” and the words: “ye are of this world,” or “from beneath,” are equivalent. Their being from beneath as to the principle of their life is the reason why they will die in their sins (Crell. Other views of the connection see in Tholuck). Meyer: “Observe that in this repetition of the denunciation the emphasis, which in John 8:21 lay upon in your sins, falls upon will die, and thus the perdition itself comes into the foreground, which can be averted only by conversion to faith.”

Yet they must not understand Him that they are in a fatalistic sense from beneath, or of this world, and therefore cannot but die in their sins. Hence He adds the condition: If ye believe not that I am He. There is, therefore, no lack of clearness in the connection (as Tholuck supposes). The expression: “that I am He,” is mysteriously delivered, without mention of the predicate. Meyer: “To wit, the Messiah, the self-evident predicate.” But the matter was not so simple; otherwise Christ would have previously named Himself the Messiah. And this He would not do, because their conception of the Messiah was distorted. They must, therefore, step by step perceive and believe that He is what He professed to be: the one sent of the Father, the Son of Man, the Quickener, the Light of the world; last: the one from above. They must believe in Him according to His words and His deeds; His higher existence, His real being, which stood before their eyes, and the real nature of which they criticised away, they must believe; not till then could they receive the word that He was the Messiah. The predicate is, therefore, the representation of Himself which Jesus gives in the context. According to Hofmann (Schriftbeweis, I. 62), an imitation of the Old Testament אֲנִי הוּא. Undoubtedly correct in the view that both here and there the self-evidencing living presence of the divine person must be above all things acknowledged without prejudice.

This mysterious import of the word is indicated also by the question of the Jews: “Who art thou?” (John 8:25). They wished to draw the last decisive word from Him. The answer of Jesus which follows speaks to the same point. Luther takes the σὺτίς εἰ as contemptuous; so does Meyer. But it is rather a sly question, to decoy or force Jesus to an avowal. Comp. John 10:24. If we compare the expression ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι with that in John 7:39 : οὕπω γὰρ ἧν πνεῦμα ἅγιον,—we might naturally translate: that I am here. That He is present as He is present in the fulness of His divine-human life,—this they must believe and apprehend before they will rightly apprehend Him as the Messiah.

John 8:25. Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning. [So the E. V. renders τὴν� Comp. Text. Notes.—P. S.].—This passage has been a crux interpretum, because the progressive unfolding of the idea of the Messiah by Christ in His presentation of Himself has not been appreciated. The interpretation depends not merely on the sense of τὴν�, but also on that of the expression ὅ τι καὶ λαλῶ ὑμῖν.

[To state the points more fully, the interpretation depends: 1) On the construction of the whole sentence—whether it be interrogative, or exclamatory, or declarative; 2) on the sense of τὴν�, whether it be taken substantively (principium, the beginning, the Logos), or adverbially (in the beginning, from the beginning, first of all, to start with, or omnino, generally); 3) on the ambiguity of ὅτι (conjunct.) and ὅ, τι (relative); 4) on the meaning of λαλῶ as distinct from λέγω; 5) on the proper force of καί. I remark in the premises that we must take τὴν� adverbially, and write ὅ, τι, since ὅτι (quoniam, quia) gives no good sense.—P. S.]

1. Constructions which take the sentence as a question.
(a) Cyril, Chrysostom, Matthæi, Lücke (more or less equivalent): Why do I even speak to you at all? [Cur vero omnino vobiscum loquor? cur frustra vobiscum disputo?—P. S.] (Comp. John 10:25). This is grammatically possible, for τὴν� can mean omnino (in certain circumstances), and ὅ τι can mean why. But such a sentence would be contradicted by Christ’s going on to speak, and it would be too “empty” (Meyer).

[With this agrees in sense Ewald’s explanation, with this difference that he takes the sentence as an indignant exclamation: That I should have to speak to you at all! (Dass ich auch überhaupt zu euch rede!) But this leaves the position of τὴν� before ὅτι (as Ewald writes instead of ὅ, τι) unexplained.—P. S.]

(b) Meyer (and Hilgenfeld): What I originally (from the first) say to you, that do ye ask? or (Do you ask), what I have long been telling you? The objection to this is that Christ had from the first not presented Himself as Messiah. Besides, there is no: Do ye ask?—in the sentence.

2. Constructions which connect with this sentence the πολλὰ ἕχω following [John 8:26, and put only a comma, instead of a period, after λαλῶ ὑμῖν]. Some manuscripts, Bengel, Olshausen. Hofmann: “For the first, for the present, since He is engaged in speaking to them, He has many reproving and condemning things to say to them.” This would be an entire evasion of the question they had put.40

3. Constructions which take the sentence as a declaration.
(a) Augustine (similarly Bede, Rupert, Lampe, Fritzche): Principium (the Logos, the Word) me credite, quia (ὅτι) et loquor vobis, i.e. quia humilis propter vos factus ad ista verba descendi. [Wordsworth: “I am what I am also declaring to you, the Beginning;” comp. Revelation 21:6, ἡ�.—P. S.] Untenable both in point of grammar and of fact; τὴν� is adverbial, and Jesus could not present Himself to these adversaries as the divine Logos. [A reference to the Logos would require λέγω instead of λαλῶ.—P. S.]

(b) Calvin, Beza, Grotius, Baumgarten-Crusius, Tholuck: “I am41 what I told you in the beginning (and tell you until now).” But (1) He had not given them from the beginning a definite description of Himself; (2) τὴν� ought not to stand first; not to say that we ought rather to have ἐλάλησα [instead of λαλῶ].

(c) Luthardt: “From the beginning I am, that [ὅτι] I may even speak to you.” Obscure, and in part incorrect; for Jesus did not exist merely to speak to the Jews (see Meyer).

(d) Bretschneider: “At the outset I declared concerning Myself what I say also now.” But there is no λελάληκα.

(e) De Wette: “First of all, or above all, I am what I even say to you”.42 Luther: “I am your preacher; if ye first believe this, ye will also know by experience who I am, and in no other way.” (Ammon: He is to be known, above all things, from His words). But, in the first place, τὴν� must mean for the first thing, to begin with; and secondly, Christ says not that they must know Him from His words, but He refers to accounts which He actually gave of Himself.

(f) Winer: “I am wholly such as I represent Myself in My words.” See the grammatical objection against wholly in Meyer.

(g) “To begin with, for the first, I am that which I even say to you;” or, “First of all, I am the very thing I am declaring unto you.” Erasmus, Bucer, Grotius,43 et al., Leben Jesu, II., 963, Brückner.44 For the first thing, they must receive with confidence His descriptions of Himself as the fountain of life, the light of the world, etc., which He openly and familiarly talks (λαλῶ) to them; then they will come to a full knowledge of His character; for all depends on their ceasing to determine His character by their crude notion of the Messiah, ceasing to require in Him such a Messiah as they have imagined, and beginning to determine their ideas of the Messiah from His revelation of Himself, and to correct and spiritualize them accordingly. When Tholuck objects that, upon this interpretation, Jesus would be drawing them first to a lower view of Himself, and afterwards to a higher, he is mistaken; for the issue here is between a designation of Himself by the New Testament thing that He is, and a designation of Himself by the theocratic name, which in its rabbinical form had to be regenerated by the New Testament spirit, and the course of thought is not from lower to higher, but from the more general to the more specific.

John 8:26. I have many things to say and to judge of you.—Περὶ ὑμῶν is emphatic. Because He has so much to say and to judge of them, so much to clear up with them, He cannot go on to the final, decisive declaration concerning Himself. It must first be still more clearly brought out, what they are, and where they stand. Tholuck, therefore, groundlessly remarks, quoting an opinion of Maldonatus: “This expression also disturbs the clearness of the course of thought.” The opinion, of course, has in view also what follows.

But he that sent me is true.—Ἀλλά is difficult. Meyer, with Apollinaris: πολλὰ ἕχων λέγειν περ̀ ὑμῶν, σιγῶ. So Euthymius and others. Better Lücke, Tholuck and others, after older expositors: However much I have to judge concerning you, My κρίσις is still ἀληθής. Yet this sentiment is to be modified. It grieves Him that He has so much to judge of them; yet it must be so; God, who hath sent Him, is true. God judges in act according to truth, and Christ, the interpreter of His essential words which He hears of Him through the facts and through the showing of the Spirit, must do the same in speech. The ἀλλά, therefore, forms an adversative (missed in this view by Meyer) to the πολλά ἕχω. According to Chrysostom the apodosis would mean: But I limit Myself to speaking τὰ πρὸς σωτηρίαν, οὐ τὰ πρὸς ἕλεγχον. Meyer: He has things to say to the world, other than the worthlessness of His enemies. But in this view God would rather be referred to as gracious, than as true. And Christ would not appeal to His duty to speak what He hears (comp. John 5:30).

John 8:27. They understood not.—Different conceptions: (1) Ὤ τῆς�, Chrysostom. (2) Strange and improbable that they did not understand, De Wette. (3) The beginning of a new discourse with other hearers, Baumgarten-Crusius, Meyer. (4) A moral obtuseness, and refusal of acknowledgment, Lücke. So Stier and Tholuck: hardness of heart.—The failure to understand was due, on the contrary, to their suspecting a secret behind the expression: He that sent Me, on account of their greedy chiliastic hope of a Messiah. For as Messiah in their sense Christ would have still been welcome to them. This introduces what follows.

John 8:28. When ye have lifted up the Son of man.—It is now their turn to be tempted by Jesus, though in a holy mind. Jesus apparently yields to their vagueness of mind with a term of many meanings; hence the οὐν. The sense is: lifted up on the cross, as in John 3:14; but it carries also the thought that this shameful lifting up would be the means of His real exaltation (Calvin, et al.), which comes more strongly to light in John 12:32. Now His hearers understand it to mean: When ye have acknowledged the Son of Man as Messiah, and proclaimed Him in political form.—Then shall ye know-that I am he.—Some willingly, in the outpouring of the Holy Ghost; others against their will, in the destruction of Jerusalem, etc. (comp. John 6:62, a passage which is elucidated by this. On the different interpretations of the knowing, see Tholuck). They take it thus: Then shall ye perceive howl manifest and prove Myself the Messiah after your mind.—And that I do nothing of myself.—(Ἀπ’ ἐμαυτοῦ comes under ὅτι, and is not, as Lampe takes it, a new proposition). That is: That I do not of My own will and ambition usurp the honor and glory of Messiah. They understand it: That I, for secret reasons, do not come forward on my own responsibility, but abide the result.—But speak these things as the Father taught me.—His action is according to the instruction of the Father, primarily a testifying, speaking (therefore not a completing, according to Bengel and De Wette: λαλῶ completed by ποιῶ, ποιῶ by λαλῶ); and this very thing includes self-command in the matter of a decisive Messianic profession. Just this reserve leads Him into the difficult position, in which He seems to stand alone, and yet is not alone. He manifests Himself and conceals Himself as the Father instructs Him. See the history of the temptation. Now His hearers take it that the divine arrangement requires the Messiah to let the Messianic people take the initiative in His elevation.

John 8:29. And he that sent me is with me.—The Messiah’s trust to the arrangement of the Father in the trying course assigned Him. But in the progress of their misapprehension they must take Him as expressing His confidence of happy success in His Messianic enterprise with the help of God.—He hath not left me alone.—Pointing to the help of God which He has hitherto received, and which is secured to Him by the co-working of the divine purpose throughout the government of the world with His work, as well as with His Spirit, and by the co-working of His dominion with the Father. But they probably think of the silent preparation of extraordinary succor.

For I always do the things that are pleasing to him.—(Not: As appears from the fact that I do, etc., Maldonatus. The assistance of the Father is to be distinguished from the essential unity of the Father with the Son, and reciprocates the obedience of Jesus.) In His unconditional obedience He has the seal of His unconditional confidence. But they may imagine: He has already introduced and arranged everything according to the direction of God.

John 8:30. As he spoke these words, many believed in him.—In the simplest historical sense: Became disciples, came forward as followers and confessors of Him. What kind of faith this was, the sequel must teach, and Jesus Himself took care that the faith which arose out of chiliastic misconstructions should soon be tested and set right. Tholuck: “Πιστεύειν is here used for a faith which arises certainly not from miracles, but from the word; by force of the imposing power of His testimony concerning Himself; a faith, however, which was but superficial, for it did not find in the words of Jesus ῥήματα τῆς ζωῆς. They stand upon the footing of the disciples mentioned in John 6:66; hence μένειν is required of them.” The main thing required is submission to the word of Christ, renunciation of their carnal expectations, and a clearing and spiritualizing of their faith.

Failure to observe the misconstructions traced above has occasioned much confusion over the words of Jesus immediately following, and over the relapse of many or most of these disciples, which follows soon upon them.


1. As Christ is the source of life under different aspects: source of satisfaction, source of healing, source of quickening and inspiration,—so He is the light also under different aspects: the star by night which prevents wandering in darkness, the sun by day which brings with it the works of the day and opens the eye to the day, John 9:0. Here He is the star or lamp of the night, the true pillar of fire, which is set to lighten from Mount Zion the holy city and the world. Suggested by the illumination at the feast of tabernacles. “Next to the water-drawing and libation, this illumination was the leading feature of the festivities. As the drawing and pouring of the water typified the fulness of salvation which abode in Jerusalem and flowed forth thence, so these lights typified the enlightening of the world from the mountain of the Lord, Micah 4:2; Isaiah 2:2; Isaiah 60:3; Isaiah 60:5; Isaiah 55:5; Zechariah 14:7; Zechariah 14:17. After the manner of His former interpretation of the water-drawing Jesus points here to that illumination. It was in Him that that prophetic festivity found its fulfilment: the light of the Gentiles, Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 9:1-2. He who follows Him, follows no flitting, earthly glimmer, which first flashes up, and then leaves the darkness only the more dismal; His light is a light of life, a light which in itself is life.” Gerlach.

2. The consciousness of Christ is the star of night, the sun of day. He is sure of His origin (from the Father), of His destination (to the Father), and therefore of His way (with the Father), and can therefore offer Himself with absolute certitude and confidence as the guide of life to the people who are wandering in darkness. “Though I bear witness of Myself, yet My witness is true.” Consciousness attested by conscience is the basis of all certitude (Luther, Descartes, Kant, Schleiermacher). Christ’s divine self-consciousness is the starting-point of all divine certitude. Augustine: A light shows itself, as well as other things. You light a lamp, for example, to look for a garment, and the burning lamp helps you find it; but do you also light a lamp to look for a burning lamp?
3. The assault of the men of the letter on the testimony of Christ concerning Himself, a type of the battle between dead tradition and living faith.
4. The world’s way of judging, and Christ’s way: (1) The world judges of the nature of the person after the flesh (subjectively, with a carnal judgment, and objectively, from the mere appearance); Christ judges not the nature of the person, but his guilt. (2) The world forestalls the judgment of God, and, midway, condemns Christ to the cross; Christ pronounces the judgment of God, and the actual judgment He does not execute till the end of the world.

5. Christ’s appeal to the testimony of His Father, and the mockery of the Jews; the fact, and the mistaking and denial, of the original Life. “It is remarkable how, in the words: in your law (of which ye are so proud), Jesus takes issue with them, and indeed, as it were quits them.” Gerlach. “Had not God from eternity come out of a rigid, self-imprisoned unity, and revealed Himself as second person in the Son, etc., He had not been able to redeem the human race, nor even therefore, to reveal, demonstrate Himself to it in His full truth.” Ibid.

[5 ½. The significant expression: “the Father is with Me,” is a counterpart of: “The Word was with God.” in John 1:1. From eternity the Son was with the Father; in time the Father is with the Son. This personal distinction of the Father and the Son from each other is the stronger rather than the weaker, for that other: “The Word was God,” which stands by its side, and which has a parallel here in John 8:19; “If ye had known Me, ye should have known My Father also.” It is impossible to do justice to its significance, without the doctrine of the essential, eternal trinity of the Godhead; and this doctrine may be said to be contained in this combination of mysterious words. Augustine, in the Catena: “Blush, thou Sabellian; our Lord doth not say, I am the Father, and I the self-same person am the Son; but I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.”—E. D. Y.]

6. The suicidal world suspects Christ and Christianity of a suicidal intent. Character of suicide on the part of the Lord. From beneath: the contrast of suicide, which is from beneath, and self-sacrifice, which is from above.

[6 ½. Here the Lord says: “I am from above;” “ye neither know Me, nor My Father;” “ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go.” He had said before, John 7:28 : “Ye both know Me, and know whence I am.” This apparent contradiction only reflects in His free, spontaneous utterance the perfect harmony and unity of real deity and real humanity (against Docetism and Apollinarianism) in Him. And yet His having a really earthly, human origin, as well as a really divine, was not the same as being from beneath and of this world. This world “lieth in the wicked one.”—E. D. Y.]

7. Christ reveals Himself in the spirit by veiling Himself in the flesh. “The teaching of Christ is not something outside of Him or added to Him; He Himself is all teacher, all revelation; His doctrine is Himself.” Gerlach.
[7 ½. “The Being who sent Jesus into the world, was in such close companionship with Him, that He shared with Him, so to speak, all the opprobrium and hostility with which His mission was met, and would be present to His aid in every danger.… It should ever be borne in mind that this obedience of the Son, although strictly predicable of Him only in His Messianic office, is to be regarded as proceeding from His essential unity with the Father; else, as Olshausen well remarks,…it would depend for its perpetuity upon the fidelity of the Son.…It is based upon those immutable relations of companionship springing from the essential unity of the Father and Son, and referred to so emphatically in the preceding words, is with me.” J. J. Owen.—E. D. Y.]

8. The chiliastic elements in the life of Jewish people: a. During the life of Jesus, in Galilee (John 6:0), in Judea (John 8:0); b. After the ascension of the Lord, (1) at the time of founding of the church, Acts 6:7; (2) before the death of James the Just. See his biography.

9. It is not right to presume that the rulers of the Jews would have absolutely closed themselves beforehand against the impression of the Messiahship of Jesus. On the contrary they were thoroughly disposed from the beginning, under certain conditions, to acknowledge Him as Messiah; viz., if He would meet their idea of Messiah (see Matthew , 4) This accounts for the alternate attractions and the repulsions, which John exhibits to us in the boldest contrast, John 3:0; chs. 8. and 10. Even in the revilings against Christ on the cross the craving for a chiliastic Messiah may be perceived (Matthew 27:42, see Leben Jesu, II. 3, p. 1562). This explains again the Lord’s reservation of His name of Messiah, which He positively refused to have publicly proclaimed by the people until the Palm-Sunday, and to which He Himself did not confess until the hour of His condemnation before the high council.

10. In the miraculous gliding of Christ out of the hands of His enemies, both here and often elsewhere, Luthardt rightly sees a presage of the resurrection of Christ, by which He perfectly transported Himself from the violence of His foes.


See the Doctrinal and Ethical points.—Christ the true pillar of fire to His people: 1. He gives light upon the world of sin. 2. He gives light through the world of nature. 3. He gives light to His believing followers.—Christ the light of the world in His saving work for those who follow Him: 1. The Light of the world. 2. The followers of the light. 3. The saving effect: (a) They shall not walk in darkness, (b) They shall have the light of life.—The star of heaven in the night of earth.—The morning star, which guides out of the night of death into the day of life.—The light of life: 1. The light as life. The effect of the enlightening of the understanding is the quickening of the heart. 2. The life as light. Quickening is enlightenment.—The true light and the true life are one.—Redemption by the light of life from walking in the night.—Christ the light of the world: 1. In the sureness of His course. 2. In that which His work begins with: not judging, not destroying, but quickening. 3. In that which His work ends with: separating by the effects of light, judging according to the fact, separating dead and living. 4. In that which His work both begins and ends with: the revealing of the real God, of the Father in His working, His quickening, His judging.

The Jews’ judging after the flesh, a judgment against themselves: 1. It is a judgment of the carnal mind, of passion, on the revelations of the Spirit. 2. It is a judgment according to outward appearance and pedigree on the wonders of the new life. 3. It is a carnal condemnation of the divine gentleness which could rescue from damnation.—Prejudice, a way to condemnation.—The Jewish students of God, in the treasury of God, unmasked as ignorant despisers of God.—The manifest Father of Christ, a hidden God to His adversaries.—How Christ can charge spiritual ignorance upon His adversaries at the height of their power (in the treasury). Men of the letter have the treasury of God, and not the knowledge of God.
The fearful word of Christ concerning His departure: 1. The horrible misinterpretation of it. 2. Its true meaning.—Suicide elucidated by the conversation of Christ with the Jews.—Self-killing and self-sacrifice; or, the death from beneath, and the life from above.—To be from beneath, and to be from above.—How Christ would be known according to His own representation of Himself, and not according to the preconceived opinions of the world: 1. According to the Old Testament, not according to the Jewish schools. 2. According to the New Testament, not according to mediæval tradition. 3. According to His divine glory, not according to our human notion.—Legitimate steps in the revelation of Christ to us.—Before the world would come to a decision concerning Christ, it must have the judgment of Christ concerning Himself.

John 8:26. The judgment of Christ concerning the world unavoidable: 1. As a testimony to the real government of God. 2. As a testimony to His true view of things.—The words of Christ concerning His elevation, as they are misinterpreted by the ear of the Jews.—The power of the Spirit in these words of the Lord: (a) His confidence that His elevation on the cross will be the lowest depth of His path to His heavenly exaltation. (b) The mercy with which He still gives His enemies the prospect of knowing their salvation by His death and resurrection, (c) The clear prediction of the effect of the preaching of the cross in the New Testament dispensation.—The twofold knowing that Jesus is the Lord, as produced by His twofold elevation (the knowing which believers have, and that which unbelievers have).

The word of Christ: I am not (left) alone: 1. The sense of the expression: The Father is with Him through the whole course of His sufferings (Gethsemane). 2. The confidence of it: Notwithstanding He was soon to be forsaken by all the world and apparently by God Himself. 3. The foundation of the confidence: for I do always those things, etc.

Those who believe from misunderstanding.—The form of enthusiastic belief, which can immediately turn into the bitterest unbelief.—Misunderstanding of the word of God: 1. Its forms. 2. Its causes. 3. Its marks. 4. Its solution. 5. Its consequences.

Starke: Lange: The illumination of the understanding always inseparably connected with the sanctification of the will. On life depends light or use of eyes.—Teachers should always lead their hearers from the earthly to the spiritual.—Hedinger: He who follows Christ never misses the right way; always with will-o’-the-wisps! Isaiah 11:3-4.—God, who is (αὐτόπιστος) the truth itself, can testify of Himself, and all men, though they be but liars, must believe His testimony.—If the Father and the Son testify the very same thing, how strong, how invincible is the testimony!—Stiff-necked enemies of the truth deride what they do not and will not understand, and when they can go no further, they start something ridiculous.—(In the treasury.) God wonderfully protects faithful teachers and confessors of His word.—Quesnel: Jesus says nothing but what the Father bids Him say; therefore should His ministers also preach nothing but what they have learned of Him, Romans 15:18.

John 8:28. Zeisius: The prophecies of God will never be more truly and fully understood than in their fulfilment.—O how many Christians do not know Christ before they have crucified Him with their sins!

Braune: “Shall not walk in darkness,” in un-holiness, in sin. It is manifestly a fundamental truth that mind and will belong together; neither can be corrupted or improved without the other; and enlightenment and sanctification ever play into one another. At the same time, looking at the preceding occurrences, the Lord seems to intend to guard His dealing with the fallen woman against all abuses. He does not let sin prevail.—Does not the sun bear witness even to its own existence? Set it aside, if you can.—Jesus alone knew both whence He came and whither He went; His adversaries knew neither.—Contend not with blasphemers over God, but over noble life.—The cross is the knot in which humiliation and exaltation are entwined. In the cross the deepest humiliation ended; in the cross exaltation began.

Heubner: Some light a man will always follow; the question is whether he will choose the right one. Criterion: The following of Jesus casts out all uncertain, restless groping.—There are only two ways: that of the darkness, and that of the light.—The test of true illumination is that it gives life.—Bearing witness to one’s self by no means absolutely inadmissible.—The believer also knows the source and the goal of his life.—How little would the hostile Jews have suspected that this Jesus, their antagonist, would soon be exalted at the right hand of God. So the children of the world suspect not the speedy glorification of the godly whom they despise.

John 8:19; comp. v. 37. The knowing of the Father and the knowing of the Son are inseparable.—I go my way. Our enjoyment of the means of grace has its day.—Ye shall seek Me. The time is sure to come when the man shall know those through whom God would have saved him: children their father, etc.Ye cannot come. Heaven inaccessible to the assaults of the wicked.—From beneath, etc. Between the worldly-minded and the heavenly-minded there is as great a distance (and an abyss) as between heaven and earth.—The enemies of the good cause must involuntarily promote it.

Schleiermacher: Walking in the light, walking in the truth.—If our faith in the Lord rested on any human testimony, He could not be that on which we might build the full certainty of our salvation. We must cease to be of this world: then we can believe that He is that.—The Lord leaves not alone those who are joined with the Redeemer.—Besser: Zechariah 14:7 : “At evening time it shall be light.”—If Christ is the light of the world, the world without Him is darkness.—What a. cutting contradiction: The treasury of God surrounded by a God-forsaken people, whose offerings were as heartless as the coin clinking in the chest,—Hebrews 12:3.—Christ, and Christians with Him, go above, to heaven, because they are come down from above; but the servants of sin and of the devil go down, because they are from beneath.

[Matt. Henry: John 8:12. He that followeth Me. It is not enough to look at this light, and to gaze upon it; but we must follow it, believe in it, walk in it,—for it is a light to our feet, not our eyes only.

John 8:26 : I have many things to say, etc. 1. Whatever discoveries of sin are made to us, He that searcheth the heart hath still more to judge of us, 1 John 3:20. 1 John 3:2. How much soever God reckons with sinners in this world, there is still a farther reckoning yet behind, Deuteronomy 32:34. Deuteronomy 32:3. Let us not be forward to say all we can say, even against the worst of men; we may have many things to say by way of censure, which yet it is better to leave unsaid, for what is it to us?—E. D. Y.]


[39][The rec. reads περιπατήσει, with D. E. al., but περιπατήσῃ is supported by א B. F. G., etc. Orig., and adopted by Lachmann, Tischendorf and Alford.—P. S.]

[40][Baümlein: “If we must take the question: Who art thou? as expressing contempt and wonder that Jesus should venture to say: Ye shall die in your sins,—the reply: τὴνἀρχὴν—Ὅ τι καὶ λαλῶ ὑμῖν–πολλὲ ἕχω περὶ ὑμ. λαλ. κ. κρ. is perfectly suitable: Assuredly (from the first, in general) I have—what I am doing also now—many things to say,” etc.—E. D. Y.]

[41][Ἐγώ εἰμι is supplied from the preceding question of the Jews: σὺ τίς εῖ̓;—P. S.]

[42][ Von vorne herein (vor allen Dingen) bin ich, was ich auch zu euch rede; i.e., I am in fact what I say; I must be known from My speeches. Alford professes to follow this interpretation of De Wette as expanded by Stier, hut translates somewhat differently: “Essentially, (τὴν αρχή ν, traced up to its principle, generally), that which I also discourse unto you; or, in very deed, that same which I speak unto you. he is the Logos—His discourses are the revelation of Himself…When Moses asked the name of God, I am that which I am, was the mysterious answer;…but when God manifest in the flesh is asked the same question, it is: I am that which I speak.’ ” Profound and true in itself; hut hardly an interpretation of the text in hand. The question, in all its circumstances and Its spirit, is not the same as that of Moses: and a hidden reference to Αόγος would produce λέγω rather than λαλῶ.—P. S.]

[43][Grotius: Primum hoc sum quod et dico vobis (i.e., lux mundi)=πρῶτον μὲν ὅ, τι καὶ λέ γω ὑμῖν.—P. S.]

[44][Brückner, ed. 5th, does not materially differ from De Wette, except that he rejects his rendering of τὴν� by above all things (vor allen Dingen), and translates: to begin with (von vorne herein).—Godet translates: (I am) Precisely what I tell you (no more or less).—P. S.]

Verses 31-59


Christ The Liberator, As Son Of The House In Opposition To Servants; The One Sent From God, As Against The Agents Of The Devil; The Eternal And The Hope Of Abraham As Against The Bodily Seed Or Abraham. Or: The Liberator Of Israel, The Adversary Of Satan, The Hope Of Abraham. A Great Swinging From Faith To Unbelief. Attempted Stoning

John 8:31-59

(John 8:46-59, the Pericope for Judica Sunday.)

31Then said Jesus [Jesus therefore said] to those Jews which believed on him [who had believed him]. If ye continue in my word, then are ye [ye are] my45 disciples indeed; 32And ye shall [will] know the truth, and the truth shall [will] make you free. 33They answered him, We be [are] Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall [will] be made free? 34Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant [a bondman, a slave] of sin.46 35And the servant [the bondman] abideth not in the house for ever: but [omit but] the Son [son] abideth ever.47 36If the Son therefore shall make you [If then the Son make you] free, ye shall [will] be free indeed. 37I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place 38[maketh no progress] in you. I speak that which I have seen with my [the] Father: and ye [likewise]48 do that which ye have seen with your father.49 39They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were [are]50 Abraham’s children, ye would51 do the works of Abraham. 40But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you [spoken to you] the truth, which I have heard of [I heard from] God: this [the like of this] did not Abraham. 41Ye do the deeds [works] of your father. Then said they [They said] to him, We be [were] not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. 42Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came [am come] from God; [for] neither came I of myself, but he sent me. 43Why do ye not understand my speech? even because52 ye cannot hear my word. 44Ye are of your father [of the father who is] the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will [ye desire to] do: he was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not [doth not stand] in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he53 speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own [from his own nature]: for [because] he is a liar, and the father of 45it [thereof]. And [But] because I tell you [speak] the truth, ye believe me not. 46Which of you convinceth [convicteth] me of sin? And [omit And] if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? 47He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not [for this cause ye do not hear], because ye are not of God.

48Then answered the Jews [The Jews answered], and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil [demon]? 49Jesus answered, I have 50not a devil [demon]; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me. And 51[But] I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth. Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying [my word]54 he shall [will] never see death.

52Then55 said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil [demon]. Abraham is dead [died], and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying 53[my word], he shall [will] never taste of death. Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead [who died]? and the prophets are dead [the prophets also 54died]: whom makest thou [dost thou make] thyself? Jesus answered; If I honour [glorify] 56 myself my honour [glory] is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth 55[glorifieth] me; of whom ye say, that he is your [our]57 God: Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall [should] 56be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying [word]. Your58 father Abraham rejoiced to see [that he should see, ἵνα ἴδῃ] my day: and he saw it, and was glad. 57Then said the Jews [The Jews therefore said] unto him, Thou art not yet fifty59 years old, and hast thou seen60 Abraham? 58Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was [was made, or, born, γενέσθαι] I am [εἰμί].

59Then took they up [Therefore they took up] stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by [omit going—by].61


[The last discourse had made an impression on many, and brought them to the door of a superficial discipleship (John 8:30), while yet their heart was full of prejudice. These half converts the Lord now addresses and warns them not to be satisfied with a passing excitement of feeling, but to become true and steady disciples. Then they would know the truth, and the truth would give them true freedom from the degrading bondage of sin and error. Knowledge appears here as the fruit of faith, and freedom as the fruit of knowledge. This earnest exhortation brings out the latent hatred of the Jews, whereupon the Lord, with fearful severity, exposes the diabolical nature of their opposition to Him, while He at the same time reveals His divine nature as the destroyer of death and the One who was before Abraham was born. This address, in the lively form of dialogue, unites the character of a testimony concerning Himself and a judgment of the Jews, and rises to the summit of moral force.—P. S.]

John 8:31. If ye continue in my word.—That is, here, not merely: continue to believe, but believe according to the spirit of the word, and in obedience to the word, which He spoke. Working towards an exposure of their misapprehension of His words—Ye are my disciples indeed.—This, therefore, must first appear. [There is a latent antithesis between πεπιστευκότας and μαθηταί. It was one thing to believe in Jesus, quite another to be disciples, learners. Tue one could be a momentary impulse; the other required constant study and obedience?] True discipleship is the condition and guaranty of their knowing the truth; and then this knowledge carries the blessing, that the truth should make them free. Freedom is the very thing they were bent upon all along; but a political, theocratic freedom, as pictured by a chiliastic mind. Christ opens to them the prospect of a higher freedom which, if they should be true disciples, they would owe to the liberating effect of the truth, the living knowledge of God; He opens the prospect of freedom from sin.

John 8:32. Ye shall know the truth more and more. [Hengstenberg: “A difference of degree of knowledge is put in the form of knowledge itself as opposed to ignorance, because in comparison with future attainments of knowledge in the path of fidelity, the present knowledge would be quite insignificant. The truth is not merely something thought; it has taken flesh and blood in Christ, who says, I am the truth. By a deeper and deeper knowing of Christ they would know also the truth, after which, as after freedom, every man who is not utterly lost has a deep constitutional longing, and this living truth would make them free from the bondage of sin and error; while the truth considered merely as a thought of the mind would be utterly powerless. The same liberating effect which is here ascribed to the truth, is in John 8:36 ascribed to Christ.”—E. D. Y.]

[The truth will make you free, ἡἀλήθειαἐλευθερώσειὑμᾶς. Comp. John 8:36 : “If the Son make you free, ye will be free indeed,” ὄντωςἐλεύθεροι. Christ associates liberty always with the truth, which He is Himself, and presents the truth as the cause, and liberty as the effect. So also Paul speaks of liberty always in this positive, highest and noblest sense, liberty in Christ, the glorious liberty of the children of God, liberty from the bondage of sin and error, comp. Romans 8:21; 2 Corinthians 3:17; Galatians 2:4; Galatians 5:1; Galatians 5:13; James 1:25; 1 Peter 2:12. Man is truly free when he is released from abnormal foreign restraints and moves in harmony with the mind and will of God as his proper element. “Deo service vera libertas est.”—P. S.]

John 8:33. They answered him, We are Abraham’s seed (or, offspring).—Here comes the turning-point. Christ has openly told them that He would redeem them spiritually from sin by the truth, and in this sense make them free; and now they see their misapprehension of His former words. But in bitter vexation they plunge into a new mistake, supposing that Christ had their political bondage in view, and would require them to console themselves under their political oppression with the enjoyment of spiritual truth. Hence, instead of explaining: Thou shouldst free us from the domination of the Romans, they explain with insulted pride, that they are already free; they have never been any man’s slaves. This answer contains (1) an unbelieving denial of their spiritual servitude; for they studiously avoid the spiritual meaning of the words of Jesus; (2) a revolutionary, chiliastic protest against the idea that they acknowledged the dominion of the Romans, or that they could, as the words of Jesus implied, console themselves under it with spiritual elevation. This breaks again the scarcely formed union with Christ. This sharp contrast in the same Jews between a great demonstration of submission to Jesus and a hostility ready to stone Him,—this reaction of sentiment, coming the moment they were undeceived concerning their chiliastic expectations, appears repeatedly in the Gospel of John in significant gradations. It has already come distinctly to view John 6:30 (comp. John 8:15); and in John 10:31 (comp. John 8:24) it is still more glaring than here.

If these historical points are not duly considered, it must seem strange that the same Jews who had just believed in a mass, should so soon relapse into the bitterest unbelief. Hence many have supposed that here other Jews of the mass, quite distinct from those believing ones, now come forward and take up the conversation (Augustine, Calovius, etc., Lücke et al.). Tholuck: “It is far more likely that the same adversaries who have hitherto been in view, the Ἰουδαῖοι, are the subject of ἀπεκρίθησαν. Before the believing hearers speak, some of the rulers interpose, to repel the supposed slander upon the whole people.” This would imply an inaccuracy of expression. On the contrary, according to the narrative of the evangelist, they are manifestly the same to whom Jesus had spoken, and ἀπεκρίθησεν cannot be translated: it was answered. Justly, therefore, Chrysostom, Maldonatus, Bengel, and others, have taken them to be the same. Chrysostom gave the sufficient interpretation: Κατέπεσεν εὐθέως αὐτῶν ἡ διάνοια• τοῦτο δὲ γέγονεν� . [“Their belief immediately gave way; and that because of their eagerness after worldly things.”] It seems transparent (1) that Jesus in His reply, John 8:34, to those who speak in John 8:33, simply pursues the discourse He had begun in John 8:31-32; and (2) that His suggestion of the need of being made free, John 8:32, was intended to test the sincerity, or provoke the latent insincerity, of the faith of the persons of John 8:30-31. Contrary to Dr. Tholuck’s remark above, the evangelist has here very accurately designated the interlocutors, John 8:31, as Jesus and those Jews who believed on Him. Meyer suggests that “the πολλοί, John 8:30, are many among the hearers in general; among these ‘many’ were some hierarchical Jews, and to these Jesus speaks in John 8:31.” There probably was this difference among the believing many; but it is hardly in John’s view here. Hengstenberg, who agrees on this point with Tholuck, thinks “John was quite too much intent upon reality than to ascribe faith to such murderous enemies of Christ as these, on the ground of a mere fleeting emotion.” But this very consideration might work the other way: the Evangelist would take even a transient and impure faith for what it is worth as faith for the time. This great relapse from a flash of faith into deepened darkness of unbelief may be just the “reality” on which John is intent. [Of recent expositors Olshausen, Meyer, Stier, Alford, Ellicott (“Life of Christ”), J. J. Owen, and others, take the same view with Dr. Lange.—E. D. Y.]

Ibid. We are Abraham’s seed.—These words are put as the foundation of what follows: And were never in bondage (never yielded ourselves as bond-servants). Because they were Abraham’s seed (on the strength of many Old Testament passages like Genesis 22:17; Genesis 17:16), they claimed, according to Jewish theology, not only freedom, but even dominion over the nations. As πώποτε includes the whole past, these words can only mean: Often as we have been under oppression (under Egyptians, Babylonians, Syrians), we have never acknowledged any oppressor as master, but have always submitted only from necessity, reserving our right to freedom, and striving after it. This reservation carried the spirit and design of revolution, and afterwards, in the Jewish war, acted it out in the Zealots and Sicarii (Joseph. De bello Jud., VII. 8, 6).

This extremely simple state of the case many interpreters have lost sight of, failing to distinguish between a bondage de facto and a bondage de jure; hence a list of mistaken explanations (specified by Tholuck, p. 250). Tholuck, referring to my Leben Jesu, II. 2, John 968: “They were as far from acknowledging subjection to Rome, as modern Rome is from acknowledging secular relations which contradict its hierarchical consciousness.” “Only as a domination de facto, and not de jure, does even Josephus represent to them the Roman domination, on the prudential principle of yielding to superior force (De bello Jud. V. 9, 3). And to this day it stands among the fifteen benedictions which should be said every morning: ‘Blessed art Thou, that Thou hast not made me a slave.’ Schülchan Aruch. tr. Orach Chajim, fol. 10, John 3:0. The meanest laborer who is of the seed of Abraham, is like a king, says the Talmud.”62

John 8:34. Whosoever committeth sin [πᾶς ὁ ποιῶν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν, living in the practice of sin], is a slave of sin.—A solemn declaration, enforced with: Verily, verily. In these words Jesus utterly expels the political question from His scope. He states first the principle, then the application. The committing of sin is to be taken with emphasis; He whose tendency and habit is to commit sin;63 which may be applied in a wide sense to every man born of the flesh (Romans 7:14), in the narrower sense to the evil propension of the earthly-minded (John 3:20; 1 John 3:8). He is the servant, the slave, of sin; fallen into the worst conceivable bondage, or rather the only real bondage; the man being even at heart a slave, whereas in other sorts of servitude the man may himself be free within, though in outward bonds. And the application was obvious. Jesus implied that they, not only for being born of the flesh, but for being carnally-minded and practically hostile to the truth, committed sin. The hint that they were therefore in the hardest slavery, and in the utmost need of liberation by the truth which they despised, the Lord in the sequel turns gradually into a decided opinion. Comp. Romans 6:17; Romans 7:14, if. “Analogous instances from the classics see in Wetstein; from Philo, in Lösner, p. 149.” Meyer. [“The mere moral sentiment of which this is the moral expression, was common among the Greek and Roman philosophers.” Alford.—P. S.]

John 8:35. And the bondman abideth not in the house for ever.—The thought takes its turn from the legal relations of civil life

The bond-servant is not an organic member of the household, has no inheritance, and can be expelled or sold, Genesis 21:10; Galatians 4:30. According to the law of Moses the Hebrew servant must be set free in the seventh year, if he desire; but even if he wishes to remain servant of the house, he does not thereby become a member of the family, Exodus 21:1 ff. To this legal status of the servant, however, as not a permanent member of the household, Jesus gives an allegorical meaning. And in so doing He goes upon a presumption, where expositors readily incline to see a jump. He who is the servant of sin, is, under the dispensation of the law, an involuntary subject of the law; therefore a slave of the letter; and he who is such a slave of the letter, is a slave of sin. Paul also goes on this presumption in Galatians 3:10. The slave of the letter, therefore, being a slave of sin, abides not in the house of God, the theocracy. The application is obvious: In the kingdom of God there have been hitherto children and servants (Galatians 3:22; Galatians 4:1); the servants at this time are the unbelieving Jews; they are one day driven out (Matthew 8:12; Romans 9:31; Galatians 4:30). Not all Israel, but only the unbelieving portion; of these, who treat the law as a mere statute, a slavery to the letter, which corresponds with the bondage of sin, it is declared that they hold no relation of affinity and sonship to the master of the house. The reference of the servant to Moses, propounded by Chrysostom and Euthymius, belongs to a different train of thought and a different aspect of the servant, Heb 3:5.64 The house; typically denoting the royal family of the Lord, the household of God, Psalms 23:6; Psalms 27:4.

The son abideth forever [viz., in the house.]—He is by blood one with the house and heir of the house. This point of law is also a similitude, expressing the perpetual dwelling and ruling of Christ in the kingdom of God. As the son is spoken of in the singular, the word cannot be taken to imply a class of men who are morally and religiously free. And in fact the children of the house themselves, under the Old Testament economy, not having attained their maturity, are put under the same law with the proper alien slaves.65

[The contrast is here between bondage to sin and a freedom to which even the children of the house of God could attain only in a new stage, a manhood, of spiritual life; and into this new stage of full-grown sonship they, and much more those who had let themselves down into servitude, could come only in Christ, the Son of God. There were no sons, whose position would afford, except prospectively, a general maxim of the kind here before us. Even the children differed not yet from servants, though they were not servants of sin. While, therefore, the word son not directly denoting Christ, but being used generically, might properly be printed both here and in the verse following without a capital, Dr. J. J. Owen’s remark upon it in this verse is unwarrantable, and in the next inconsistent: “The word son improperly commences with a capital in our common version, as though it referred to the Son of God. It stands here opposed to servant, and is generically put for all those born to a state of freedom, and consequently heirs to the paternal inheritance and privileges. In the next verse the word Son is properly capitalized.”—E. D. Y.].

John 8:36. If then the Son make yon free.66—A new legal principle is here again presupposed by this expression. The son can give servants their freedom; and he can receive them to membership in the house, as adopted brothers, and to participation in his inheritance. The spiritual application which Jesus makes of this principle stops with the first point. The house of God has its son; and this son must make the servants in the house of God free, before any true freedom can be spoken of among you.

Note, that He speaks primarily only of the son of the house, not of the Son of God, and that He does not designate Himself as the son (comp. John 5:0). But His meaning, that He is the son of the house, and as such the Son of God, the only one who is spiritually free and can give spiritual freedom, stands out clearly enough. The sentence is so framed, that it may be taken as containing at once the condition of the true freedom for Israel, a prophecy concerning the believing portion of Israel, and a warning and threatening for the unbelieving portion.

Ye will be free indeed [ὅντωςἐλεύθεροι].—As opposed to their visionary, fanatical effort after external, political freedom in their spiritual bondage. Without the real freedom they could neither attain, nor maintain, nor enjoy the outward; while the inward freedom must ultimately bring about the outward. The fact that the son appears as the liberator, instead of the lord of the house himself, agrees with the figure; all depends in this case on what he is willing to do in regard to his hereditary right in the servants. Comp. John 10:26-27.

John 8:37. I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me.—The acknowledgment of their claim to natural descent from Abraham serves only to strengthen the reproof that follows. What a contrast: Abraham’s seed, murderers of Christ! Christ can charge them with seeking to kill Him: (1) because they are already turned into an apostasy from Him, which cannot stop short of deadly enmity; (2) because they are impelled by the chiliastic idea of Christ, which leads in the end to the crucifixion of Christ; (3) because they go back to the hierarchical opposition, which has already determined His death.

Because my word maketh no progress in you.—Χωρεὶν: to make way, go through, encompass. Metaphorically: to come to something, to succeed, to make progress. The last meaning is the most probable here. These adversaries are the persons in view; hence ἐν ὑμῖν cannot mean among you (does not take effect: Luther; has no success: Lücke). In you: (a) Finds no room, gains no ground in you. Origen, Chrysostom, Beza, et al. Meyer says, it cannot mean this; Tholuck favors this meaning; and Origen and Chrysostom ought to have known the admissible use of the word. Yet this thought must then be reduced to: (b) Finds no entrance into you (Nonnus, Grotius, Luthardt, Tholuck). But then the accusative [or εἰς ὑμᾶς] would be expected. Better, therefore, De Dieu and Meyer: It makes no progress in you. It does not thrive in you. This, in fact, Christ has just had experience of with them. They have first misunderstood His word, then loose hold of it again. This then turns into an opposition, which by the strength of its spirit and its reaction (“he that is not with Me,” &c.) must pass into deadly enmity.

John 8:38. I speak what I have seen with the (my) Father.—The contrast between Him and them is threefold: 1. My Father, your father (though the verbal antithesis here is critically doubtful; see the Text. and Gram. Notes.) 2. He acts according to what He has clearly seen with His Father; they act according to what they have indistinctly heard from their father (and a further antithesis between the perfect ἑώρακα and the aorist ἠκούσατε.) Yet to limit ἐώρακα, with Meyer, to the pre-existent state of Christ, is partial.67 3. His way towards them is to speak openly (λαλῶ) what He has known to be the will and decree of the Father; they, on the contrary, true to the manner of their father, even in moral concerns, go right on to malicious dealing. (“In οὖν there is a sad irony.”—Meyer.) It is the contrast, therefore, of a moral parentage, a moral instruction, a moral way, which in Christ issues in a purely spiritual witness-bearing, and one which in the Jews issues in a fanatical, murderous falling upon Christ. He speaks God’s judgment respecting them; they put Him on Satanic trial for death. The other result of Christ’s seeing: His doing what He sees His Father do, does not here come into view. His doing is all a doing good, and for this a susceptibility is prerequisite. But to His adversaries He says how it stands with them before the law and judgment of God. Who His Father is, and who is theirs, they must for the present forebode. Meyer: “He means, however, the devil, whose children in the ethical view they are, whereas He is in the metaphysical view and in reality the Son of God.” But the ethical view is also included. On the one hand, clear impression, free compliance, calm declaration; on the other, dark, sullen impulse, forced obedience, malignant practice. “Ποιεῖτε: constant conduct; including the seeking to kill, but not exclusively denoting that.” Meyer.

John 8:39. Abraham is our father.—The distinction between true children of Abraham and spurious children who therefore, as to their moral nature, must have another father, Christ has introduced by the foregoing sentence. They suspect the stinging point of His distinction; hence their proud assertion, which calls forth the Lord’s denial: If ye were Abraham’s children. In the spiritual sense [children in moral character and habits, as distinct from seed or mere natural descent, John 8:37.—P. S.] Ye would do the works of Abraham, works of faith, above all the work of faith. [τέκνα and ἔργα are correlative.] Abraham had a longing for the coming of Christ, John 8:56. “Just as Paul does in Romans 9:8, Jesus here distinguishes the ethical posterity as τέκνα from the physical as σπέρμα.” Tholuck. [So also Meyer and Alford.—P. S.] Επέρμα, seed, is rather used to designate Abraham’s posterity as a unit, Galatians 3:16.

John 8:40. But now ye seek to kill me.—The very opposite of Abraham’s spirit. The Lord does not yet characterize their murderous plot as a killing of the Christ; this alone condemns them, that they wished to kill in Him a man, and a man who had spoken to them the truth, who did nothing more but told the truth which He had heard from God, and therefore stood as a prophet.68 The counterpart is Abraham with his benevolent spirit in general, with his homage for Melohizedek, and with his sparing of Isaac when God interposed.

[A man, ἄνθρωπον, with reference to παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ. This self-designation of Christ as a man, a human being, implies all that is essential to our nature. It occurs nowhere else, but instead of it the frequent title the Son of Man, with the definite article, which at the same time elevates Him above the ordinary level of humanity, λελάληκα, the first person, according to Greek rule, see Buttmann, N. T. Gr. p. 241. This did not Abraham. Litotes, ἐποίησε, fecit (not fecisset), a statement of fact all the more stinging. A reference to Abraham’s treatment of the Angel of Jehovah, Genesis 18:0 (Lampe, Hengstenberg), is not clear.—P. S.]

John 8:41. Ye do the works of your father.—Thus much is now perfectly manifest: They have, in respect to moral character, some other father than Abraham, who is exactly the opposite of them in spirit. The deeds of that father they do; that is, they do according to his deeds, and they do according to his bidding; they do his deeds in his service.

We were not born of fornication.—They seem to suspect the spiritual intent of Christ’s words, yet they avoid it by at first standing upon the literal interpretation of them, that they may then immediately save themselves by a bold spring to the spiritual. In the first instance, therefore, they say: We are not bastards fathered upon Abraham, but genuine offspring of Abraham (bastards were excluded from the congregation, Deuteronomy 23:2). But they intend thereby at the same time to say; We are not idolaters (Grotius, Lampe, Lücke); as is evident from their next words: We have one Father, God.—Their genuine descent from Abraham, is supposed to involve their having God for their Father, in the spiritual sense; and when they speak of Him as the one Father, the ἕνα is also emphatic.

Accordingly they intend to say: We (ἡμεῖς, with proud emphasis) are not like the heathen, who are born of whoredom, in apostasy from God (Hosea 2:4; [Ezekiel 20:30; Isaiah 57:3]), and have many gods for their spiritual fathers (as they charged especially the Samaritans); bodily and spiritually we are free from the reproach of adulterous birth.69 Children of Abraham, children of God, Deuteronomy 32:6; Isaiah 63:16; Malachi 2:10; Romans 4:16; Galatians 4:23. The position: God is our father, is therefore in no opposition to the paternity of Abraham. The reference of Euthymius Zigabenus to the contrast of Isaac and Ishmael is unwarrantable. [For the Jews would not call Abraham’s connection with Hagar one of πορνεία, which implies several fathers, but one mother.] It is obvious that with their appeal to the fatherhood of God they wish to crowd Jesus from His position; whether they at the same time intended an allusion to the birth of Jesus (Wetstein and others) is doubtful. In their monotheistic pride they could boast of being the children of God, even while the accusations of the prophets, that Israel was of Gentile whoredom (Ezekiel 16:3; see Tholuck, p. 254), were in their mind; and we already know how little the Jewish fanaticism felt bound by the Scriptures.

John 8:42. If God were your father, ye would love me.—Emphatic: Ye would have (long ago) learned to love Me;70 that is, being kindred in spirit and life. Luthardt: This would be the ethical test. From the fact, therefore, that they do not love Him [the Son of God, the Beloved of the Father], He can infer with certainty their ungodly mind and nature. Proof: For I (ἐγώ) proceeded forth and am come from God.—His consciousness is the clear mirror, the true standard. He is certain (1) that He proceeded forth in His essence and in His personality from God, ontologically and ethically; (2) that also, in His appearance and mission among them, in His coming like a prophet to them, He came from God.71 But again, He is certain of this because He came not of Himself, i. e. because He knew Himself to be pure from all egotistic motives (love of pleasure, love of honor, love of power; see the history of the temptation, Matthew 4:0); and because He was conscious of being sent by God, i.e. of being actuated by divine motives. Nothing but this alternative was conceivable: from Himself, or from God, (John 7:18; John 7:28); no third origin (Meyer) is supposable.

John 8:43. Why do ye not understand my speech?—Λαλιά, in distinction from λογος; the personal language, the mode of speech, the familiar tone and sound of the words, in distinction from their meaning [John 12:48 : ὁ λόγος ὅν ἐλάλησα; comp. Philippians 1:14; Hebrews 13:7]. From its original idea of talk, babble, λαλιά72 here preserves the element of vividness, warmth, familiarity. It is the φωνή, the tone of spirituality and tone of love in the shepherd-voice of Christ.73 They are so far from recognizing this “loving tone,” that they are incapable of even listening to the substance of His words with a pure, undistracted, spiritual ear. Fanaticism is characterized by “false hearing and words;” primarily by false hearing. Our Lord means unprejudiced, kindly-disposed hearing and attention; something more therefore, even here, than the general power to understand, which is expressed by γινώσκετε, and, in the first instance, something less than the willing hearing which is the beginning of faith itself. To take λαλιά and λόγος as equivalent, and to lay stress on ἀκούειν, and make it the condition precedent to γινώσκειν (as Origen and others do), in the first place ignores the distinction of the two meanings of λέγειν and λαλεῖν, which distinctly runs through this Gospel, and in the second place it overlooks the language: οὐ δύνασθε�. The point here is an ability to hear the λόγος, to which the recognition of the λαλιά is the condition precedent. We therefore, with Calvin, take the ὅτι as inferential, equivalent to ὥστε, not with Luther as meaning for. Manifestly δύνασθε is to be understood ethically, not, with Hilgenfeld, in a Gnostic, fatalistic sense (see Tholuck). The lively emotion in the painful interrogatory utterance of these words introduced the solemn declaration following.

John 8:44. Ye are of the father who is the devil.—[Of the (spiritual or moral) fatherhood or paternity of the devil, ἐκτοῦπατρὸςτοῦδιαβόλου. This is the most important doctrinal statement of Christ concerning the devil, teaching soberly and solemnly without figure of speech: (1) the objective personality of the devil; (2) his agency in the fall of the human race, and his connection with the whole history of sin as the father of murder and falsehood; (3) his own apostasy from a previous normal state in which he was created; (4) the connection of bad men with the devil.—ὑμεῖς with great emphasis, ye who boastfully claim to be lineal children of Abraham and spiritual children of God, are children of His great adversary, the devil. τοῦ διαβόλου is in apposition to πατρός.—P. S.] Not: Of the father of devils (plural τῶν διαβόλων: Grotius); nor the Gnostic absurdity: “of the father of the devil” [the demiurge], that is the God of the Jews [Hilgenfeld, Volkmar]; also not: “of your father, the devil” (Lücke, [De Wette, E. V., Alford74, Wordsworth]); but: “of a father who is the devil” (Meyer). The idea is clearly confined to ethical fatherhood by the placing of father first; so that John could not have written simply ἐκ τοῦ διαβόλου. And the lusts [τὰςἐπιθυμίαςτοῦπατρόςὑμῶνθέλετεποιεῖν]—Plural; primarily meaning not merely thirst for blood [but this is included]. According to Matthew 4:0, these are of three main classes [love of pleasure, love of honor, love of power.—P. S.]. These lusts of the devil are the main springs of the life of his like-minded children, who, with their captive propensity, desire (θέλετε) to do them.75

He was a murderer [lit. a manslayer] from the beginning [ἀνθρωποκτόνοςἀ π’ ἀρχῆς].—With special reference to their hatred of the Messiah issuing in blood-thirstiness and falsehood, hardened adherence to delusion and calumnious persecution of the truth and the evilness of it. The devil was a murderer of men from the very beginning (not of his existence, but) of human history (comp. Matthew 19:4, where ἁρχή likewise stands for the beginning of human history).76 How so? Different interpretations.

(1) The devil is a murderer as the author of the fall of Adam, by which death came on man (Genesis 3:0; Romans 5:12). So Origen, Chrysostom, Augustine, and most in modern times. [Schleierm., Thol., Olsh., Luth., Meyer, Ewald, Hengstenb., Godet, Alford, Wordsworth.—P. S.] This interpretation is supported by the expression: “from the beginning;” and by Wis 2:24; Revelation 12:9; Revelation 20;77 comp. also Ev. Nicod.: where the devil is called ἡ τοῦ θανάτου� [and ἡ ρίζα τῆς ἁμαρτίας, the beginning of death, and the root of sin.—P. S.]

(2) As the author of Cain’s murder of his brother. Cyril, Nitzsch, Lücke, and others. [So also De Wette, Kling, Reuss, Bäumlein, Owen. The arguments for this interpretation are its appropriateness in view of the design of the literal murder of Christ entertained by the Jews, and especially the apparent parallel passage, 1 John 3:12 : “Cain was of the wicked one (i.e. a child of the devil, like other sinners, 1 John 3:8) and slew his brother,” comp. John 8:15 : “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer.” But neither here nor in Genesis 4:0 is the Satanic agency in the murder of Abel expressly mentioned, as it is in the history of temptation (Genesis 3:0), although it stands out prominently in the Bible as the first glaring consequence of the fall and as the type of bloodshed and violence that have since in unbroken succession desecrated the earth (comp. besides 1 John 3:12, also Matthew 23:35; Luke 11:51; Judges 11:0). Moreover, Cain’s deed itself presupposes the previous agency of the devil, when by the successful temptation of our first parents, he introduced first spiritual and then temporal murder and death into the world. The fall is the “beginning” of history, and of universal significance as the virtual fall of the whole race, and the fruitful source of sin in general and murder in particular. There the devil, in the shape of a serpent, proved himself both a murderer and a liar, as he is here described. To it therefore the passage must chiefly refer. 1 John 3:8 (ὁ ποιῶν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν ἐκ τοῦ διαβόλου ἐστιν, ὄτι�̓ ἀρχῆς ὁ διάβολος ἁμαρτανει) which all commentators refer to the history of the fall, is the real parallel to our passage, and not 1 John 3:12.—P. S.]

(3) He is quite generally described as a murderer, without any special reference. Baumgarten-Crusius, Brückner.
(4) Evidently the thing intended is the murderous work of Satan in all history, aiming to complete itself in the killing of Christ, but having signalized itself in the beginning in the temptation of man and the lie against God, which afterwards bore their full fruit in Cain’s murder of his brother (Theodoret, Heracleon, Euthymius).

We therefore consider that there is properly no question here between Adam and Cain, 1 John 3:15-16. Yet the chief stress plainly lies on the temptation of Adam; for the devil, by his spiritual murder of man, brought man himself also to murder; and he is described pre-eminently as a liar. From that “beginning” he was a murderer of man from time to time.

And doeth not stand [οὐχ ἕστηκεν] in the truth.—Interpretations:

(1) He did not continue in the truth. Augustine (Vulg.: stetit), Luther, Martensen [Dogmatik, § 108], Delitzsch [Psychol. p. 62]. This makes the word refer to the fall of the devil according to 2 Peter 2:4; Jude John 8:6. Against this interpretation see Lücke and Meyer. It would require the pluperfect εἱστήκει, stood. The perfect ἕστηκα means, I have placed myself, I stand [comp. John 1:26; John 3:29; Matthew 12:47; Matthew 20:6, etc.]

(2) He does not stand in the truth. He has taken no stand and he holds no ground in it. In an emphatic sense he does not take a position; he has not honorably planted himself and valiantly stood. Euthymius: Οὐκ ἐμμένει, ἀναπαύετει; Lücke: “He is perpetually in the act of apostasy from the truth,” De Wette, Meyer: “Falsehood is the sphere in which he stands; in it he is in his proper element, in it he has his station.” Correct, except that there can be no standing or fixedness, and no station in falsehood. Perpetual restlessness and going to and fro are his element, Job 2:2. Hence he is the spirit or devil of endless toil, and the number of his representative, as antichrist, is 666 (Revelation 13:18). Compare the description of Lokke, his deceptions and his flights, in the Scandinavian mythology. He denies his own existence, as he denies all truth and reality.78 But he is the perpetual rover, because he is the deceiver.

[The passage then does not teach expressly the fall of the devil, but it presupposes it. ἔστηκεν has the force of the present and indicates the permanent character of the devil, but this status is the result of an act of a previous apostacy, as much as the sinful state of man is brought about by the fall of Adam. God made all things, without exception, through the Logos (John 1:3), and made the rational beings, both men and angels, pure and sinless, yet liable to temptation and fall. As to the time of the creation and fall of Satan and the bad angels, the Scriptures give us no light.—P. S.]

Because there is no truth in him.—Because falsehood is in him as the maxim of his life, he is in falsehood; because he keeps no position with himself, he keeps no position in reality. As he deceives himself, so he deceives the world. For internal truth is the centre of gravity which causes a moral being in the sphere of truth to stand firm as a pillar in the world. [Mark the absence of the article before ἀλήθεια, subjective truth, truthfulness, while in the preceding clause ἀλήθεια has the article and means objective truth, the truth of God. Comp. De Wette and Meyer.—P. S.]

When he speaketh [λαλῇ] a lie.—[τὸ ψεῦδου is generic, but the English language requires here the indefinite article, while it retains the definite article in the phrase “to speak the truth.” See Alford in loc.—P. S.] Through the devil falsehood comes to its manifestation, thorough his familiar way, his persuasion, his whispering, his insinuation (λαλεῖν). But then he always speaketh of his own [ἐκτῶνἰδίωνλαλεῖ, out of his own resources], from his own nature; himself revealing his own truthless and loveless mind (“The devil has a half-charred heart”); revealing himself to his own condemnation, Matthew 12:34 [ἐκ τοῦ περισσεύματος τῆς καρδίας τὸ στόμα λαλεῖ. His ἴδια are to be taken ethically. Yet the description of a lie as that which is the devil’s own, includes the idea that it originates from his own will, and that, being only for his own sake, it remained a thing of his own, having no ground in the foundation of truth, in God.

For he is a liar and the father thereof [ὃτιψεύστηςἐστ ιν καὶὁπατὴραὐτοῦ].—That which he says proceeds indeed from within himself, and what he is within himself as devil, in his ἴδιον of Satanic egoism, that he puts forth continually in his own work and in the work of his child as its father. Different interpretations of πατὴρ αὐτοῦ:

(1) The father of the lie, τοῦ ψεύστους, Origen, Euthymius, et al., Lücke. [With reference to the first lie recorded in history, by which the devil seduced Eve: “Ye shall not surely die,” Genesis 3:4.—P. S.] Observe, on the contrary, that Christ intends to speak here not merely of the author of the lie, but also concretely of the father of the liars, to whom he returns. Therefore,

(2) Father of the liar [τοῦ ψεύστου = τῶν ψεύστων. Consequently he is your father, and ye are his children, see beginning of the verse—ψεύστης being singular the pronoun αύτῶν is attracted into the singular αὐτοῦ.—P. S.] Bengel, Baumgarten-Crusius, Luthardt, Meyer [Tholuck, Stier, Alford, Hengstenberg]. Then we must of course take πσεύστης first as a general predicate of the wicked personality. The devil is a liar in himself, and is father of the liar in abominable self-propagation through the delusion of the children of wickedness (2 Thessalonians 2:0)

The ancient Gnostic [and Manichean] interpretation, taking the demiurge as father of the devil, re-applied to the Gospel by Hilgenfeld [and Volkmar], is disposed of by Meyer [p. 359].79 Meyer justly observes that in this passage the fall of the devil is presupposed; but it is by no means presupposed that the devil always was wicked (Hilgenfeld and others). It should be added that this description of the devil always suggests the causes of his fall: selfishness, falsehood, envy, hatred. The devil, the beginner of wickedness, 1 John 3:8; 1 John 3:12; the founder of wickedness, the spirit of the wicked. In the temptation of Adam (Wis 2:24; Hebrews 2:14; Revelation 12:9)80 as well as in Cain’s fratricide, that twofold nature of selfishness showed itself: hatred of truth and love of murder, which culminated in the crucifixion of Christ.81 There is, however, here no opposition of formal truth and formal falsehood, but the full extent of both ideas is kept in view (Luthardt, Tholuck); this is evident from the nature of the completed opposition itself, when speaking the truth turns life itself into truth, and in like manner lying makes life itself a lie. So the external murder of Abel which Satan effected through Cain is inconceivable without the spiritual murder performed in Adam, which became the cause of the literal murder.

John 8:45. But I—because I speak the truth, ye believe me not.—The ἐγὼ δέ is forcibly put first, not so much in opposition to the devil (Tholuck, Meyer), as in opposition to the Jews as the spiritual children of the devil. After telling them what they are, the last word of the explanation, what He is, hovers on His lips. Jesus characterizes His Ego to the extent of their present need: (1) He is the witness or the prophet of truth, in opposition to the arch-liar and his children; 2) The sinless one, in opposition to their lust of murder, intending to kill Him; 3) Coming from God, with the word of God, in opposition to their diabolic nature. This however is the great obstacle of His full self-revelation, or rather the Messianic designation of His full self-revelation, that in their hardened lying disposition they are opposed to His spirit of truth; that they do not believe Him for the very reason of His telling them the truth. [Alford: “This implies a charge of wilful striving against known and recognized truth.”] Euthymius [filling up the context]: εἰ μὲν ἔλεγον ψεῦδος, ἐπιστεύσατέ μοι ἄν, ὡς τὸ ἴδιον τοῦ πατρὸς ὑμῶν λέγοντι [If I should speak a lie, you would believe Me as speaking what properly belongs to your father].

John 8:46. Which of you convicteth me of sin? [τίς ἐξ ὑμῶνἐλέγχειμεπερὶἁμαρτίας.]—Different explanations of sin.

1) Because the truth in speaking is previously mentioned, ἁμαρτία must here mean error or intellectual defect. Origenes, Cyril, Erasmus and others. Against this speaks a) that ἁμαρτία in the New Testament throughout designates sin, and even with the classics it does not mean error, deceit, unless with a defining addition, e.g., τῆς γνώμης. [Comp. Meyer, p. 360 f.—P. S.] b) Jesus would in this case make the examination of truth an object of intellectual reflection, we might say, of theological disputation, while otherwise He represents it as a moral and religious process, c) The truth of His word is authenticated by the truthfulness and sinlessness of His life, see John 7:17-18.

2) Sin in speech, untruth, falsehood. Melancthon, Calvin [false doctrine], Hofmann [“Sünde des Wortes”], Tholuck. Against this: Either this interpretation amounts to the same as the first, or it must include the idea of intentional delusion, of sinful and wicked speech, or all this together (“wicked delusion,” Fritzsche, Baumgarten-Crusius). But for this the expression is too general.

3) Sin, the moral offence. [This is the uniform usage of ἁμαρτία in the New Testament.—P. S.] Lücke, Stier, Luthardt,82 etc. Jesus speaks from the fundamental conception that the intellectual life is inseparably connected with the ethical (Ullmann, Sinlessness of Jesus, p. 99). There is no reason in this explanation (with Tholuck) to miss a “connecting link,” or to assume a defect in the narrative. Meantime this declaration is also differently interpreted: a) The sinless one is the purest and safest organ of the perception and communication of truth (Lücke), or the knowledge of the truth rests upon purity of the will (De Wette). b) Meyer against this: this would be discursive, or at least imply that Jesus acquired the knowledge of the truth in the discursive way, and only in His human state, while, according to John especially, He knew the truth by intuition and from His pre-existent state, and in His earthly state by virtue of His unbroken communion with God. His reasoning is: If I am without sin—and none of you can prove the contrary—I am also without error, consequently I say the truth, and ye, on your part have no reason to disbelieve Me. But Jesus could exhibit His morally pure self-consciousness only by His life. Hence c) the word is to be understood according to the historical connection of the reproach of theocratic sin, They tried to make Him a sinner in the sense of the Jewish regulation with regard to excommunication, but they do not venture to accuse Him publicly, still less can they convict Him. But this consciousness of His legal irreproachableness implies at the same time the consciousness of the moral infallibility of His life and the sinlessness of His character and being, as He on His part recognizes no merely legal righteousness. Our expression is therefore certainly a solemn declaration of the Lord in regard to His sinlessness, which indeed is indirectly implied also in other testimonies concerning Himself, as for instance in John 8:29. The circumstance, that the divine-human sinlessness of Christ had to develop and prove itself in a human way, affords no reason to call it (with Meyer) relative in opposition to the absolute sinlessness of God according to Hebrews 5:8.

[This is a most important passage, teaching clearly the sinlessness, or (to use the positive term) the moral perfection, of Christ. He here presents Himself as the living impersonation of holiness and truth in inseparable union, in opposition to the devil as the author and instigator of sin and error. The sinlessness of Jesus is implied in His whole mission and character as the Saviour of sinners from sin and death; for the least transgression or moral defect would have annihilated His fitness to redeem and to judge. It is confirmed by the unanimous testimony of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:14; John 1:15; John 3:31), and the apostles (Acts 3:14; 1 Peter 1:19; 1Pe 2:22; 1 Peter 3:18; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 2:29; 1 John 3:5; 1 John 3:7; Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 7:26). Christ challenged His enemies to convict Him of sin, in the absolute certainty of freedom from sin. This agrees with His whole conduct, with the entire absence of everything like repentance or regret in His life. He never asked God forgiveness for any thought or word or deed of His; He stood far above the need of regeneration, conversion or reform. No other man could ask such a question as this without obvious hypocrisy or a degree of self-deception bordering on madness itself, while from the mouth of Jesus we hear it without surprise, as the unanswerable self-vindication of one who always speaks the truth, who is the Truth itself, and is beyond the reach of impeachment or suspicion. If Jesus had been a sinner, He must have been conscious of it like all other sinners, and could not have thus challenged His enemies, and conducted Himself throughout on the assumption of entire personal freedom from sin without a degree of hypocrisy which would be the greatest moral monstrosity ever conceived and absolutely irreconcilable with any principle of virtue. But if Christ was truly sinless, He forms an absolute exception to a universal rule and stands out the greatest moral miracle in midst of a fallen and ruined world, challenging our belief in all His astounding claims concerning His divine origin, character and mission.—The sinlessness of Jesus must not be confounded with the sinlessness of God: it is the sinlessness of the man Jesus, which implied, during His earthly life, peccability (the possibility of sinning, posse-peccare), temptability and actual temptation, while the sinlessness of God is an eternal attribute above the reach of conflict. If we view Christ merely in His human nature, we may say that His sinlessness was at first relative (impeccabilitas minor, posse non peccare) and, like Adam’s innocence in paradise, liable to fall (though such fall was made impossible by the indwelling divine Logos); nevertheless it was complete at every stage of His life in accordance with the character of each, i.e., He was sinless and perfect as. a child, perfect as a boy, perfect as a youth, and perfect as a man; there being different degrees of perfection. Sinless holiness grew with Him, and, by successfully overcoming temptation in all its forms, it became absolute impeccability or impossibility of sinning (impeccabilitas major, non posse peccare). Hence it is said that He learned obedience, Hebrews 5:8.—The historical fact of the sinlessness of Jesus overthrows the pantheistic notion of the necessity of sin for the moral development of man.—P. S.]

John 8:46. I speak the truth, why do ye not believe me.—Luther co-ordinates this word with the former; Christ asking the reason why they did not believe in Him, since they could censure neither His life nor His doctrine. My life is pure, for none of you can convict Me of sin, My doctrine also, for I tell you nothing but the truth. But εἰ δὲ� cannot be [illigible words found] co-ordinate to the question. The connection is [illigible words found]rather this: Sinlessness is the truth of life; he who acts out the truth in a blameless life, must be admitted also to speak the truth and to be [illigible words found] worthy of faith. Purity of life guarantees purity [illigible words found] οf doctrine, as vice versa, James 3:2.

John 8:47. He that is of God heareth God’s word.—A syllogism; but not with this conclusion: I now speak God’s words (De Wette), but: you are not of God. That Jesus speaks the word of God is pre-supposed in the foregoing. An attentive hearing and reception of the word of God is meant. This is conditioned by being from God, by moral relationship with God; for only kindred can know kindred. The being of God has above been more particularly characterized as a being drawn by God (John 4:44), being taught by Him (John 8:45), as showing itself by doing truth in God, John 3:21.

Explanations of he that is of God (ὁ ὢν ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ): a) of divine essence and origin, in the dualistic, Manichean sense of two originally different classes of men (Hilgenfeld); b) elect, predestinated (Augustine, Piscator); c) born again (Lutheran and recent Reformed interpreters). In reference to the third interpretation it is to be assumed, that to be of God and to manifest it by hearing His word, is the beginning of the new birth; in reference to the second, that hereby true election comes to light, in reference to the first, that the antagonism between the children of God and the children of the devil is not metaphysical or ontological, but ethical, and is so defined in the New Testament, especially in John. On both sides self-determination is pre-supposed, but a direction and change of life is hereby expressed, which on the one side appears more and more as freedom and resemblance to God, on the other as demoniacal slavery (See John 8:24; John 8:34).

John 8:48. Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a demon.—Malicious refusal of, and reply to, His reproach. A Samaritan is doubless the designation of a heretic; but also with the secondary meaning of a spurious origin (from a mongrel nation), and an adversary of orthodox Judaism. (Paulus).83Samaritan” is meant to be a retort to His reproach: “You are no spiritual children of Abraham.” But His reproach: “You are of the devil,” they answer with the insult: “Thou hast a demon,” here in the more definite sense of being possessed of a Satanic spirit. To His two ethical reproaches they oppose two insults, by which they expect triumphantly to silence Him. Hence the self-complacent expression: οὐ καλῶς λέγομεν ἡμεῖς; Are we not right? Did we not hit it? The form of the expression betrays, that they do not utter these words for the first time. Perhaps the reproach: “Thou art a Samaritan,” was hinted at already in John 8:19; at all events the other reproach: “Thou hast a demon,” in a milder form, was made by the people on a previous occasion (John 7:20); but here we must remember the fact, that the Pharisees had already formerly slanderously charged Him with casting out devils through Beelzebub, the prince of the devils (Matthew 9:34; comp. John 10:25; John 12:24). It is significant that in their view demoniacal possession and a voluntary demoniacal working are the same thing, or rather that they consider the former condition the higher degree of devilish life.

John 8:49. I have not a demon.—Jesus, with, sublime self-control and calmness, ignores the first reproach (especially as He cannot recognize the designation of Samaritan either as a title of abuse or a verdict of rejection, “because He had already believers among the Samaritans, and He therefore did not hesitate in the parable of the good Samaritan to represent Himself under the symbol of a Samaritan.” Lampe). Yet He answers this reproach, while answering the second. He does this first with a simple refusal or protest, but then by the positive declaration: I honor my Father. This furnishes at the same time the counter-proof that He is no Samaritan and has no demon. No Samaritan: He proves it by word and life that God is His Father; not a demon: He proves it, that He is not possessed of a dark spirit, but full of the Spirit of the Father, and glorifying Him. This explains the character of their reproaches: they insult and blaspheme; they insult in Him the representative of God’s glory, therefore indirectly the glory of God itself. With this wickedness the matter cannot rest, because God reigns as the God of truth and righteousness. His τιμή obscured by their ἀτιμάζειν, must face them in higher brilliancy as δόξα. But it is not His business to aspire to this δόξα arbitrarily (John 5:41); He leaves this to the Father with the confidence: that as surely as He seeks the δόξα of His Father, so surely will the Father, by His guidance, seek His. He knows that this is even a constant direction of the divine guidance; God is in this respect ὁ ζητῶν, and brings the case to a decision as ὁ κρίνων, in opposition to those who restrain the truth.

John 8:51. If a man keep my saying, he will never see death.—The announcement of God’s judgment, includes the announcement of death. This announcement Jesus could not make unconditionally to a Jewish audience, for 1) there might be some among them and there were some who really kept His word; and 2) He could not yet withdraw from His adversaries the invitation to salvation; 3) the thought of the terrible judgment always awakened in Him an impulse of pity and mercy (comp. Matthew 23:27). It is therefore incorrect to assume (with Calvin, De Wette) that these words after a pause were addressed to believers only, or to connect them (with Lücke) with John 8:31, instead of John 8:50. Meyer justly points out the antithesis to the reference to the judgment. His word will carry the believers safely through judgment and death, or rather beyond judgment and death, as the Christians afterwards really experienced at the destruction of Jerusalem. Generally the expression is equal to the similar one: to hear the word, to remain in the word; yet in this keeping the probation in trials and dangers of apostasy is especially emphasized in the κρίσις (Matthew 13:21; John 15:20; John 17:6). He will never see death (not: he will not die for ever); a promise, that his life shall pass entirely safe through the whole succession of judgments, and will not see death even in the final judgment.

John 8:52. Now we know that thou hast a demon.—The answer of blind enmity to His enticing call of mercy. If they understand the word of Jesus of His natural death, it is probably an intentional misunderstanding in order to escape the force of His thoughts. They argue thus: He who promises to others bodily immortality, must Himself possess it in a still higher degree. But since Abraham and the Prophets died, it is a senseless and demoniacal self-exaltation if you claim for yourself freedom from death. It seems to be a characteristic part of their speech when they say: Now we know that Thou hast, etc, i.e., Now at last we know positively what we have before accused you of; and when they further change τόν ἐμὸν λόγον (John 8:51) into τὸν λόγον μου (John 8:52), and the expression οὑ μὴ θεωρήσῃ into: οὐ μὴ γεύσηται, though the latter expression is also used by the Lord in a different connection, Matthew 16:28. The γεύεσθαι is a usual expression among the Rabbins (Schöttgen, Wetstein), probably not merely in general a picture of experience, but a figure of the drinking from the cup of death; in any case it denotes ironically the antithesis to every enjoyment of life. While the expression: not to see death, denotes the objective side of the believer’s experience, according to which death is changed into a metamorphosis of life, the phrase: not to taste death, means the subjective emancipation from the guilty sinner’s dread and horror of death.

John 8:53. Whom dost thou make thyself?—With more than half-feigned shudder before the word of self-exaltation, which He is about to utter, they manifest at the same time a demoniacal curiosity to know the last word of His self-designation. Thus the form of the excited questions is explained by the mixture of their fanatical and chiliastic emotions.

John 8:54. If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing.—At first a protest against the reproach of self-exaltation. He makes nothing of Himself from His own will, but suffers Himself to become everything through the guidance of God. He does not answer their question directly, because every word referring to the true greatness of His δόξα would only be to them unintelligible and cause error and offence. The full majesty of the divine-human Son of God must as a new fact be accompanied by the new idea, a new name, Philippians 2:9. The accomplishment of this fact, however, belongs to the government of the Father. Therefore He cannot arbitrarily anticipate His glorification, without contradicting His real δόξα, which is just a fruit of self-humiliation and perfect patience, Philippians 2:6. But for this very reason the Father is active as the one that glorifieth Him (ὁ δοξάζων με), of whom they say that He is their God (ὅτι θεὸς ἡμῶν ἐστιν). To them it is the strongest reproach, that He is the same, whom they with spiritual pride point out as their God, and which is true in a historical, though not in a spiritual sense, to their own condemnation. The whole force of the contrast between their and His knowledge of God lies in this, that He can say: it is My Father, who glorifies Me, the same one whom you unjustly call your God, as you do not even know Him. That they do not know Him, they prove by their not recognizing His revelation in Christ, and their persecuting and insulting Him unto death.

John 8:55. Ye know him not, but I know him.—Commentators are apt to ignore the contrast between the οὐκ ἐγνώκατε αὐτόν and the threefold οἶδα αὐτόν [see, however, Meyer, footnote, p. 366]. In any case it means: you have not even indirectly made His acquaintance, but I have made His acquaintance directly; I. have looked at Him and know Him by intention. We choose from the different shades of the idea, the expression: I know Him.I should be a liar like you. The child-like expression of the sublime self-consciousness of Christ. Were He to deny this unique and constant experience of God as His Father (Matthew 11:27), He would, if this were possible, through mistaken and cowardly modesty become a liar like them. They are liars and hypocrites while pretending to know God (comp. John 8:44); He would fall into the opposite kind of hypocrisy, if He were to deny His consciousness.—The addition: But I know him and keep his word, is an ultimatum, a declaration of war against the whole hell: the word of God confided to Him, which is one with His own consciousness, He will not permit to be torn out of His heart by the storm of the cross.

John 8:56. Abraham your father84 rejoiced that He should see [ἠγαλλιάσατο ἵνα ἵδῃ]. The object of His joy is represented as its purpose and aim. Abraham rejoiced, that he should see, and that he might see. His belief in the word of promise (Genesis 15:4; Genesis 17:17; Genesis 18:10) was the cause of his joy,—this the reason of the rejuvenating of his life, and this again the condition of his patriarchal paternity, Hebrews 11:11-12; comp. John 1:13. The birth of Isaac was mediated by inspiration of faith (Romans 4:19; Galatians 4:23), and is therefore a type of that complete inspiration of faith, with which the Virgin conceived the promised Saviour by the overshadowing power of the Holy Ghost. The laughing of Abraham, Genesis 17:17, forms only an incident in this cheerful elevation of life, and so far as it is connected with a doubt of Abraham, it can be only regarded as a symbol of rejoicing, not, according to Philo, as a pure expression of his hope.85

That he should see my day.—The expression of all the immeasurable hopes of Abraham united in their central point of aim. The hope for the heir—for the heirs—for the inheritance (Hebrews 11:0) was a hope whose aim and centre appeared on the day of the Divine Heir who embraces all other heirs and the whole inheritance. The day of Christ is therefore also the whole time of the New Testament, as it reaches beyond the last day into the eternal day of His glory. “Not the passion-time (Chrysostom),86 not the time of the parusia (Bengel), not the birth-day (Schleusner),87 but the time of the appearance of Christ, as in the plural, Luke 17:23, in the singular, John 8:24.” Tholuck. On the worthlessness of the hypothetical shape of the sentence with the Socinians, see Lücke and Tholuck, p. 267. In reference to a similar longing of the theocratic pious kings, see Luke 10:24. The connection with the previous: 1) Chrysostom, Calvin: Ille me absentem desideravit, vos præsentem aspernamini. 2) De Wette: Now Jesus really places Himself above Abraham, by representing Himself as the object of Abraham’s highest desire. 3) Baumgarten-Crusius: As the Giver of life He could raise Himself above Abraham, for Abraham himself had in joyful anticipation expected and received life from Him. “Origen also finds in the εἶδεν καὶ ἐχάρη a definite refutation of the Ἀβρ. ἀπέθανε,” maintained by the Jews (Tholuck). In answering their question whether He was greater than Abraham who had died, Christ asserts two points: 1) Abraham did not die in their cheerless sense of death; 2) He did not raise Himself above Abraham, but Abraham subordinated himself to Him; comp. the parallel word on David, Matthew 22:45.

And he saw it and rejoiced.—Different explanations:

1) He foresaw the day of Christ in faith [on the ground of the Messianic promises made to him during his earthly life, Genesis 12:0; Genesis 15:0; Genesis 17:0; Genesis 18:0; Genesis 22:0; Romans 4:0; Galatians 3:6 ff.—P. S.] So Calvin, Melanchthon and older Protestant commentators [also Bengel: Vidit diem Christi, qui in semine, quod stellarum instar futurum erat, sidus maximum est et fulgidissimum.—P. S.].

2) He saw it in types: the three angels [one of them being the Logos, Genesis 18:0; so Hengstenberg], especially the sacrifice of Isaac [as foreshadowing the vicarious death and resurrection of Christ]. So Chrysostom, Theophyl., Roman commentators, Erasmus, Grotius.

3) In prophetical vision. So Jerome, Olshausen [who refers to Isaiah’s vision of the glory of Christ, John 12:41], etc.

4) In the celebration of the birth and meaning of Isaac. Hofmann. [So also Wordsworth, fancifully: The name Isaac (laughing), Genesis 17:17, had a reference to the ἀγαλλίασις of Abraham; for in Isaac, the promised seed, he had a vision of Christ, in whom all rejoice.—P. S.]

5) Visio in limbo patrum. Este, etc.88

6) As one living in paradise in the other world [comp. Luke 16:22; Luke 16:25], like the angels, 1 Peter 1:12; Moses and Elijah on the mount of transfiguration, Matthew 17:4; Luke 9:31. So Origen [Lampe], Lücke, De Wette [Meyer, Stier, Luthardt, Alford, Bäumlein, Godet] and different others.89 Doubtless the proper sense: therefore His living Abraham in opposition to their dead one. [Abraham saw the day of Christ as an actual witness from the higher world, like the angels who sang the anthem over the plains of Bethlehem.—P. S.]

And rejoiced.—Indication of changes in the realm of death, wrought by the appearance of Christ.90 The calm joy of the blessed, ἐχάρη, in opposition to the excited joy of anxious desire, ἠγαλλιάσατο. According to rabbinical traditions God showed to Abraham in prophetic vision the building, the destruction and re-construction of the temple, and even the succession of empires (see Lücke, the note on p. 363). These traditions represent the dark shadow of the light which the word of Christ casts into Hades.

John 8:57. Thou art not yet fifty years old.—The sensual, half imbecile and half malicious and intentional misunderstanding grows more and more in its folly. “The fiftieth year was the full age of a man, Numbers 4:3.” Tholuck: From this passage arose the misunderstanding of Irenæus that Jesus had gone through all the ages of human life. [Irenæus inferred from this passage that Jesus was not quite, but nearly fifty years of age, Adv. hær. II. 22, § 6 (ed. Stieren I. p. 360). E. V. Bunsen (a son of the celebrated statesman and scholar) defends this view, and infers from John 2:20 f., that Christ was forty-six years of age (The Hidden Wisdom of Christ, Lond. 1865, II p. 461 ff.). Keim also is inclined to extend the earthly life of Christ to forty years, but confines His public ministry to one year and a few months, (Geschichtl. Christus, p. 235, Gesch. Jesu von Nazara, I 469 f. note). It is obvious that no clear inference as to the age of our Lord can be drawn from this indefinite estimate of the Jews, and Irenæus was influenced by a dogmatic consideration, viz., that Christ must have passed through all the stages of human life, including old age (senior in senioribus), in order to redeem thorn all. But the idea of declining life is incompatible with the true idea of the Saviour. He died and lives for ever in the memory of His people in the unbroken vigor of early manhood.—P. S.]

John 8:58. Verily, verily … Before Abraham became I am.91 Over against the completely hardened stupidity of spiritual death flashes up the perfect mystery of eternal life. Γενέσθαι not “was” (Tholuck [De Wette, Ewald,]), or “born” (Erasmus), but “became” (Augustine); the antithesis of the created and the eternal, which implies at the same time the antithesis of the temporal and the eternal. Εἰμί expresses the pre-existence (after the fathers), yet not only as the divine pre-existence, but that which reflects itself in Christ’s divine-human consciousness of eternity and extends to the present and the future as well as the past, or that form of existence which makes Him the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. He is the propelling principle and centre of the times. We distinguish, therefore, a threefold mode of existence: 1) The divine, timeless or pre-temporal existence of the Logos; 2) the divine-human principial existence of the Logos as the foundation of humanity and the world; 3) the divine-human existence of the coming and appearing Christ through the succession of times. This implies at the same time the ethical elevation of the feeling of eternity above the times. The principial and dynamic pre-existence must be understood in a sense analogous to the pre-existence of Christ before John, John 1:15; John 1:17. To the Jews this sense was most obvious: Abraham’s existence presupposes Mine, not Mine that of Abraham; he depends for his very existence on Me, not I on him. We have then here again a revelation of His essential Messianic consciousness, His primitive feeling of eternity over and above all time. Comp. John 6:63; John 8:25; John 8:42; John 13:3; John 16:28; John 17:5.

Socinus explains according to his system: Antequam Abraham fiat Abraham, i.e., pater multorum gentium, ego sum Messias, lux mundi. The interpretation of Baumgarten-Crusius: “I was in the predestination of God,” does not suffice, but is not incorrect, as Tholuck thinks; it denotes the principial aspect of pre-existence. In a similar sense the Rabbins boasted that Israel and the laws existed before the world.

[The passage most clearly teaches the essential and personal pre-existence of Christ before Abraham, in other words, before the world (John 17:5), and before time (John 1:1), which was made with the world, and implies His eternity, and consequently His deity, for God alone is eternal. This the Jews well understood, and hence they raised stones to punish the supposed blasphemer. The same doctrine is taught, John 1:1; John 1:18; John 6:62; John 17:5; Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:2. Alt attempts of ancient and modern Socinians and Rationalists to explain away the pre-existence, or to turn it into a merely ideal pre-existence in the mind and will of God (which would constitute no difference between Christ and Abraham), are “little better than dishonest quibbles” (Alford). I add Meyer’s explanation which is clear and satisfactory. “Before Abraham became (ward, not war), I am; older than Abraham’s becoming, is my being. Since Abraham had not pre-existed, but by his birth came into existence, the verb γενέσθαι is used, while εἰμί denotes being as such (das Sein an sich), which in the case of Christ who, according to His divine essence, was before time itself, does not include a previous γενέσθαι or coming into existence. Comp. John 1:1; John 1:6, and Chrysostom. The present tense denotes that which continues from the past, i.e., here from the pre-temporal existence (John 1:1; John 17:5). Comp. LXX., Psalms 90:2; Jeremiah 1:5. But the ἐγώ εἰμι is neither an ideal existence (De Wette) nor the Messianic existence (Scholten), and must not be found in the counsel of God (Sam. Crell, Grotius, Paulus, Baumgarten-Crusius), which is made impossible by the present tense; nor is it (with Beyschlag) to be conceived of as the existence of the real image of God, nor is the expression a momentary vision of prophetic elevation (Weizsäcker), but it essentially corresponds with Christ’s permanent consciousness of personal pre-existence which in John meets us everywhere. Comp. John 17:5; John 6:46; John 6:62. It is not an intuitive, retrospective conclusion (Rückschluss),. but a retrospective look (Rückblick) of the consciousness of Jesus.” In other words, Christ, did not, in a moment of higher inspiration, infer that He existed before Abraham and the world (Beyschlag), but He calmly declared His knowledge and conviction, or revealed His personal consciousness concerning His superhuman origin and pre-temporal existence.—P. S.]

John 8:59. Then took they up stones.—The clear sound of the word concerning His eternity sounds to the Jews like blasphemy. They get ready, therefore, to execute theocratic judgment as zealots of the law (comp. John 10:31). A summary stoning in the temple is related by Josephus, Antiq. XVII. 9, 3. “The stones were probably the building-stones in the vestibule, see Light-foot, p. 1048 (Meyer),” Considering the frequent attempts of the Jews to stone Jesus, it must appear the more providential, that He nevertheless found His death on the cross, and the more divine that He foresaw it with certainty.

But Jesus hid himself (withdrew Himself), ἐκρύβη. A vanishing out of sight (ἄφαντος γινεσθαι), as in Luke 24:31 (Augustine, Luthardt [Wordsworth]), is hardly to be thought of: to become invisible is not a withdrawal, a hiding, and Jesus was not yet transfigured. He hid Himself while disappearing among the multitude of the people, especially His adherents. Therefore also not quite so ἀνθρωπίνως, as if He had fled (Chrysost.). The doubtful addition: διελθών, etc. [see Text. Notes], does not express a miraculous disappearance, but rather that He secured His safety in virtue of His majesty, just by breaking through the midst of the group of His enemies. Meyer, therefore, has no good reason to say that this occurrence is quite different from the one related, Luke 4:30. The conjecture of a docetic view (Hilgenfeld, Baur) is arbitrarily put in. Also in these details we see how the crisis thickens and the storm is gathering.


1. The grand decisive turning point in the position of the Jews in Jerusalem towards the Lord, or the falling away from the beginnings of faith, a consequence of His exposition of true discipleship (in antithesis to false): (1) Real faith, true orthodoxy: continuance in His word, faithful obedience in contrast to arbitrary perversion of His word. (2) The fruit of faith, true philosophy: knowledge and recognition of divine truth in antithesis to the delusions of error. (3) The blessing of truth: true freedom, liberation from the service of sin, in antithesis to a spurious freedom or mock freedom, contemning the spiritual conditions of external freedom. The truth shall make you free. Afterwards: the Son maketh free. Truth is personal in Christ, Christ is universal in truth. Truth is the light, freedom the might of life. Truth is the enlightenment of the reason, liberty the redemption of the will. Truth is the harmony of the contrasts of life, having its central point in the life and work of Christ, its source in God, its rays in all fragments of knowledge: liberty the harmony of man in his true self-destination in accordance with his abilities and the reality of God. Truth corresponds to revelation, liberty to redemption.

2. Causes of the falling away: (1) Pride (Abraham’s seed); (2) self-delusion (“not slaves”); (3) carnal aspirations (outward rebellion); (4) evil fellowship, or party spirit (“we, we,” etc.).

3. Antithesis of true freedom and true servitude.—Servitude: (1) Beginning of servitude (the commission of sin); (2) state of servitude (the slave of sin); (3) result (only an unfree bond servant in the house of God, over whom expulsion is impending).—The servant (also the servile spirit) abideth not in the house of God (in the communion of the kingdom) forever. This has been first fulfilled in the case of unbelieving Israel.

4. The Son of the house, as the real Freeman, also the true Liberator.

5. The contrast between Christ and His adversaries: (1) In disposition. He estimates them impartially (Abraham’s seed); He woos them with His word. They, on the other hand, do not suffer His word to spring up in them, therefore hatred to Christ buds within them (they change the savor of life unto life into a savor of death unto death). (2) In the impulses of life. The Father of Christ, the father of the Jews; the seeing of Christ, the hearing of the Jews; the witnessing of Christ, the doing of the Jews. (3) In conduct: Israelitish, anti-Israelitish (“if Abraham were your father”); prophetic (“a man that telleth you the truth”), murderously anti-prophetic (“ye seek to kill Me”); divine-human, anti-Christian. (4) In origin: Of God, of the devil.

6. “I am from above.” This answer to the intimation: He is about to descend far below as a suicide, contains the idea of His ascent. To the Jews death was in general a going downward. In the Old Testament the germ of the opposite hope was implanted. Genesis 5:24; Genesis 28:12, in the holy mountain-ascents of Moses (Exodus 19:0; Deuteronomy 34:4), in Elijah’s ascension to heaven, in expressions such as Proverbs 15:24. Christ here makes the idea of the heavenly abode appear more clearly (comp. John 7:34); at a later period, chap. 14, He reveals it openly to His disciples in order to confirm it by His ascension.

7. The doctrine of Jesus concerning the devil. See the Exegetical Notes. Comp. Com. on Matthew 4:1; Matthew 12:26 [pp. 81, 223, Am. ed.]. Comp. the Dogmatik of the author (Die Lehre vom Teufel).

8. Characteristics of the devil and his children: (1) Lusts, passions; (2) murder, hate; (3) falsehood; (4) contagion and seduction. Starke: “A seed is figuratively ascribed to the devil, Genesis 3:15. By this are commonly understood not only the fallen angels but also all malignant sinners (1 John 3:10; Matthew 13:38-39); partly because the first origin of the evil was the first sin of the devil, partly because all wicked people fulfil his will with filial obedience and hence bear his image. Διάβολος means properly a slanderer, calumniator, because Satan is (1) a slanderer who belies (slanders) and defames God to men (Genesis 3:3; Genesis 3:5), in that he suggests to believers hard thoughts of God, and tells them that He is angry with them, whilst in reality He is reconciled to them through Christ, but persuades the wicked that God is favorable to them and unmindful of their iniquities. He also accuses and calumniates men to God, Job 1:9; Revelation 12:17. (2) An adversary of Christ and the faithful, Genesis 3:15; Zechariah 3:1; 1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 12:9. (3) A deceiver and seducer of men, 2 Corinthians 11:3; 2 Corinthians 11:14, etc.; he is the chief seducer, and then also all evil spirits who are under him as their head.”

9. The Sinlessness of Jesus. Comp. Ullmann, The Sinlessness of Jesus [7th ed., 1863] and Schaff on the Person of Christ—[Germ. ed. Gotha, 1865, revised ed. New York, 1870, Engl. ed. Boston, 1865, pp. 50 ff. The sinlessness of Jesus is strongly asserted even by divines who are by no means orthodox, (Schleiermacher, Hase, Keim, Bushnell) and has been assailed only by a few writers of any note (such as Strauss, Pecaut, Theo. Parker, Renan), and even these are forced to admit that He made a nearer approach to moral perfection than any other man. But the only logical alternative is between absolute sinlessness or absolute hypocrisy; and to admit the former is virtually to admit the whole Christian system.—P. S.]

10. Unbelief the uniform characteristic of the devilish mind: (1) Unbelief of the truth of Christ because it is truth, (2) because it is the effluence of His holiness, (3) because it is divine. Or (1) the lack of a sense of truth, proneness to falsehood, (2) the want of appreciation of the purity of life, (3) the lack of affinity to God, of obedience to the voice of God in the breast.

11. “A Samaritan.”—The insulting and abusive retort to the calm sentence of truth contains the life-picture of fanaticism, which has first boldly chicaned (John 8:13), then quibbled and sneered (John 8:19), after this uttered taunts (John 8:22); then with eager longing for a chiliastic mystery and mystical proceeding has drawn Him out (John 8:25), and worshipped Him (John 8:30). Turning round again it grows rancorous (John 8:33), boasts (John 8:39), and arrogantly and abusively contradicts (John 8:41). Here it stands in its fullest development. It slanders while it reviles and reviles as it slanders.

12. The wonderful proof of Christ’s self-command, patience and freedom of spirit exhibited throughout the chapter. His frankness, His prudence, His wisdom, His incorruptibleness (John 8:30-31), the most diverse virtues of the Lord prove superior to the most difficult situation and the severest temptations. From the midst of the solemnly moving serenity with which He proclaims judgment, His mercy bursts forth again as a flaming beacon of deliverance, John 8:51. The declaration in John 8:51 reverts to that contained in John 8:31.

13. Christ and Abraham in antithesis to the previously depicted relation of the Jews to Abraham. On the feeling of life and the feeling of death. Between the doctrine of the pre-existence of Christ and the doctrine of the anticipatory joy of Abraham in the Messiah and his celebration of the Messianic day in the other world, there exists the closest connection; similarly, the comfortless speech of the Jews with regard to the death of Abraham and the prophets is connected with their witless estimation of the duration of the life of Christ. (And thus the Evangelical Church was reproached with her three centuries and the Evangelical Alliance with its three decennaries under the misapprehension of the eternity of the Evangel and the primitiveness of the fellowship of faith.)

14. Abraham’s exultation in this world, Abraham’s joy in the other world, or the excited celebration (of the Messianic day) of the mortal, and the calm, peaceful celebration of the glorified one. The anticipatory joy of the ancients was not without painful longing, their longing not devoid of rapturous glimpses of the future.

15. Isaac, the son of faith, also in this a type of Christ, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of Mary, the Virgin.
16. Christ’s proffer of everlasting life answered by the Jews with an attempt to stone and kill Him.
17. As Christ, ever more gloriously escaped from the Jews, thus too shall the Church of Christ in her evangelical confession and spiritual life ever more gloriously escape the persecutions of the legalists.


The uprightness of Christ.—How the Lord by His heavenly uprightness gradually enchains the true disciples, gradually alienates the false ones (see John 3:6; John 9:1).—How He does not captivate the false disciples: 1. Will not captivate them; 2. cannot captivate them.—The true profitable conduct of disciples towards the word of Jesus: 1. The conduct; (a) to suffer themselves to be kept by the word (to continue in it, the obedience of faith, John 8:31); (b) to keep the word in temptation as a guiding star through the darkness of judgments (the loyalty of faith, John 8:51). 2. Whereunto this is profitable: knowledge of the truth and freedom from sin. (life in brightness and freedom from death).—Continuance in the word of Jesus the condition of true spirit-life: 1. Of true knowledge of God, 2. of true moral freedom.—Through truth to freedom.—Through inner freedom to outer freedom.—The false confidence of legal saints in their freedom (religious, ecclesiastical, political freedom): 1. They are enslaved outwardly by the world (the Jews by Rome); 2. enslaved at home by the letter of the law; 3. enslaved within and without by sin.—Domestic right in the house of God: 1. The Song of Solomon , 2. the bond-servants, 3. the freedmen.—The true children of Abraham, Romans 4:0—Where the word of Christ can not grow in the heart, enmity against Christ flourishes, John 8:37.—How man can by spiritual pride turn inherited blessings, even ecclesiastical ones, into a curse (as here the boast, about being Abraham’s seed).—The prudence of Christ in antithesis to the temerity of sinners, John 8:38 : 1. He speaks that which He has seen of God. 2. The evil that they have faintly heard, they do.—The trial of the Jews, instituted by the Lord, as to whether they are genuine heirs of the spirit and faith of Abraham: 1. The trial, (a)after the works of Abraham, (b) after their susceptibility of God’s words. 2. The result, John 8:44.

Abraham’s seed (consecrated children of God by circumcision; called regenerate), and yet of their father the devil. So, too, one may be called a Christian, an evangelical Christian, etc., and yet be of one’s father, the devil.—

The devil a person who, by murder and lying continually, calls in question his personality and all personality.—Christ’s severe words concerning the devil (here, Matthew 13:0, Matthew 4:0 and elsewhere).—The fundamental traits of the devilish nature. How they are embraced in the One fundamental trait of unbelief (or of apostasy).—Falsehood and hate cognate: 1. Falsehood a murder of truth, of ideal reality. 2. Murder falsehood against life (denial of God, of love, sullying of the right).—How all threads of human falsehood and hatred and murder unite in the murder of Christ, the crucifixion.—How love and loyalty to all truth shine inseparable and pristine in the Crucified One.—The majesty of Jesus in His testimony to the devil and his children, etc. 44.—Hatred of truth.—Unbelief as a hatred of truth resting upon the love of sin.

The Gospel for Judica [fifth Sunday in Lent], John 8:46-59.—The two-fold judgment in the separation between Christ and His adversaries: 1. The false judgment of the world, resulting in the justification of Christ; 2. Christ’s true judgment of the world, that shall lead to the justification of sinners.—Christ, the Prophet of everlasting life, considered in relation to the prophets of death: 1. Wherefore He is the Prophet of life, and why they are prophets of death, (a) He is the Holy One, the Sinless One, the publisher of the Word of God, and Himself the Word; existing from eternity, in respect of His essence—as respects His works, the Saviour of life, in time; (b) they are the sinners, enemies of the word, lost in temporalness, killing life with the fatal letter. 2. How He proclaims everlasting life, but they can preach of nothing but death, (a) Of His eternal life, of the eternal life of Abraham; (b) they of the death of Abraham and the Prophets. 3. How He offers them eternal life (John 8:5), whilst they, in return, wish to kill Him, John 8:59. John 8:4. How He is proved to be the Ever-Living One, while they have gone the way of death, John 8:54-55.—As error is connected with sin, so is truth with innocence and righteousness.

The sinlessness of Jesus corroborated by challenging the testimony of His enemies.—The testimony of the world and of Christ’s enemies to the innocence of Jesus (Pilate, Judas, the high-priests and elders themselves, Matthew 27:43).—The innocence of Christ in respect of its complete revelation: 1. Founded upon divine impeccability, 2. approved in human sinlessness.—The voice of Jesus, from the mere fact of its being the voice of the Holy Man, should receive the consideration of the whole world. 1. In its uniqueness, 2. in its credibility, 3. in its revelations.—He that is of God heareth God’s words.

John 8:48. The answer of the Jews a historically stereotype reply of the spirit of the law to the preaching of the gospel.—How religious testimony is turned into invectives in the mouth of fanaticism, John 8:48.—The calmness of the Lord in contrast to the railing excitement of His enemies.—Peter imitates Him in this composure (Acts 2:0); so likewise do all faithful witnesses for the truth.—The cry of grief with which the Lord again offers salvation even to self-hardeners and blasphemers.—The New Testament word of everlasting life decried as a word of the devil by the false servants of the Old Testament.

John 8:55. And if I should say. The fidelity of the Lord to truth in the faithfulness of His self-consciousness and knowledge of God.

John 8:57. The length of true life, 1. measured by earthly-mindedness, 2. measured by godly-mindedness.—The Jews as accountants and reckoners opposed to the Lord and His numbers.—How the everlasting To-day of the Father (Psalms 2:0) is re-echoed in the everlasting I am of the Son,

John 8:59. The ever repeated and ever vain attempt of Christ’s enemies to stone Him.—They were able in the end to crucify Him and they thus contributed to His glorification, but to consign Him to oblivion beneath a heap of stones was beyond their power.—How Christ always passes gloriously through the midst of His enemies.

Starke: It is not enough to make a good beginning in Christianity if one do not end well (continue and persevere).—Make free, Romans 6:18; Galatians 5:1; 1 Peter 2:10. From the bondage of sin, John 8:34, and of eternal death, John 8:51; Luke 1:77; by remission of guilt and punishment and by communication of the Spirit of adoption and of faith.—That only is real and sound truth which can sanctify and save.—Osiander: Believers are not free from external servitude and civil burdens; their freedom is far more glorious, for they are free from sin, death, the devil and hell, and can bid defiance to all enemies, Romans 6:22.—Zeisius: Of what avail is it to have pious parents and ancestors, and not to be pious ourselves? To be of noble blood, but ignoble in soul, &c.—Ibid.: Oh wretched liberty whose companion is thraldom under sin and the devil!—Canstein: If sin but play the master and have dominion over a man, it obtains right and might to plunge him into sundry and greater sins.—He who will be forever with God must not be a slave but a son; and this is the highest good, this is true felicity—to dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalms 23:6.—Zeisius: Priceless liberty of the children of God; but beware that thou abuse not such liberty by making it an occasion of security!

John 8:41. The sinner who is forever vindicating himself does but entangle himself the more.—It is the way of the flesh to be always intent upon evasions.—Nova Bibl. Tub.: He who loves not Jesus, is not born of God but of the devil.—Jesus proceeded from the Father to seek us; should not we then go forth from ourselves and the whole world to meet Him?—The Can Not John 8:43 : A wicked, unruly will lay at the bottom of this.—Zeisius: Execrable as falsehood is because it is the offspring of the devil, just so base is it, alas! But O insolvent nobility of liars!—Ibid.: It is the old way of the world to love and to hearken to the devil’s lies, hypocrisy and flattery rather than truth.—As long as man can not endure truth he is incapable of faith.

John 8:46. Against him who can ground his defence upon a good conscience the harshest invectives and abuse of his enemies will accomplish nothing.—A Christian is bound to appeal to his good conscience when his enemies revile and slander him without a cause.

John 8:47. Zeisius: Infallible test of those who belong to God: who truly love God’s word, &c.—When wicked men are convinced of their wickedness and have nothing to answer, they resort to abuse, invective, and calumny, Acts 6:10-11,—Lampe: To call upright witnesses for the truth heretics and enthusiasts, moreover to persecute them, and to boast of one’s own orthodoxy on the other hand—are characteristics of antichristian spirits, 1 Peter 3:9.

John 8:49. The more we honor God, the more the world will dishonor us. But courage! God will honor us in return.—Perverse world! It honors what is despicable, and despises what is honorable.

John 8:50. It is honor enough for believers that they are the children of God. God, moreover, will defend them.—The godly find what they do not seek, but the wicked attain not that for which they strive.

John 8:52, The wicked trample the most precious promises under foot and draw only poison from the fairest flowers of the divine word.—Cramer: The devil is a sophist.

John 8:54. Vanity and folly make a great boast of themselves! Consider the Saviour and follow His example.

John 8:56. The most pious parents often leave descendants who do not possess their faith, piety and virtue.—Believers see what is invisible, and believe that which is incredible, and rejoice with all their hearts.—Christians existed before the birth of Christ and were saved through Him, Hebrews 13:8.—Canstein: Truth always comes off conqueror.

Gerlach: The truth, the revelation in Christ, 1Jn 1:6; 1 John 1:8; 1 John 2:21; Hebrews 10:26. This truth makes free, for only that being is free that develops in accordance with its God-created nature.—The first sinner in God’s creation, the devil, fell from the truth; he fell out of God, as the eternal source and vital element of all created beings. Thus he became a living contradiction in himself, a lie.

John 8:47; 1 John 5:20.—Recognize Him they would not, refute Him they could not, therefore they reviled Him.

John 8:52. All the Jews at that time believed that the Messiah would raise the dead and judge the world, even in the carnal, literal sense; hence the language of Jesus might well have excited their astonishment if they had not been inclined to receive Him as the Messiah: bitter enmity however prompted their treatment of His words, and the utter contempt which they entertained for Him is visible in their reply. (Be it observed only that they were also offended because He asserted His possession of this power without publicly presenting Himself as the Messiah.)—He strengthens the impression of mysterious majesty about His person, in that He, by virtue of His glance into the higher spirit-world, affirms that of Abraham which a mere man could not know.

Braune: Continuance, 1 John 2:28.—Blessed is he that endureth unto the end.—A real delirium of liberty had seized the Jews.—Bondage, 2 Peter 2:19.—Emancipation, Romans 8:2.—When a man takes offence at the expression of Jesus, he is not in harmony with the thoughts and mind of Jesus.—The evil will is the tool of Satan, the true devilish momentum.—Thus the devil’s nature is not naturally evil; but wickedness made it evil. It is not I that is evil but egotism. Without the I there were no love in which I learns thou and says we.—“To his haughtiness humility is servility, dependence on God slavery; to his false serpent-wisdom simplicity and honesty seem stupidity, and his egotism holds love to be foolish sensibility; his pride finds contrition, repentance and petitions for mercy an insufferable humiliation. The struggle for autocratic likeness to God delusively causes his aspirations and efforts to seem grand to him, his non-subjection to God sublime” (Sartorius).—There is cause for fear when he deceives and lies rather than when he rages.—Why did they say fifty years old? The fiftieth year is the close of manhood, and hence formed the period of the Levites’ time of service. Jesus was not as old as this, but they mention this age, as though they magnanimously granted more than could be demanded, in order to give an appearance of absurdity to His language.

Heubner: Christ distinguishes between real and false, firm and wavering disciples.—The slave of sin does not so much as know that he lacks freedom. One does not perceive that until one begins to see clearly. That is already the beginning of freedom.—Man is blinded by many things so that he thinks himself perfectly free. Here it is a religious species of pride of ancestry, &c. But besides family pride there are a number of other considerations which exert a delusive power: external refinement, rank, authority, proficiency in business, commendation, a varnish of morality, art, science.—Why servant? when he says: it is my own will. Answer: Because the sinner never can say that his choice is the result of full and sober-minded conviction. He is reproved by conscience.—God will have no slaves, no unwilling servants by compulsion and for hire; He wants children, free, loving children. Their supreme right is: to abide in the Father’s house.—Man’s destiny: either adoption into the paternal house of God or exclusion from it.—The Son has broken the chains forged by Satan. He is the Redeemer of the human race.—Fictitious freedom.—The remembrance of pious ancestors should be a mighty impulse to good.—Christ has a unique speech.—The devil abode not. Hence the earliest fathers of the Church called the devil an apostate (ἀποστάτης).—Apostasy from truth leads to the entire loss of truth. Be it observed, moreover, that as early as in the apocryphal Predicatio Pauli the sinlessness of Jesus is denied.—Good men can be understood only by the like-minded. Christ teaches us equanimity in reference to worldly honor.—What is true honor?—The difference between honor with God and honor with the world.—That no slander can strip us of our true honor.

John 8:52. The words of Christ seem presumptuous because virtue often has the appearance of presumption. He who is morally good really makes the highest claims without immodesty or presumption; on the other hand presumption is to be found in the world.—Living among wicked and perverse people the severest trial of holy men.—What strengthens the pious in this life? 1. The consciousness of their lofty and intimate fellowship with the devout of all ages; 2. The prospect of everlasting blessedness, from eternity prepared for believers, through Christ.

Gossner: The world falsely declares itself free when it is over head and ears in slavery.—This is the tyranny of the devil, which he exercises over natural men to such an extent, that Paul rightly calls him the god of this world, who hath his work in the children of unbelief, Eph 2:2; 2 Corinthians 4:4.—From the Son of God all the children of God derive their birth, their life, their freedom, their redemption, their right of sonship and heirship.—What He is, that He also communicates to His people and makes them kings, prophets and priests. They have the honor of bearing His unction, seal and name.—Infidels believe the devil, while denying his existence.92—A man may try himself whether he be a child of God or of the devil.—Lying is his proper character.—Christ would not die in the temple because He was to be sacrificed not alone for the Jewish nation, but for the whole world; for this another altar was requisite, whereon He might be offered up in the sight of all the world, as upon Golgotha.—What a judgment, to cast out Jesus! What a void in the heart, the temple of the Church, where Jesus must hide Himself and give way to blind zeal, pride, ambition, falsehood, selfishness—before all which He must flee!

Schleiermacher: Their belief (John 8:30-31) was in itself utterly imperfect, because expectations were mingled with it which did not correspond with the real purpose of God, that He would accomplish in Christ. Now so long as these expectations exist, it is possible that when a man begins to doubt their truth and yet still clings to them at heart, he will forsake the faith. But just that clinging of the heart to something incompatible with true and living faith in the Redeemer is at the same time a non-continuance in His word and a cherishing of another word in the heart, 2 Corinthians 3:15.—There is no other way for us all to be filled and penetrated with the truth than by gazing into His holy image and suffering ourselves to be purified through Him from all falseness.

Besser: John 8:32. Something of this was known also to the heathen; Cicero says: The wise man alone is free. But they comprehended the nature neither of divine wisdom nor of divine liberty.—No thraldom, says Seneca, is worse than the thraldom of the passions. Plato calls the infamous lusts the hardest tyrants. Epictetus says: Liberty is the name of virtue, slavery the name of vice. The Brahmin sages call the natural state of man: “Bondage.”—Schmalz: The rage for heretical accusation: 1. It makes invectives take the place of convincing arguments; 2. it craftily distorts the plainest utterances of others; 3. it casts suspicion on the heart of others; 4. to combat them it grasps at unlawful and violent means.—Rambach: Jesus the sublimest pattern of meekness.—J. C. E. Schwarz: Falsehood: 1. in respect to its nature (apostasy from God, rebellion against His kingdom, pollution of His image in ourselves and others); 2. in respect to its fruits (self-belying, mischief, impulse to new sin).—J. Mueller: The holiness of Jesus Christ is proof of the truth of His testimony about His divine dignity.—Schnur: Why truth is so hated: 1. Because it sees too deeply; 2. because it speaks too openly; 3. because it judges too severely.—Rautenberg: Truth and its lot upon earth: 1. It is rejected but does not keep silence; 2. it is reviled but wearies not; 3. it is persecuted but does not succumb.


John 8:31; John 8:31.—[Cod. Sin. omits the μου, so generalizing the idea of disciple.—E. D. Y.]

John 8:34; John 8:34.—Τῆς ἁμαρτίας is wanting in Cod. D., Iren., Hil., etc. [Cod. Sin., with most of the leading authorities, has it]. The omission has been caused by the general expression ὁ δὲ δοῦλος following.

John 8:35; John 8:35.—[This whole clause ὁ υἱὸς—αἰῶνα is wanting in Cod. Sin. Otherwise it is unquestioned. The omission is probably an effort to strip the ὁ δὲ δοῦλος, John 8:34, of that generalness which seemed to others to require the omission of the τῆς ἁμαρτίας before it.—E. D. Y.]

John 8:38; John 8:38.—[οὖν after ὑμεῖς is disputed in the Greek text, and should be translated therefore or accordingly or likewise or by the same rule. Meyer: “In οὖν liegt eine schmerzliche Ironie.”—P. S.]

John 8:38; John 8:38.—Instead of ὃ ἑωράκατε παρὰ τῷ πατρὶ ὑμῶν, we should read, according to decisive authorities (B. C. K.): δἠκούσατε παρα τοῦ πατρ́ς. [An ironical allusion to the devil.] Μου and ὑμῶν are probably exegetical interpolations. [Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Alford omit them. א. D. have them. They also support Lachmann and Tischendorf in reading δ ἐγώ instead of ἐγὼ ὃ, in the first clause. But in the second it reads: ἃ ἑωράκατε παρα τοῦ πατρό ς. Nothing in the nature of the case would seem to require ἠκούσατε here rather than the ἑωράκ. which is used of Christ in His relation to the Father; for in John 8:40 the hearing is applied to Christ, and in John 8:41 the seeing is implied in the case of the Jews.—Y.]

John 8:39; John 8:39.—B. D. L. [א] ἐστε, [instead of ἦτε, were, text, rec.] to which, however, the ἐποιεῖτε does not correspond. [Meyer: “The apparent want of grammatical correspondence between the two members has occasioned the change now of ἐστε into ἦγε, now of ἐποιεῖτε into ποιεῖτε (Vulg., Aug.).” Meyer, with Griesbach and Lachmann, prefers ἐστε, and is supported by Cod. Sin.—Y.]

[51]Ibid.—The ἅν is not sufficiently accredited.

John 8:43; John 8:43.—[Dr. Lange translates this as belonging to the question, not as an answer; takes ὅτι=ὥστε: “Why do ye not understand my speech, so that ye cannot hear my word?” See the Exegesis.—Y.]

John 8:44; John 8:44.—[The reading ὅς ἅν is untenable.]

John 8:51; John 8:51.—Τὸν ἐμὸν λό γον. The reading τὸ ν λό γον τὸν ἐμό ν is exegetical. [Lachmann and Tischendorf read τὸν ἐμὸνλό γον, and Meyer thinks the balance of authority in favor of that reading. Hahn, Stier and Theile, etc., prefer the other, and Cod. Sin. supports it. Cod. Sin. also has the weaker futures τηρή σει and θεωρή σει, instead of the subjunctives τηρή ση and θεωρή σῃ. But in John 8:52 it agrees with all the great authorities in γεύ σηται, against the future γεύ σεται of the Text. Rec—Y.]

John 8:52; John 8:52.—[Cod. Sin. supports Lachmann and Tischendorf in omitting οὖν.—Y.]

John 8:54; John 8:54.—According to B. C.* D. [Cod. Sin.], etc., δοξά σω. [Rec.: δοξά ζω.]

[57]Ibid.—[The Recepta, and therefore the English Version, are supported by the Cod. Sin.: ὑμῶν but A. B.2 C. al. read ἡμῶν, direct discourse. J. J. Owen: “Some critics connect” the succeeding clause with this, “and translate of whom ye say ‘he is our God,’ and know him not. But this presents less forcibly the contrast between their arrogant claims and real ignorance of God.” The conjunction is simply καί. The main contrast also would seem to lie between the Jews’ ignorance and Christ’s knowledge of God.—Y.]

John 8:56; John 8:56.—The authorities waver between ἡμῶν (our father) and ὑμῶν (your father). The first reading is more probable. [There is probably a mistake here. Lachmann indeed quotes Origen in favor of ἡμῶν, but Tischendorf, Tregelles, Alford, Westcott and Hort mention no such reading in this verse, while in John 8:55 the authorities are divided between θεὸς ὑμῶν and θεὸς ὑμῶν.—P. S.]

John 8:57; John 8:57.—The reading τεσσαρά κοντα, in Chrysostom and others is exegetical.

[60]Ibid.—[Cod. Sin.1 ἑώ ρακεν σε; hath Abraham seen thee? to conform their question to Christ’s assertion, John 8:56.—Y.]

John 8:59; John 8:59.—The words from διελθώ ν to the end are wanting in B.D., Vulgate, and seem to have been transferred from Luke 4:30 by way of exegesis. [Wanting also in Cod. Sin.—Y.]

[62][Meyer’s interpretation that the Jews here in an excited state of mind, confine their view to their own time, and then make earnest of the show of freedom allowed them by the Romans (Joseph. vi. 6, 2), by no means excludes Dr. Lange’s, which Meyer thinks unnecessary. Indeed the constitutional and traditional temper of the Jews, as Lange here finely analyzes it, would be just the source of such excited exaggeration as Dr. Meyer finds in these words. And conversely, Lange’s view might well include Meyer’s; for the Jews are here not so much stating a refined political doctrine, as venting a passionate jealousy supported by it. Nor need even the still less qualified view of Dr. J. J. Owen De left out: “to refer their reply to the loose and inconsiderate manner of speaking which characterizes persons in a state of high excitement, such as that into which these persons were thrown by the answer of Jesus.” Y.]

[63][Comp. Matthew 8:23, ἐργαζόμενος τὴν ἁμαρτίαν.]

[64][Alford, with Bengel, Stier, Ebrard, assumes here a reference to Ishmael and Isaac, the bond and the free sons of the same Abraham, but the bondwoman and her son are cast out. Meyer objects; the sentence being general.—P. S.]

[65][Meyer: “ὁ υἱος μένει εἰς τ. αἰῶνα, namely, ἐν τ. ῇ οἰκίᾳ—is likewise a general sentence, but with the intended application of the ὁ υἱός to Christ, who as the Son of God forever retains His position and power in the house of God, i.e. in the theocracy, comp. Hebrews 3 ff.”—P. S.]

[66][Grotius: “Tribuitur hic filio quod modo (John 8:32) veritati, quia eam profert filius.”—P. S.]

[67][Dr. Lange, it will be observed, adopts the reading: Ye do that which ye heard with your father. See the Text Note. This reading seems, indeed, to be doubtful. But παρὰ τοῦ πατρός here (from your father), in distinction from the π. τῷ πατρί (with, my Father) in the former clause, is less doubtful, and warrants substantially Dr. Lange’s second antithesis.—Y.]

[68][Godet: “Remarque la gradation: 1, Faire mourir un homme: 2, un homme organe de la verite; 3, de la vérité qui vient de Dieu.”—P. S.]

[69][Meyer denies all reference to idolatry, as defended by Lange with Lampe, Lücke, De Wette, Tholuck, Stier, Hengstenberg, Bäumlein, Alford. Bengel aptly characterizes this objection of the Jews as a novus importunitatis Judaicæ paroxysmus.—P. S.]

[70][Dr. Lange presses the imperfect ὴγαπᾶτε, but this is conditioned by the ἧν in the protasis, and is better rendered: Ye would love Me, than: Ye would have loved Me. The sentence belongs to the fourth class of hypothetical sentences mentioned by Winer, p. 273 and 285, where the condition of the protasis is supposed not to exist: in these cases εἱ is used with the imperf. indic., and followed in the apodosis by a præterit with the same force; comp. John 8:39 : εἰ τέκνα τοῦ ̓Αβρ. ἧτε, τὰ ἕργα τοῦ ̓Αβρ. ἐποιεῖτε “if ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham;” John 5:46 : εἰ γὰρ ἐπιστεύέτε Μωϋσῇ, ἐπιστεύετε ἅν ἐμοί, if ye believed Moses, ye would believe Me; John 9:41 : εἰ τυφλοὶ ἥτε, οῦκ�, “if ye were blind, ye would not have sin;” John 15:19 : εἰ ἑκ τοῦ κόσμος ἅν τὸ ἴδιον ἐφίλει, “if ye were of the world, the world would love its own;” John 18:36; Luke 7:39 : εἰ ἧν προφήτης, ἐγίνωσκεν ἄν, “if he were a prophet, he would know,” etc.—P. S.]

[71][Meyer refers ἐξῆλθον to Christ’s incarnation, and ἥκω to His presence. It is the result of ἐξῆλθον, and still belonging to ἐκ τ. θεοῦ.—P. S.]

[72][In classical Greek, but in Hellenistic Greek and with later writers it often is sermo, speech, without any contemptuous meaning. λαλιά refers to the delivery or manner and form, λὸγος to the matter or substance, of His discourses.—P. S.]

[73][Alford: “The spiritual idiom in which He spoke, and which can only be spiritually understood.”—P. S.]

[74][Alford defends the rendering of the E. V. on account of the definite article before πατρός. But Meyer objects that this would require ὑμεῖς ἐκ τοῦ ὑ μ ῶ ν πατρός.—P. S.]

[75][The force of θέλετε, ye are willing, ready, desirous, ye love, to do, is obliterated in the E. V. Comp. on this use of θέλειν John 4:21; Acts 10:10; Philippians 2:13; Philem. John 8:14. Alford: “It indicates, as in John 8:40, the freedom of the human will, as the foundation of the condemnation of the sinner.” Godet: “Le verb θ έ λ ε τ ε est contraire à l’idée d’une dépendance fataliste que Hilgenfeld attribue à Jean; il exprime l’assentiment volontaire, l’abondance de sympathie, avec laquelle ils se mettent a l’œuvre pour satisfaire les appetils de leur pèré.”—P. S.]

[76][ἀρχή is relative and must be defined by the connection, here by ἀνθρωποκτόνος which implies the existence of man.—P. S.]

[77][Add Hebrews 2:14, where Satan is called the prince of death, ὁ ἕχων τὸ κράτος τοῦ θανάτου. The rabbinical writings prove that the agency of the devil in the fall was the universal belief of the Jews.—P. S.]

[78] [Mephistopheles, in Göthe’s Faust, characterizes himself as the persistent denier and enemy of all existence:

Jch bin der Geist der stets verneint,
Und das mit Recht, denn was eutsteht

Ist werth, dass es zu Grunde geht.

D’ rum besser war’s, dass nichts entstünde.

So ist denn alles, was ihr Sünde,

Zerstörung, kurz, das Böse nennt,

Mein eigentliches Element.—P. S.]

[79][This interpretation refers αὐτοῦ to the devil and πατήρ to the demiurge: “He (the devil) is a liar, and his father (the demiurge) also;” or, “He is a liar like his father” (hence the old reading ὡς and καθὼς καί instead of καί). This translation would require αὐτός before φεύστης, and implies the unscriptural doctrine that the devil has a father. Another interpretation even more absurd and untenable is that of so sensible and learned a man as Bishop Middleton who, according to Alford in loc., proposed this rendering of the passage: “When (any of you) speaks that which is false, he speaks after the manner of his kindred (ἐκ τῶν ἰδίων!), for he is a liar, and so also is his father,” i.e. the devil. Middleton stumbled at the article before πατήρ, which on the contrary is emphatic and necessary. There is but one father of lies and liars, that is the devil. The kingdom of darkness is a monarchy as well as the kingdom of light.—P. S.]

[80]Comp. the passage from Sohar Chadash: “The children of that old serpent who has slain Adam and all his posterity.” Tholuck, p. 257 [Krauth’s trans. p. 236].

[81][In the midst of this sentence the translation of my dear, departed friend, Dr. Yeomans, was interrupted by disease, never to be resumed. Yale—pia anima!—P. S.]

[82][So also Meyer, Alford, Webster and Wilkinson, Owen. (Wordsworth says nothing of this important verse.) I quote the remarks of Alford, which are to the point: “ἁμαπτία here is strictly sin: not ‘error in argument,’ or ‘falsehood.’ These two latter meanings are found in classical Greek, but never in the Now Testament or LXX. And besides, they would introduce in this most solemn part of our Lord’s discourse a vapid tautology. The question is an appeal to His sinlessness of life, as evident to them all,—as a pledge for His truthfulness of word: which word asserted, be it remembered, that He was sent from God. And when we recollect that He who challenges men to convict Him of sin, never would have upheld outward spotlessness merely (see Matthew 23:26-28), the words amount to a declaration of His absolute sinlessness, in thought, word, and deed.”—P. S.]

[83][So also Meyer: ein kelzerischer Widersacher des reinen Gottesvolkts.]

[84][Dr. Lunge reads our father, and adds the remark: “Our father is here full of meaning.” But he seems to have had in view John 8:54. where the authorities are divided between θ εὸς ἡ μ ῶ ν (oratio directa) and θ. ὑ μ ῶ ν. In John 8:56 the text, rec. ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν, is adopted by Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles and Alford, and ἡμῶν is not even mentioned by them in their apparatus of variations (except by Lachmann). As to the meaning, ‘your father’ is rather more forcible with reference to John 8:39, and shows the antagonism of their claim with the true spirit of Abraham.—P. S.]

[85][See the passage in Lücke, p. 363, likewise a similar passage from the Sohar.]

[86][In the offering of Isaac as a type of the vicarious sacrifice on he cross. So also Theophylact and Wordsworth.—P. S.]

[87][So also Meyer (p. 366, note), who insists that the singular ἡ ημέπα ἡ ἐμή means the specific day of the birth of Christ when ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο. But “the day” of Christ is no more to be contracted in this way, than the day of grace, and the day of judgment.—P. S.]

[88][The limbus patrum, like the limbus infantum, is one of the border regions of Sheol or Hades in the supernatural geography of Romanism; it was the abode of the Old Testament saints before Christ, but when He descended into Hades and proclaimed the redemption and deliverance to them, they were transferred to heaven. The limbus patrum, therefore, is empty now, while the limbus infantum is still the receptacle of all unbaptized children who die in infancy and are excluded from heaven, yet not actually suffering the pain of damnation.—P. S.]

[89][Meyer, p. 368, quotes from the apocryphal fiction of the Testamentum Levi, p. 586 sq., where it is said after the Messiah Himself opens the gates of Paradise and feeds the believers from the tree of life: then will Abraham rejoice (τότεἀγαλλιάσεται ̓Αβρ.), and Isaac and Jacob, and I shall be glad and all the saints shall put on gladness.—P. S.]

[90][The descent of Christ into the region of the departed spirits changed the gloom of the Old Testament Sheol into the light of the New Testament Paradise; Luke 23:43; Hebrews 11:39-40.—P. S.]

[91][The E. V. (Before Abraham was, I am) obliterates the important distinction between γενέσθαι, to become, to begin to be, to be born, to be made, which can be said of creatures only, and εῖναι, to be, which applies to the uncreated God as well. This distinction clearly appears already in the Prologue where the Evangelist predicates the ἐστί and ἦν of the eternal existence of the Logos, ἐγένετο of the man John; comp. John 1:1; John 1:6 and the notes there. The present “I am,” for “I was,” should also be noticed. It denotes His perpetual divine existence independent of all time. “He identifies Himself with Jehovah.” See Chrysostom.—P. S.]

[92][A free rendering of the German: Sie glauben IHM (dem Teufel), ohne IHN (den T.) zu glauben.—P. S.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on John 8". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/john-8.html. 1857-84.
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