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Bible Commentaries
John 8

McGarvey's Commentaries on Selected BooksMcGarvey'S Commentaries

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Verses 1-11

dJOHN VII. 53-VIII. 11.

[This section is wanting in nearly all older manuscripts, but Jerome (A. D. 346-420) says that in his time it was contained in "many Greek and Latin manuscripts," and these must have been as good or better than the best manuscripts we now possess. But whether we regard it as part of John’s narrative or not, scholars very generally accept it as a genuine piece of history.] d53 And they went every man unto his own house [confused by the question of Nicodemus, the assembly broke up and each man went home]: 1 but Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. [Probably crossing the mountain to the house of Lazarus and sisters.] 2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down [as an authoritative teacher did-- Matthew 5:1], and taught them. 3 And the scribes and the Pharisees bring a woman taken in adultery; and having set her in the midst, 4 they say unto him, Teacher, this woman hath been taken in adultery, in the very act. [The woman had probably been brought to the rulers for trial, and they had seen in her case what appeared to be a promising means of entrapping Jesus. In the presence of the woman and the form of their accusation we see their coarse brutality. The case could have been presented to Jesus without the presence of the woman, and without a detailed accusation.] 5 Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such [It was a case under Deuteronomy 22:22. Stoning was the legal method of capital punishment]: what then sayest thou of her? 6 And this they said, trying him, that they might have whereof to accuse him. [They were placing Jesus in a dilemma. They reasoned that he [451] could not set aside the law of Moses and clear the woman without so losing the confidence and favor of the people as to frustrate his claim to be Messiah. They thought he would therefore be compelled to condemn the woman. But if he ordered her to be put to death, he would be assuming authority which belonged only to the Roman rulers, and could therefore be accused and condemned as a usurper.] But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground. [His act was intended to make them vehement, and to give his answer greater effect. What he wrote is unimportant and immaterial, and hence was not told.] 7 But when they continued asking him [they insisted on an answer, hoping that he would so explain away the seventh commandment as to encourage them in breaking the sixth], he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. [Under the law ( Deuteronomy 17:7), the witnesses were to cast the first stone. Jesus maintained and vindicated the law, but imposed a condition which they had overlooked. The one who executed the law must be free from the same crime, lest by stoning the woman he condemn himself as worthy of a like death. There is no doubt that the words of Jesus impressed upon them the truth that freedom from the outward act did not imply inward purity or sinlessness-- Matthew 5:27, Matthew 5:28.] 8 And again he stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground. [Thus giving them the opportunity to retire without the embarrassment of being watched.] 9 And they, when they heard it, went out one by one, beginning from the eldest, even unto the last [the oldest was first to be convicted of his conscience, because his experience of life’s sinfulness was necessarily the fullest]: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the midst. [I. e., in the midst of the court, where the crowd had been.] 10 And Jesus lifted up himself, and said unto her, Woman, where are they? did no man condemn thee? [This question is asked to pave the way for the dismissal of the woman.] 11 And she said, No man, Lord. ["Lord" is ambiguous; it [452] may mean "Master" or simply "sir."] And Jesus said, Neither do I condemn thee: go thy way; from henceforth sin no more. [The woman did not ask forgiveness, so no words of pardon are spoken. Compare this case with Luke 12:14. Jesus did not come as an earthly judge; neither did he come to condemn, but to save. The narrative shows how Jesus could deal with malice and impurity in a manner so full of delicacy and dignity as to demonstrate the divine wisdom which dwelt within him.]

[FFG 451-453]

Verses 12-59

(Jerusalem. October, A. D. 29.)
dJOHN VIII. 12-59.

d12 Again therefore Jesus spake unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life. [The metaphor of light was common, and signified knowledge and life; darkness is opposed to light, being the symbol of ignorance and death.] 13 The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest witness of thyself; thy witness is not true. [They perhaps recalled the words of Jesus at John 5:31.] 14 Jesus answered and said unto them, Even if I bear witness of myself, my witness is true; for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye know not whence I come, and whither I go. [No man can bear testimony of his own nature, for he knows neither its origin nor its end. The Jews could not judge as to Christ’s nature--that he was the source of light and life, because of their ignorance as to him. But Jesus, having complete knowledge as to his eternal existence, was qualified to testify. These are truths about Deity to which Deity alone can testify, and as to the truth of which [453] Deity alone is fully competent to judge.] 15 Ye judge after the flesh [i. e., carnally, superficially, according to appearances. Carnal tests are not suited to spiritual truth]; I judge no man. 16 Yea and if I judge, my judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me. [He contrasts his spirit with theirs. They came upon him eager to condemn, but he had come not to condemn, but to save ( John 3:17). As an exception to his general course he might at intervals condemn a sinner; but should be do so the sentence would be just, for it would be the judgment of the Father, and hence devoid of any personal resentment or other biasing, perverting influence; the Father being lifted above and removed from the heats of argument in which the Son engaged.] 17 Yea and in your law it is written, that the witness of two men is true. 18 I am he that beareth witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me. [Jesus here returns to the point raised in John 8:13. He cites the law as to two witnesses, found at Deuteronomy 19:15, and calls the law their law because they had arrogantly claimed possession of it ( John 7:49). The Father had borne witness to the Son by the prophets, including John the Baptist, by his voice at the baptism and transfiguration, by the works wrought by Jesus, and by the very nature of the life manifested by our Lord throughout his entire ministry. If the witness of two men establishes truth, much more the witness of the two divine voices--that of the Father and of the Son.] 19 They said therefore unto him, Where is thy Father? [They evidently thought that Jesus referred to the testimony of some earthly parent (see John 8:27), and appeal to him to produce this absent, unseen witness. It was according to their carnal or fleshly judgment to thus think.] Jesus answered, Ye know neither me, nor my Father: if ye knew me, ye would know my Father also. [If they had really known the Son they would have recognized in him the Father, and vice versa-- John 14:6, John 14:8.] 20 These words spake he in the treasury, as [454] he taught in the temple and no man took him; because his hour was not yet come. [The treasury, or place where the chests for offerings were placed, was in the court of the women, the most public part of the Jewish temple. It was near the hall Gazith, where the Sanhedrin met. Though he taught in a place so suited to his arrest, he was not taken. There is evidently a pause after John 8:20, but probably not a very long one.] 21 He said therefore Jesus again unto them, I go away, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sin: whither I go, ye cannot come. [See comment on John 8:30], If ye abide in my word, then are ye truly my disciples [Discipleship is an abiding condition--a life, not an act. The prejudices and preconceived notions of these Jews would prevent them from believing on him]; 32 and ye shall [456] know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. [Freedom consists in conformity to that which, in the realm of intellect, is called truth, and in the realm of morality, law. The only way in which we know truth is to obey it, and God’s truth gives freedom from sin and death.] 33 They answered unto him, We are Abraham’s seed, and have never yet been in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? 34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Every one that committeth sin is the bondservant of sin. [Jesus here shows that the freedom of which he spoke was spiritual--a relief from the distress mentioned in John 8:21, John 8:24.] 35 And the bondservant abideth not in the house for ever: the son abideth for ever. 36 If therefore the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. [For light on this passage read Galatians 4:19-21. Slaves have no permanent relationship to a house, and may be changed at will. God was about to dismiss the Jews as unfaithful slaves ( Luke 20:16-19). Sons, on the contrary, have a permanent relationship to the house, and if a son take one into fraternal adoption, he communicates to such a one his own perpetuity-- Romans 8:2.] 37 I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; yet ye seek to kill me, because my word hath not free course in you. [Outwardly and carnally ye are Abraham’s seed, but ye are not so inwardly and spiritually, for he was the friend of God ( James 2:23), but ye are the enemies of God’s Son, even seeking to kill him because ye are so corrupt that his words are distasteful to you, and ye resist them.] 38 I speak the things which I have seen with my Father: and ye also do the things which ye heard from your father. [An introductory statement leading up to John 8:44. In the discourse which follows, Jesus discloses two households, two sets of children, and two styles of language or thought--one divine, the other diabolic.] 39 They answered and said unto him, Our father is Abraham. [Seeing that he was distinguishing between his parentage and their parentage, they reassert for themselves [457] the fatherhood of Abraham, leaving him to find a better one if he could.] Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. 40 But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I heard from God: this did not Abraham. [Jesus here asserts that true descent is spiritual--a common nature manifesting itself in a similarity of works. According to this standard, the works of the Jews disproved their claim to be derived from Abraham.] 41 Ye do the works of your father. [This refers back to John 8:38, and shows that in distinguishing between his and their parentage Jesus had not allotted them the parentage of Abraham which they so gliby claimed.] They said unto him, We were not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. [Perceiving that he spoke of spiritual parentage, and recognizing the fact that he had shattered their claim of spiritual derivation from Abraham, they fell back upon the citadel of Jewish confidence and pride--spiritually they were begotten of God; they were not begotten of an idolatrous but of a godly stock. Fornication is here used as the common symbol for idolatry-- Exodus 34:15, Exodus 34:16, Hosea 1:2, Hosea 2:4.] 42 Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I came forth and came from God; for neither have I come of myself, but he sent me. [If ye were God’s children, ye would recognize me as of the same household, and love me accordingly, for I am both God-derived and God-sent. Thus their hatred destroyed this claim also.] 43 Why do ye not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my word. [By "speech" here Jesus means the outward form or expression of an idea; by "word" he means the inner thought or substance--the idea itself. Throughout this whole dialogue the Jews had failed to understand the verbiage of Jesus, because his thoughts were so utterly unfamiliar that no words could make them plain. Minds filled with ideas of the devil find it difficult to comprehend the thoughts of God, no matter how plainly expressed.] 44 Ye are of your father the devil, [458] and the lusts [wishes, desires] of your father it is your will to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and standeth not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father thereof. [By your hatred of the truth and your desire to commit murder, which are notable lusts of the devil, you show that you are spiritually derived from him. He was a murderer in the very beginning, for he brought sin into the world, which caused death ( Romans 5:12). He shrinks from the truth as you do, because it meets no response in his heart. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own offspring, for he is a liar and the father of lying.] 45 And because I tell [you] the truth, ye believe me not. [As children of Satan they were used to his flattering speech; hence they rejected the word of Jesus because it was the bitter truth, and convicted them of sin.] 46 Which of you convicteth me of sin? If I say truth, why do ye not believe me? [If you can not convict me of sin, then what I say must be true. Why, then, do you not believe me?] 47 He that is of God heareth the words of God: for this cause ye hear them not, because ye are not of God. [The word "hear" is used in the sense of receive. Children of God love the honesty of God, but children of the devil prefer to be deceived. The saying is akin to John 3:20, John 3:21.] 48 The Jews [the same mentioned in John 8:31] answered and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a demon? [They present this piece of scorn as though it were a current saying; but it was probably suggested by the distinction in parentage which Jesus had just made. See John 8:38. He had shown they were no true sons of either Abraham or God, and they retaliate by calling him a Samaritan, swayed by diabolical influences. Jesus had visited Samaria ( John 4:5.), and had just come through Samaria to this feast; these things, coupled with his bitter charges against the sons of Abraham, were sufficient to suggest the slanderous accusation.] 49 Jesus answered, I have not a demon; but [459] I honor my Father, and ye dishonor me. [He did not deny the charge of being a Samaritan, not choosing to recognize the difference which they attached to race-- John 4:39-42, Luke 10:33, Luke 17:16.] 50 But I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth. [I do not mind your abuse, for I do not seek my own glory. My Father seeks it, and judges those in whom he finds it not-- John 5:23.] 51 Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my word, he shall never see death. [Jesus here re-states the thought in John 8:31, John 8:32. "To keep" here means to cherish and obey. Sin is bondage, and its wages is death. The fleshly body of the Christian dies, but the spirit within him does not. His eternal life begins in this world-- John 5:24.] 52 The Jews said unto him, Now we know that thou hast a demon. [They thus construed his words as a confirmation of their former accusation.] Abraham died, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my word, he shall never taste of death. 53 Art thou greater than our father Abraham, who died? and the prophets died: whom makest thou thyself? [The argument is this: God’s word spoken to Abraham and the prophets had not preserved their lives, yet you claim power of life for your words greater than God’s, yet surely you will not claim even to be as great as Abraham. Such wild talk is mere raving. They expected Jesus to disclaim the high position to which he seemed to have exalted himself.] 54 Jesus answered, If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing [he prefaces his answer by showing that his words are not spoken in a spirit of self-exaltation, but in accordance to the will of his Father]: it is my Father that glorifieth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God; 55 and ye have not known him: but I know him; and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be like unto you, a liar [referring back to John 8:44]: but I know him, and keep his word. [Jesus here makes plain as sunlight his entire discourse by showing that he has used the word Father where they would have used the word God. [460] There is a distinction, too, between the "known" and the "know" used by Jesus. The first represents knowledge which is acquired. The Jews had not acquired a knowledge of God from their Scriptures. The second, "know," indicates that which is grasped intuitively, by direct personal cognition.] 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad. ["My day" means the mediatorial manifestation of Messiah. Abraham saw it by faith in the promised seed.] 57 The Jews therefore said unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? [They continue to persist in a literal interpretation, and even wrest the words of Jesus; for Abraham might well have seen him as the seed of promise, without his fleshly eyes ever seeing Abraham. Fifty years indicated the prime of life. It had been two thousand years since the time of Abraham, and Jesus was not yet a mature man as estimated by years.] 58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was born, I am. ["I was" would simply have expressed priority, but "I am" marks timeless existence. It draws the contrast between the created and the uncreated, the temporal and the eternal. Compare Exodus 3:14.] 59 They took up stones therefore to cast at him. [judging him to be a blasphemer]: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple. [He doubtless drew back into the crowd and was concealed by his friends.]

[FFG 453-461]

Bibliographical Information
McGarvey, J. W. "Commentary on John 8". "J. W. McGarvey's Original Commentary on Acts". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/oca/john-8.html. Transylvania Printing and Publishing Co. Lexington, KY. 1872.
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