John 7. The Feast of Tabernacles.
. The Remonstrance of the Brethren.—This incident is often now used to support the view that in the original draft of the gospel no visit to Jerusalem before this was recorded. Excision and rearrangement can, of course, accomplish anything, but a more natural history of the ministry can be written on the lines of the gospel as it stands. The connexion of this chapter with John 7:5 has been mentioned. John 7:1 is the natural sequel of work in Jerusalem or Judæa. The Lord's brethren share the unfavourable judgment, if not the disillusionment, of the crowd. If He has any claims to be Messiah they must be decided at the capital, not by hiding in Galilee. Jesus, knowing the rulers' attitude from recent experience, answers that His time is not yet. He would only meet the reformer's fate. They can go safely. He must not go up to this Feast. The difficulty felt at His sudden change of mind led to the addition of "yet" (John 7:8).
. The Secret Visit.—Soon, however, He receives the Divine intimation, for which He always waits (cf. John 2:4, John 11:6 f.) and goes up secretly. The "Jews" are discussing Him, and various opinions are expressed, but only in secret from fear of the leaders of the party, who are known to be hostile. When He appears in the Temple and teaches, they are surprised at the power of one who has not been trained in the schools. He replies that His teaching has a higher source, as all will recognise who are willing to obey God's will (cf. Numbers 16:28). The self-sent teacher will betray himself by the selfishness of his aims. Circumcision is allowed to override the law of the Sabbath. Why not, therefore, His healing of the whole man, in consequence of which they are ready to break the law, "Thou shalt not kill"? The similarity of the argument to the Rabbinical tract "Sabbath" is striking—"if for circumcision, which deals with one member only, the Sabbath must give way, how much more in the case of saving life?" Their judgment should be based on something deeper than the mere appearance of law-breaking.
. Results in Jerusalem.—The surprise of the "Jews" at His accusation of murder shows that they were ignorant of the plans of their leaders. Some of the Jerusalemites are better informed, and cannot understand the inaction of their rulers. Have they been convinced? But He does not fulfil the expected conditions. Messiah is to appear suddenly. This view is found in Enoch and 4 Esdras (cf. also Justin, Trypho, 49, 110). Jesus in reply contrasts their knowledge of Him and His origin with their ignorance of God who sent Him, in words which appear blasphemous. They seek to lay hands on Him. The crowd is on His side. Messiah Himself could not perform greater works. The Pharisees get anxious at their attitude. The Priests, always mentioned first when action is needed, send to arrest Him. Jesus knows His danger. He tells His friends that He will not be with them long. They will want Him, but will not be able to follow. The "Jews" deride the idea. Perhaps He is thinking of a journey to the Diaspora, where teaching like His might find a more sympathetic audience, not simply among Jews but among the Greeks themselves. They are, however, perplexed at what He says. This portrait of opinion at Jerusalem cannot be the product of the author's own time.
. The Last Day of the Feast.—The Feast of Tabernacles, the feast of the ingathering at the end of summer, lasted seven days in early times (Deuteronomy 16:13). An eighth day was added later (Leviticus 23:36). The custom of bringing water from Siloah each day and only pouring it out before the altar, is known certainly for later times, but probably existed in Christ's time. It was held to commemorate the gift of water in the wilderness (Exodus 17:6), and was accompanied by the recitation of Isaiah 12:3. John 7:37 f. is best interpreted by taking "He that believeth on me" with John 7:37, "If any man thirst let him come to me, and drink he that believeth on me" i.e. "he that believeth on me let him drink" (for the order, cf. John 1:12, 1 John 5:12). John 7:38 is then a promise that Christ will quench the spiritual thirst of His followers. The source of the quotation is unknown, but cf. Exodus 17:6, the water flowing from the rock; Ezekiel 47, the prophecy of the waters issuing from the Temple, symbolising the gift of the Spirit; and the tradition that Messiah or His forerunner Elijah was to restore not only the manna, but also the gift of water. [See further ET, xviii. 100, xxii. 10, xxiii. 180, 235.] The author's explanation that the promise referred to the Spirit is natural. The addition, "There was not yet spirit, for Jesus was not yet glorified" (p. 745), caused difficulty which led to various expansions of the text (cf. mg.). The appeal raised the expectations of the crowd to think of Him either as the prophet Jeremiah raised from the dead (cf. Matthew 16:14), or the prophet of Deuteronomy 18:15, or else as the Christ. Against this was urged His Galilean origin. Messiah was to be of the house of David and Bethlehem His birthplace (Micah 5:2). The Jerusalemites expect Messiah to appear suddenly from heaven, the crowd looks for a Davidic king; the distinction suggests real knowledge. The story now reverts to the attempted arrest. The officers excuse their failure because of the power of His words on the people. The contempt of the rulers for the crowd may be illustrated from Pirke Aboth, i. 6, "Hillel used to say ‘A rude man fears not sin, and no vulgar person (‘am haarez) is pious'" (p. 624, Ezra 4:4*). But other views are held by a minority in the Sanhedrin. Nicodemus pleads for a fair trial, but is received with scorn. Galilee does not produce prophets. The cases of Nahum and Jonah (2 Kings 14:25) are apparently forgotten. [Perhaps with the Sahidic Version we should read "The prophet arises not out of Galilee."—A. J. G.]
John 7:53 to John 8:11. Jesus and the Woman Accused of Sin.—The well-known story of the woman taken in adultery has no claim to be regarded as part of the original text of this gospel. It breaks the close connexion between John 7 and John 8:12 ff., and in style and vocabulary it is clearly Synoptic rather than Johannine. Of early Greek MSS the Cambridge MS (D) alone contains it, and in a text which differs considerably from that of the later Greek MSS from which it passed into the Received Text. Of early VSS the Latin alone contains it, and it was absent from some forms even of the Latin. It is supported by no early Patristic evidence. The evidence proves it to be an interpolation of a "Western" character. It is found in various places, after John 7:36 in one Greek MS, after John 7:44 in the Georgian Version, at the end of the gospel in other MSS. In one important group of Greek cursives it is found attached to Luke 21:37.
Eusebius (H.E., iii. 39) tells us that Papias recorded a similar story "of a woman accused before the Lord of many sins," which was also in the Gospel according to the Hebrews. This suggests as the most probable explanation of its association with the Fourth Gospel that the story, which bears every mark of preserving a true tradition, found a place in Papias' books of "Expositions of the Dominical Logia," as illustrating the Lord's saying (John 8:15), "I judge no man" (see Light-foot, Essays on Supernatural Religion, pp. 203ff.).
The evidence of Codex D and other textual phenomena suggest perhaps that it existed in more than one Greek translation. If so the original was not Latin, as the Latin texts show clear traces of translation from Greek. Its insertion in certain MSS in Lk. is due to the similarity between John 8:1 f. and Luke 21:37 ff.
The incident is not one which early Christian opinion would have been likely to invent. It is beyond the power of the sub-apostolic age to produce. As Lightfoot says, "they had neither the capacity to imagine, nor the will to invent, an incident which, while embodying the loftiest of all moral teaching, would seem to them dangerously lax in its moral tendencies."
Like other questions addressed to the Lord the "tempting" consisted in the endeavour to catch Him in a dilemma. If He pronounced against the strict carrying out of the Mosaic Law He would be discredited with the people. If He counselled action contrary to the decrees of the Roman authorities, who had withdrawn from the Jews the power of inflicting capital punishment, His enemies would get material for accusation against Him. The answer contained nothing which disparaged legal punishment, and it threw on the accusers the responsibility of taking action. It left untouched the question of Jewish and Roman relations, and it raised the deeper moral issues of the right to condemn and the true end of punishment.
[John 8:9. when they heard it: C. R. Gregory (ET, x. 193) quotes an ancient MS as giving "when thay read it."—A. J. G.]
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Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on John 7". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
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