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Bible Commentaries

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary
John 6

 

 

Other Authors
Introduction

CHAP. 6.

JESUS THE LIFE IN THE FLESH.


Verse 1

1.] μετὰ ταῦτα gives us no fixed date: see on ch. John 5:1. As Lücke remarks, the ἀπῆλθ. πέραν τῆς θαλ.…, if connected with the preceding discourse, would be unintelligible,—and can only be understood by the fragmentary character of this Gospel as relates to mere narration, and the well-known fact being presupposed, that His Ministry principally took place in Galilee.

Matt. gives this passage over the lake in connexion with the execution of John the Baptist: Mark and Luke, with the return of the Twelve from their mission. (The Twelve were probably gathered, or their gathering finished, in the interval since ch. John 5:47, during which time their mission also had taken place.)

τῆς ιʼ. τῆς τιβ.] The last appellation is probably inserted for the sake of Gentile readers, to whom it was best known by that name: thus Pausan. ver. 7. 3, αὐτὸς οἶδα ἰόρδανον λίμνην τιβερίδα ὀνομαζομένην διοδεύοντα: but it was more usually called, as by Josephus, γεννησάρ or γεννησαρῖτις, 1 Maccabees 11:67; Strabo xvi. 2 (Ptolem. John 6:15, Lücke).

τῆς τιβ. cannot mean that He came from Tiberias, however true that may have been. That would have been ἀπὸ or ἐκ τιβεριάδος. It is possible, though not likely, that τῆς τιβ. may have been a gloss, and have found its way into the text very early. But at all events we must not adopt the reading of (88) &c., εἰς τὰ μέρη τ. τιβ.,—for the fact was just otherwise: compare John 6:2; John 6:23.


Verses 1-15

1–15.] Miraculous feeding of five thousand men. Matthew 14:13-21. Mark 6:30-44. Luke 9:10-17,—in each of which compare the notes throughout. Here we have another example of John relating a miracle with the view of introducing a discourse, and that discourse carries on the testimony of Jesus to Himself. In the last, He was the SON OF GOD, testified to by the Father, received by faith, rejected by unbelief: here He is SON OF MAN, the incarnate Life of the world, and we have the unbelief of the Jews and His own disciples set in strong contrast with the feeding on and participating in Him as the Bread of Life.


Verse 2

2.] It is evident from this that a circuit in Galilee and works of healing are presupposed (see Matthew 14:13; Mark 6:33; Luke 9:11).


Verse 3

3.] τὸ ὄρος, perhaps ‘the hill country’ on the shore of the lake = ἔρημον τόπον κατʼ ἰδίον, Matt. The expression is used by John only here and in John 6:15, but no inference can be drawn from that, for this is the only portion of the Galilæan Ministry related by him.


Verse 4

4.] This will account, not for so great a multitude coming to Him, but perhaps (?) for the circumstance that the people at that time were gathered in multitudes, ready to set out on their journey to Jerusalem. We must remember also that the reference of the following discourse to the Passover being so pointed, the remark would naturally be here inserted by the Evangelist: but I would not, with Luthardt (i. 80; ii. 41) insist on this as the only reason for his making it.


Verse 5

5.] Here there is considerable difficulty, on account of the variation from Matt., Mark, and Luke, who relate that the disciples came to the Lord after He had been teaching and healing the multitudes, and when it was now evening,—and asked him to dismiss the multitudes, that they might buy food;—whereupon He commanded, ‘Give ye them to eat;’—whereas here apparently, on their first coming, the Lord Himself suggests the question, how they were to be fed, to Philip. This difference is not to be passed over, as it has usually been by English Commentators, without notice. Still less are we to invent improbable and hardly honest harmonistic shifts to piece the two narratives together. There can be no doubt, fairly and honestly speaking, that the narratives, in their mere letter, disagree. But those who are not slaves to the mere letter will see here that inner and deeper accordance of which Augustine (De Consensu Evang. ii. 46, vol. iii. pt. i.) speaks in commenting on this passage: “Ex qua universa varietate verborum, rerum autem sententiarumque concordia, satis apparet salubriter nos doceri, nihil quærendum in verbis nisi loquentium voluntatem; cui demonstrandæ invigilare debent omnes veridici narratores, cum de homine vel de angelo vel de Deo aliquid narrant.” I repeat the remark so often made in this Commentary,—that if we were in possession of the facts as they happened, there is no doubt that the various forms of the literal narrations would fall into their places, and the truthfulness of each historian would be apparent:—but as we cannot at present reconcile them in this way, the humble and believing Christian will not be tempted to handle the word of God deceitfully, but to admire the gracious condescension which has given us the evidence of so many independent witnesses, whose very difference in detail makes their accordance in the great central truths so much the more weighty. On every point of importance here, the four sacred historians are entirely and absolutely agreed. That every minor detail related by them had its ground in historical fact, we fully believe; it is the tracking it to this ground in each case, which is now beyond our power; and here comes in the simplicity and reliance of faith: and the justification of those who believe and receive each Gospel as they find it written.

πρὸς φ.] Why to Philip, does not appear; perhaps some reason lay in the πειράζων αὐτόν, which is now lost to us. From his words in ch. John 14:8, we cannot infer, as has been done by Chrys. (Hom. xlii. 1, in Joann. vol. viii. p. 249) and others, that he was weaker in faith, or tardier in spiritual apprehension, than the rest. Of all the Apostles who appear in the sacred narrative, something might be quoted shewing equal unreadiness to believe and understand. I would take the circumstance as simple matter of fact, implying perhaps that Philip was nearest to our Lord at the moment. We must not fall into the mistake of supposing that Philip being of Bethsaida the city of Andrew and Peter (ch. John 1:45) throws any light on the question: for the Bethsaida near which our Lord now was, Luke 9:10, was another place, see notes there.

πόθενwhence—‘from what store.’ Hence Philip’s answer.


Verse 6

6.] He knew:—by this St. John must be understood not only to rescue our Lord from the imputation of asking counsel of Philip, but to refer the miraculous act, on His part, to His purpose of exhibiting Himself as the Son of Man the Life of the World in the flesh.


Verse 7

7.] See notes on Mark.


Verse 8

8.] Meyer remarks, that εἷς ἐκ τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ may seem strange, seeing that Philip also was this: but that it has its pragmatic value, seeing that, Philip having been asked in vain, one from among the circle of the disciples answers, and is afterwards specified as having been Andrew.

In the three other Gospels, the loaves and fishes appear as the disciples’ own;—and we have thus a very simple but very instructive instance of the way in which differences in detail arose. They were their own,—but not till they had bought them.


Verse 9

9.] κριθίνους, the usual barley bread of the lower orders.

ὀψάρια = ἰχθύδια, Suidas, but of later Greek usage:—at first used to signify any thing subsidiary to bread as a relish, such as meat of all kinds, and condiments. Later however, from fish being, in the deeply coast-indented country of Greece, the most common animal food, it came to be applied to that alone or principally—(see art. Opsonium in the Dictionary of Gr. and Rom. Antiquities).


Verse 10

10.] χόρτος πολύς, in accordance with the time of year, the latter end of spring, after the rainy season.

On ἀναπεσεῖν see Mark and Luke, who describe the manner.

οἱ ἄμδρες] This is a particular touch of accuracy in the account of an eye-witness which has not I think been noticed. Why in the other accounts should mention be made only of the men in numbering them? Matt. has, it is true, χωρὶς γυν. κ. παιδ., leaving it to be inferred that there was some means of distinguishing;—the others merely give [ ὡσεὶ] ἄνδρες πεντακισχ. without any explanation. But here we see how it came to be so—the men alone were arranged in companies, or alone arranged so that any account was taken of them: the women and children being served promiscuously; who indeed, if the multitude were a paschal caravan (?), or parts of many such, would not be likely to be very numerous;—and here again we have a point of minute truthfulness brought out.


Verse 11

11.] On the process of the miracle, see notes on Matt. John describes the διάδοσις as being the act of the Lord Himself, and leaves the intervention of the disciples to be understood.

εὐχαριστήσας here answers to εὐλόγησεν in the other Gospels. It was the ‘grace’ of the father of the family; perhaps the ordinary one in use among the Jews. John seems to connect with it the idea brought out by Luke, εὐλ. αὐτούς, i.e. τοὺς ἄρτους: see John 6:23.


Verse 12

12.] Peculiar to John. The command, one end of which was certainly to convince the disciples of the power which had wrought the miracle, is given by our Lord a moral bearing also. They collected the fragments for their own use, each in his κόφινος, the ordinary furniture of the travelling Jew (“quorum cophinus fœnumque supellex,” Juv(89) Sat. iii. 14), to carry his food, lest he should be polluted by that of the people through whose territory he passed: see note on Matthew 15:32. Observe, that here the 12 baskets are filled with the fragments of the bread alone: but in Mark, with those of the fishes also.

We must not altogether miss the reference to the twelve tribes of Israel, typifying the Church which was to be fed with the bread of life to the end of time.


Verse 14

14.] On ὁ προφ. see note on ch. John 1:21,— ὁ προφ. εἶ σύ;


Verse 15

15.] After such a recognition, nothing was wanting but that the multitudes who were journeying to the Passover should take Jesus with them and proclaim Him king of the Jews in the holy City itself.

The other three Evangelists, while they do not give any intimation of this reason of our Lord’s withdrawal, relate the fact, and Luke preserves in the very next verse a trace of its motive,—by the question ‘Whom do the people say that I am?’ and the answer, expressing the very confession of the people here.


Verse 16

16.] ὀψία, here, will be during the time between the ὀψία of Matthew 14:15, and that of ib. Matthew 14:23. [The Jews commonly reckoned two evenings: see the introductory note on Matthew 26:17-19.]

κατέβησαν—by the command of Jesus (Matt., Mark).


Verses 16-21

16–21.] Jesus walks on the sea. Matthew 14:22-33. Mark 6:45-52. Omitted by Luke. An important and interesting question arises, WHY is this miracle here inserted by St. John? That he ever inserts for the mere purpose of narration, I cannot believe. The reason seems to me to be this: to give to the Twelve, in the prospect of so apparently strange a discourse respecting His Body, a view of the truth respecting that Body, that it and the things said of it were not to be understood in a gross corporeal, but in a supernatural and spiritual sense. And their very terror, and reassurance, tended to impress that confidence in Him which kept them firm, when many left Him, John 6:66.


Verse 17

17.] ἤρχοντο—denoting the unfinished action—they were making for the other side of the sea, in the direction of Capernaum; πρὸς βηθσαϊδάν, Mark, which would be the same thing. It would appear as if the disciples were lingering along shore with the expectation of taking in Jesus: but night had fallen, and He had not come to them, and the sea began to be stormy (John 6:18). Having therefore ( οὖν) set out (John 6:19), and rowed, &c. The οὖν seems to me to render this supposition necessary,—to bind their having rowed twenty-five or thirty stadia, with the fact that the Lord had not come, and it was dark, and the sea swelling into a storm. The lake is (Jos. B. J. 3.10. 7) forty stadia wide: so that, as we can hardly assume the passage to have been to a point directly opposite, they were somewhere about μέσον τῆς θαλάσσης, Matthew 26:24.


Verse 18

18.] διεγείρετο, was becoming thoroughly agitated: was rising.


Verses 19-21

19–21. περ. ἐπὶ τῆς θαλ.] There surely can be no question in the mind of an unprejudiced reader, that it is John’s intention to relate a miracle;—nor again,—that there could be in the minds of the disciples no doubt about that miracle,—no chance of a mistake as to what they saw. I have treated of ἐπὶ τῆς θαλ. on Matthew 14:25.

They were afraid:—but upon being reassured by His voice, they were willing to take Him into the ship; and upon their doing so, the ship in a comparatively short time (or perhaps immediately, by miracle, but I prefer the other) was at the land to which they had been going, viz. by the storm ceasing, and the ship making smooth way ( ἐκόπασεν ὁ ἄνεμος, Matt., Mark).

It seems to me that the above interpretation of ἤθελον οὖν λαβεῖν is absolutely necessary to account for the οὖν, and quite in accordance with John’s usage of θέλω (see reff.).

Some of the German Commentators (even De Wette among them) have created a difficulty, by strangely rendering ἤθελον, ‘they wished’ (implying, ‘but did not’), but ( καί) the ship was immediately, &c.—i.e. they were already close to the land, and so there was no occasion. Prof. Bleek (Beiträge, pp. 103–4) half adopts this view:—adding to it, I am sorry to see, that perhaps Jesus was on the land, and the disciples in the storm and darkness thought Him to be on the sea.


Verses 22-24

22–24.] These verses are involved and parenthetical in construction, but very characteristic of the minute care with which the Evangelist will account for every circumstance which is essential to his purpose in the narrative.

ὁ ὄχλος] We are not to understand the whole multitude who were fed,—but that portion of them which had remained on the coast over the night. Many had probably dispersed to the villages about, or perhaps taken up their night quarters more inland.

πέραν τ. θαλ., i.e. on the east coast. We are supposed to be at Capernaum.

ἦν is not pluperfect in sense—the meaning is regulated by εἶδονthey were aware that there was no other ship there but one, and that Jesus did not, &c. Then the ἦλθεν afterwards, belonging to the same set of facts, is in the same tense, but not pluperfect: came, not ‘had come.’ The πλοιάρια had perhaps brought some of them thither; or the spot ἐγγὺς τ. τόπου, &c. might have been some landing-place of merchandise.


Verses 22-59

22–59.] The multitudes follow Jesus to Capernaum, where, in the synagogue, He discourses to them on Himself as the Bread of Life.


Verse 25

25.] πέραν τ. θαλ. is now the west bank;—we have been crossing the sea with the multitude.

πότε, as Stier remarks, includes πῶς in its meaning. Our Lord leaves the question unanswered, because it was not for a sign to these people that He had miraculously crossed the lake.


Verse 26

26.] The seeking Him, on the part of these people,—to Him, who saw the hearts,—was merely a low desire to profit by His wonderful works,—not a reasonable consequence of deduction from His miracles that He was the Saviour of the world. And from this low desire of mere satisfaction of their carnal appetite, He takes occasion in the following discourse to raise them to spiritual desire after HIMSELF, THE BREAD OF LIFE. The discourse forms a parallel with that in ch. 4.


Verse 27

27.] ἐργάζ., imperative: another instance of the construction which I have advocated in ch. John 5:39.

The E. V., ‘Labour not for,’ does not give the sense of ἐργάζ. They had not laboured in this case for the βρῶσις ἀπολλυμένη, but it had been furnished miraculously. A better rendering would be, Busy not yourselves about,—Do not weary yourselves for,—which they were doing, by thus coming after our Lord: [but best of all Work not for: so as to preserve the connexion between John 6:27; John 6:29-30.]

τὴνἀπολλ.whose nourishing power passes away,” De Wette. Rather perhaps more literally, which perisheth, E. V.:—the useless part of it, in being cast out;—the useful, in becoming part of the body which perishes (see 1 Corinthians 6:13).

ἀλλὰ τ. βρ.] It is important to bear in mind that the ἐργάζεσθαι spoken of above, which also applies to this, was not a ‘working for,’ or ‘bringing about of,’ but a following Christ in order to obtain. So the meaning will be, but seek to obtain, by following after Me.… And thus μὴ.… ἀγγά keeps its true literal force, Do not.… but.

τὴν μένουσαν εἰς ζ. αἰ.] See ch. John 4:14. If this βρῶσις remains to eternal life, it must be spiritual food.

ἣν.… δώσει] See ch. 4 ib. ἥν agrees with βρῶσιν, not with ζωήν. δώσει, future, because the great Sacrifice was not yet offered: so in ch. 4.

ὁ υἱὸς τ. ἀνθρ., emphatic here and belonging to this discourse, since it is of His Flesh that He is about to speak.

τοῦτον γὰρ.…] for Him the Father sealed, even God.

ἐσφράγ., by undoubted testimony, as at His baptism; and since, by His miracles, see ch. John 10:36 : not, ‘stamped with the image of His Person,’ which is altogether beside the present subject, and inconsistent with the meaning of σφραγίζω.


Verse 28

28.] The people understand His ἐργάζεσθε literally, and dwell upon it. They quite seem to think that the food which is to endure for ever is to be spiritually interpreted; and they therefore ask this question,—referring the ἐργάζ. to the works of the law.

τὰ ἔργα τοῦ θεοῦ must not be taken to mean ‘the works which God works,’ but, as in Jeremiah 48:10 (Jeremiah 31:10 LXX): 1 Corinthians 15:58, the works well pleasing to God.


Verse 29

29.] The meaning is not,—that faith is wrought in us by God, is the work of God; but that the truest way of working the work of God is to believe on Him whom He hath sent.

ἔργον, not ἔργα, because there is but this one, properly speaking, and all the rest are wrapt up in it (see James 1:25).

This is a most important saying of our Lord, as containing the germ of that teaching afterwards so fully expanded in the writings of Paul. “I know not,” says Schleiermacher (cited by Stier, iv. 231, edn. 2), “where we can find any passage, even in the writings of the Apostles, which says so clearly and significantly, that all eternal life in men proceeds from nothing else than faith in Christ.”


Verse 30-31

30, 31.] This answers to ch. John 4:12, ‘Art thou greater than our father Jacob,’ &c. It is spoken in unbelief and opposition; not, as many have supposed, as a request for the Bread of Life, meaning it by the sign, but in the ordinary sign seeking spirit of the Jews. Stier says well, “They have been hesitating between better and worse thoughts, till at last unbelief prevails.” The σημεῖον here demanded is the sign from heaven, the proof of the sealing by God; such a proof would be, in their estimation, compared with His present miracles, as the manna (bread from heaven) was, compared to the multiplied loaves and fishes.

The manna was extolled by the Jews as the greatest miracle of Moses. Josephus calls it θεῖον καὶ παράδοξον βρῶμα: see also Wisdom of Solomon 16:20-21. “They forgot that their fathers disbelieved Moses almost from the time when they began to eat the manna; and that the Psalm from which they quote most strongly sets forth this;—that they despised the manna, and preferred ordinary meat to it.” Stier.

Observe our Lord’s πιστ. εἰς and their πιστ. σοι. The former, the casting their whole hopes and faith on Him, is what He requires: but they will not even give the latter, common credence, to Him.

Their τί ἐργάζῃ; Meyer remarks, is a retort of our Lord’s command, John 6:27. There is no σύ expressed, but the stress is on the τί.


Verse 32

32.] Our Lord lays open the course of their argument. They have not mentioned Moses,—nor was the giving of the manna a miracle performed by Moses;—but He knew that the comparison between Moses and Himself was in their minds, and answers by exposing the error which represented Moses as the giver of the manna. Neither again was that the true bread from heaven. It was, in one sense, bread from heaven;—but not in this sense. It was a type and shadow of the true bread from heaven, which My Father is giving ( δίδωσιν,—or perhaps the abstract present,—giveth) to you. Our Lord does not here deny, but asserts the miraculous character of the manna.


Verse 33

33.] ὁ ἄρτος τοῦ θεοῦ = ὁ ἄρτος ὃν δίδωσιν ὁ πατήρ μου. The words ὁ καταβ are the predicate of ὁ ἄρτος, and do not apply, in the construction of this verse, to Christ personally, however truly they apply to Him in fact. The E. V. is here wrong: it should be, The bread of God is that (not He) which cometh, &c. Not till John 6:35 does Jesus first say, ‘I AM the bread of life.’ The manna is still kept in view— ὅταν κατέβη ἡ δρόσοςκατέβαινεν τὸ μάννα ἐπʼ αὐτῆς, Numbers 11:9. And the present participle, here used in reference to the manna, is dropped when the Lord Himself is spoken of: see John 6:38; John 6:41; John 6:58, and especially the distinction between John 6:50 and John 6:51 (so Lücke, De Wette, Stier, Bengel).


Verse 34

34.] Ch. John 4:15 is exactly parallel. The Jews understand this bread, as the Samaritan woman understood the water, to be some miraculous kind of sustenance which would bestow life everlasting:—perhaps they thought of the heavenly manna, which the Rabbis speak of as prepared for the just in the future world: see quotations in Lücke, 2:132, also Revelation 2:17.

πάντοτε, emphatic:—not now only, but always.


Verse 35

35.] As in ch. John 5:30, so here, our Lord passes from the indirect to the direct form of speech. Henceforward it is ‘I,’ ‘Me,’ throughout the discourse.

In the genitive τῆς ζωῆς is implied ὁ καταβὰς ἐκ τοῦ οὐρ. καὶ ζωὴν διδοὺς τῷ κόσμῳ. So ὕδωρ ζῶν in ch. 4.

On the assurance of never hungering or thirsting, see note at ch. John 4:14. It is possible that our Lord placed the all-satisfying bread of life in contrast to the manna, which was no sooner given, Exodus 16, than the people began to thirst, Exodus 17;—but I would not lay any stress on this.

ὁ ἐρχόμ. πρ. ἐμέ is in the same sense as in ch. John 5:40—that of acceptance of and faith in Him.


Verse 36

36.] εἷπον ὑμῖνπότε δὲ τοῦτο εἶπεν αὐτοῖς; εἰκὸς τοῦτο ῥηθῆναι μὲν μὴ γραφῆναι δέ. Euthym(90) But perhaps, as Euthym(91) himself seems to suggest, and as Lücke and De Wette are inclined to think, the reference may be to ch. John 5:37-44, and the ὑμῖν may be said generally. Stier and others think that John 6:26 is referred to: but this is far-fetched. We have instances of reference to sayings not recorded, in ch. John 10:26; John 12:34.

ἑωράκατέ με] ‘Ye have seen the true Bread from heaven, the σημεῖον greater than the manna, even Me Myself: and yet have not believed.’


Verse 37

37.] The whole body of believers on Christ are spoken of by Him, here and in ch. 17, as given to Him by the Father. But Bengel’s observation is very important: “ πᾶν—vocula momentosissima, et, collatis iis quæ sequuntur, consideratu dignissima. Nam in sermonibus Jesu Christi, quod Pater ipsi dedit, id, et singulari numero et neutro genere, appellatur omne; qui ad ipsum, Filium, veniunt, ii masculino genere vel etiam plurali numero describuntur,—omnis, vel illi. Pater Filio totam quasi massam dedit, ut omnes quos dedit unum sint; id universum Filius singulatim evolvit, in exsecutione. Hinc illud in xvii. 2, ut omne quod dedisti ei, det eis vitam æternam.” See also 1 John 5:4. See further on πᾶν ὃ δίδωσίν μοι ὁ πατήρ, John 6:44.

οὐ μὴ ἐκβ. ἔξω does not refer here to the office of the Son of God as Judge; but is another way of expressing the grace and readiness with which He will receive all who come to Him.


Verses 38-40

38–40.] His reception of men is not capricious, nor even of His own arbitrary choice; but as He came into the world to do the Father’s will, and that will is that all who come to Him by faith shall have life, so He receives all such;—loses none of them;—and will raise them all up (here, in the fullest and blessed sense) at the last day. ( ἀπολέσω again is not ‘destroy,’ ‘condemn,’ but lose: see ch. John 12:25; John 17:12. ἵνα μὴ ἐξ ἐμῆς αἰτίας ἀπόληταί τις, Euthym(92)) Olshausen remarks, that “in ch. 4 we had only the inexhaustible refreshing of the soul by the water of life; but this discourse goes further;—that not even death itself shall destroy the body of him who has been nourished by this bread of life” (ii. 167).

ἀναστήσω refers to the only resurrection which is the completion of the man in his glorified state;—it does not set aside the ἀνάστασις κρίσεως, but that very term is a debasement of ἀνάστασις: its true sense is only ἀνάστασις ζωῆς.

Bengel has beautifully given the connexion of this last promise with what went before: “hic finis est, ultra quem periculum nullum.” But there is much more than this in it. In this declaration (John 6:39-40) is contained the key of the following discourse, John 6:44-59. The end of the work of God, as regards man, is the glorification of his restored and sanctified nature,—body, soul, and spirit,—in eternity. Without this,—salvation, restitution, would be incomplete. The adoption cannot be consummated without the redemption of the body. Romans 8:18-23. And the glorification of the body, soul, and spirit,—of the whole man,—cannot take place but by means of the glorified Body of the second Adam. “He who does not see this, will never understand either the Holy Communion, or this testimony of the Lord in its inner meaning.” Stier, iv. 243, edn. 2.

The θεωρῶν here is a different thing from the mere ὁρᾶν of John 6:36. It is the awakening of the attention preparatory to faith, answering to the looking on the serpent of brass: τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς τῆς ψυχῆς, Euthym(93); but afterwards he makes the θεωρεῖν = πιστεύειν, to which it is only preparatory.


Verse 41

41.] Not different hearers, nor does the scene of the discourse here change: they were the same,—perhaps the principal among them, the official superintendents of the synagogue:—for John generally uses οἱ ἰουδαῖοι in this official sense.


Verse 42

42.] They rightly supposed that this καταβῆναι ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ must imply some method of coming into the world diverse from ordinary generation. Meyer gathers from the οἴδαμεν, that our Lord’s reputed father was then still alive. But surely the verb will bear the sense of knowing as matter of fact who they were, and need not be confined to personal knowledge.


Verse 43

43.] Our Lord does not answer their objection, because it lay far from His present purpose to disclose aught of those mysteries which the answer must have indicated. It was not till the faith of the apostolic Christians was fully fixed on Him as the Son of God, and the outline of the doctrine of His Person was firmly sketched out, that the Spirit brought out those historical records which assure us of His supernatural conception (see Nitzsch, cited by Stier, iv. 244, edn. 2).


Verse 44

44.] The connexion seems to be this: They were not to murmur among themselves because He had said this; for the right understanding of what He had said is only to be gained by being taught of God, by being drawn by the Father, who alone can give the desire to come to Christ, and bring a man to Him. That this ‘drawing is not irresistible grace, is confessed even by Augustine himself, in his Tractatus on this passage. “Si trahitur, ait aliquis, invitus venit. Si invitus venit, nec credit: si non credit, nec venit. Non enim ad Christum ambulando currimus, sed credendo; nec motu corporis sed voluntate cordis accedimus, … Noli te cogitare invitum trahi; trahitur animus et amore.” And just before; “Intrare quisquam ecclesiam potest nolens, accedere ad altare potest nolens, accipere sacramentum potest nolens:—credere non potest, nisi volens.” He quotes, “trahit sua quemque voluptas” (Virg. Ecl. ii. 65), to shew that the drawing is that of delight and choice, not of obligation and necessity. Calvin (?), Beza, and Lampe understand irresistible grace to be here meant: “Falsum est et profanum, non nisi volentes trahi” (Calv., Lücke, ii. 144 note). The Greek expositors, Cyril, Chrysostom, Euthymius, Theophylact, take the view which I have adopted above. Chrysostom says, ὃ καὶ αὐτὸ οὐ τὸ ἐφʼ ἡμῖν ἀναίρει, ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον ἐμφαίνει ἡμᾶς βοηθείας δεομένους. See Article X. of the Church of England, in fine.

This drawing towards Christ may be exemplified in the legal dispensation, which was to the Jews a παιδαγωγία εἰς χριστόν. It now is being exerted on all the world,—in accordance with the Lord’s prophecy ch. John 12:32 (see note there), and His command Matthew 28:19-20,—by Christian preaching and missions; but, after all, the individual will must be turned to Christ by the Father, Whose covenanted promise is, that He will so turn it in answer to prayer. “Nondum traheris? ora ut traharis” (Augustine, ut supra).

The same solemn and joyous refrain, as Meyer well calls it, follows, as in John 6:39-40.


Verse 45

45.] ἐν τοῖς προφ. may be a general form of citation (Mark 1:2; Acts 7:42; Acts 13:40), or may mean that the sense is found in several places of the prophets: see besides reff., Jeremiah 31:33-34. This clearly intimates the kind of drawing meant in the last verse;—the opening the eyes of the mind by divine teaching.

ἀκούσας κ. μαθών is an expansion of διδακτός.

ἔρχ. πρός με] This is the final decision of the human will, acted on by the divine attraction to Christ. The beginning is, the Father draws him: the progress, he hears and learns—here is the consenting will—‘Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth:’—the end, he cometh to Christ—here is the will acting on the whole man.


Verse 46

46.] The connexion is: the mention of ἀκούσας παρὰ τοῦ πατρός might lead them to think of a personal communication from the Father to each man, and thus the necessity of the mission of the Son might be invalidated. This was the only way in which a Jew could misunderstand John 6:45; he could not dream of a seeing of the Father with bodily eyes.

ὁ ὢν παρὰ τ. θεοῦ is Jesus Himself: see ch. John 7:29. His knowledge of the Father is complete and immediate; ours, partial, and derived through Him only.


Verse 47

47.] Our Lord now recurs to the subject of their murmurs, and gives the answer for which He has been preparing the way, repeating nearly John 6:40, and adding,


Verse 48

48.] If so, (see John 6:47,) there is full reason for my naming Myself the Bread of Life.


Verse 49

49.] That bread from heaven had no power to keep off death, and that, death owing to unbelief:—our Lord by thus mentioning οἱ πατέρες ὑμῶν and their death, certainly hints at the similar unbelief of these Jews. And the same dubious sense of ἀποθάνῃ prevails in John 6:50. Death is regarded as being swallowed up in the glory of the resurrection, and the second death—which was hidden in the former ἀπέθανον—has over him who eats this Bread of Life, no power: nay, he is brought, even here, into a resurrection state from sin and death: see Romans 6. init. and Colossians 3 init.


Verse 51

51.] ὁ ζῶν, ‘containing life in itself,’ not merely supplying the waste of life with lifeless matter: see on ch. John 4:13-14.

καὶ ὁ ἄρτος.…] From this time we hear no more of ἄρτος: this figure is dropped, and the reality takes its place.

Some difficult questions arise regarding the sense and reference of this saying of our Lord. (1) Does it refer to HIS DEATH? and, (2) is there any reference to the ORDINANCE OF THE LORD’S SUPPER?

(1) In treating this question I must at once reject all metaphorical and side-interpretations, as, that the teaching of Christ is the Bread, and to be taught by Him is feeding upon it (so Grotius, and the modern rationalists): that the divine Nature of Christ, or His sending of the Holy Spirit, or His whole life of doing good on earth, can be meant: all such have against them the plain sense of the words, which, as Stier observes, are very simple ordinary words; the only difficulty arising, when we come to enquire into their application to His own Person. The Bread of Life is Himself: and, strictly treated, when we come to enquire what, of that body, soul, and spirit, which constituted Himself, this Bread specifically is, we have His answer that it is His Flesh which He will give (for this will be the meaning, whether the words ἣν ἐγὼ δώσω are to be regarded as part of the text or not) on behalf of the life of the world. We are then specifically directed to His Flesh as the answer.

Then, what does that Flesh import? The flesh of animals is the ordinary food of men; but not the blood. The blood, which is the life, is spilt at death, and is not in the flesh when eaten by us. Now this distinction must be carefully borne in mind. The flesh here, (see John 6:53,) and the eating of the flesh, are distinct from the blood, and the drinking of the blood. We have no generalities merely, to interpret as we please: but the terms used are precise and technical. It is then only through or after the Death of the Lord, that by any propriety of language, His Flesh could be said to be eaten.

Then another distinction must be remembered: The flesh of animals which we eat is dead flesh. It is already the prey of corruption; we eat it, and die (John 6:49). But this Bread is living Bread; not dead flesh, but living Flesh. And therefore manducation by the teeth materially is not to be thought of here; but some kind of eating by which the living Flesh of the Son of God is made the living sustenance of those who partake of it. Now His Flesh and Blood were sundered by Death. Death was the shedding of His precious Blood, which He did not afterwards resume: see ch. John 20:27, and Luke 24:39. His Flesh is the glorified substance of His Resurrection-Body, now at the right hand of God. It is then in His Resurrection form only that His Flesh can be eaten, and be living food for the living man. I cannot therefore see how any thing short of His Death can be here meant. By that Death, He has given His Flesh for the life of the world: not merely that they who believe on Him may, in the highest sense, have life; but that ὁ κόσμος may have life. The very existence of all the created world is owing to, and held together by, that Resurrection-Body of the Lord. In Him all things are gathered together and reconciled to God: τὰ πάντα ἐν αὐτῷ συνέστηκεν,, Colossians 1:17.

(2) The question whether there is here any reference to the ORDINANCE OF THE LORD’S SUPPER, has been inaccurately put. When cleared of inaccuracy in terms, it will mean, Is the subject here dwelt upon, the same as that which is set forth in the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper? And of this there can surely be no doubt. To the ordinance itself, there is here no reference; nor could there well have been any. But the spiritual verity which underlies the ordinance is one and the same with that here insisted on; and so considered, the discourse is, as generally treated, most important towards a right understanding of the ordinance.

On the history of the exegesis of this passage, see Lücke ii pp. 149–159 (3rd edn.), and Excursus ii., in his 2nd edn. (omitted in his 3rd);—also Tholuck and Olshausen, in loc. To attempt to recount the various opinions, would exceed the limits of a note in an edition of the whole Testament: for the present subject is one in which the manifold dogmatical variations of individual belief have influenced Commentators to such an extent as to render accurate classification impossible. I may roughly state, that three leading opinions may be traced: that of those who hold ( α) that no reference to the Holy Communion is intended,—among whom are Origen and Basil, of the ancients; and of the moderns, the Swiss Reformers, Zwingle and Calvin (the former however not very decidedly, see Olsh. ii. 173 note), Luther, Melanchthon. ( β) That the whole passage regards exclusively the Holy Communion,—among whom are Chrysostom, Cyril, Theophylact, Euthymius, the Schoolmen, and the Roman Catholic expositors, with a few exceptions. ( γ) That the subject and idea of the Holy Communion, not the ordinance is referred to: to which class belong the best modern Commentators in Germany, e.g. Lücke, Tholuck, Olshausen, Stier. Bengel’s note to the same effect is important: “Jesus verba sua scienter ita formavit, ut statim et semper illa quidem de spirituali fruitione sui agerent proprie; sed posthac eadem consequenter etiam in augustissimum S. Cœnæ mysterium, quum id institutum foret, convenirent. Etenim ipsam rem hoc sermone propositam in S. Cœnam contulit; tantique hoc sacramentum est momenti, ut facile existimari possit, Jesum, ut proditionem Judæ John 6:71, et mortem suam hoc versu, ita etiam S. Cœnam, de qua inter hæc verba certissime secum cogitavit, uno ante anno prædixisse, ut discipuli possent prædictionis postea recordari. Tota hæc de carne et sanguine J. C. oratio Passionem spectat, et cum ea S. Cœnam. Hinc separata carnis et sanguinis mentio constanter. Nam in passione sanguis ex corpore eductus est, Agnusque mactatus.”


Verse 52

52.] The inference conveyed in φαγεῖν, which first comes from the Jews themselves, is yet a right one. If He is the Bread, and that Bread is His Flesh, we must eat His Flesh, though not in the sense here meant by them. They contended against one another, probably some having more insight into the possibility of a spiritual meaning than others.


Verse 53

53.] Our Lord not only ratifies their φαγεῖν, but adds to it a more wonderful thing; that they must also do that against which a prohibition might seem to have existed from Noah downwards,—drink His Blood. But observe, this Blood is not to be eaten in the Flesh, which was the forbidden thing (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:10-16), in its strict literal form: but to be drunk, separate from the flesh: again presupposing death. Now as the Flesh of Christ (see above) is the Resurrection-Body which He now has, and in which all things consist: so is His Blood (“the blood is the life.” Leviticus 17:11; Leviticus 17:14) the Life which He gave up, paid down, as the penalty for the sin of the world. By the shedding, pouring forth, of that Blood, is remission of sin.

It is quite impossible that these words should, as De Wette maintains, be merely an expansion of τὴν σάρκα φαγεῖν. Even had the idea of τὸ αἷμα πίνειν been one familiar to the Jews, the construction would not have allowed such an interpretation;—but new as it was, and abhorrent from their habits and law, we must regard it as specially and purposely added.

But what is this eating and drinking? Clearly, not merely faith: for faith answers to the hand reached forth for the food,—but is not the act of eating. Faith is a necessary condition of the act: so that we can hardly say with Augustine, “crede, et manducasti;” but ‘crede et manducabis.’ Inasmuch as Faith will necessarily in its energizing lead to this partaking, we sometimes incorrectly say that it is Faith:—but for strict accuracy this is not enough. To eat the flesh of Christ, is to realize, in our inward life, the mystery of His Body now in heaven,—to digest and assimilate our own portion in that Body.

To drink His Blood, is to realize, in our inward life, the mystery of His satisfaction for sin,—to digest and assimilate our own portion in that satisfaction, the outpouring of that Blood. And both these definitions may be gathered into one, which is: The eating of His Flesh and drinking of His Blood import the making to ourselves and using as objectively real, those two great Truths of our Redemption in Him, of which our Faith subjectively convinces us.

And of this realizing of Faith He has been pleased to appoint certain symbols in the Holy Communion, which He has commanded to be received; to signify to us the spiritual process, and to assist us towards it.

οὐκ ἔχ. ζωὴν ἐν ἑαυτ.] ‘Ye have not in you that spring of life, which shall overcome death, and lead (John 6:54) to the resurrection in the true sense:’ see above, John 6:44, and notice again the solemn refrain.

τρώγων] It is not necessary to see any more literal ‘eating’ in the word than in φαγών:—it expresses the present of φαγών, which must be either τρώγων or ἐσθίων,—and the real sense conveyed is, that by the very act of inward realization, which is the ‘manducatio,’ the possession of eternal life is certified.


Verse 55

55.] ἀληθής is here not = ἡ ἀληθινή, nor is the sense, ‘My Flesh is the true meat &c.,’ but My flesh is true meat, i.e. really TO BE EATEN, which they doubted. Thus ἀληθῶς is a gloss, which falls short of the depth of the adjective. This verse is decisive against all explaining away or metaphorizing the passage. Food and drink are not here mere metaphors;—rather are our common material food and drink mere shadows and imperfect types of this only real reception of refreshment and nourishment into the being.


Verse 56

56.] He who thus lives upon Me, abides in Me (see ch. John 15:5 and note);—and I (that living power and nourishment conveyed by the ἄρτος τῆς ζωῆς which = ἐγώ) abide in him. Beware of imagining, as Bp. Wordsw. again (see note on Matthew 16:18), that there is any especial emphasis on μου because of its position.


Verse 57

57.] The same expanded further—see ch. John 5:26. The two branches of the feeding on Christ are now united under the general expression, τρώγων με.

διὰ expresses the efficient cause. The Father is the Fountain of all Life: the Son lives in and by the Father: and all created being generally, lives (in the lower sense) in and by Him; but he that eateth Him shall (eternally and in the highest sense) live by Him.

John 6:58 forms the solemn conclusion of the discourse, referring back to the Bread with which it began and to its difference from the perishable food which they had extolled:—and setting forth the infinite superiority of its effects over those of that sustenance.

οὗτός ἐστιν, such is.

καταβάς,—past, now: because He has clearly identified it with Himself.

καθώς must = τοιοῦτος, ὅν: if ὑμῶν τὸ μάννα (see digest) is to stand, the construction must be filled up οὐ καθὼς τὸ μ. ὃ ἔφ. κ. τ. λ.


Verse 60

60.] Lampe shews by reff. and other citations that σκληρός “non tam absurditatem quam impietatem designat.” It seems clear that it was not the difficulty, so much as the strangeness of the saying, which scandalized them. It is the whole discourse,—the turn given to it,—the doctrine of the Bread of Life,—the giving His Flesh and Blood to eat,—at which they take offence.

ἀκούειν, to listen to it—‘Who can stay and hear such sayings as this?’ not, ‘to understand it.’


Verses 60-65

60–65.] Murmuring of some of the disciples at the foregoing discourse, and the answer of Jesus to them.


Verse 61

61.] ἐν ἑαυτῷ, by His divine knowledge.


Verse 62

62.] ἐὰν οὖν θεωρ., what then, if ye see … not meaning ‘will ye not then be much more scandalized?’ or, ‘what will ye say (or do), then?’—but appealing to an event which they should witness, as a certain proof of one part of the σκληρὸς λόγος, with which indeed the rest of it was bound up,—His having descended from heaven. All attempts (as those of Lücke, De Wette, and others) to explain this otherwise than of His ascent into heaven, are simply dishonest,—and spring from laxity of belief in the historical reality of that event. That it is not recorded by John, is of no moment here: see Prolegomena. And that none but the Twelve saw it, is unimportant; for how do we know that our Lord was not here speaking to some among the Twelve? To explain it of His death, as part of His going up where He was before, is hardly less disingenuous. Lücke maintains that θεωρεῖν need not mean bodily sight: which is true enough in some constructions in John (ch. John 8:51 alli(94).); but surely, as joined with ἀναβαίνοντα, it must. The whole exegesis of the passage in the above-named Commentators is a remarkable instance of the warping of the judgment by unsoundness of belief in the historical truth of the evangelistic testimony.


Verse 63

63.] πνεῦμα, σάρξ, do not mean the spiritual and carnal sense of the foregoing discourse, as many Commentators explain them: for our Lord is speaking, not of teaching merely, but of vivifying: He is explaining the life-giving principle of which He had been before speaking. ‘Such eating of My flesh as you imagine and find hard to listen to, could profit you nothing,—for it will have ascended up, &c.; and besides, generally, it is only the Spirit that can vivify the spirit of man: the flesh (in whatever way used) can profit nothing towards this.’ He does not say ‘My Flesh profiteth nothing,’ but ‘the flesh.’ To make Him say this, as the Swiss anti-sacramentalists do, is to make Him contradict His own words in John 6:51.

τὰ ῥήμ. ἃ ἐγὼ λελάληκαviz. the words μου τὴν σάρκα and μου τὸ αἷμα, above. They are πνεῦμα and ζωή:—spirit, not flesh only:—living food, not carnal and perishable. This meaning has been missed by almost all Commentators: Stier upholds it, iv. 281 (2nd edn.): and it seems to me beyond question the right one. The common interpretation is, ‘the words which I have spoken,’ i.e. ‘My discourses,’ are πνεῦμα, ‘to be taken in a spiritual sense,’ (? this sense of πνεῦμα,) ‘and are life.’ But this is any thing but precise, even after the forcing of πνεῦμα.


Verse 64

64. ἀλλʼ εἰσὶν.…] ‘This accounts for your murmuring at what I said, that ye do not believe.’

ᾔδει γὰρ] De Wette remarks, that the foreknowledge of our Lord with regard to Judas renders it impossible to apply the ordinary rules of moral treatment,—as ‘Why did He then continue him as an Apostle? Why did He give him the charge of the purse, knowing him to be a thief? &c.,’—to the case: and it is therefore better not to judge at all on the matter.

The fact is, we come here to a form of the problem of divine foreknowledge and human free-will, which, in any of its endless combinations of expression, it is equally impossible for us to solve.

ἐξ ἀρχῆς, from their first coming to Him;—the first beginning of their connexion with Him.


Verse 65

65.] These unbelievers had not that drawing to Christ, which leads (John 6:44) to true coming to Him. Observe the parallelism between ᾖ δεδομένον αὐτῷ here, and ὃ δίδωσίν μοι, John 6:37. Both these gifts are in the Father’s power.


Verse 66

66. ἐκ τούτου] upon this. The temporal meaning prevails, but does not exclude the causal.

πολλοί, viz. of the μὴ πιστεύοντες: but not all.


Verses 66-71

66–71.] Many of the disciples leave Him. The confession of the Twelve through Peter: and the Lord’s warning to them.


Verse 67

67.] The first mention of the Twelve by John. The question is asked in order to extract from them the confession which follows, and thus to bind them closer to Himself. We must not forget likewise, in the mystery of our Lord’s human nature, that at such a moment of desertion, He would seek comfort in the faith and attachment of His chosen ones.


Verse 68

68.] Peter answers quickly and earnestly for the rest, as in Matthew 16:16.

πρὸς τίνα] What they had heard and seen had awakened in them the desire of being led on by some teacher towards eternal life; and to whom else should they go from Him who had, and brought out of His stores for their instruction, the words (see John 6:63) of eternal life?


Verse 69

69.] πεπιστεύκαμεν seems to be used absolutely, as in John 6:64 : we believe, and have long done so.

In the following words the readings vary; the common text having been to all appearance introduced from Matthew 16:16. The circumstance of the Lord not being elsewhere called ὁ ἅγιος τ. θεοῦ by John, is of course in favour of the reading. The idea however is found (ch. John 10:36). I regard the coincidence with the testimony of the dæmoniacs, reff. Mark (95), as a remarkable one. Their words appear to have been the first plain declaration of the fact, and so to have laid hold on the attention of the Apostles.


Verse 70

70.] The selection of the Twelve by Jesus is the consequence of the giving of them to Him by the Father, ch. John 17:6,—in which there also Judas is included. So that His selecting, and the Father’s giving and drawing, do not exclude final falling away.

Meyer observes, that the solemn addition, τοὺς δώδεκα after ὑμᾶς, heightens the contrast to the opposite result which follows.

διάβολος] It is doubtful in what sense this word should be taken. Whether we render it διαβολικός (= τοῦ διαβόλου ὑπουργός), or ἐπίβουλος, (both given by Euthym(96),) it will be an ἅπαξ λεγόμενον in the N.T. Of the two however the latter is the harsher, and less analogous to N.T. diction. Certainly, in the dark act here prophesied, Judas was under the immediate instigation of and yielded himself up to Satan (cf. our Lord’s reply to Peter, Matthew 16:23); and I would understand this expression as having reference to that league with and entertainment of the Evil One in his thoughts and purposes, which his ultimate possession by Satan implies. This meaning can perhaps hardly be rendered by any single word in another language. The E. V. ‘a devil’ is certainly too strong; devilish would be better, but not unobjectionable. Compare ὁ υἱὸς τῆς ἀπωλείας ch. John 17:12.


Verse 71

71.] On the name ἰσκαριώτης (here applied to Simon, Judas’s father), see on Matthew 10:4.

ἔμελλεν, not, ‘intended,’ see ch. John 13:2 : but simply future, = ἦν ὁ παραδώσων αὐτόν, see John 6:64; ch. John 7:39; John 11:51 alli(97).

 


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Bibliography Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on John 6:4". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/john-6.html. 1863-1878.

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Thursday, August 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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