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Bible Commentaries
John 6

McGarvey's Commentaries on Selected BooksMcGarvey'S Commentaries

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Verse 1

(Spring, A. D. 29.)
Subdivision A.

aMATT. XIV. 13; bMARK VI. 30-32; cLUKE IX. 10; dJOHN VI. 1.

b30 And the apostles gather themselves together unto Jesus; cwhen they were returned, band they told {cdeclared unto} bhim all things, whatsoever they had done, and whatsoever they had taught. [They had fulfilled the mission on which Jesus had sent them, and on returning each pair made to him a full report of their work.] 31 And he saith unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place [an uninhabited place], and rest a while. For there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. [Need of rest was one reason for retiring to the thinly settled shores east of the lake. Matthew proceeds to give us another reason for his retiring.] a13 Now d1 After these things awhen Jesus heard it [Heard about John’s death. The excitement caused by this event, and the efforts to use Jesus as a leader in revolt, as indicated at the close of the last section, constituted another reason why Jesus should withdraw from the multitude], che took them [the apostles], and withdrew athence capart b32 And they went away in the {aa} boat, dto the other side of the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. cto a city called Bethsaida. bto a desert place apart. [They sailed to the northeastern shore of the lake to a plain lying near the city of Bethsaida Julius.] [374]

[FFG 374]

Verses 2-14

(Spring, A. D. 29.)
Subdivision B.
aMATT. XIV. 13-21; bMARK VI. 33-44; cLUKE IX. 11-17; dJOHN VI. 2-14.

c11 But {aand} the multitudes heard thereof [heard of Jesus and his disciples crossing the lake], b33 And they saw them going, and cperceiving it, bmany knew them, d2 And a great multitude followed him, because they beheld the signs which he did on them that were sick. band they ran together there on foot from all the cities, and outwent them. a14 And he came forth, and saw a great multitude, and had compassion on them, bbecause they were as sheep not having a shepherd cand he welcomed them, band he began to teach them many things. cand spake unto them of the kingdom of God, aand healed their sick. cand them that had need of healing he cured. [Jesus probably set sail from near Capernaum, and from thence across the lake to the narrow, secluded plain of El Batihah, where he landed is less than five miles. Seeing him start, the people followed him by running along the northern shore, and, though having a little farther to go, they traveled faster than the sailboat, and were waiting for him on the shore when he arrived.] d3 And Jesus went up into the mountain, and there he sat with his disciples. [The level plain did not afford a good platform from which to address the people.] 4 Now the passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. [This passover is computed to have been held on April 16, A. D. 29. This statement as to the time of year prepares us for his further statement that there was much grass in the plain. It also explains in part the gathering of a multitude in this secluded region. Pilgrims on their way to the passover would gladly go several miles out of their way to see the great Prophet perform a miracle. The excitement, due to the mission of the twelve and the death of the Baptist, also tended to swell the [375] crowd.] c12 And the day began to wear away; b35 And when the day was now far spent, a15 And when even was come, bhis disciples cthe twelve bcame unto him cand said unto him, {asaying,} bThe place is desert, and the day is now far spent; aand the time is already past [the time to seek lodging and provisions had gone by, and therefore the multitude must act quickly]; b36 send them athe multitudes {cmultitude} away, that they may go into the villages and country around, and lodge, and get provisions: aand buy themselves food. bsomething to eat. cfor we are here in a desert place. [The apostles were the first to think of eating, and naturally enough, for they had started on empty stomachs, and their own discomfort made them anticipate the sad plight in which the multitude would soon find itself.] a16 But Jesus said unto them, They have no need to go away; d5 Jesus therefore lifting up his eyes, and seeing that a great multitude cometh to him, saith unto Philip, Whence are we to buy bread, that these may eat? 6 And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, Two hundred shillings’ worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one may take a little. [Jesus tested Philip to see which way he would turn in his weakness. Jesus asked where the bread might be bought, knowing that power to feed the multitude resided in himself ( Isaiah 55:1), but Philip wondered where the money was to be had to buy it.] b37 But he answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred shillings’ worth of bread, and give them to eat? [The word translated shilling is the Roman denarius, worth about seventeen cents. The sum was not large, as we reckon money, but, considering the purchasing power of money in those days, it was an imposing sum, and it is to be doubted if the treasury-bag of Judas ever contained the fourth part of it. For a denarius was the regular price for a day’s labor.] 38 And he saith unto them, How many [376] loaves have ye? go and see. d8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him, 9 There is a lad here, who hath five barley loaves, and two fishes: but what are they among so many? bAnd when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes. a17 And they say unto him, {csaid,} aWe have here but cno more than five loaves and two fishes; except we should go and buy meat for all this people. 14 For they were about five thousand men. [When sent to see what was in their larder, it appears that they had nothing at all. Andrew reports the finding of the boy’s lunch while it was as yet the boy’s property. Some of the others, having secured it from the boy, report it now at the disposal of Jesus, but comment on its insufficiency. Eastern loaves were thin and small, like good-sized crackers, and around the Sea of Galilee, the salting and preserving of small fish was an especial industry. These fish, therefore, were about the size of sardines. The whole supply, therefore, was no more than enough for one hungry boy. But each loaf had to be divided between a thousand, and each fish between twenty-five hundred men.] a18 And he said, Bring them hither to me. 19 And he commanded the multitude to sit down cAnd d10 Jesus said, cunto his disciples, Make them dthe people sit down. cin companies, about fifty each. 15 And they did so, and made them all sit down. b40 And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties. dNow there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. [By thus arranging them in orderly companies, Jesus accomplished several things. He saved his apostles much time and labor in distributing the food. He insured that each one should be fed, and that the reality of the miracle could not be questioned, and he ascertained definitely how many men were fed.] c16 And d11 Jesus therefore took athe five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, che blessed and brake them, band brake the loaves; dand having [377] given thanks, he distributed to them that were set down; aand gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples to the multitudes. {cand gave to the disciples to set before the multitude.} dlikewise also of the fishes as much as they would. band the two fishes divided he among them all. 42 And they all ate, cand were all filled. [He blessed the loaves and fishes by returning thanks for them. This and similar acts of Jesus are our precedents for giving thanks, or, "asking the blessing," at our tables]: d12 And when they were filled, he saith unto his disciples, Gather up the broken pieces which remain over, that nothing be lost. [Christ is the economist of the universe. This command was in keeping with his laws which permit nothing to suffer annihilation. Ruin and destruction have no other effect than merely to change the form of things. Every atom of the material world which was here at the beginning of creation is here to-day, though it may have changed its form a million times in the progress of events.] So they gathered them up, cand there was taken {athey took} cup that which remained over to them of athe broken pieces, dand filled atwelve baskets full. {bbasketfuls,} dwith broken pieces from the five barley loaves, which remained over unto them that had eaten. band also of the fishes. a21 And they that did eat {bate} the loaves were aabout five thousand men, besides women and children. [Considering the distance from any town, the women and children would not likely be numerous. They form no part of the count, for Eastern usage did not permit the women to sit with the men. They, with the little ones, would stand apart.] d14 When therefore the people saw the sign which he did, they said, This is of a truth the prophet that cometh into the world. [That is to say, this is the Messiah, the prophet promised at Deuteronomy 18:15. Their desire to avenge the death of John made them feverishly anxious for the appearance of the Messiah, but this faith was inconstant.] [378]

[FFG 375-378]

Verses 22-71

(At the synagogue in Capernaum.)
dJOHN VI. 22-71.

d22 On the morrow [the morrow after Jesus fed the five thousand] the multitude that stood on the other side of the sea [on the east side, opposite Capernaum] saw that there was no other boat there, save one, and that Jesus went not with his disciples into the boat, but that his disciples went away alone 23 (howbeit there came boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they ate the bread after that the Lord had given thanks): 24 when [382] the multitude therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they themselves got into the boats, and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. [This sentence is a complicated one, because it contains much in a condensed form. On the evening of the miracle the multitude had seen that there was but one boat, and that the disciples had gone away in it, leaving Jesus in the mountain. Jesus had dispersed the multitude, but many of them had not gone very far. On the morrow they came again to the scene of the miracle, and were perplexed at not finding Jesus. After some time they became convinced that he was not there, because if he had been, his disciples would have returned to seek him. In the meantime the keen-eyed boatmen about Tiberias, then the largest city on the lake, seeing the multitude on the farther shore, saw in their presence there an opportunity to earn a ferry fee, so they soon crossed the lake to accommodate the people. As Capernaum was the well-known headquarters of Jesus, the boatmen were directed to proceed thither that the multitude might find him.] 25 And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither? [They found him at Capernaum in the synagogue, having but lately arrived from the land of Gennesaret. Though their question relates only to the time when Jesus crossed, it implies and includes a desire to know the manner also.] 26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily [his answer was as serious as their question was flippant], I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw signs [Jesus includes the healing of the sick as well as the feeding of the multitude], but because ye ate of the loaves, and were filled. [They did not seek Jesus because they saw in him a divine Friend who could satisfy the deep needs of the soul, but as a wonder-worker who could fill their bodies with food when occasion required.] 27 Work not for the food which perisheth [bodily food], but for the food which abideth unto eternal life [spiritual food], which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him the Father, even God, hath sealed. [In our land [383] a man consents to and makes a written instrument his own--an expression of his will--by signing it; but in the East he did this by affixing his seal to it ( 1 Kings 21:8, Esther 3:12, Esther 8:10, Jeremiah 32:10). The meaning of Jesus’ words, therefore, is that God the Father had commissioned him as Messiah, and had authenticated his mission as such by the works which he had given him to do-- John 5:36.] 28 They said therefore unto him, What must we do, that we may work the works of God? [They wished to know what to do in order to earn the abiding food; that is, by what works they might so please God as to obtain it. Humanity, in seeking to answer this question, has invented pilgrimages, penances, fasts, mutilations and many other methods of self-punishment; not heeding the plain and decisive answer of Jesus.] 29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. [Belief in Jesus as the Son of God is the one all-comprehensive work which pleases God ( Hebrews 11:6). Jesus reiterates this important truth several times in this discourse; see John 6:35, John 6:36, John 6:40, John 6:47, etc., and the doctrine contained in it is elaborated in the epistles of Paul.] 30 They said therefore unto him, What then doest thou for a sign, that we may see, and believe thee? what workest thou? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, He gave them bread out of heaven to eat. [The trend of questions and answers in this discourse forms a close parallel to that at John 4:1-42., but with a different conclusion. There Jesus discoursed of life under the figure of water, and here under the figure of bread. There the woman vacillated between her good and evil impulses until her better nature triumphed. Here there was a like vacillation, terminating in opposite result. There the woman compared Jesus with Jacob, the well-digger ( John 4:12); here the people compare him with Moses, the manna-giver--each comparing him unfavorably.] 32 Jesus therefore said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, It was not Moses that gave you the bread out of heaven; but [384] my Father giveth you the true bread out of heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. [In testing the claims of Jesus the Jews proceeded upon the hypothesis that the Messiah must be greater than all the prophets, and that this greatness must be authenticated or sealed by greater signs than those wrought by others. Proceeding under this method, they compared the miracle just wrought by Jesus with the fall of manna in the days of Moses and drew conclusions unfavorable to Jesus. They reason thus: "Moses fed many millions for forty years with bread from heaven, but Moses was less than Messiah. This man fed but five thousand for only one day and gave them barley bread. This man is even less than Moses, and consequently far less than the Messiah."] 34 Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. [They readily recognized the insufficiency of manna and the possibility of God sending a better bread, and in a vague, wondering, half-credulous mood they asked for it just as the woman asked for water ( John 4:15). In answer to each set of questions Jesus proceeded to reveal himself, and to show that the blessings sought were not external to himself, but were in himself and were obtained by belief in him. When Jesus stood thus self-revealed, the Samaritan woman believed in him and was satisfied; but these Jews at Capernaum disbelieved and murmured.] 35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall not hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. [Compare John 4:10, John 4:13, John 4:14.] 36 But I said unto you, that ye have seen me, and yet believe not. [The personality of Jesus was the great proof of his divinity, but the Jews, though familiar with that personality, refused to consider it, and kept clamoring for a sign. Hence Jesus states the hopelessness of the situation. If one refuses to believe in the sun when he sees its light, feels its heat and witnesses its life-giving power, by what sign will you demonstrate to him the existence of the sun?] 37 All that which the Father giveth me shall come unto me; [385] and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. [These words of Christ arise naturally out of the situation. The Jews, having wavered between belief and disbelief, had settled in a proud disbelief which was about to be expressed in murmuring and scorn. They were complacently self-satisfied, and felt that they had displayed great wisdom in arriving at this decision. But Jesus strikes at their pride by informing them that they are not his because God has rejected them as unworthy to be given to him. There is no suggestion or hint that the Father acts arbitrarily in selecting whom he shall give to Christ. The Son of God followed a prescribed course in the winning of men. If this did not win them, it was the Father’s decree that they were not his. If this course did win them, Jesus in nowise rejected them, no matter how lowly their station, or how vile their past record.] 38 For I am come down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. 39 And this is the will of him that sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that every one that beholdeth the Son, and believeth on him, should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. [It was the purpose of God the Father to offer to the sons of men an eternal life through the life-giving power of Jesus Christ. The power which was to work in men a fitness for this exalted honor was a belief in the Son. How could signs and wonders be wrought contrary to the Father’s will? They ought to have believed for the signs and wonders he had already wrought, instead of pretending that he had wrought none that were conclusive of his claims.] 41 The Jews therefore murmured concerning him, because he said, I am the bread which came down oiut of heaven. 42 And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How doth he now say, I am come down out of heaven? [The Jews had entered with Christ upon a discussion as to whether he was a greater prophet than Moses, and as [386] they denied even this fact, it is not to be wondered that they murmured at the turn which the discussion had taken. In asserting that he came down from heaven, etc., he ascribed to himself a participation in the divine glory which entitled him to an absolute superiority over all men, prophets or others. This claim was to them insufferable, and they thought they had a sufficient answer to it in that they supposed themselves to be acquainted with his birth and parentage.] 43 Jesus answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. 44 No man can come to me, except the Father that sent me draw him. And I will raise him up in the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets [ Isaiah 54:13, Jeremiah 31:33, Jeremiah 31:34, Joel 3:16, Joel 3:17], And they shall all be taught of God. Every one that hath heard from the Father, and hath learned, cometh unto me. [Jesus rebukes their murmuring as out of place. They thought themselves offended by what they believed to be an intolerable assumption on his part. But they were really offended in him for an entirely different cause, viz.: because they were not drawn by the Father. The Father had given the law as a tutor to draw to Christ ( Galatians 3:24), and he had also sent forth his prophets for the same purpose. Those who had availed themselves of this instruction, and had learned the Father’s lessons, were ready to come to Christ. The sense of misery and desire of redemption begotten by the law drove one to Christ, and all the yearnings and aspirations inspired by the prophets attracted him thither. The Father had taught, but the people had not learned, just as their fathers had not learned; and Jesus accuses them in language kindred to the accusation of Moses when he says, "But Jehovah hath not given you a heart to know, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day" ( Deuteronomy 29:4). In each case the people were to blame.] 46 Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he that is from God, he hath seen the Father. [The Jews might have construed the words of Jesus as indicating an immediate relation to the Father and of obtaining instruction directly from him. Such a doctrine would strike [387] at the mediation of Christ. Jesus therefore guards against this false apprehension by denying humanity’s direct access to God the Father, and claiming it as his own exclusive right. The teaching of the Father which he spoke of was obtained through the Scriptures and (in earlier times) the prophets, who were the authors of the Scriptures.] 47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. 48 I am the bread of life. [Jesus here reasserts the proposition to which the Jews had objected. Having paused to speak of the cause of their objections, he now asserts the main propositions, that he may enlarge upon them.] 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. [Manna did not stay death. During the forty years’ sojourn in the wilderness all the grown men who started from Egypt died save two.] 50 This is the bread which cometh down out of heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. [He quietly condescends to contrast the two breads. Manna simply sustained the body like any other natural food; it did no more. Jesus is supernatural food; he sustains the spirit unto eternal life.] 51 I am the living bread which came down out of heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread which I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world. [He had declared himself to be the bread of life, but bread must be assimilated. The assimilation of natural bread requires eating, but Jesus, the spiritual bread, is assimilated by believing on him. But he was not then perfected as the bread of life. It was necessary that he should sacrifice himself for our sins before sins could be forgiven, and it was necessary for sins to be forgiven before men could have life with God. By his sacrifice on the cross he opened the fountain of forgiveness. By raising his humanity from the dead and by taking it with him in his ascension into heaven, he showed the results which men may expect to accrue to them by his death upon the cross.] 52 The Jews therefore strove one with another, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? [They were not all of one mind with regard to Christ, and they [388] discussed from opposite sides the problem raised by these mysterious words.] 53 Jesus therefore said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, ye have not life in yourselves. [He here expressed in words what he afterward expressed in symbols, when he gave the Lord’s supper. The vital force of a disciple is proportioned to his belief in, remembrance of, and desire to assimilate the Christ.] 54 He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life. And I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. [The flesh to be eaten must be broken, and the blood, if it is to be drunk, must be poured out. Christ speaks of himself as the sacrifice given for the saving of the world, and one must appropriate to himself by faith this expiation and find in it reconciliation with God if he would live; but the John 6:56 enlarges the thought and shows that it includes more than the idea of expiation.] 56 He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me, and I in him. [The thought of drinking blood was startling to the Jew, for he was forbidden to taste even the blood of animals, and the reason assigned was very pertinent--because the blood was the life of the animal ( Genesis 9:4, Leviticus 17:10-14). By insisting, therefore, on the drinking of his blood, Jesus has insisted that his very life be absorbed and assimilated. To be disciples of other teachers it is only necessary that we accept and follow their doctrine. But to be a disciple of Christ is to do more than this. His divinity permits us to have a spiritual communion and fellowship with him, an abiding in his presence, an indwelling of his Spirit, and a veritable assimilation of life from him. Were it otherwise he could not be food for the spirit--bread of life. He had started to show to the Jews that he was to the spirit what bread was to the body. It was difficult to bring home to their carnal minds so spiritual a thought, and therefore Jesus clothed it in carnal metaphors and made it as plain as possible. Christians to-day, being more spiritually minded, and more used to spiritual [389] language, are somewhat confused by the carnal dress in which Jesus clothed his thought.] 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live necause of the Father; so he that eateth me, he also shall live because of me. [The result of our union or abiding with Christ is a perfect life. The life of the Father enters the soul of the disciple through the mediatorship of the Son. The Father, who is the fountain of life, sent forth the Son that he might bestow it upon all who believe in him and abide in him.] 58 This is that bread which came out of heaven: not as the fathers ate and died; he that eateth this bread shall live for ever. [Thus Jesus sums up the comparison which the Jews had thrust upon him between himself and the manna.] 59 These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. [It was in the synagogue built by the centurion, which we have before mentioned. Pots of manna appear to have been engraved upon its walls, possibly upon the frieze, for Colonel Wilson says of it: "It was not without a certain strange feeling that, on turning over one of the blocks (in the ruins), we found the pot of manna engraved on its face, and remembered the words, ’I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.’"] 60 Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? 61 But Jesus knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at this, said unto them, Doth this cause you to stumble? 62 What then if ye should behold the Son of man ascending where he was before? [If the prophecy of his sacrifice disturbed their dreams of a temporal kingdom, what would be the effect of his ascension on those dreams? The Book of Acts answers our Lord’s question. In the very hour of the ascension the very apostles were still expecting the revival of the kingdom of David, with Jerusalem for its capital. But ten days later, at Pentecost, they had abandoned the earthly idea and looked upon Jesus as enthroned at the right hand of God-- Acts 1:6, Acts 2:32-36.] 63 It is the spirit that giveth life; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I [390] have spoken unto you are spirit, are are life. [Jesus here tells them plainly that his words relate to the spiritual realm, and to life in that realm. It is his Spirit in our spirit which gives eternal life. His flesh in our flesh would profit nothing, even were a priest able, by his blessing, to perform the miracle of transubstantiation. The life-principle of Jesus lay in his divinity, and his divinity lay in his Spirit, and not in his flesh. We would not come in contact with his divinity by eating that which represented his humanity.] 64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. 65 And he said, For this cause have I said unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it be given unto him of my Father. [Jesus here distinguishes between those who were drawn to him by divine influences, and who were therefore ready to follow him as he really was, and those who were drawn to him by mistaken notions concerning him, and who would desert him as soon as they discovered that their conceptions of him were incorrect. He knew the reason which prompted each to become his disciple.] 66 Upon this many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. [He had sifted them, for their false following could be of no benefit either to them or to his kingdom.] 67 Jesus said therefore unto the twelve, Would ye also go away? [Jesus had sifted the outer circle of his disciples, and the loss, though prophetically anticipated, was not without its pang. In this sixty-seventh verse he proceeds to sift the innermost circle, and his words are full of pathos. By giving them an opportunity to depart he called forth from them an expression of loyalty which bound them more closely to him.] 68 Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. 69 And we have believed and know that thou art the Holy One of God. 70 Jesus answered them, Did not I choose you the twelve, and one of you is a devil? 71 Now he spake of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, [391] for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve. [We have seen from John 6:64 that Jesus has already had the betrayer in his mind. Here he speaks of him openly. In a discourse which forecasted his passion it was natural that he should allude to his betrayer, especially, when his presence enforced remembrance. But there was another reason to mention him at this time. He was an illustration of the truth that no man could be a real follower of Jesus unless he became such by the drawing of the Father.]

NOTE.--On the following page will be found a foot-note indicating a disagreement as to chronology. In the preparation of this work the senior editor preferred to let the junior editor be responsible for the harmonistic and chronological features of it, and hence his corrections as to these particulars are obliged to appear as foot-notes, since it is now impossible to readjust the work to suit them.--P. Y. P. [392]

[FFG 382-392]

Bibliographical Information
McGarvey, J. W. "Commentary on John 6". "J. W. McGarvey's Original Commentary on Acts". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/oca/john-6.html. Transylvania Printing and Publishing Co. Lexington, KY. 1872.
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