Bible Commentaries
John 20

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New TestamentRobertson's Word Pictures

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Verse 1

Now on the first day of the week (τη δε μια των σαββατων). Locative case of time when. Both Mark (Mark 16:2) and Luke (Luke 24:1) have this very idiom of the cardinal τη μια, instead of the usual ordinal τη πρωτη (first), an idiom common in the papyri and in the modern Greek (Robertson, Grammar, p. 671). In all three instances also we have the genitive plural των σαββατων for "the week" as in Acts 20:7. The singular σαββατον also occurs for "the week" as in Luke 18:12; Mark 16:9.

Cometh Mary Magdalene (Μαρια η Μαγδαληνη ερχετα). Vivid historical present. Mary Magdalene is not to be confounded with Mary of Bethany.

While it was yet dark (σκοτιας ετ ουσης). Genitive absolute. For σκοτια see John 6:17; Matthew 10:27. Mark (Mark 16:2) says the sun was risen on their actual arrival. She started from the house while still dark.

Taken away (ηρμενον). Perfect passive participle of αιρω, predicate accusative in apposition with τον λιθον.

Verse 2

Runneth (τρεχε). Vivid dramatic present indicative of τρεχω. John deals only with Mary Magdalene. She left the tomb at once before the rest and without seeing the angels as told in the Synoptics (Mark 16:2-8; Matthew 28:5-8; Luke 24:1-8). Luke (Luke 24:9-12) does not distinguish between the separate report of Mary Magdalene and that of the other women.

To Simon Peter (προς Σιμωνα Πετρον). Full name as usual in John and back with John and the other disciples. The association of Peter and the other disciple in John 20:18-21 is like that between Peter and John in John 20:1-5.

Loved (εφιλε). Imperfect of φιλεω for which see John 5:20; John 11:3 and for distinction from αγαπαω see John 11:5; John 13:23; John 21:7; John 21:15; John 21:17.

They have taken away (ηραν). First aorist active indicative of αιρω, indefinite plural.

We know not (ουκ οιδαμεν). Mary associates the other women with her in her ignorance. For εθηκαν (have laid) see John 19:42. Mary fears a grave robbery. She has no idea of the resurrection of Jesus.

Verse 3

They went (ηρχοντο). Imperfect middle picturing the scene, "they were going." The two started instantly (εξηλθεν, aorist active indicative).

Verse 4

They both (ο δυο). "The two" (Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved).

Ran together (ετρεχον ομου). Imperfect active of τρεχω. It was a race in eagerness to reach the tomb of Jesus.

Outran Peter (προεδραμεν ταχειον του Πετρου). Second aorist active indicative of προτρεχω, old verb, in N.T. only here and Luke 19:4, to run on before (ahead). "He ran ahead more swiftly (see John 13:27) than Peter" (ablative case after comparative adverb ταχειον, Koine for older θασσον).

First (πρωτος). Predicative nominative (not adverb προτον) and superlative used where only two involved. John won the race.

Verse 5

Stooping and looking in (παρακυψας). Originally to stoop and look, but in the LXX (Genesis 26:8; Judges 5:28; 1 Kings 6:4, etc.) and the papyri rather just to peep in and so Field (Ot. Norv.) urges here. See also verse John 20:11; Luke 24:12 (the verse bracketed by Westcott and Hort). For οθονια (linen cloth) see John 19:40.

Lying (κειμενα). Present middle participle of κειμα, predicative accusative. John notices this fact at once. If the body had been removed, these clothes would have gone also. John's timid nature made him pause (yet, μεντο, however).

Verse 6

Entered and beholdeth (εισηλθεν κα θεωρε). Aorist active and present active indicative. Peter impulsively went on in and beholds (θεωρε, vivid term again, but of careful notice, θεωρεω, not a mere glance βλεπω such as John gave in verse John 20:5).

Verse 7

The napkin (το σουδαριον). Already in John 11:44 which see. This napkin for the head was in a separate place.

Rolled up (εντετυλιγμενον). Perfect passive participle, predicate accusative like κειμενον, from εντυλισσω, late verb, to wrap in, to roll up, already in Matthew 27:59; Luke 23:53. It was arranged in an orderly fashion. There was no haste.

By itself (χωρις). Old adverb, "apart," "separately."

Verse 8

Then therefore (τοτε ουν). After Peter in time and influenced by the boldness of Peter.

And he saw and believed (κα ειδεν κα επιστευσεν). Both aorist active indicative (second and first). Peter saw more after he entered than John did in his first glance, but John saw into the meaning of it all better than Peter. Peter had more sight, John more insight. John was the first to believe that Jesus was risen from the tomb even before he saw him. According to Luke 24:12 Peter went away "wondering" still. The Sinaitic Syriac and 69 and 124 wrongly read here "they believed." John was evidently proud to be able to record this great moment when he believed without seeing in contrast to Thomas (John 20:29). Peter and John did not see the angels.

Verse 9

For (γαρ). Explanatory use of γαρ.

The Scripture (την γραφην). Probably Psalms 16:10. Jesus had repeatedly foretold his resurrection, but that was all forgotten in the great sorrow on their hearts. Only the chief priests and Pharisees recalled the words of Jesus (Matthew 27:62).

Must (δε). For this use of δε concerning Christ's death and resurrection see Mark 8:31; Matthew 26:54; Luke 9:22; Luke 17:25; Luke 22:37; Luke 24:7; Luke 24:26; Luke 24:44; John 3:14; John 12:34; Acts 1:16. Jesus had put emphasis on both the fact and the necessity of his resurrection which the disciples slowly perceived.

Verse 10

Unto their own home (προς αυτους). "To themselves." Luke (Luke 24:12) has προς αυτον about Peter ("to his home"). This use of the reflective pronoun for home (literally, "to themselves"), like the French chez eux, occurs in Josephus (Ant. VII. 4, 6). John had taken the mother of Jesus to his home (John 19:27) and so he now hurried home to tell her the glorious news as he believed.

Verse 11

Was standing (ιστηκε). Past perfect of ιστημ as imperfect as in John 19:25.

At the tomb (προς τω μνημειω). Προς (in front of) with locative while παρα (by the side of) with locative in John 19:25. Pathetic and common picture of a woman weeping by the tomb. See John 11:31.

As she wept (ως εκλαιεν). Imperfect, "as she was weeping."

She stooped and looked (παρεκυψεν). Aorist active indicative of παρακυπτω for which see verse John 20:5. Mary "peeped into" the tomb, but did not enter.

Verse 12

Beholdeth (θεωρε). Vivid historical present again as in verses John 20:6; John 20:14. Peter and John had not seen the two angels. Westcott suggests an "economy" in such manifestations as the explanations. Better our own ignorance as to the reason why only the women saw them. Angels were commonly believed to be clad in white. See Mark 16:5 (a young man in a white robe), Matthew 28:5 (the angel), Luke 24:4 (two men in dazzling apparel). For other angels in John's Gospel see John 1:41; John 12:29; John 20:12.

Had lain (εκειτο). Imperfect in progressive sense, "had been lying," though not there now.

Verse 13

I do not know (ουκ οιδα). Singular here, not plural as in verse John 20:2, because clearly Mary is alone here. But the problem is the same. She did not see Peter and John at the tomb.

Verse 14

She turned herself back (εστραφη εις τα οπισω). Second aorist passive indicative of στρεφω in an intransitive and almost reflective sense. In the disappearance of the aorist middle before the aorist passive see Robertson, Grammar, p.817. See also στραφεισα (second aorist passive participle) in verse John 20:16. On εις τα οπισω see John 6:66; John 18:6.

Standing (εστωτα). Second perfect active (intransitive) of ιστημ. Instinctively Mary felt the presence of some one behind her.

Was (εστιν). Present active indicative retained in indirect discourse after ηιδε (knew).

Verse 15

Sir (Κυριε). Clearly not "Lord" here, for she thought him to be "the gardener" (ο κηπουρος), old word (κηποσ, ουρος), keeper of the garden, only here in the N.T.

If thou hast borne him hence (ε συ εβαστασος αυτον). Condition of the first class. Note emphasis on συ (thou). A new idea struck Mary as mistaken as the other one. Jesus had repeated the question of the angels, but she did not recognize him.

And I (καγω). Emphasis and crasis.

Verse 16

Mary (Μαριαμ). Aramaic form in Aleph B W, though Μαρια in John 19:25. Clearly the old familiar tone of Jesus was in the pronunciation of her name.

Rabboni (Ραββουνε). Aramaic again for Διδασκαλε (Teacher), "my Teacher." In N.T. only here and Mark 10:51 though practically the same as Ραββ. See John 11:28 for "the Teacher" (Rabbi). These two simple words tell the great fact that Christ is risen and Mary has seen him. One says little in really great moments.

Verse 17

Touch me not (μη μου απτου). Present middle imperative in prohibition with genitive case, meaning "cease clinging to me" rather than "Do not touch me." Jesus allowed the women to take hold of his feet (εκρατησαν) and worship (προσεκυνησαν) as we read in Matthew 28:9. The prohibition here reminds Mary that the previous personal fellowship by sight, sound, and touch no longer exists and that the final state of glory was not yet begun. Jesus checks Mary's impulsive eagerness.

For I am not yet ascended (ουπω γαρ αναβεβηκα). Perfect active indicative. Jesus is here at all only because he has not yet gone home. He had said (John 16:7) that it was good for them that he should go to the Father when the Holy Spirit will come through whom they will have fellowship with the Father and Christ.

My God (θεου μου). Jesus had said "My God" on the Cross (Mark 15:34). Note it also in Revelation 3:2. So Paul in Romans 15:6, etc., has "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Verse 18

And telleth (αγγελλουσα). Present active participle, "announcing."

I have seen the Lord (Hεωρακα τον κυριον). Perfect active indicative of οραω. She will always carry in her heart that vision (picture) of the Risen Christ. She tells this fact before she delivers Christ's message to the brethren of Christ.

How that . No word in the Greek, but a conjunction like ως is implied. Hοτ here is recitative. The disciples (brethren) did not believe Mary's story nor that of the other women (Luke 24:11; Mark 16:11). Paul does not mention the vision to Mary or the women in 1 Corinthians 15:5-7. But Mary Magdalene was the first one to see the Risen Lord.

Verse 19

When therefore it was evening on that day (ουσης ουν οψιας τη ημερα εκεινε). Genitive absolute with οψια (οψιος, late), old word with ωρα (hour) understood and here for the time from six to nine (John 6:16) and the locative case of time with ημερα (day). John often uses this note of time (John 1:39; John 5:9; John 11:53; John 14:20; John 16:23; John 16:26). The addition of τη μια σαββατων (see John 20:1 for this use of μια like πρωτη) proves that John is using Roman time, not Jewish, for here evening follows day instead of preceding it.

When the doors were shut (των θυρων κεκλεισμενων). Genitive absolute again with perfect passive participle of κλειω, shut to keep the Jews out. News of the empty tomb had already spread (Matthew 28:11). See John 7:13 for the phrase "for fear of the Jews"; cf. John 12:42.

Stood in the midst (εστη εις το μεσον). Second aorist (ingressive) active (intransitive) of ιστημ, "stepped into the midst."

Peace be unto you (Ειρηνη υμιν). The usual oriental salutation as in verses John 20:21; John 20:26; Luke 24:36, here with probable reference to John 14:27 (Christ's legacy of peace).

Verse 20

Showed (εδειξεν). First aorist active indicative of δεικνυμ. This body, not yet glorified, retained the marks of the nails and of the soldier's spear, ample proof of the bodily resurrection against the modern view that only Christ's "spirit" arose and against the Docetic notion that Jesus had no actual human body. Luke (Luke 24:39) adds feet to hands and side.

Were glad (εχαρησαν). Second aorist passive indicative of χαιρω. Jesus had said (John 16:22) that it would be so. Luke adds (Luke 24:41) that they "disbelieved for joy." It was too good to be true, though terror had first seized them when Jesus appeared (Luke 24:37) because of the suddenness of Christ's appearance and their highly wrought state.

Verse 21

Even so send I you (καγω πεμπω υμας). Jesus has often spoken of the Father's sending him using both αποστελλω and πεμπω. Here he employs both words in practically the same sense. Jesus still bears the Commission of the Father (perfect active indicative). For this balanced contention (as ... so) see John 6:57; John 10:15. This is the first of the three commissions given by the Risen Christ (another on the mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20; 1 Corinthians 15:6), another on the Mount of Olives (Luke 24:44-51; Acts 1:3-11).

Verse 22

He breathed on them (ενεφυσησεν). First aorist active indicative of εμφυσαω, late verb, here only in N.T. though eleven times in the LXX and in the papyri. It was a symbolic art with the same word used in the LXX when God breathed the breath of life upon Adam (Genesis 2:7). It occurs also in Ezekiel 37:9. See Christ's promise in John 16:23. Jesus gives the disciples a foretaste of the great pentecost.

Receive ye the Holy Ghost (λαβετε πνευμα αγιον). Second aorist (ingressive) active imperative of λαμβανω. Note absence of article here (πνευμα αγιον) though το πνευμα το αγιον in John 14:26. No real distinction is to be observed, for Holy Spirit is treated as a proper name with or without the article.

Verse 23

Whosesoever sins ye forgive (αν τινων αφητε τας αμαρτιας). "If the sins of any ye forgive" (αφητε, second aorist active subjunctive with αν in the sense of εαν), a condition of the third class. Precisely so with "retain" (κρατητε, present active subjunctive of κρατεω).

They are forgiven (αφεωντα). Perfect passive indicative of αφιημ, Doric perfect for αφειντα.

Are retained (κεκρατηντα). Perfect passive indicative of κρατεω. The power to forgive sin belongs only to God, but Jesus claimed to have this power and right (Mark 2:5-7). What he commits to the disciples and to us is the power and privilege of giving assurance of the forgiveness of sins by God by correctly announcing the terms of forgiveness. There is no proof that he actually transferred to the apostles or their successors the power in and of themselves to forgive sins. In Matthew 16:19; Matthew 18:18 we have a similar use of the rabbinical metaphor of binding and loosing by proclaiming and teaching. Jesus put into the hands of Peter and of all believers the keys of the Kingdom which we should use to open the door for those who wish to enter. This glorious promise applies to all believers who will tell the story of Christ's love for men.

Verse 24

Didymus (Διδυμος). The same expression applied to Thomas in John 11:16; John 21:2, but nowhere else in N.T. Old word for twin (double), "the pessimist of the apostolic band" (Bernard). The term twelve is still applied to the group, though Judas, the traitor, is dead.

Verse 25

We have seen the Lord (εωρακαμεν τον κυριον). The very language in the plural that Mary Magdalene had used (John 20:18) when no one believed her.

Except I shall see (εαν μη ιδω). Negative condition of third class with εαν and second aorist active subjunctive and so as to βαλω (from βαλλω) "and put."

The print (τον τυπον). The mark or stamp made by the nails, here the original idea. Various terms as in Acts 7:44; 1 Timothy 4:12. Finally our "type" as in Romans 5:14. Clearly the disciples had told Thomas that they had seen the τυπον of the nails in his hands and the spear in his side.

I will not believe (ου μη πιστευσω). Strong refusal with ου μη (doubtful negative) and first aorist active subjunctive (or future indicative).

Verse 26

After eight days (μεθ' ημερας οκτω). That is the next Sunday evening, on the eighth day in reality just like "after three days" and "on the third day."

Within (εσω). Apparently in the same room as before.

Cometh (ερχετα). Vivid dramatic present. The other items precisely as in verse John 20:19 save Thomas was with them.

Verse 27

Then saith he to Thomas (ειτα λεγε τω Θομα). Jesus turns directly to Thomas as if he had come expressly for his sake. He reveals his knowledge of the doubt in the mind of Thomas and mentions the very tests that he had named (John 20:25).

Be not faithless (μη γινου απιστος). Present middle imperative of γινομα in prohibition, "stop becoming disbelieving." The doubt of Thomas in the face of the witness of the others was not a proof of his superior intelligence. Sceptics usually pose as persons of unusual mentality. The medium who won Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to spiritualism has confessed that it was all humbug, but he deceived the gullible novelist. But Thomas had carried his incredulity too far. Note play on απιστος (disbelieving) and πιστος (believing).

Verse 28

My Lord and my God (Hο κυριος μου κα ο θεος μου). Not exclamation, but address, the vocative case though the form of the nominative, a very common thing in the Koine. Thomas was wholly convinced and did not hesitate to address the Risen Christ as Lord and God. And Jesus accepts the words and praises Thomas for so doing.

Verse 29

Thou hast believed (πεπιστευκας). Perfect active indicative. Probably interrogative, but "it was sight, not touch that convinced Thomas" (Bernard).

And yet (κα). Clear use of κα in the adversative sense. Thomas made a noble confession, but he missed the highest form of faith without the evidence of the senses. Peter (1 Peter 1:8) uses language that seems like a reminiscence of the words of Jesus to Thomas which Peter heard.

Verse 30

Many other signs (πολλα αλλα σημεια). Not only those described in the Synoptic Gospels or referred to in general statements, but many alluded to in John's Gospel (John 2:23; John 4:45; John 12:37).

Are not written (ουκ εστιν γεγραμμενα). Periphrastic perfect passive indicative of γραφω, do not stand written, are not described "in this book." John has made a selection of the vast number wrought by Jesus "in the presence of the disciples" (ενωπιον των μαθητων), common idiom in Luke, not in Mark and Matthew, and by John elsewhere only in 1 John 3:22. John's book is written with a purpose which he states.

Verse 31

Are written (γεγραπτα). Perfect passive indicative of γραφω, "have been written" by John.

That ye may believe (ινα πιστευητε). Purpose with ινα and the present active subjunctive of πιστευω, "that you may keep on believing." The book has had precisely this effect of continuous and successive confirmation of faith in Jesus Christ through the ages.

Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (Ιησους εστιν ο Χριστος ο υιος του θεου). The man named Jesus is identical with the Messiah (the Anointed One) as opposed to the Cerinthian separation of the Jesus of history and the Christ (αεον) of theology. And the Docetic notion of a phantom body for Jesus with no actual human body is also false. Jesus is the Son of God with all that this high term implies, the Logos of John 1:1-18 (the Prologue). "Very God of very God," Incarnate Revealer of God. But there is a further purpose.

And that believing ye may have life in his name (κα ινα πιστευοντες ζωην εχητε εν τω ονοματ αυτου). Note present participle πιστευοντες (continuing to believe) and the present active subjunctive εχητε (keep on having). "Life" (ζωην) is eternal life so often mentioned in this Gospel, life to be found only in the name (and power) of Jesus Christ the Son of God. This verse constitutes a fitting close for this wonderful book and John may at first have intended to stop here. But before he published the work he added the Epilogue (Chapter XXI) which is written in the same style and gives a beautiful picture of the Risen Christ with a side-light on John and Peter (restored to fellowship).

Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on John 20". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.