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Bible Commentaries

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament
John 8

 

 

Introduction

CHAPTER 8

The section treating of the woman taken in adultery, John 8:1-11, together with John 7:53, is a document by some unknown author belonging to the apostolic age, which, after circulating in various forms of text, was inserted in John’s Gospel, probably by the second, or, at latest, by the third century (the Constitutt. Apost. ii. 24. 4, already disclose its presence in the canon), the remark in John 7:53 being added to connect it with what precedes. That the interpolation of this very ancient fragment of gospel history was derived from the Evang. sec. Hebraeos cannot, as several of the early critics think (comp. also Lücke and Bleek), be proved from Papias, in Euseb. H. E. 3. 39; for in the words ἐκτέθειται (Papias) δὲ καὶ ἄλλην ἱστορίαν περὶ γυναικὸς ἐπὶ πολλαῖς ἁμαρτίαις διαβληθείσης ἐπὶ τοῦ κυρίου, ἣν τὸ καθʼ ἑβραίους εὐαγγέλιον περιέχει, the general expression ἐπὶ πολλαῖς ἁμαρτίαις and the word διαβληθ. merely are not favourable to that identity between the two which Rufinus already assumed. It is, however, only its high antiquity, and the very early insertion of the section in the Johannean text, which explain the fact that it is found in most Codices of the Itala, in the Vulgate, and other versions; that Jerome, adv. Pelag. ii. 17, could vouch for its existence “in multis et Graecis et Latinis Codd.;” and that, finally, upwards of a hundred Codices still extant, including D. F. G. H. K. U., contain it. Its internal character, moreover, speaks in favour of its having originated in the early Christian age; for, although it is, indeed, quite alien to the Johannean mode of representation, and therefore not for a moment to be referred to an oral Johannean source (Luthardt), it is, nevertheless, entirely in keeping with the tone of the synoptical Gospels, and does not betray the slightest trace of being a later invention in favour either of a dogmatic or ecclesiastical interest. Comp. Calvin: “Nihil apostolico spiritu indignum continet.” The occurrence related bears, moreover, so strong a stamp of originality, and is so evidently not compiled in imitation of any other of the Gospel narratives, that it cannot be regarded as a later legendary story, especially as its internal truthfulness will be vindicated in the course of the exposition itself, in opposition to the manifold doubts that have been raised against it. But the narrative does not proceed from John. Of this we are assured by the remarkable and manifestly interpolated link, John 7:53, which connects it with what precedes; further, by the strange interruption with which it breaks up the unity of the account continued in John 8:14 ff.; again by its tone and character, so closely resembling that of the synoptic history, to which, in particular, belongs the propounding of a question of law, in order to tempt Christ,—a thing which does not occur in John; still further, by the going out of Jesus to the Mount of Olives, and His return to the temple, whereby we are transported to the Lord’s last sojourn in Jerusalem (Luke 21); also by the entire absence of the Johannean οὖν, and in its stead the constant recurrence of δέ; and, lastly, by the non-Johannean expressions ὄρθρου, πᾶς λαός, καθίσας ἐδίδασκεν αὐτούς, οἱ γραμματ. κ. οἱ φαρισ., ἐπιμένειν, ἀναμάρτητος, καταλείπεσθαι and κατακρίνειν, πλήν also, in John 8:10 (Elz.). With these various internal reasons many very weighty external arguments are conjoined, which show that the section was not received by any means into all copies of John’s Gospel; but, on the contrary, that from the third and fourth centuries it was tacitly or expressly excluded from the canonical text. For Origen, Apollinarius, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Cyril, Chrysostom, Nonnus, Theophylact, Tertullian, and other Fathers (except Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine, Sedulius, Leo, Chrysologus, Cassiodorus), as well as the Catenae, are altogether silent about this section; Euthymius Zigabenus, however, has it, and explains it, indeed, but passes this judgment upon it: χρὴ δὲ γινώσκειν, ὅτι τὰ ἐντεῦθεν (John 7:53) ἄχρι τοῦ· πάλιν οὖν ἐλάλησεν, κ. τ. λ. (John 8:12) παρὰ τοῖς ἀκριβέσιν ἀντιγράφοις οὐχ εὕρηται, ὠβέλισται. διὸ φαίνονται παρέγγραπτα καὶ προσθήκη· καὶ τούτου τεκμήριον, τὸ μηδὲ τὸν χρυσόστομον ὅλως μνημονεῦσαι αὐτῶν. Of the versions, the Syr. (in Codd., also of the Nestorians, and in the first edd.), Syr. p. Copt. (in most MSS.) Ar. Sahid. Arm. Goth. Verc. Brix. have not the section. It is also wanting in very old and important Codices, viz. A. B. C. L. T. X. δ. א., of which, however, A. and C. are here defective (but according to Tisch., C. never had it; see his edition of Codex C., Proleg. p. 31), while L. and δ. leave an empty space; other Codices mark it as suspicious by asterisks or an obelus, or expressly so describe it in Scholia (see especially Scholz and Tisch.). Beyond a doubt, this apocryphal interpolation would have seemed less surprising to early criticism had it found a place, not in John’s Gospel, but in one of the Synoptics. But wherefore just here? If we decline to attribute this enigma to some accidental, unknown cause and thus to leave it unsolved, then its position here may be accounted for in this way: that as an abortive plan of the Sanhedrim against Jesus had just before been narrated, it appeared to be an appropriate place for relating a new, though again unsuccessful, attempt to trip Him; and this particular narrative may have been inserted, all the more, because the saying about judging and not judging, in John 8:15, might find in it an historical explanation; while, perhaps, an old uncritical tradition, that John was the author of the fragment, may have removed all difficulty. But even on this view the attempts of criticism to correct the text very soon appear. For the Codd. i. 19, 20 et al., transfer the section as a doubtful appendix to the end of the Gospel; others (13, 69, 124, 346) insert it after Luke 21:38. where, especially considering John 8:1-2, it would appropriately fit in with the historical connection; and possibly also it might have had a place in one of the sources made use of by Luke. How various the recensions were in which it was circulated, is proved by the remarkable number of various readings, which for the most part bear the impress, not of chance or arbitrariness, but of varying originality. D., in particular, presents a peculiar form of text; the section in it runs thus: ἰησ. δὲ ἐπ. εἰς τ. ὄρ. τ. ἐλ. ὄρθρ. δὲ π. παραγίνεται εἰς τ. ἱερ. κ. π. λ. ἤρχ. πρὸς αὐτ. ἀγ. δὲ οἱ γρ. κ. οἱ φ. ἐπὶ ἁμαρτίᾳ γυν. εἰλημένην, κ. στ. αὐτ. ἐν μ. λ. αὐτῷ ἐκπειράζοντες αὐτὸν οἱ ἱερεῖς, ἵνα ἔχωσι κατηγορίαν αὐτοῦ· διδ., αὕτ. ἡγ. κατείληπται ἐπ. μοιχ. ΄ωϋσῆς δὲ ἐν τ. νόμῳ ἐκέλευσε τὰς τοιαύτ. λιθάζειν· σὺ δὲ νῦν τί λέγεις; δὲ ἰησ. κ. κ. τ. δ. κατέγραφεν εἰς τ. γ. ὡς δὲ ἐπ. ἐρωτ., ἀνέκυψε καὶ εἶπεν αὑτοῖς· ἀν. ὑμ. πρ. ἐπʼ αὐτὴν βαλλέτω λίθον. κ. π. κατακύψας τῷ δακτύλῳ κατέγραφεν εἰς τ. γ. ἕκαστος δὲ τῶν ἰουδαίων ἐξήρχετο, ἀρξάμενος ἀπὸ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων, ὥστε πάντας ἐξελθεῖν, κ. κατελ. μόν. κ. γυνὴ ἐν μ. οὖσα. ἀνακ. δὲ ἰησ. εἶπ. τῇ γυναικί· ποῦ εἰσιν; οὐδείς σε κατεκρ.; κἀκείνη εἶπεν αὐτῷ· οὐδεὶς, κύρ. δὲ εἶπεν· οὐδὲ ἐγ. σ. κ. ὓπαγε, ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν μηκέτι ἁμάρτανε.

The Johannean authorship was denied by Erasmus, Calvin (?), Beza, Grotius, Wetstein, Semler, Morus, Haenlein, Wegscheider, Paulus, Tittmann (Melet. p. 318 ff.), Knapp, Seyffarth, Lücke, Credner, Tholuck, Olshausen, Krabbe, B. Crusius, Bleek, Weisse, Lücke, De Wette, Guericke, Reuss, Brückner, Luthardt, Ewald, Baeumlein, Hengstenberg (who regards the section as a forgery made for a particular purpose), Schenkel, Godet, Scholten, and most critics: Lachmann and Tischendorf also have removed the section from the text. Bretschneider, p. 72 ff., attributing it to the Pseudo-Johannes, endeavours to establish its spuriousness, and so uses it as an argument against the genuineness of the Gospel; Strauss and Bauer deal with it in the same way, while Hitzig (on John Mark, p. 205 ff.) regards the evangelist Mark as the author, in whose Gospel it is said to have stood after John 12:17 (according to Holtzmann, in the primary Mark). Its authenticity, on the contrary, was defended in early times especially by Augustine (de conjug. adult. 2. 7),1(1) whose subjective judgment is, that the story had been rejected by persons of weak faith, or by enemies of the true faith, who feared “peccandi impunitatem dari mulieribus suis;”—in modern times by Mill, Whitby, Fabricius, Wolf, Lampe, Bengel, Heumann, Michaelis, Storr, Dettmers (Vindiciae αὐθεντίας textus Gr. peric. Joh. vii. 53 ff., Francof. ad Viadr. p. 1, 1793); Stäudlin (in two Dissert., Gott. 1806) Hug (de conjugii Christ. vinculo indissolub., Frib. 1816, p. 22 ff.); Kuinoel, Möller (neue Ansichten, p. 313 ff.); Scholz (Erklär. der Evang. p. 396 ff., and N. T. I. p. 383); Klee and many others, in particular, also Maier, i. p. 24 f.; Ebrard, Horne, Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the N. T., ed. Tregelles, p. 465; Hilgenfeld, Evang. p. 284 ff., and again in his Zeitschrift, 1863, p. 317, Lange. Schulthess, in Winer and Engelhardt krit Journ. v. 3, pp. 257–317, declares himself in favour of the genuineness of a text purified by the free use of various readings.

John 8:14. τοῦ ὑπάγω] Elz. Lachm.: καὶ ποῦ ὑπ. But B. D. K. T. U. X. λ. Curs, and many Vss. have ; and καὶ might easily have been repeated from what precedes, while there was nothing to occasion the change of καὶ into ή.

John 8:16. ἀληθής] Lachm. and Tisch.: ἀληθινή, after B. D. L. T. X. 33. Or. Rightly; ἀληθής was introduced from the context (John 8:14; John 8:17).

John 8:20. After ἐλάλησεν Elz. has ἰησοῦς, against decisive witnesses.

John 8:26. λέγω] Lachm. Tisch.: λαλῶ, following important witnesses; but from John 8:25; John 8:28.

John 8:28. πατήρ] Elz. Scholz: πατήρ ΄ου. But ΄ου is wanting in D. L. T. X. א. 13, 69, 122, al. Slav. Vulg. It. Eus. Cyr. Hilar. Faustin., and is a later addition, intended to mark the peculiar relation of the πατήρ.

John 8:29. After ΄όνον Elz. Scholz have πατήρ. A gloss which 253, 259 have inserted before μόνον.

John 8:34. τῆς ἁμαρτίας] wanting only in D. Cant. 8 :Clem. Faustin., witnesses which are too weak to justify our condemning it as a gloss. It was left out on account of the following general expression δὲ δοῦλος.

John 8:38. ἠκούσατε παρὰ τοῦ πατρὸς ὑμῶν] Elz. Scholz: ἑωράκατε παρὰ τῷ πατρὶ ὑμῶν. But B. C. D. K. X. א. Curss. Or. have ; B. C. K. L. X. א.** Curss. and some Vss. and Fathers, even Or., read ἠκούσατε and τοῦ πατρός. The received text, of which Tisch. has inconsistently retained ἑωράκ., is a mechanical imitation of the first half of the verse. The pronouns μου and ὑμῶν must, with Lachm. and Tisch., following very important witnesses, he deleted as clumsy additions inserted for the purpose of marking the distinction. Finally, also in the first half has almost entirely the same witnesses in its favour as the second , so that with Lachm. and Tisch. we must read in both places.

John 8:39. ἦτε] B. D. L. א. Vulg. Codd. It. Or. Aug.: ἐστε. So Griesb. Lachm. Tisch.; rightly defended by Buttmann in the Stud. u. Krit. 1858, p. 474 ff. The seemingly illogical relation of the protasis and apodosis caused ἐστε to be changed into ἦτε, and ἐποιεῖτε into ποιεῖτε (Vulg. Or. Aug.).

After ἐποιεῖτε, Elz. Lachm. have ἄν, which is wanting in important witnesses, and is an unnecessary grammatical addition.

John 8:51. τὸν λόγ. τὸν ἐμόν] Lachm. Tisch.: τὸν ἐμὸν λόγον, which is preponderatingly attested, and therefore to be adopted.

John 8:52. Instead of γεύσηται Elz. has γεύσεται, against conclusive testimony.

John 8:53. After σεαυτόν Elz. has σύ, which the best Codd. unanimously exclude.

John 8:54. δοξάζω] Lachm. Tisch.: δοξάσω, after B. C.* D. א. Curs. Cant. Verc. Corb. Rd. Colb. Or. Chrys. Ambr. Rightly; the present (comp. the following δοξάζων) would involuntarily present itself to the copyists.

For ἡμῶν (so also Tisch.) Elz. has ὑμῶν (as also Lachm.). The testimonies are divided between the two; but ἡμῶν might easily have been changed into ὑμῶν, after the preceding ὑμεῖς, through not observing the direct construction.

John 8:57. The reading τεσσαράκοντα, which Chrysostom has, and Euthymius Zigabenus found in MSS., is still in λ. and three Curs., but is nothing save an historical retouche.

John 8:59. After ἱεροῦ Elz. Scholz have: διελθὼν διὰ ΄έσου αὐτῶν, καὶ παρῆγεν οὓτως, words which are wanting in B. D. א.* Vulg. It. al. Or. Cyr. Arnob. An addition after Luke 4:30, whence also ἐπορεύετο has been interpolated after αὐτῶν in several witnesses.


Verses 1-3

John 8:1-3. ʼεπορ.] down from the temple.

εἰς τ. ὄρ. τ. ἐλ.] where He passed the night; comp. Luke 21:37. Displays the synoptic stamp in its circumstantiality of description and in the use of words; instead of ὄρθρου (Luke 24:1), John uses πρωΐ (John 18:28, John 20:1; comp. πρωῑìα, John 21:4); for πᾶς λαός John uses ὄχλος and οἱ ὄχλοι; καθίσας ἐδίδ. αὐτ. is synoptical; on ἐδίδασκεν, however, without mention of the topic, comp. John 7:14; the γραμματεῖς never appear in John; nor does he anywhere name the Mount of Olives.

The crowd of people, after the conclusion of the feast, would not be surprising, considering the great sensation which Jesus had caused at the feast.

The expression “Scribes and Pharisees” is the designation in the synoptic narrative for His regular opponents, answering to the Johannean οἱ ἰουδαῖοι. They do not appear here as Zealots (Wetstein, Kuinoel, Staeudlin), whose character would not correspond either with their questioning of Jesus or with their subsequent slinking away; nor even as a Deputation from the Sanhedrim, which certainly would not have condescended to this, and whose delegates would not have dared to let the woman slip. It is rather a non-official tentative attack, like several that are narrated by the Synoptics; the woman has just been taken in the very act; has, as a preliminary step, been handed over to the Scribes and Pharisees for further proceedings; has not yet, however, been brought before the Sanhedrim, but is first made use of by them for this attempt against Jesus.


Verse 4-5

John 8:4-5. Observe especially here and in John 8:5-6 the thoroughly synoptical diffuseness of the account.

κατειλήφθη] with the augment of εἴληφα, see Winer, p. 60 [E. T. p. 84]. On the expression, comp. κατείληπτο μοιχός, Arrian. Epict. 2. 4.

ἐπʼ αὐτοφώρῳ] in the very act. Herod. 6. 72, 137; Plato, Pol. 2, p. 359 C Xen. Symp. 3. 13; Dem. 378. 12; Soph. Ant. 51; Eur. Ion. 1214. Comp. Philo, p. 785 A: μοιχεῖαι αὐτόφωροι. On λαμβάνειν ἐπί, of taking in adultery, see Toup. Opp. Crit. I. p. 101.

The adulterer, who in like manner was liable to death (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:24), may have fled.

λιθοβολεῖσθαι] This word cannot be called un-Johannean (in John 10:31 ff. λιθάζειν is used) because of its being taken from Deut. l.c. According to Deuteronomy 22:23-24 the law expressly appoints stoning for the particular case, when a betrothed maiden allows herself to be seduced by a man in the city, where she could have summoned help. The woman here taken must therefore necessarily be regarded as such an one, because the λιθοβολεῖσθαι is expressly referred to a command contained in the Mosaic law. From Deut. l.c., where the betrothed, in reference to the seducer, is termed אֵשֶׁת רֵעֵהוּ, it is clear that the crime in question was regarded as a modified form of adultery, as it is also called εἶδος μοιχεῖας by Philo, de legg. special. ii. p. 311. The rarity of such a case as this made it all the more a fit topic for a tempting question in casuistry. Accordingly, τὰς τοιαύτας is to be understood as denoting the class of adulteresses of this particular kind, to whom refers that law of Moses appointing the punishment of stoning: “adulteresses of this kind.” That Moses, in Deut. l.c., does not use the expression נאף (Lücke’s objection) is immaterial, because he has not this word at all in the connection, nor even in the other cases, but designates the thing in another way. Usually the woman is regarded as a married woman; and as in Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22, not stoning specifically, but death generally is the punishment adjudged to adulteresses of this class, some either infer the internal falsehood of the whole story (Wetstein, Semler, Morus, Paulus, Lücke, De Wette, Baur, and many others; comp. also Hengstenberg and Godet), or assume that the punishment of death, which is not more precisely defined by the law (“to die the death”), must mean stoning (Michaelis, Mos. R. § 262; Tholuck, B. Crusius, Ebrard, Keil, Archæol. § 153, 1; Ewald, Brückner hesitatingly, Luthardt, Baeumlein). As to the last view, judging from the text in Deut. l.c., and also according to Rabbinical tradition, it is certainly an unsafe assumption; comp. Saalschütz, Mos. R. p. 571. Here, however, where the λιθοβολεῖσθαι is distinctly cited as a positive provision of the law, we have neither reason nor right to assume a reference to any other precept save that in which stoning is expressly named as the punishment, viz. Deuteronomy 22:24 (LXX.: λιθοβολήσονται ἐν λίθοις), with which also the Talmud agrees, Sanhedr. f. 51, 2 : “Filia Israelitae, si adultera, cum nupta, strangulanda,(2) cum desponsata, lapidanda.” The supposition of Grotius, that the severer punishment of stoning for adultery was introduced after the time of Ezekiel, cannot be proved by Ezekiel 16:38; Ezekiel 16:40; Sus. 45; the ΄ωϋσῆς ἐνετείλατο, moreover, is decidedly against all such suppositions.


Verse 6

John 8:6. πειράζοντες αὐτόν] denoting, not a good-natured questioning (Olshausen), but, agreeably to the standing synoptical representation of the relation of those men to Jesus, and in keeping with what immediately follows, malicious tempting. The insidious feature of the plan consisted in this: “If He decides with Moses for the stoning, He will be accused before the Roman authorities; for, according to the Roman criminal law, adultery was not punishable with death, and stoning in particular was generally repudiated by the Romans (see Staeudlin and Hug). But if He decides against Moses and against stoning, He will then be prosecuted before the Sanhedrim as an opposer of the law.” That they expected and wished for the former result, is shown, by the prejudicial way in which they introduce the question, by quoting the express punishment prescribed by Moses.(3) Their plan here is similar in design to that of the question touching the tribute money in Matthew 22. It is objected that the Romans in the provinces did not administer justice strictly in accordance with their own laws; but amid the general immorality of the times they certainly did not conform to the rigour of the Mosaic punishment for adultery; and how easy would it have been before the Roman magistrates to give a revolutionary aspect to the hoped-for decision of Jesus in favour of Moses, even if He had in some way reserved the competency of the Roman authorities! If it be said that Jesus needed only to declare Himself in favour of execution, and not exactly for stoning, it is overlooked that here was the very case for which stoning was expressly appointed. If it be urged, lastly, that when Jesus was required to assume the position of a judge, He needed only to refer His questioners to the Sanhedrim, and to tell them to take the woman thither (Ebrard), that would have amounted to a declining to answer, which would, indeed, have been the surest way of escape from the dilemma, but inappropriate enough to the intellectual temperament of Jesus in such cases. Other explanations of πειράζειν—(1) They would either have accused him to the Romans imminutae majestatis, because they then possessed the jus vitae et necis, or to the Jews imminutae libertatis (Grotius), and as a false Messiah (Godet). But that prerogative of the Romans was not infringed by the pronouncing of a sentence of condemnation; it was still reserved to them through their having to confirm and carry out the sentence. Accordingly, B. Crusius gives this turn to the question: “Would Jesus decide for the popular execution of the law … or would He peradventure even take upon Himself to pass such a judgment” (so, substantially, Hitzig also, on Joh. Markus, p. 205 ff., and Luthardt), where (with Wetstein and Schulthess) the law of the Zealots is called in by way of help? But in that case the interrogators, who intended to make use of a negative answer against Him as an overturning of the law, and an affirmative reply as an interference with the functions of the authorities, would then have put no question at all relating to the thing which they really wanted (i.e. the execution, and that immediate and tumultuous). (2) As the punishment of death for adultery had at that time already fallen into disuse, the drift of their question was simply, whether or not legal proceedings should be instituted at all (Ebrard, following Michaelis). The words themselves, and the design expressed in the κατῃγορεῖν, which could not take place before the people, but before the competent judges, as in Matthew 12:10, are quite opposed to this explanation. (3) Dieck, in the Stud. u. Krit. 1832, p. 791, says: As the punishment of death for adultery presupposes liberty of divorcement, and as Jesus had Himself repudiated divorce, He would, by pronouncing in favour of that punishment, have contradicted Himself; while, by pronouncing against it, He would have appeared as a despiser of the law. But apart from the improbability of any such logical calculation on the part of His questioners as to the first alternative,—a calculation which is indicated by nothing in the text,—the ἵνα ἔχ. κατηγ. αὐτ. is decisive against this explanation; for a want of logical consistency would have furnished no ground for accusation.(4) (4) The same argument tells against Augustine, Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, Aretius, Jansen, Cornelius à Lapide, Baumgarten, and many other expositors: according to whom an affirmative reply would have been inconsistent with the general mildness of His teaching; a negative answer would have been a decision against Moses. (5) Euthymius Zigabenus, Bengel, and many others, Neander also, Tholuck, Baeumlein, Hengstenberg (who sees here an unhistorical mingling of law and gospel), are nearer the mark in regarding the plan of attack as based upon the assumption, which they regarded as certain, that in accordance with His usual gentleness He would give a negative answer: γινώσκοντες γὰρ αὐτὸν ἐλεήμονα κ. συμπαθῆ, προσεδόκων, ὅτι φείσεται αὐτῆς, καὶ λοιπὸν ἕξουσι κατηγορίαν κατʼ αὐτὸν, ὡς παρανόμως φειδομένου τῆς ἀπὸ τοῦ νόμου λιθαζομένης, Euthymius Zigabenus. But this explanation also must be rejected, partly even on à priori grounds, because an ensnaring casuistic question may naturally be supposed to involve a dilemma; partly and mainly because in this case the introduction of the question by ἐν δὲ τῷ νόμῳ would have been a very unwise method of preparing the way for a negative answer. This latter argument tells against Ewald, who holds that Christ, by the acquittal which they deemed it probable He would pronounce, would have offended against the Mosaic law; while by condemning, He would have violated as well the milder practice then in vogue as His own more gentle principles. Lücke, De Wette, Brückner, Baur,(5) and many other expositors renounce the attempt to give any satisfactory solution of the difficulty.

τῷ δακτύλῳ ἔγραφεν εἰς τ. γῆν] as a sign that He was not considering their question, ὅπερ εἰώθασι πολλάκις ποιεῖν οἱ μὴ θέλοντες ἀποκρίνεσθαι πρὸς τοὺς ἐρωτῶντας ἄκαιρα καὶ ἀνάξια. γνοὺς γὰρ αὐτῶν τὴν μηχανὴν, προσεποιεῖτο γράφειν εἰς τ. γῆν, καὶ μὴ προσέχειν οἷς ἔλεγον, Euthymius Zigabenus. For instances of behaviour like this on the part of one who turns away from those around him, and becomes absorbed in himself, giving himself up to his own thoughts or imaginings, from Greek writers (Aristoph. Acharn. 31, and Schol. Diog. Laert. 2. 127) and from the Rabbins, see in Wetstein. Isaiah 17:13 does not here serve for elucidation. What Jesus wrote is not a subject even of inquiry; nor are we to ask whether, by the act, He was symbolizing any, and if so what, answer (Michaelis: the answer “as it is written”). There is much marvellous conjecture among the older expositors. See Wolf and Lampe, also Fabricius, Cod. Apocr. p. 315, who thinks that Jesus wrote the answer given in John 8:7 (after Bede; comp. also Ewald, Gesch. Chr. p. 480, ed. 3, and Godet). Suffice it to say, the strange manner in which Jesus silently declines to give a decisive reply (acting, no doubt, according to His principle of not interfering with the sphere of the magistracy (here a matter of criminal law, Matthew 22; Luke 12:13-14),(6) bears the stamp of genuineness and not of invention, though Hengstenberg deems this procedure unworthy of Jesus; the tempters deserved the contempt which this implied, John 8:9.

Observe in ἔγραφεν the descriptive imperfect. The reader sees Him writing with His finger. The additions in some Codd. καὶ τροσποιούμενος, and (more strongly attested) μὴ προσποιούμ., are glosses of different kinds, meaning “though He only pretended (simulans) to write;” and, “without troubling Himself about them” (dissimulans, Ev. 32 adds αὐτούς). See Matthaei, ed. min, in loc.


Verse 7

John 8:7. ἀναμάρτητος] faultless, here only in the N. T., very often in the Classics. Whether it means freedom from the possibility of fault (of error or sin), as in Plato, Pol. I. p. 339 B, or freedom from actual sin (comp. γυνὴ ἀναμάρτητος, Herod. v. 39),—whether, again, it is to be understood generally (2 Maccabees 8:4), or with reference to any definite category or species of ἁμαρτία (2 Maccabees 12:42; Deuteronomy 29:19), is a matter which can be decided by the context alone. Here it must signify actual freedom from the sin, not indeed of adultery specially, for Jesus could not presuppose this of the hierarchy as a whole, even with all its corruption of morals, but probably of unchastity, simply because a woman who was a sinner of this category was here in question, and stood before the eyes of them all as the living opposite of ἀναμάρτητος. Comp. ἁμαρτωλός, Luke 7:37; ἁμαρτάνειν, Jacobs, ad Anthol. x. p. 111; in chap. John 5:14, also, a special kind of sinning is intended by μηκέτι ἁμάρτανε; and the same command, in John 8:11, addressed to the adulteress, authenticates the sense in which ἀναμάρτητος is used. The men tempting Him knew how to avoid, in outward appearance rather than in reality, the unchastity which they condemned. Taking the words to mean freedom from sin generally (Baur, who draws from the passage an erroneous doctrinal meaning, Luthardt, Ewald, Hengstenberg, Godet, following early expositors), we make Jesus propose an impracticable condition in the given case, quite unfitted to disarm His opponents as convicted by their own consciences; for it would have been a purelyideal condition, a standard impossible to man. If we take ἀναμάρτητος, however, in the concrete sense above explained, the condition named becomes quite appropriate to baffle the purpose of the tempting questioners; for the prescription of the Mosaic law is, on the one hand, fully recognised;(7) while, on the other, its fulfilment is made dependent on a condition which would effectually banish from the mind of His questioners, into whose consciences Jesus was looking, all thought of making His answer a ground of accusation to the authorities.

Observe, further, how the general moral maxim to be deduced from the text condemns generally in the Christian community, viewed as it ought to exist conformably to its ideal, the personal condemnation of the sins of others (comp. Matthew 7:1; Galatians 6:5), and puts in its place brotherly admonition, conciliation, forgiveness—in a word, love, as the πλήρωσις of the law.

τὸν λίθον] the stone which He would cast at her in obedience to the law.

ἐπʼ αὐτῇ] upon her. See Bernhardy, p. 249; Ellendt, Lex Soph. i. p. 467.

βαλέτω] not mere permission, but command, and therefore all the more telling. The place of stoning must be conceived as lying outside the city (Leviticus 24:14; Acts 7:56). We must further observe that Jesus does not say the first stone, but let the first (i.e. of you, ὑμῶν) cast the stone, which does not exclude that casting of the first, which was obligatory on the witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:7; Acts 7:58).


Verse 8-9

John 8:8-9. πάλιν, κ. τ. λ.] To indicate that He has nothing further to do with the case. According to Jerome(8) and Euthymius Zigabenus, “in order to give space to the questioners to take themselves away;” but this is not in keeping with John 8:6.

ἐξήρχοντο] descriptive imperfect.

εἷς καθʼ εἷς] Mark 14:19.

ἕως τ. ἐσχάτ.] is to be connected with εἷς καθʼ εἷς, ἀρξ. ἀπὸ τ. πρεσβ. being an intervening clause. See on Matthew 20:8.

The πρεσβύτεροι are the elders in years, not the elders of the people; for there would be no apparent reason why the latter should be the first who should have chosen to go away; besides, the elders of the people are not named along with the others in John 8:3. Those more advanced in years, on the other hand, were also thoughtful and prudent enough to go away first, instead of stopping to compromise themselves further.

ἕως τῶν ἐσχάτ.] attested as genuine by preponderating evidence. It does not refer to rank, the least (so most modern expositors, even Lücke, B. Crusius, De Wette, Maier, Lange), which the context does not sanction; the context (see εἷς καθʼ εἷς) leads us rather to render it ‘unto the last who went out,’ i.e. until all were gone. The feature that the eldest (who probably stood nearest to Jesus) were the first to go out, is characteristic and original; but that the going away took place in the order of rank, is a meaning imported into the words by the expositors. After ἀκούσ. the received text has καὶ ὑπὸ τῆς συνειδήσεως ἐλεγχόμενοι, a gloss opposed to very important witnesses; but as to the matter of fact, right enough.

μόνος ἰησ., κ. τ. λ.] Augustine well says: “Relicta sunt duo, miseria et misericordia.” But it does not exclude the presence of the disciples and the crowds of lookers-on at a distance.


Verse 10-11

John 8:10-11. οἱ κατήγ.] who have accused thee to me, as if I were to be judge.

οὐδείς] is emphatic: Has no one condemned thee? Has no one declared that thou art to be stoned? Were it not so, they would not have left the woman to go free, and all of them gone away. The κατέκρινεν here designates the sententia damnatoria, not as a judicial sentence (for the γραμματεῖς and Pharisees had come merely as asking a question concerning a matter of law or right), but simply as the judgment of an individual.

οὐδὲ ἐγώ σε κατακρ.: I also do not condemn thee. This is not the declaration of the forgiveness of sin, as in Matthew 9:2, Luke 7:48, and cannot therefore justly be urged against the historical genuineness of the narrative (see, in particular, Hengstenberg); nor is it a mere declinature of judicial competency, which would be out of keeping with the preceding question, and with the admonition that follows: on the contrary, it is a refusal to condemn, spoken in the consciousness of His Messianic calling, according to which He had not come to condemn, but to seek and save the lost (John 3:17, John 12:46; Matthew 18:11); not to cast out sinners; “not to quench the smoking flax,” etc. He accordingly does in this case what by His office He is called to do, namely, to awaken and give room for repentance(9) in the sinner, instead of condemning; for He dismisses her with the admonition μηκέτι ἁμάρτανε. Augustine well says: “Ergo et Dominus damnavit, sed peccatum, non hominem.” How striking the force of the negative declaration and the positive admonition!


Verse 12

John 8:12. The interpolated section, John 7:53 to John 8:11, being deleted, we must look for some connection with John 7:52. This may be found simply as follows. As the Sanhedrim had not been able to carry out their design of apprehending Jesus, and had, moreover, become divided among themselves (as is recorded in John 7:45-52), He was able, in consequence of this miscarriage in their plans against Him ( οὖν), to come forth afresh and address the assembled people in the temple ( αὐτοῖς, comp. John 8:20). This renewed coming forward to address them is not, however, to be placed on the last day of the feast, but is so definitely marked off by John 8:20 as a special act, and so clearly distinguished from the preceding, that it must be assigned to one of the following days; just as in John 8:21 the similar transition and the recurring πάλιν introduce again a new discourse spoken on another day. Others take a different view, putting the discourses in John 8:12-20, and even that also in John 8:21 ff., on the day named in chap. John 7:37; but against this is not only the πάλιν of John 8:12 and John 8:21, but the οὖν, which in both places bears an evident reference to some preceding historical observation. Though Lücke’s difficulty, that a single day would be too short for so many discourses and replies, can have no weight, there is yet no sufficient ground for De Wette’s supposition, that John did not know how to hold securely the thread of the history.

I am the light of the world, i.e. (comp. on John 1:4) the possessor and bearer of the divine truth of salvation ( τ. φ. τῆς ζωῆς), from whom this saving truth goes forth to all mankind ( κόσμος), who without Christ are dark and dead. The light is not identical with the salvation (Hengstenberg), but salvation is the necessary emanation therefrom; without the light there is no salvation. So also Isaiah 49:6; comp. Isaiah 42:6. To regard the figure which Christ here employs, in witnessing to Himself, as suggested by some outward object—for example, by the two colossal golden candlesticks which were lighted at the feast of Tabernacles (but certainly only on the first day; see Succah v. 2) in the forecourt of the women, where also was the γαζοφυλάκιον, John 8:20, on either side of the altar of burnt-offering (Wetstein, Paulus, Olshausen),—is a precarious supposition, as the feast was now over; at the most, we can only associate the words with the sight of the candelabra, as Hug and Lange do—the latter intermingling further references to spiritual darkness from the history of the adulteress. But the figure, corresponding as it essentially does with the thing signified, had been given long before, and was quite a familiar one in the prophetic view of the idea of the Messiah (Isaiah 9:1; Isaiah 42:6; Malachi 4:2). Comp. also Matthew 4:15-16; Luke 2:32; and the Rabbinical references in Lightfoot, p. 1041. There is really no need to suppose any special suggesting cause, not even the reading of Isaiah 42; for though the Scriptures were read in the synagogues, we have no proof that they were read in the temple. To find also a reference to the pillar of fire in the wilderness (Godet), according to which the ἀκολουθῶν, κ. τ. λ., has reference to Israel’s wanderings, is quite arbitrary; no better, indeed, than the reference of John 7:37 to the rock in the wilderness.

οὐ μὴ περιπατήσει] The strongly attested, though not decisively confirmed, subjunctive περιπατήσῃ (so Lachmann, Tischendorf) would be the most usual word in the N. T. after οὐ μή, and might therefore all the more easily have displaced the future, which could hardly have been introduced through the following ἕξει, seeing that the latter word has no connection with οὐ μή. Upon οὐ μή, with the more definitely assuring future, see on Matthew 26:35; Mark 14:31.

ἕξει τὸ φῶς τ. ζωῆς] As the antithesis of the divine ἀλήθεια, the σκοτία, is the causative element of death, so is the light the cause of life, i.e. of the true eternal Messianic life, not only in its consummation after the Parousia, but already also in its temporal development (comp. John 3:15). ἕξει, it will not be wanting to him, he will be in possession of it, for it necessarily communicates itself to him direct from its personal source, which he follows in virtue of his fellowship with Christ (“lux enim praeferri solet,” Grotius). The ἀκολουθεῖν takes place through faith; but in the believer, who as such walks no more in darkness (John 12:46; Ephesians 5:8; Colossians 1:13), Christ Himself lives (the Johannean “I in you,” and the Pauline Galatians 2:20; see on John 6:51), and therefore he has that light of life which proceeds from Christ as a real and inward possession (Nonnus, ὁμόφοιτον ἐν θὐτῷ); he is υἱὸς φωτός (John 12:36), and himself “light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8). This explanation, not merely the having Christ with him (Weiss), is required by the context; because ἕξει, κ. τ. λ., is the result of the ἀκολουθεῖν, and therefore of faith (comp. John 3:15; John 3:36, John 5:24, John 6:47), and accordingly τῆς ζωῆς is added.


Verse 13-14

John 8:13-14. This great declaration the Pharisees present ( οἱ φαρισ.) cannot leave unchallenged; they, however, cleverly enough, while avoiding dealing with its real substance, bring against it a formal objection; comp. John 5:31. Jesus replies, that the rule of law referred to does not apply to His witness regarding Himself, as He testified concerning Himself, not in His own human individuality, but in the conscious certainty of His having been sent from, and being about to return to, heaven—a relation which is, of course, unknown to His opponents, who therefore reject His testimony. The refutation lies in the fact that God is able, without any departure from truth, to testify concerning Himself.

κἂν ἐγὼ μαρτ., κ. τ. λ.] not: even though I (Lücke), nor: although I, etc. (B. Crusius), for both would require ἐὰν καί; but: even if, i.e. even in case (adeo tum, si), if I for my part ( ἐγώ), etc. See Klotz, ad Devar. p. 519; Stallb. ad Plat. Apol. p. 32 A Baeumlein, Partik. p. 151.

ποῦ ὑπάγω] through death, John 7:33.

ἔρχομαι] ἦλθον was previously used of the historical moment of the past; here, however, the Praes., in using which Jesus means His continuous coming forward as the ambassador of God. Comp. John 3:31. The latter represents it more as a matter of the present.

] not again καί, because the two points are conceived, not as before copulatively, but alternatively (“whether I speak of the one or the other, you do not know it”); comp. 1 Corinthians 11:27. The latter is more expressive, because it is disjunctive.


Verse 15-16

John 8:15-16. The course of thought repeated with some minuteness (Tholuck), but similarly to John 7:24. The rejection of His testimony by the Pharisees in John 8:13, was an act of judgment on their part which, inasmuch as they were unacquainted with His higher position as an ambassador of God, had been determined merely by His cutward sensuous appearance, by His servant’s form ( εἰσορόωντες ἐμὴν βροτοειδέα μορφήν, Nonnus), as to which He seemed to them to be an ordinary man. This Jesus tells them, and adds, how very differently He proceeds in this respect.(10) κρίνειν receives through the context the condemnatory sense, and κατὰ τὴν σάρκα is not to be understood of the subjective norm (Chrysostom: ἀπὸ ἀνθρωπίνης διανοίαςἀδίκως; De Wette: in a carnal, selfish manner; comp. B. Crusius), but of the objective norm (comp. κατʼ ὄψιν, John 7:24; Euth. Zigabenus: πρὸς μόνον τὸ φαινόμενον βλέποντες, καὶ μηδὲν ὑψηλότερον καὶ πνευματικὸν ἐννοοῦντες). Comp. 2 Corinthians 5:16.

ἐγὼ οὐ κρίνω οὐδένα] I condemn no one. There is no need, however, for supplying in thought κατὰ τ. σάρκα, as even Augustine proposed, and after Cyril’s example many modern writers (also Kuinoel, Paulus); to the same thing comes Lücke’s supplement: as you do. This is decidedly to be rejected, partly for the general reason that the proper point would have to be supplied in thought, and partly because, in John 8:16, καὶ ἐὰν κρίνω cannot be taken otherwise than absolutely, and without supplement. For these reasons every kind of supplement must be rejected, whether by the insertion of νῦν, which would point to the future judgment (Augustine, Chrysostom, Euth. Zigabenus, Erasmus, and several), or of μόνος (Storr, Godet), as though John had written αὐτὸς ἐγώ. Jesus rather gives utterance to His maxim in the consciousness of having come, not κρίνειν, but to save and bless (comp. on John 8:11), which is what He carried out principaliter; but this principle was, that He refrained from all condemnation of others, knowing as He did that κρίνειν was neither the end (Brückner) nor the sphere of His life (Hengstenberg). This principle, however, did not exclude necessary cases of an opposite kind; and of such cases John 8:16 supplies the necessary explanation. Luther aptly remarks: “He herewith clothes Himself with His office;” but an antithesis to teaching (Calvin, Beza) is foreign to the verse; and the interpretation: I have no pleasure in judging (De Wette), imports into the words what they do not contain.(11)

John 8:16. καὶ ἐὰν κρίνω δὲ ἐγώ] καὶ δέ here and in John 8:17, atque etiam, see on John 6:51. The thought is: and even if a κρίνειν on my part should take place, etc. Notwithstanding His maxim, not to judge, such cases bad actually occurred in the exercise of His vocation, and, indeed, just for the purpose of attaining its higher object—as was, moreover, inevitable with His antagonism to sin and the κόσμος. Comp. Luther: “If thou wilt not have our Lord God, then keep the devil; and the office which otherwise is not set for judgment, but for help and consolation, is compelled to assume the function of condemnation.” Luthardt: “But my witness becomes a judgment through unbelief.” This, however, is not in the passage; and Jesus was often enough forced into actual, direct κρίνειν, John 8:26.

δέ] occupies the fourth place, because the preceding words are connected with each other, as in John 8:17; John 6:51; 1 John 1:3; Matthew 10:18, al.

According to the reading ἀληθινή (see the critical notes), the meaning of the second clause is: my condemnation is a genuine one, answering to the idea, as it ought to be—not equivalent to ἀληθής (B. Crusius). Comp. on John 7:28. Reason: For it is not (like an ordinary human personality, restricted to myself) I alone (who condemn), but I and the Father that hath sent me (are the κρίνοντες), which fellowship ( ὅπερ ἐγὼ κρίνω, τοῦτο καὶ πατήρ, Euth. Zigabenus) naturally excludes everything that could prevent the κρίσις from being ἀληθινή. Comp. John 5:30.


Verse 17-18

John 8:17-18. After the first reason in answer to the Pharisaic rejection of His self-witness (namely, that He gave it in the consciousness of His divine mission, John 8:14), and after administering a reproof to His antagonists, in connection therewith, for their judging (John 8:15-16), there follows a second reason, namely, that His witness to Himself is no violation of the Jewish law, but has more than the amount of truth thereby required.

καὶδέ] atque etiam, as above in John 8:16.

τῷ ὑμετ.] emphatically, from the point of view of His opponents (comp. John 10:34, John 15:25), who took their stand thereon, and regarded Jesus as a παράνομον, and even in John 8:13 had had in view a well-known prescription of the law. The words of Christ are therefore no doubt anti-Judaic, but not in themselves antinomian (Schweizer, Baur, Reuss), or belonging to a later Christian point of view (De Wette, B. Crusius, Tholuck); nor must they be taken to mean: for Christ and believers the law exists no longer (Messner, Lehre der Apostel. p. 345); though, no doubt, they expressed His consciousness of being exalted above the Jewish law as it then was, and in the strange and hostile form in which it met Him. Accordingly, Keim(12) is mistaken in saying: “In this way neither could Jesus speak nor John write—not even Paul.” See John 5:45-47, John 7:19; John 7:22 f., John 5:39, John 10:35, John 19:36.

The passage itself from the law is quoted with considerable freedom (Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15), ἀνθρώπων being uttered with intentional emphasis, as Jesus draws a conclusion a minori ad majus. If the law demands two human witnesses, in my witness there is still more; for the witnesses whose declaration is contained therein are (1) my own individuality; and (2) the Father who has sent me; as His representative and interpreter, therefore, I testify, so that my witness is also His. That which took place, as to substance, in the living and inseparable unity of the divine-human consciousness, to wit, His witnessing, and God’s witnessing, Jesus discriminates here only formally, for the sake of being able to apply the passage of the law in question, from which He argues κατʼ ἄνθρωπον; but not incorrectly (Schenkel): hence, also, there is no need for supplying in thought to ἐγώ: “As a human knower of myself, as an honest man” (Paulus), and the like; or even, “as the Son of God” (Olshausen, who also brings in the Holy Ghost).


Verse 19

John 8:19. The question of the Pharisees, who only pretend not to understand what Jesus means by the words πέμψας με πατήρ, between which and John 8:27 there is no inconsistency, is frivolous mockery. “Where is, then, this second witness, thy Father?” He has no actual existence! He ought, surely, to be here on the spot, if, as thou hast said, He were a witness with thee on thy behalf! To regard their question as the expression of a veritable material apprehension on their part, that He referred to a physical father (Augustine, Bede, and several; also De Wette, Olshausen, Brückner, and, doubtfully, Lücke), some also having found in it a blasphemous allusion to bastardy (Cyril, Ammon), is irreconcilable with the circumstance that Jesus had already so frequently and unmistakeably pointed to God as His Father; the questioners themselves also betray their dissimulation by the word ποῦ; they do not ask τίς. Totally different is the relation of the question put by Philip in John 14:8.

The reply of Jesus unveils to them with clear composure whence it arose that they put so wicked a question. To take the words οὔτε ἐμὲ as far as μου as a question is less appropriate (Ewald), as it is scarcely likely that Jesus was taken by surprise. εἰ ἐμὲ ᾔδειτε, etc., rest on the fact that the Father reveals Himself in Him. Comp. John 14:9, John 16:3.


Verse 20

John 8:20. ταῦτα τὰ ῥήματα] John 8:12-13. Godet arbitrarily imports into the text “words so important.” Comp. John 6:50.

ἐν τῷ γαζοφυλ.] At the treasury. On ἐν, as denoting immediate neighbourhood, see Kühner, ad Xen. Anab. iv. 8. 22; Ast, Lex. Plat. I. p. 700; Winer, p. 360 [E. T. p. 481], who, however, is of opinion—though it cannot be substantiated—that the place itself where the treasury stood was called γαξοφυλ.; so also Tholuck, Brückner. Respecting the γαζοφυλάκιον, which consisted of thirteen brazen chests destined to receive the taxes and charitable offerings in the temple, see on Mark 12:41. In a place so much frequented in the forecourt of the women did Jesus thus speak,—and no one laid hands on Him.

καὶ οὐδεὶς, etc.] Historical refrain, constituting a kind of triumphal (comp. John 7:30) close to the delivery of this discourse.


Verse 21

John 8:21. A new scene here opens, as in John 8:12, and is therefore, after the analogy of John 8:12, to be placed in one of the following days (so also Ewald; and in opposition to Origen and the common supposition).

The connecting word, with which the further discussion on this occasion (it is different in John 8:12) takes its rise, is a word of grave threatening, more punitive than even John 7:34.

οὖν] As no one had laid hand on Him, comp. John 8:12.

πάλιν, as in John 8:12, indicating the delivery of a second discourse, not a repetition of John 7:34.

αὐτοῖς] to the Jews who were present in the temple, John 8:20; John 8:22.

ζητήσετέ με] namely, as a deliverer from the misfortunes that are coming upon you, as in John 7:34. But instead of the clause there added, καὶ οὐχ εὑρήσετε, here we have the far more tragical and positive declaration, κ. ἐν τ. ἁμαρτ. ὑμ. ἀποθ.: and (not reconciled and sanctified, but) in your sin (still laden with it and your unatoned guilt, John 9:34; 1 Corinthians 15:17) ye shall die, namely, in the universal misfortunes amid which you will lose your lives. Accordingly, ἐν is the state wherein, and not the cause whereby (Hengstenberg) they die. The text does not require us to understand eternal death, although that is the consequence of dying in this state. ἐν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ ὑμῶν, however, is to be taken in a collective sense (see John 8:24; John 1:29; John 9:41), and not as merely referring to the sin of unbelief; though being itself sin (John 16:9), it is the ground of the non-extinction and increase of their sin. Between ζητήσετέ με, finally, and the dying in sin, there is no contradiction; for the seeking in question is not the seeking of faith, but merely that seeking of desperation whose object is merely deliverance from external afflictions. The futility of that search, so fearfully expressed by the words καὶ

ἀποθαν., is further explained by ὅπου ἐγὼ ὑπάγω, etc., for they cannot ascend into heaven, in order to find Jesus as a deliverer, and to bring Him down (to this view John 13:33 is not opposed). Accordingly, these words are to be taken quite as in John 7:34, not as referring to the hell into which they would come through death; for Jesus speaks, not of their condition after, but up to, their death.


Verse 22

John 8:22. It did not escape the notice of the Jews that in using ὑπάγω He meant a voluntary departure. But that they should not be able to come whither He goeth away, excites in them, not fear and concern on His account (Ewald), but impious mockery; and they ask: Surely he will not kill himself, in that he saith, etc.? In this case, indeed, we shall not be able to reach him! The emphasis rests on ἀποκτενεῖ, as the mode in which they scornfully conceive the ὑπάγειν to take place.

Gehenna being the ὅπου which would follow on such a departure (Joseph. Bell. iii. 8. 5, and see Wetstein and Ewald, Alterth. p. 232). The scorn (which Hengstenberg also groundlessly denies) is similar to that in John 7:35, only much more malicious.


Verse 23-24

John 8:23-24. Without further noticing their venomous scorn, Jesus simply holds up before them, with more firm and elevated calmness, their own low nature, which made them capable of thus mocking Him, because they did not understand Him, the heavenly One.

ἐκ τῶν κάτω] from the lower regions, i.e. ἐκ τῆς γῆς (comp. Acts 2:19), the opposite of τὰ ἄνω, the heavenly regions; ἄνω being used of heavenly relations in solemn discourse (Colossians 3:1-2; Galatians 4:26; Philippians 3:14); comp. on ἄνωθεν, John 3:31. ʼεκ designates derivation; you spring from the earth, I from the heaven. To understand κάτω as denoting the lower world (Origen, Nonnus, Lange), a meaning which Godet also considers as included in it, would correspond, indeed, to the current classical usage, but is opposed by the parallel of the second half of the verse.

οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐκ τ. κόσμου τούτου] I do not spring from this (pre-Messianic, comp. αἰὼν οὗτος) world; negative expression of His supramundane, heavenly derivation.(13) Comp. John 18:36. Both halves of the verse contain the same thought; and the clauses ἐκ τῶν κάτω ἐστέ and ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου τούτου ἐστέ imply, in their full signification, that those men are also of such a character and disposition as correspond to their low extraction, without higher wisdom and divine life. Comp. John 3:31. Therefore had Jesus said to them

He refers them again to His words in John 8:24—they would die in their sins; and now He adds the reason: ἐὰν γὰρ, etc.; for only faith can help those to the higher divine ζωή in time and eternity (John 1:12, John 3:15 f., John 6:40 ff., John 17:3, al.), who are ἐκ τῶν κάτω and ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου τούτου, and consequently, as such, are born flesh of flesh.

Notice, that in this repetition of the minatory words the emphasis, which in John 8:20 rested on ἐν τ. ἁμ. ὑμ., is laid on ἀποθαν.; and that thus prominence is given to the perishing itself, which could only be averted by conversion to faith.

ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι] namely, the Messiah, the great name which every one understood without explanation, which concentrated in itself the highest hopes of all Israel on the basis of the old prophecies, and which was the most present thought both to Jesus and the Jews, especially in all their discussions—to Jesus, in the form, “I am the Messiah;” to the Jews, in the form of either, “Is He the Messiah?” or, “This is not the Messiah, but another, who is yet to come.” Comp. John 8:28; John 13:19. In opposition to the notion of there being another, Jesus uses the emphatic ἐγώ. The non-mention of the name, which was taken for granted (it had been mentioned in John 4:25-26), confers on it a quiet majesty that makes an irresistible impression on the minds of the hearers whilst Christ gives utterance to the brief words, ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι. As God comprehended the sum of the Old Testament faith in אֲנִי הוּא (Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 41:13; Isaiah 43:10), so Christ that of the New Testament in ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι. Comp. Hofmann, Schrifbew. I. p. 63 f. The definite confession of this faith is given in John 16:3, John 6:68-69; 1 John 4:2.


Verse 25

John 8:25. The Jews understand the ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι well enough, but refuse to recognise it, and therefore ask pertly and contemptuously: σὺ τίς εἶ; tu quis es? σύ being emphasized for the purpose of expressing disdain; comp. Acts 19:15. Jesus replies with a counter-question of surprise at so great obduracy on their part; but then at once after John 8:26 discontinues any further utterance regarding them, His opponents. His counter-question is: τὴν ἀρχὴν , τι καὶ λαλῶ ὑμῖν? What I from the very beginning also say to you? namely, do you ask that? Who I am (to wit, the Messiah, John 8:24; John 8:29), that is the very thing which, from the very beginning, since I have been among you, and have spoken to you, has formed the matter of my discourse;(14) and can you still ask about that, as though you had not yet heard it from me? They ought to have known long ago, and to have recognised, what they just now asked with their wicked question σὺ τίς εἶ. This view is not complicated, as Winer objects, but corresponds simply to the words and to the situation. On ἀρχήν as used frequently in an adverbial sense, both among the Greeks and by the LXX., with and without the article, to denote time, ab initio, from the very beginning, see Schweighaüser, Lex. Herod. I. p. 104 f.; Lennep ad Phalar. p. 82 ff. It precedes the relative, because it is the point which makes the obduracy of the Jews so very perceptible; comp. John 4:18; Buttmann, Neut. Gram. p. 333 d. [E. T. p. 389].

, τι] interrogatively, in relation to a question with τίς immediately preceding,—as is frequently the case even in the Classics, so that some such words as thou askest must be supplied in thought. See Kühner, II. § 837, note 1; Bernhardy, p. 443; Krüger, § 51. 17. 3.

καί] also, expresses the corresponding relation (Baeumlein, Partik. p. 152), in this case, of speech to being: what from the very beginning, as I am it, so also, I say it to you.

λαλῶ] speak, not: say. Comp. on John 8:26; John 8:43; and see on Romans 3:19. Nor does He use λελάληκα, because it is a continuous speaking; the sound of it is, in fact, still ringing in their ears from. John 8:23-24.

The passage is also taken interrogatively by Matthaei, Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Lücke. The latter(15) renders: Why, indeed, do I still speak to you at all? With this view, it is true, τὴν ἀρχήν is quite compatible; for it is confessedly often used in the Classics for ab initio, in the sense of omnino (Raphel, Herod. in loc.; Hermann, ad Viger. p. 723; Ellendt, Lex. Soph. I. p. 237; Breitenbach, ad Xen. Oec. ii. 12), though only in negative propositions, or such whose signification really amounts to a negation,(16) which latter, however, might be the case here (as in Plat. Demod. p. 381 D Philo, de Abr. p. 366 C); it is also allowable to take , τι in the sense of why (see on Mark 9:11; Buttmann, neut. Gram. p. 218 [E. T. p. 253]). But the thought itself has so little meaning in it, and is so little natural, expressing, besides, a reflection, which is at the bottom so empty, and, at the same time, through τὴν ἀρχήν, so expanded and destitute of feeling, that we should scarcely expect it at the lips of the Johannean Jesus, especially in circumstances so lively and significant as the present. Further thus understood, the saying would have no connection whatever with what follows, and the logical connection assumed by Lücke would require the insertion of some such words as περὶ ἐ΄οῦ. The words would thus likewise stand in no relation to the question σὺ τίς εἶ, whereas John’s general manner would lead us to expect an answer which had reference in some significant way or other to the question which had been put. The following are non-interrogative views:—(1) “What I have already said to you at the beginning, that am I!” So Tholuck after Castalio, Beza, Vatablus, Maldonatus, Clericus, Heumann, and several others; also B. Crusius. Jesus would thus be announcing that He had already, from the very beginning in His discourses, made known His higher personality. The Praes. λαλῶ, as expressing that which still continues to be in the present, would not be opposed to this view; but it does not harmonize with the arrangement of the words; and logically, at all events, καί ought to stand before τὴν ἀρχήν (comp. Syriac). (2) “From the very first (before all things), I am what I also speak to you.” So De Wette; comp. Luther (“I am your preacher; if you first believe that, you will then learn what I am, and not otherwise”), Melancthon, Aretius, and several; also Maier, who, however, takes τὴν ἀρχὴν incorrectly as thoroughly (nothing else).(17) On this view Jesus, instead of answering directly: “I am the Messiah,” would have said that He was to be known above all things from His discourses.(18) But τὴν ἀρχὴν does not mean “above all things,” not even in Xen. Cyr. i. 2, 3, where we read: τὴν ἀρχὴν μὴ τοιοῦτοι, at the very outset not such, i.e. not such at all, omnino non tales; just as little too in Herod. i. 9, where also, as frequently in Herodotus, it denotes omnino; comp. Wolf, Dem. Lept. p. 278. And how entirely without any reference would be the words ante omnia (surely some sort of posterius would need to be supplied in thought). Brückner has rightly, therefore, rejected the “above all things” in De Wette’s rendering, though regarding it as the only correct one, and keeping to the interpretation “from the very first” in its temporal sense. One cannot, however, see what is really intended by the words “from the very first, I am, etc.,” especially as placed in such an emphatic position at the commencement of the clause. For Jesus had neither occasion nor ground for giving the assurance that He had been from the beginning of His appearance, and still was, such as He had declared Himself to be in His discourses, and therefore had not since become different. (3) “Undoubtedly (nothing else) am I what I also say to you.” So Kuinoel;—a view which assigns an incorrect meaning to τὴν ἀρχήν, and confounds λαλῶ with λέγω; objections which affect also the similar interpretation of Ebrard: “I am altogether that which I also say to you (that I am He).” (4) “At the very outset I declared of myself what I also explain to you, or what I also now say.” So Starck, Not. sel. p. 106; Bretschneider. But the supplying of λελάληκα from the following λαλῶ (comp. Dissen, Dem. de Cor. p. 359) would only be suggested if we read , τι καὶ νῦν λαλῶ ὑμῖν. (5) Fritzsche (Lit. Bl. z. allg. Kirchenz. 1843, p. 513, and de conform. Lachmann, p. 53), whom Hengstenberg follows, takes the view: “Sum a rerum primordiis (John 1:1) ea natura, quam me esse vobis etiam profiteor.” Jesus would thus have designated Himself as the primal Logos. Quite unintelligibly for His hearers, who had no occasion for taking τὴν ἀρχήν in the absolute sense, as though reminded of the angel of the Lord in Malachi 3 and Zechariah 11, nor for understanding , τι κ. λ. ὑμ. as Fritzsche does; at all events, as far as the latter is concerned, λέγω ought to have been used instead of λαλῶ. (6) Some connect τὴν ἀρχήν with πολλὰ ἔχω, etc., John 8:26, and after λαλῶ ὑμῖν place merely a comma. So already Codd., Nonnus, Scaliger, Clarius, Knatchbull, Raphel, Bengel, and, more recently, Olshausen, Hofmann, Schriftbew. I. p. 65, II. p. 178, and Baeumlein. In taking the words thus, , τι is either written ὅτι, because, with Scaliger and Raphel (so also Bengel: “principio, quum etiam loquor vobis [Dativus commodi: ‘ut credatis et salvemini’] multa habeo de vobis loqui, etc.”(19)), or is taken as a pronoun, id quod. In the latter way, Olshausen explains it, following Clarius: “In the first place, as I also plainly say to you, I have much to blame and punish in you; I am therefore your serious admonisher.” Baeumlein, however, renders: “I have undoubtedly—as I also do—much to speak and to judge concerning you.” But on this view of the words Jesus would have given no answer at all to the question σὺ τίς εἶ; according to Olshausen, τὴν ἀρχήν would have to be transformed into πρῶτον, in the first place; and the middle clause, according to Olshausen and Baeumlein, would give a quite superfluous sense; while, according to the view of Bengel and Hofmann, it would be forced and unnatural. (7) Exegetically impossible is the interpretation of Augustine: “Principium (the very beginning of all things) me credite, quia ( ὅτι) et loquor vobis, i.e. quia humilis propter vos factus ad ista verba descendi;” comp. Gothic, Ambrose, Bede, Ruperti, and several others. Calvin rightly rejects this interpretation, but himself gives one that is impossible. (8) Obscure, and an importation, is Luthardt’s view ( ὅτι, that: “from the beginning am I, that I may also speak to you”), that Jesus describes the act of His speaking, the existence of His word, as His presence for the Jews; that from His first appearance onwards, He who was then present as the Word of God on the earth had been always used to give Himself a presence for men in the Word. If, according to this view, as it would seem, τὴν ἀρχὴν ὅτι denotes: “from the beginning it is my manner, that,” this cannot possibly be in the simple εἰμί, which has to be supplied in thought; besides, how much is forced into the mere λαλῶ ὑ΄ῖν!


Verse 26

John 8:26. The question in John 8:25 was a reproach. To this (not to John 8:24, as Godet maintains) refers the word πολλά, which is placed with full emphasis at the beginning of the verse; the antithetical ἀλλʼ, however, and the excluding word ταῦτα, inform us that He does not say the πολλά which He has to speak and judge of them (and which He has in readiness, in store); but merely that which He has heard from Him who sent Him. Comp. John 16:12; 2 John 1:12. Similarly Euth. Zigabenus, after Chrysostom and B. Crusius. After the question in John 8:25, we must imagine a reproving pause. The paraphrase: “I have very much to speak concerning you, and especially to blame; but I refrain therefrom, and restrict myself to my immediate task, which is to utter forth to the world that which I have heard from God the True, who has sent me (namely, what I heard during my existence with God, before my mission; comp. on John 8:28(20))—in other words, to the communication of divine truth to the world.” For divergent views of the course of thought, see Schott, Opusc. I. p. 94 ff. After the example of older writers, Lücke and De Wette take the view that Jesus meant to say: “But, however much I have to judge concerning you, my κρίσις is still ἀληθής; for I speak to the world only what I have heard from my Father, who is true.” Comp. also Tholuck. In this way, however, the antithesis has to be artificially formed, whilst the expressed antithesis between that which Jesus has to speak ( ἔχω λαλεῖν) and that which He actually says ( λέγω) is neglected. This is in answer to Ewald also, who imports into λλ’ the meaning: “Yet I will not therefore be afraid, like a man;” and against Hengstenberg, who, after πολλὰ κρίνειν, supplies in thought: “This is the reason why you will not accept my utterances in relation to my person.”

κἀγώ] and I, for my part, in contrast to God; the word is connected with ταῦτα, etc.

ταῦτα] this and nothing else. As to the main point, Chrysostom aptly says: τὰ πρὸς σωτηρίαν, οὐ τὰ πρὸς ἔλεγχον.

εἰς τ. κόσ΄.] See on Mark 1:39. Comp. Soph. El. 596: κήρυσσέ μʼ εἰς ἅπαντας. Not again λαλᾶ (Lachmann, Tischendorf), but λέγω, because the notion has become by antithesis more definite: what He has heard, that it is which He says; He has something else to say to the world than to speak of the worthlessness of His opponents. The former He does; the latter, much occasion as He has for doing it, He leaves undone.


Verse 27

John 8:27. τῆς ἀγνοίας! οὐ διέλιπεν αὐτοῖς περὶ αὐτοῦ διαλεγόμενος, καὶ οὐκ ἐγίνωσκον, Chrysostom and Euth. Zigabenus calls them φρενοβλαβεῖς. But the surprising, nay more, the very improbable element (De Wette) which has been found in this non-understanding, disappears when it is remembered that at John 8:21 a new section of the discourse commenced, and that we are not obliged to suppose that precisely the same hearers were present in both cases (John 8:16-17). The less, therefore, is it allowable to convert non-understanding into the idea of non-recognition (Lücke); or to regard it as equivalent to obduracy (Tholuck, Brückner); or to explain ὅτι as in which sense (Hofmann, l.c. p. 180); or with Luthardt, to press αὐτοῖς, and to give as the meaning of the simple words: “that in bearing witness to Himself He bears witness to them that the God who sends Him is the Father;” or with Ebrard, to find in ἔλεγεν: “that it is His vocation” to proclaim to them; or, with Hengstenberg, to understand ἔγνωσαν, etc., of the true knowledge, namely, of the deity of Christ. For such interpretations as these there is no foundation in the passage; it simply denotes: they knew not (comp. John 8:28) that in these words ( πέμψας με, etc.) He spoke to them of the Father. On λέγειν, with the accus. in the sense of λαλ. περί, see Stallbaum, ad Plat. Apolog. p. 23 A Phaed. p. 79 C. Comp. on John 1:15.


Verse 28-29

John 8:28-29. οὖν] not merely “a continuation of the narration” (De Wette), but: therefore, in reference to this non-understanding, as is also confirmed by the words τότε γνώσεσθε, which refer to οὐκ ἔγνωσαν in John 8:27, and, indeed, considered as to its matter, logically correct, seeing that if the Jews had recognised the Messiahship of Jesus, they would also have understood what He said to them of the Father.

ὅταν ὑψώσητε, etc.] when ye shall have lifted up, namely, on to the cross. Comp. on John 3:14, John 6:62. The crucifixion is treated as an act of the Jews, who brought it about, as also in Acts 3:14 f.

τότε-g0- γνώσ-g0-.] Comp. John 12:32, John 6:62. Then will the result follow, which till then you reject, that you will know, etc. Reason: because the death of Jesus is the condition of His δόξα, and of the mighty manifestations thereof (the outpouring of the Spirit; miraculous works of the apostles; building up of the Church; punishment of the Jews; second coming to judgment). Then shall your eyes be opened, which will take place partly with your own will, and still in time (as in Acts 2:36 ff; Acts 4:4; Acts 6:7; Romans 11:11 ff.); partly against your will, and too late (comp. on Matthew 23:39; Luke 13:34 f.). Bengel aptly remarks: “cognoscetis ex re, quod nunc ex verbo non creditis.”

καὶ ἀπʼ ἐμαυτοῦ, etc.] still dependent on ὅτι, and, indeed, as far as μετʼ ἐμοῦ ἐστιν; so that to the universal ποιῶ, the special λαλῶ and the general μετʼ ἐμοῦ ἐστιν (is my helper and support) together correspond. Hence there is no brevity of discourse requiring to be completed by supplying in thought λαλῶ to ποιῶ, and ποιῶ along with λαλῶ (De Wette, after Bengel). Nonnus already took the correct view (he begins John 8:29 with ὅττι καὶ, etc.); and the objection (Lücke, De Wette, and several others) that οὐκ ἀφῆκε, etc. would then stand too disconnected, has no force, since it is just in John that the asyndetic continuation of a discourse is very common, and, in fact, would also be the case here if καὶ πέμψ. etc. were no longer dependent on ὅτι.

ταῦτα] is arbitrarily and without precedent (Matthew 9:33 cannot be adduced as one) explained as equivalent to οὕτως, from a commingling of two notions. By the demonstrative ταῦτα Jesus means His doctrine generally (comp. John 8:26), with whose presentation He was now occupied. But of this He discoursed in harmony with the instructions received from the Father, i.e. in harmony with the instructions derived from His direct intuition of divine truth with the Father prior to His incarnation. Comp. John 8:38; John 1:18; John 3:13; John 6:46; John 7:16 f.

οὑκ ἀφῆκε, etc.] Independent corroboration of the last thought, negatively expressed on account of His apparent forsakenness in the face of many and powerful enemies. The Praet. refers to the experience felt in every case, during the course of His entire activity, until now (comp. afterwards πάντοτε), not to the point of time when He was sent; the reason afterwards assigned would not be appropriate to this latter reference. Comp. also John 16:32.

ὅτι ἐγὼ, etc.] because I, etc. Reason assigned for the οὐκ ἀφῆκε, etc. How could He ever leave me alone, as I am He who, etc.? ( ἐγώ with emphasis). Comp. John 15:10. Olshausen regards οὐκ ἀφῆκε, etc. as the expression of equality of essence, and ὅτι as assigning the ground of His knowledge. The former idea is erroneous, as the meaning of οὐκ ἀφῆκε, etc. is identical with that of μετʼ ἐμοῦ ἐστιν; and the latter would be an inadequate reason, because it relates merely to moral agreement.


Verses 30-32

John 8:30-32. The opening of a new section in the discourse, but not first on the following day (Godet), which must then have been indicated as in John 8:12; John 8:21.

Notice the separation of the persons in question. The πολλοί are many among His hearers in general; among these πολλοί there were also Jewish hierarchs, and because He knew how fleeting and impure was their momentary faith,(21) Jesus addresses to them the words in John 8:31-32, which at once had the effect of converting them into opponents; hence there is no inconsistency in His treatment of His hearers.

πεπιστ. αὐτῷ] previously ἐπίστ. εἰς αὐτόν. The latter was the consequence of their having believed Him, i.e. His words.

ἐὰν ὑμεῖς, etc.] if you on your part, etc.; for they were mixed up with the unbelieving crowd, and by means of ὑμεῖς are selected from it as the persons to whom the admonition and promise are addressed. They are to abide in the word of Jesus, that is, as in the permanent element of their inner and outer life. For another form of the conception, see John 8:38; John 15:7; John 12:47. Comp. 2 John 1:9.

ἀληθεῶς] really, not merely in appearance, after being momentarily carried away.

γνώσεσθε τ. ἀλήθ.] for divine truth is the content of the λόγος of Christ, Christ Himself is its possessor and vehicle; and the knowledge of it, therefore, first commences when a man believes, inasmuch as the knowledge is the inwardly experienced, living, and moral intelligence of faith (John 17:17; 1 John 1:3 ff.).

ἐλευθερ.] from the slavery, i.e. from the determining power, of sin. See John 8:34; Romans 6:18 ff. “Ea libertas est, quae pectus purum et firmum gestitat” (Ennius, fr. 340). Divine truth is conceived as the causa medians of that regeneration and sanctification which makes him morally free who is justified by faith. Comp. Romans 8:2; James 1:20; James 2:12.


Verse 33

John 8:33. ἀπεκρίθησαν] No others can be the subject, but the πεπιστενκότες αὐτῷ ἰουδαῖοι, John 8:31. So correctly, Melancthon (“offensi resiliunt”), Maldonatus, Bengel, Olshausen, Kling, B. Crusius, Hilgenfeld, Lange, Ewald, and several others, after the example of Chrysostom, who aptly observes: κατέπεσεν εὐθέως αὐτῶν διάνοια· τοῦτο δὲ γέγονεν ἀπὸ τοῦ πρὸς τὸ κοσμικὰ ἐπτοῆσθαι. John himself has precluded us from supposing any other to be intended, by expressly referring (John 8:31) to those Jews among the πολλοί (John 8:30) who had believed, and emphatically marking them as the persons who conduct the following conversation. To them the last word of Jesus proved at once a stone of stumbling. Hence we must not suppose that Jews are referred to who had remained unbelieving and hostile (as do Augustine, Calvin, Lampe, Kuinoel, De Wette, Tholuck, Lücke, Maier, Hengstenberg), and different from those who were mentioned in John 8:31 ( ἀπεκρ. they, indef.); nor do the words ζητεῖτέ με ἀποκτ. in John 8:37 necessitate this supposition, inasmuch as those πεπιστευκότες might have at once veered round and returned again to the ranks of the opposition, owing to the offence given to their national pride by the words in John 8:32. Accordingly, there is no warrant for saying with Luthardt that the reply came primarily from opponents, but that some of those who believed also chimed in from want of understanding. The text speaks exclusively of πεπιστευκότες.

σπέρμα ἀβρ. ἐσμ.] to which, as being destined to become a blessing to, and to have dominion over, the world (comp. Genesis 22:17 f., John 17:16), a state of bondage is something completely foreign. As every Hebrew servant was a son of Abraham, this major premiss of their argument shows that they had in view, not their individual or civil (Grotius, Lücke, Godet), but their national liberty. At the same time, in their passion they leave out of consideration the Egyptian and Babylonian history of their nation, and look solely at the present generation, which the Romans had, in accordance with their prudent policy, left in possession of the semblance of political independence (Joseph. Bell. vi. 6. 2). This, according to circumstances, as in the present case, they were able to class at all events in the category of non-bondage. Hence there is no need even for the distinction between dominion de facto and de jure, the latter of which the Jews deny (Lange, Tholuck). Selden had already distinguished between servitus extrinseca and intrinseca (the latter of which would be denied by the Jews). On the passionate pride taken by the Jews in their freedom, and the ruinous consequences it brought upon them, sea Lightfoot, p. 1045. According to Luthardt, they protest against spiritual dependence, not indeed as regards the disposition (B. Crusius), but as regards their religions position, in virtue of which all other nations are dependent on them, the privileged people of God, for their attainment of redemption. But the coarser misunderstanding of national freedom is more in keeping with other misapprehensions of the more spiritual meaning of Jesus found in John (comp. Nicodemus, the Woman of Samaria, the discourse about the Bread of Life); and what was likely to be more readily suggested to the proud minds of these sons of Abraham than the thought of the κληρονομία τοῦ κόσμου (comp. Romans 4:13), which in their imaginations excluded every sort of national bondage? Because they were Abraham’s seed, they felt themselves as αἷμα φέροντες ἀδέσποτον (Nonnus).


Verse 34

John 8:34. δείκνυσιν (and that with solemn asseveration), ὅτι δουλείαν ἐνέγηνεν ἀνωτέρω τὴν ἐξ ἁμαρτίας, οὐ τὴν ἐκ δυναστείας ἀνθρώπου, Euth. Zigabenus.

ποιῶν] instead of keeping himself free from it.

δοῦλος] as to His moral personality or Ego, comp. as to the figure and subject-matter, Romans 6:17 ff; Romans 7:14 ff. Analogous examples from the Classics in Wetstein; from Philo in Loesner, p. 149.


Verse 35-36

John 8:35-36. But what prospect is there before the slave of sin? Exclusion from the kingdom of the Messiah! This threat Jesus clothes in the general principle of civil life, that a slave has no permanent place in the house; he must allow himself to be sold, exchanged, or cast out. Comp. Genesis 21:10; Galatians 4:30. The application intended to be made of this general principle is this: “The servant of sin does not remain eternally in the theocracy, but is cast out of the midst of the people of God at the establishment of the kingdom of Messiah.” There is nothing to indicate that δοῦλος is intended to refer to Ishmael as a type of the bastard sons of Abraham, and υἱός to Isaac as a type of Christ (Ebrard); such a view rather is out of accord with this general expression in its present tense form, which simply marks an universally existing legal relation between the different positions of the slave and the Son of the house.

εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα] for ever, an expression to be understood in harmony with the relation which has been figuratively represented. After αἰῶνα a full stop should be inserted, with Lachmann and Kling, because ἐὰν οὗν, etc., is a consequence deduced simply from υἱὸς μ. εἰς τ. αἰ., not from what precedes, and because υἱὸς, etc., begins a new section in the logical progress of the discourse. The course of thought, namely, is this: (1) Whoever commits sin is the bondsman of sin, and is excluded from the Messianic people of God. (2) Quite different from the lot of the bondsman, who must quit the house, is that of the Son (of the Master of the house); hence it is this latter who procures for you actual freedom.

υἱὸς μένει εἰς τ. αἰῶνα] namely, ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ,—also a general proposition or principle, but with an intentional application of the general expression υἱός to Christ, who, as the Son of God, retains for ever His position and power in the house of God, i.e. in the theocracy;(22) comp. Hebrews 3:5-6. From this μένει εἰς τ. αἰῶνα it follows ( οὖν) that if He frees from the state of a bondsman, a real and not merely an apparent freedom commences, seeing that, on account of the perpetual continuance of His domestic rights in the theocracy, the emancipation effected by Him must have a real and finally valid result. This would not necessarily be the case if He remained merely for a time in the house; for as both His right and ἐξουσία would then lack certainty and permanence, so the freedom He procured would also lack the guarantee of reality. This line of argumentation presupposes, moreover, that the Father does not Himself directly actin the theocracy; He has entrusted to the Son the power and control.

The reference of δοῦλος to Moses (Euth. Zigabenus, after Chrysostom) is foreign and opposed to the text, see John 8:34. Grotius, however, aptly remarks: “tribuitur hic filio quod modo veritati, quia eam profert filius.”

ὄντως] in reality; every other freedom is mere appearance (comp. John 8:33), not corresponding to its true nature; no other is παντελὴς καὶ ἀπὸ πασῶν ἀρχῶν ἐλευθερία (Plat. Legg. iii. p. 698 A), which alone is that gained through Christ, 1 Corinthians 3:22; Romans 8:35-36; 2 Corinthians 6:4-5.


Verse 37

John 8:37. Now also He denies that they are children of Abraham, although hitherto they had boastfully relied on the fact as the premiss of their freedom, John 8:33.

ἀλλὰ ζητεῖτε] How opposed to a true, spiritual descent from Abraham! The reproach, however, had its justification, because these Jews had already turned round again, and the death of Jesus was the goal of the hierarchical opposition.

οὐ χωρεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν] has no progress in you, in your heart. This view of the meaning, which is philologically correct (Plat. Legg. iii. p. 684 E Eryx. p. 398 B ἔμελλεν λόγος χωρήσεσθαι αὐτῷ; Herod. iii. 42, v. 89; Xen. Oec. i. 11; Polyb. 28. 15, 12, 10. 15, 4; Aristoph. Pax, 472; Ran. 472; 2 Maccabees 3:40), thoroughly applies to the persons concerned; because whilst the word of Christ had penetrated their heart and made them for the time believers (John 8:30-31), it had had no further development, it had made no advance; on the contrary, they had gone back again after believing for a moment. Hence, also, it is not allowable to take ἐν ὑμῖν as equivalent to inter vos (Lücke, Hengstenberg). Others interpret: It finds no place in you (Vulgate: non capit in vobis; so Origen? Chrysostom, Theophylact, Erasmus, Castalio, Beza, Aretius, Maldonatus, Corn. a Lapide, Jansen, and several others; also B. Crusius, Ewald, and Baeumlein). Without any warrant from usage.(23) Others again render: It finds no entrance into you; so that ἐν ὑμῖν would be used pregnantly, indicating the persistence that follows upon movement. So Nonnus, Grotius, Kuinoel, De Wette, Maier, Tholuck, Luthardt. The expression would have to be referred back to the meaning—move forward, stretch forward (Wisdom of Solomon 7:23; 2 Peter 3:9, and frequently in classical writers). But this explanation is neither indicated by the text (for the words are not εἰς ὑμᾶς), nor is it even appropriate to the sense, seeing that the word of Christ had actually stirred those men to momentary faith. At the same time, this explanation, however, is forced on those who refuse to regard the πεπιστευκότες in John 8:31 as those who answer in John 8:33.


Verse 38

John 8:38. That my word has thus failed to produce any effect in you, is due to the fundamentally different origin of my discourse on the one hand, and of your doings on the other.

ἑώρακα π. τ. πατρί] by which Jesus means the intuition of the divine truth which He derived from His pre-human state (comp. on John 8:28), not from His intercourse with God in time (Godet, Beyschlag), as though this latter were involved in the parallel καὶ ὑμεῖς, whereas the difference in the analogous relation is already betrayed by the very difference of expression ( ἤκουσατε and παρὰ τοῦ πατρός).

καὶ ὑμεῖς οὖν] you also therefore, following my example of dependence on the Father. There is a stinging irony in the word οὖν.

ἠκούσατε] i.e. what your father has commanded you. Note the distinction between the perf. and aor. Who their father is, Jesus leaves as yet unsaid; He means, however, the devil, whose children, ethically considered, they are; whereas He is the Son of God in the essential, metaphysical sense.

ποιεῖτε] habitual doing (John 7:51), including, but not exclusively referring to, their wish to kill Him (John 8:37). It is indicative, and no more imperative (Hengstenberg, after Matthew 23:32) than in John 8:41.


Verse 39-40

John 8:39-40. The Jews observe that He means another father than Abraham.

Jesus proves to them from their non-Abrahamic mode of action that they are no children of Abraham.

τέκνα and ἔργα are correlates; the former is used in an ethical sense, so that here (comp. John 8:37) a distinction is drawn, as in Romans 9:8, between the fleshly σπέρμα and the moral τέκνα.

In the reading ἐστε (see the critical notes) there is a change in the view of the relationship, as in Luke 17:5 f. See remarks on the passage. On the non-employment of ἄν, see Buttmann in Studien u. Kritiken for 1858, p. 485, and his Neutest. Gramm. p. 195 [E. T. p. 224].

νῦν δέ] but under such circumstances, nunc autem.

ἄνθρωπον in reference to παρὰ τ. θεοῦ. The λελάληκα following in the first person is regular; see Buttm. Neut. Gramm. p. 241 [E. T. p. 396].

τοῦτο] seek to take the life of a man who speaks the truth which he has heard of God—that Abraham did not do!(24) The words are far from referring to Abraham’s conduct towards the angel of the Lord, Genesis 18 (Hengstenberg, after Lampe); nor is such a reference involved in John 8:56.

παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ] when I was in my pre-human state, παρὰ τῷ πατρί ΄ου, John 8:38. To this view ἄνθρωπον is not opposed (Beyschlag), for Jesus must needs describe Himself in this general human manner, if there were to be congruity between the category of His self-description and the example of Abraham.


Verse 41

John 8:41. You do what your father is in the habit of doing,—result of John 8:39-40, though still without specifying who this father is. “Paulatim procedit castigatio” (Grotius).

As the Jews are not to look upon Abraham as their father, they imagine that some other human father must be meant. In this case, however, they would be bastards, born of fornication (the fornication of Sarah with another man); and they would have two fathers, an actual one (from whom they descend ἐκ πορνείας) and a putative one (Abraham). But inasmuch as their descent is not an adulterous one,(25) and notwithstanding that Abraham is not to be regarded as their father, there remains in opposition to the assertion of Jesus, so they think, only God as the one Father; to Him, therefore, they assign this position: “We be not born of fornication,” as thou seemest to assume, in that thou refusest to allow that Abraham is our father; one father only (not two, as is the case with such as are born of adultery) have we, and that God, if our descent from Abraham is not to be taken into consideration. For God was not merely the creator (Malachi 2:10) and theocratic Father of the people (Isaiah 63:16; Isaiah 64:8); but His Fatherhood was further and specially grounded in the power of His promise made at the conception of Isaac (Romans 4:19; Galatians 4:23). The supposition that they implicitly drew a contrast between themselves and Ishmael (Euth. Zigabenus, who thinks that there is an allusion to the birth of Jesus, Ruperti, Wetstein, Tittmann) is erroneous, inasmuch as Ishmael was not born ἐκ πορνείας. We must reject also the common explanation of the passage as a denial of the charge of idolatry (Hosea 1:2; Hosea 2:4; Ezekiel 20:30; Isaiah 57:3); “our filial relationship to God has not been polluted by idolatry” (De Wette; comp. Grotius, Lampe, Kuinoel, Lücke, Tholuck, Lange, Hengstenberg, Baeumlein, and several others). It is quite opposed to the context, however, for the starting-point is not the idea of a superhuman Father, nor are the Jews reproached at all with idolatry; but the charge is brought against them, that Abraham is not their father; hence also the supposition of an antithesis to a combined Jewish and heathen descent (Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theophylact, Godet), such as was the case with the Samaritans (Paulus), is inadmissible. Ewald also takes the same simple and correct view;(26) comp. Erasmus, Paraphr. Bengel, however, aptly characterizes the entire objection raised by the Jews as a “novus importunitatis Judaicae paroxysmus.”

ἡμεῖς] spoken with the emphasis of pride.


Verse 42

John 8:42 f. God is not your Father, else would ye love me, because ye would be of like descent with me; ἑνὸς γεγαῶτα τοκῆος ἀῤῥαγέος φιλίης ἀλύτῳ ξυνώσατε θεσμῷ, Nonnus. This ἀγαπᾶτε ἂν ἐμὲ would be “the ethical test” (Luthardt) of the like paternity; the fact of its non-existence, although it might have existed, is evidence to the contrary.

ἐγώ] spoken with a feeling of divine assurance.

ἐξῆλθον] the proceeding forth from that essential pre-human fellowship with God, which was His as the Son of God, and which took place through the incarnation (John 13:3, John 16:27-28; John 16:30, John 17:8). The idea of a mere sending would not be in harmony with the context, the proper subject of which is the Fatherhood of God; comp. John 6:62, John 17:5.

καὶ ἥκω) Result of the ἐξῆλθον: and am here, it belongs, along with the rest, also to ἐκ τ. θεοῦ.

οὐδὲ γὰρ ἀπʼ ἐμαυτοῦ, etc.] Confirmation of ἐκ τ. θεοῦ, etc.; for not even of my own self-determination, etc. If Jesus, namely, had not manifested Himself as proceeding from God, He might have come either from a third person, or, at all events, ἀφʼ ἑαυτοῦ; on the contrary, not even ( οὐδέ) was this latter the case.

John 8:43. After having shown them that they were the children neither of Abraham nor of God, before positively declaring whose children they actually are, He discloses to them the ground of their not understanding His discourse; for everything that they had advanced from John 8:33 onwards had been in fact such a non-understanding. The form of expression here used, namely, question and answer ( ὅτι, because; comp. Romans 9:32; 2 Corinthians 11:11), is an outflow of the growing excitement; Dissen, ad Dem, de Cor. p. 186, 347. De Wette (comp. Luther, Beza, Calvin) takes ὅτι as equivalent to εἰς ἐκεῖνο ὅτι (see on John 2:18): “I say this with reference to the circumstance that.” Illogical, as the clauses must then have stood in the reverse order ( διατί οιὐ δύνασθεὅτι τὴν λαλιάν, etc.), because, namely, the words οὐ γινώσκετε denote the relation which is clear from what has preceded.

In the question and in the answer, that on which the emphasis rests is thrown to the end. His discourse was unintelligible to them, because its substance, to wit, His word, was inaccessible to their apprehension, because they had no ears for it. For the cause of this ethical οὐ δύνασθε, see John 8:47. λαλιά, which in classical Greek denoted talk, chatter (see on John 4:42), signifies in later writers (e.g. Polyb. 32. 9, 4; Joseph. Bell. ii. 8. 5), and in the LXX. and Apocrypha, also Discourse, Sermo,(27) without any contemptuous meaning. Comp. Matthew 26:73. So also here; indeed, so different is it from λόγος, that whilst this last mentioned term denotes the doctrinal substance expressed by the λαλιά,—the doctrine, the substance of that which is delivered,(28)

λαλιά denotes the utterance itself, by which expression is given to the doctrine. Comp. John 12:48 : λόγος ὃν ἐλάλησα; Philippians 1:14; Hebrews 12:7.


Verse 44

John 8:44. After the negative statement in John 8:42-43 comes now the positive: Ye ( ὑμεῖς, with great, decided emphasis—ye people, who deem yourselves children of God!) are children of the devil,(29) in the sense, namely, of ethical genesis (comp. 1 John 3:8; 1 John 3:12), which is further explained from ἐκεῖνος onward. The expression must therefore not be regarded as teaching an original difference in the natures of men (Hilgenfeld, comp. on John 3:6).

ἐκ τοῦ πατρ. τ. διαβ.] of the father who is the devil, not of your father, etc. (De Wette, Lücke), which is inappropriate after the emphatic ὑμεῖς, or ought to have been specially marked as emphatic ( ὑ΄εῖς ἐκ τοῦ ὑ΄ῶν πατρὸς, etc.). Nonnus well indicates the qualitative character of the expression: ὑ΄εῖς δῆτα τέκνα δυσαντέος ἐστὲ τοκῆος. Hilgenfeld’s view, which is adopted by Volkmar: “Ye descend from the father of the devil,” which father is the (Gnostic) God of the Jews, is not only generally unbiblical, but thoroughly un-Johannine, and here opposed to the context. John could have written simply ἐκ τοῦ διαβ., if the connection had not required that prominence should be given to the idea of father. But in the entire connection there is nothing that would call for a possible father of the devil; the question is solely of the devil himself, as the father of those Jews. Erroneously also Grotius, who explains the passage as though it ran,

τοῦ πατρ. τῶν διαβόλων.

καὶ τὰς ἐπιθυμίας, etc.] The conscious will of the child of the devil is to accomplish that after which its father, whose organ it is, lusts. This is rooted in the similarity of their moral nature. The desire to kill is not exclusively referred to, though, as even the plural ἐπιθυμίας shows, it is included.

ἐκεῖνος, etc.] for murder and lying were just the two devilish lusts which they were minded to carry out against Jesus.

ἀνθρωποκτόνος ἦν ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς] from the beginning of the human race. This more exact determination of the meaning is derivable from ἀνθρωποκτόνος, inasmuch as it was through his seduction that the fall was brought about, in whose train death entered into the world (see on Romans 5:12). So Origen, Chrysostom, Augustine, Theophylact, and the majority of commentators; also Kuinoel, Schleiermacher, Tholuck, Olshausen, Klee, Maier, Lange (referring it, however, after the example of Euth. Zigabenus, also to Cain), Luthardt, Ewald, Godet, Hofmann, Schriftbeweis, I. pp. 418, 478; Müller, Lehre v. d. Sünde, II. p. 544 f. ed. 5; Lechler in the Stud. u. Kritik. 1854, p. 814 f.; Hahn, Theol. d. N. T. I. p. 355; Messner, Lehre d. Apostel, p. 332; Philippi, Glaubenslehre, III. p. 272; see especially Hengstenberg on the passage, and his Christol. I. p. 8 ff.; Weiss, Lehrbegr. p. 133 f. Compare the corresponding parallels, Wisdom of Solomon 2:24; Revelation 12:9; Revelation 20:2; also Ev. Nicod. 23, where the devil is termed τοῦ θανάτου ἀρχὴ, ῥίζα τῆς ἁμαρτίας; see also Grimm on Wisdom of Solomon 1:1. This view is the only one that is appropriate to the expression ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς, which the design of the context requires to be taken exactly ( מן בראשׁיח, Lightfoot, p. 1045), as it must also be understood in 1 John 3:8. Comp. Joseph. Antiq. I. 1, 4. Others refer to Cain’s murder of his brother (Cyril, Nitzsch in the Berl. theol. Zeitschr. III. p. 52 ff., Schulthess, Lücke, Kling, De Wette, Reuss, Beitr. p. 53, Hilgenfeld, Baeumlein, Grimm), which is not, however, rendered necessary by 1 John 3:12, and would further, without any warrant, exclude an earlier commencement; would be opposed to the national and New Testament view (see on 2 Corinthians 11:3) of the fall and the connection of the present passage; and would finally lack any allusion to it in Genesis 4; whilst, on the contrary, the antithesis between truth and falsehood, which follows afterwards, points unmistakeably to Genesis 3. Finally, inasmuch as ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς must signify some definite historical starting-point, it is incorrect, with B. Crusius, to deny a reference either to the fall or to Cain’s murder of his brother, and to take ἀνθρωποκτ. ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς as simply a general designation.

Brückner also treats the reference to a definite fact as unnecessary.

ἦν] that is, during the entire past, ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς onwards.

κ. ἐν τῇ ἀληθ. οὐχ ἕστηκεν] does not refer to the fall of the devil (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6), as Augustine, Nonnus, and most Catholics maintain,(30) as though εἱστήκει (Vulg.: stetit) had been employed, but is his constant characteristic:(31) and he does not abide in the truth, ἐμμένει, ἀναπαύεται, Euth. Zigabenus. The truth is the domain in which he has not his footing; to him it is a foreign, heterogeneous sphere of life: the truth is the opposite of the lie, both in formal and material significance. The lie is the sphere in which he holds his place; in it he is in the element proper and peculiar to him; in it he has his life’s standing.

ὅτι οὐκ ἔστιν ἀλήθ. ἐν αὐτῷ] the inner ground of the preceding statement. The determining cause of this inner ground, however, is expressed by the words ἐν αὐτῷ, which are emphatically placed at the end. As truth is not found in him, as it is lacking to his inner essence and life, it cannot possibly constitute the sphere of his objective life. Without truth in the inward parts—truth regarded, namely, as a subjective qualification, temper, tendency—that is, without truth in the character, a man must necessarily be foreign to, and far from, the domain of objective truth, and cannot have his life and activity therein. Without truth in the inward parts, a man deals in life with lies, deception, cunning, and all ἀδικία. Note that ἀλήθ. is used first with, and then without, the article.

ἐκ τῶν ἰδίων] of that which is his own, which constitutes the proper ground or essence of his inner man,—of that which is most peculiarly his ethical nature. Comp. Matthew 12:34.

κ. πατὴρ αὐτοῦ] namely, of the liar; he, generically considered, to wit, the liar as such in general, is the devil’s child. The characterization of the devil thus aptly concludes with a declaration which at the same time confirms the reproach, ὑμεῖς ἐκ. τ. πατρὸς τοῦ διαβ. ἐστέ. The less to be approved, therefore, is the common explanation of αὐτοῦ, as standing for τοῦ ψεύδους, which is to be derived from ψεύστης (mendacii auctor, after Genesis 3:4 f.); although, linguistically considered, it is in itself admissible (Winer, p. 181 f. [E. T. p. 138]; Buttmann, p. 93 [E. T. p. 106]). The correct view has been taken also by B. Crusius, Luthardt, Tholuck, Hengstenberg, and as early as Bengel. The old heretical explanation, “as his father,”(32) or, “also his father,” as though αὐτοῦ referred to the devil, and the demiurge, whose lie is the pretending to be the most high God, were really intended (Hilgenfeld, Volkmar), must be rejected; for, on the one hand, John ought at the very least, in order to avoid being completely misunderstood, to have written ὅτι αὐτὸς ψ. . κ. . π. .;(33) while, on the other hand, he did not in the remotest degree entertain the monstrous, wholly unbiblical notion of a father of the devil. Nay, further, a father of this kind would not at all harmonize with the context. Even a writer as early as Photius, Quaest. Amphiloch. 88, takes the opposite view; as also Ewald, Jahrb. V. p. 198 f. It was in the highest degree unnecessary that Lachmann, (Praef. II. p. 7), in order to avoid having to refer αὐτοῦ to the devil, should have approved the reading qui, or ὃς ἄν, instead of ὅταν, which is supported by the feeblest evidence: “qui loquitur mendacium, ex propriis loquitur, quia patrem quoque mendacem habet.”


Verse 45

John 8:45. Because I, on the contrary, speak the truth, ye believe me not

ἐγὼ δέ] for the sake of strong emphasis, in opposition to the devil, placed at the beginning; and the causative ὅτι, a thoroughly tragical because, has its ground in the alien character of the relation between that which Jesus speaks and their devilish nature, to which latter a lie alone corresponds. Euth. Zigabenus aptly remarks: εἰ μὲν ἔλεγον ψεῦδος, ἐπιστεύσατέ μοι ἄν, ὡς τὸ ἴδιον τοῦ πατρὸς ὑμῶν λέγοντι. To take the sentence as a question (Ewald) would weaken its tragical force.


Verse 46

John 8:46. Groundlessness of this unbelief. εἰ μὴ, διότι τὴν ἀλήθειαν λέγω, ἀπιστεῖτέ μοι, εἴπατε, τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν ἐλέγχει με περὶ ἁμαρτίας ὑπʼ ἐμοῦ γενομένης, ἵνα δόξητε διʼ ἐκείνην ἀπιστεῖν; Euth. Zigabenus. ἁμαρτία, fault, is not to be taken in the intellectual sense, as untruth, error (Origen, Cyril, Melancthon, Calvin, Beza, Bengel, Kypke, Tittmann, Kuinoel, Klee, and others), but, as it is employed without exception in the N. T., namely as equivalent to sin. Jesus boldly urges against His opponents His unassailable moral purity—and how lofty a position of superiority does He thus assume above the saints of the Old Testament!—the fact that against Him can be brought ἁμαρτίας ὄνειδος οὐδὲν (Soph. O. C. 971), as a guarantee that He speaks the truth; justly too, for according to John 8:44 ἀλήθεια must be regarded as the opposite of ψεῦδος, whereas a lie falls under the category of ἁμαρτία (comp. ἀδικία, John 7:18). The conclusion is from the genus to the species; hence also it is inadmissible to take ἁμαρτία in the special sense of “fraus” (“qua divinam veritatem in mendacium converterim,” Ch. F. Fritzsche in Fritzsch. Opusc. p. 99), “wicked deception” (B. Crusius), “sin of word” (Hofmann, Schriftbew. II. 1, p. 33 f.), “false doctrine” (Melancthon, Calvin), and so forth. Even in classical usage ἁμαρτία, in and by itself, would denote neither error nor deception, but only acquire this specific meaning through an addition more precisely determining its force.(34) Considered in itself it denotes fault, perversity, the opposite of ὀρθότης (Plat. Legg. i. p. 627 D, ii. p. 668 C). Comp. δόξης ἁμαρτία, Thuc. i. 32. 4; νό΄ων ἁ΄αρτία, Plat. Legg. i. p. 627 D γνώμης ἁμάρτημα, Thuc. ii. 65. 7. Remark further, in connection with this important passage: (1) The argument is based, not upon the position that “the sinless one is the purest and surest organ of the knowledge and communication of the truth” (Lücke); or that “the knowledge of the truth is grounded in the purity of the will” (De Wette, comp. Ullmann); for this would presuppose in the consciousness in which the words are spoken, to wit, in the consciousness of Jesus, a knowledge of the truth obtained mediately, or, at all events, acquired first in His human state; whereas, on the contrary, especially according to John’s view, the knowledge of the truth possessed by Jesus was an intuitive one, one possessed by Him in His pre-human state, and preserved and continued during His human state by means of the constant intercourse between Himself and God. The reasoning proceeds rather in this way: Am I really without sin,—and none of you is able to convict me of the contrary,—then am I also without ψεῦδος; but am I without ψεῦδος, then do I speak the truth, and you, on your part ( ὑμεῖς), have no reason for not believing me. This reasoning, however, is abbreviated, in that Jesus passes at once from the denial of the possibility of charging Him with ἁ΄αρτία, to the positive, special contrary which follows therefrom,—leaving out the middle link, that consequently no ψεῦδος can be attributed to Him,—and then continues: εἰ ἀλήθ. λέγω (Lachmann and Tischendorf correctly without δέ). Further, (2) the proof of the sinlessness of Jesus furnished by this passage is purely subjective, so far as it rests on the decided expression of His own moral consciousness in the presence of His enemies; but, at the same time, it is as such all the more striking in that the confirmation of His own testimony (comp. John 14:30) is added to the testimony of others, and to the necessity of His sinlessness for the work of redemption and for the function of judge. This self-witness of Jesus, on the one hand, bears on itself the seal of immediate truth (otherwise, namely, Jesus would have been chargeable with a καυχᾶθαι of self-righteousness or self-deception, which is inconceivable in Him); whilst, on the other hand, it is saved from the weakness attaching to other self-witnessings, both by the whole evangelical history, and by the fact of the work of reconciliation. (3) The sinlessness itself, to which Jesus here lays claim, is in so far relative, as it is not absolutely divine, but both is and must be divine-human, and was based on the human development of the Son of God.(35) He was actually tempted, and might have sinned; this abstract possibility, however, never became a reality. On the contrary, at every moment of His life it was raised into a practical impossibility.(36) Thus He learned obedience (Hebrews 5:8). Hence the sinlessness of Jesus, being the result of a normal development which, at every stage of His earthly existence, was in perfect conformity with the God-united ground of His inner life (comp. Luke 2:40; Luke 2:52), must always be regarded as conditioned, so far as the human manifestation of Jesus is concerned, by the entrance of the Logos into the relation of growth; whilst the unconditioned correlate thereto, namely, perfection, and accordingly absolute moral goodness—goodness which is absolutely complete and above temptation at the very outset—belongs alone, nay, belongs necessarily to God. In this way the apparent contradiction between this passage and Mark 10:18 may be resolved. For the rest, the notion of sin as a necessary transitional point in human development is shown to be groundless by the historic fact of the sinlessness of Jesus. See Ernesti, Ursprung der Sünde, I. p. 187 ff.


Verse 47

John 8:47. Answer to the question in John 8:46,—a syllogism whose minor premiss, however, needs not to be supplied in thought (De Wette: “Now I speak the words of God”), seeing that it is contained in ( ὑμεῖς) ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐκ ἐστέ. That Jesus speaks the words of God is here taken for granted. The major premiss is grounded on the necessary sympathy between God and him who springs from God, who hears the words of God, that is, as such, he has an ear for them. The words, ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ εἶναι, in the sense of being spiritually constituted by God, do not refer to Christian regeneration and to sonship,—for this first begins through faith,—but merely to a preliminary stadium thereof, to wit, the state of the man whom God draws to Christ by the operation of His grace (John 6:44), and who is thus prepared for His divine preaching, and is given to Him as His (John 6:37). Compare John 17:6.

διὰ τοῦτο

ὅτι] as in John 5:16; John 5:18. See on John 10:17.

Note in connection with John 8:47, compared with John 8:44, that the moral dualism which is characteristic, not merely of John’s Gospel, but of the gospel generally, here so far reveals its metaphysical basis, that it is traced back to the genetic relation, either to the devil or to God—two opposed states of dependence, which give rise to the most opposite moral conditions, with their respective unsusceptibility or susceptibility to divine truth. The assertion by Jesus of this dualism was not grounded on historical reflection and a conclusion ab effectu ad causam, but on the immediate certitude which belonged to Him as knowing the heart of rom. At the same time, it is incorrect to suppose that He assumes the existence of two classes of human nature differing radically from each other at the very outset (Baur, Hilgenfeld). On the contrary, the moral self-determination by which a man surrenders himself either to the one or the other principle, is no more excluded than the personal guilt attaching to the children of the devil (John 8:24; John 8:34); though their freedom is the more completely lost, the more completely their hearts become hardened (John 8:43). The problem of the metaphysical relation between human freedom and the superhuman power referred to, remains, however, necessarily unsolved, and, indeed, not merely in this passage, but in the whole of the New Testament (even in Romans 9-11); comp. also 1 John 3:12; 1 John 4:4. But the freedom itself, in face of that power, and the moral imputation and responsibility remain intact, comp. John 3:19-21.


Verse 48-49

John 8:48-49. In John 8:42 ff. Jesus had denied that His opponents were sons of God, and had stamped them as children of the devil. This procedure they regard only as a confirmation of the accusation which they bring against Him ( λέγομεν) of being a Samaritan, i.e. an heretical antagonist of the pure people of God (for in this light did they view that despised people of mixed race), and possessed with a devil (John 7:20). So paradoxical, not merely presumptuous (as Luthardt explains σαμαρ.), and so crazed did the discourse of Jesus appear to them. No reference whatever was intended to John 4:5 ff. (Brückner, Ewald). On καλῶς, aptly, comp. John 4:17, John 12:13.

John 8:49. ἐγὼ δαιμόν. οὐκ ἔχω, etc.] The emphatic ἐγώ does not contain a retort by which the demoniacal element would be ascribed to His opponents (Cyril., Lücke),—a reference which would require to be indicated by arranging the words οὐκ ἐγὼ δαιμ. ἔχω,—but stands simply in opposition to the following καὶ ὑμεῖς. With quiet earnestness, leaving unnoticed the reproach of being a Samaritan, Jesus replies: I for my part am not possessed, but honour (by discourses which you consider demoniacal, but by which I in reality preserve and promote the glory of God) my Father; and you, on your part, what is it that you do? You dishonour me! Thus does He unveil to them the unrighteousness of their abusive language.


Verse 50-51

John 8:50-51. I, however, in contrast to this unrighteousness by which you wound my honour, seek not the honour which belongs to me

ἔστιν ζητ. κ. κρίνων, there is one (comp. John 5:45) who seeks it (“qui me honore afficere velit,” Grotius), and pronounces judgment, that is, as a matter of fact, between me and my revilers. The expression καὶ κρίνων includes a reference, on the one hand, to the glorification of Jesus, by which He was to be justified (John 16:10; comp. the διό, Philippians 2:9); and, on the other, as regards His opponents, a hint at their just punishment (with eternal death, John 8:51). Hence He adds in John 8:51 a solemn assurance concerning that which is necessary to the obtaining of eternal life, instead of this punitive κρίσις, to wit, the keeping of His word; thus deciding that the exclusion of His opponents from eternal life was inevitable as long as they did not return to μετάνοια; but also pointing out the only way to salvation which was still remaining open to them. Quite arbitrarily some have treated John 8:51 as not forming part of His discourse to His enemies. Calvin and De Wette remark: After a pause, Jesus turns again to those who believed on Him, in the sense of John 8:31. Lücke maintains, indeed, that the discourse is addressed to His opponents, but regards it rather as the conclusion of the line of thought begun at John 8:31 f. than a direct continuation of John 8:50. The connection with John 8:50 is in this way likewise surrendered. The discourse is a direct continuation of the import of καὶ κρίνων, for the result of this κρίνειν to the opponents of Jesus is death.

ἐάν τις, etc.] Note the emphasis which is given to the pronoun by the arrangement of the words τὸν ἐμὸν λόγον. It is the word of Christ, whose keeping has so great an effect. τηρεῖν is not merely keeping in the heart (Tholuck), but, as always, when united with τὸν λόγον, τὰς ἐντολὰς, etc., keeping by fulfilling them (John 8:55; John 14:15; John 14:21; John 14:23 f., John 15:20, John 17:6). This fulfilment includes even the faith demanded by Jesus (John 3:36; comp. the conception of ὑπακοὴ πίστεως), and also the accomplishment of all the duties of life which He enjoins as the fruit and test of faith.

θάνατον οὐ μὴ θεωρ. εἰς τ. αἰ.] not: he will not die for ever (Kaeuffer, de ζωῆς αἰων., not. p. 114), but: he will never die, i.e. he will live eternally. Comp. John 8:52; John 11:25 ff; John 5:25; John 6:50. Death is here the antithesis to the Messianic ζωή, which the believer possesses even in its temporal development, and which he will never lose.

On θεωρ. comp. Psalms 89:44; Luke 2:25; see also on John 3:36. The article is not necessary to θάνατος (John 11:4, and very frequently in the N. T.); see Ellendt, Lex. Soph. II. p. 234.


Verse 52-53

John 8:52-53. The Jews understood Him to speak of natural death, and thus found a confirmation of their charge that He was mad in consequence of being possessed with a devil. It is in their view a senseless self-exaltation for Jesus to ascribe to His word, and therefore to Himself, greater power of life than was possessed by Abraham and the prophets, who had not been able to escape death.

νῦν ἐγνώκ.] “antea cum dubitatione aliqua locuti erant,” in John 8:48, Bengel.

γεύσηται] a different and stronger designation, not intentionally selected, but the result of excitement. Comp. on the expression Matthew 16:28, and the Rabbis as quoted by Schoettgen and Wetstein; Leon. Alex. 41: γεύεσθαι ἀστόργου θανάτου. The image employed, probably not derived from a death-cup,—a supposition which is not favoured by the very common use of the expression in other connections,—serves to set forth to the senses the πικρότης, the bitterness of experiencing death. Comp. the classical expressions, γεύεσθαι πένθους, Eur. Alc. 1072; μόχθων, Soph. Trach. 1091; κακῶν, Luc. Nigr. 28; πόνων, Pind. Nem. 6. 41; πενίης, Maced. 3; ὀϊστοῦ, Hom. Od. φ, 98, χειρῶν υ, 181. The kind of experience denoted by γεύεσθαι is always specified in the context.

John 8:53. Surely thou art not greater (furnished with greater power against death), and so forth; σύ is emphatic. Comp. John 4:12.

ὅστις] quippe qui, who verily; assigning the ground.

τίνα σεαυτ. ποιεῖς] What sort of one dost thou make thyself? (John 5:18, John 10:33, John 19:7), “quem te venditas?” (Grotius), that thy word should produce such an effect?


Verse 54-55

John 8:54-55. Justification against the charge of self-exaltation contained in the words τίνα σεαυτ. ποιεῖς. Jesus gives this justification a general form, and then proceeds to make a special declaration regarding Abraham, which makes it clear that He is really greater than Abraham.

ἐγὼ

ἐμαυτόν] emphatic designation of self (comp. John 5:30-31, John 7:17); δοξάσω, however, is not the future [see the critical notes] (although ἐάν with the indicative is not absolutely to be condemned; see on Luke 19:40; Matthew 18:19), but, according to regular usage, the Conj. Aor.: in case I shall have glorified myself.

ἔστιν πατήρ μου, etc.] my Father is the one who glorifies me, He is my glorifier. The Partic. Praes. with the article has a substantival force, and denotes habitual, continuous doing; hence it refers not merely to a particular mode and act of δοξάζειν exclusively, but to its whole course (in the works wrought, in the divine testimonies, and in His final glorification).

ὃν ὑμεῖς λέγετε, etc.] On the construction see John 10:36. Comp. on John 5:27, John 9:19; Acts 21:29. Jesus unfolds to them why this activity of God, by which He is honoured, is hidden from them; notwithstanding, namely, their theocratic fancy, “it is our God,” they have not known God.(37) Jesus, on the contrary, is certain that He knows Him,(38) and keeps His word.

ὅμοιος ὑμῶν ψεύστης] a liar like unto you. “Mendax est qui vel affirmat neganda, vel negat affirmanda,” Bengel. The charge points back to John 8:44; ὅμοιος with the Gen. as in Theophr. H. pl. ix. 11, also Xen. Anab. iv. 1. 17; see Bornemann, ad h. l.

ἀλλά] but, far from being such a liar.

τὸν λόγ. αὐτ. τηρῶ] exactly as in John 8:51. The entire life and work of Christ were in truth one continuous surrender to the counsel of God, and obedience (Philippians 2:8; Romans 5:19; Hebrews 5:8) to the divine will, whose injunctions He constantly discerned in His fellowship with the Father, John 4:34. Comp. as to the subject-matter, John 8:29.


Verse 56

John 8:56. εἶτα κατασκευάζει καὶ ὅτι μείζων ἐστι τοῦ ἀβρ., Euth. Zigabenus, and, indeed, in such a manner, that He, at the same time, puts the hostile children of Abraham to shame.

πατὴρ ὑμῶν] with a reproving glance back to John 8:39.

ἠγαλλιάσατο, ἵνα ἴδῃ] he exulted to see; the object of his exultation is conceived as the goal to whose attainment the joyous movement of the heart is directed. He rejoiced in the anticipation of seeing my day, i.e. of witnessing the day of my appearance on earth.(39) As to its historical date, ἠγαλλιάσατο does not refer to an event in the paradisaical life of Abraham; but, as Abraham was the recipient of the Messianic promise, which described, on the one hand, the Messiah as His own σπέρμα, himself, however, on the other hand, as the founder and vehicle of the entire redemptive Messianic development for all nations, the allusion is to the time in his earthly life when the promise was made to him. His faith in this promise (Genesis 15:6) and the certainty of the Messianic future, whose development was to proceed from him, with which he was thus inspired, could not but fill him with joy and exultation; hence, also, there is no need for an express testimony to the ἠγαλλ. in Genesis (the supposed reference to the laughing mentioned in Genesis 17:17 which was already interpreted by Philo to denote great joy and exultation, and which Hofmann also has again revived in his Weissag. und Erfüll. II. p. 13, is inadmissible, on a correct explanation of the passage). So much, however, is presupposed, namely, that Abraham recognised the Messianic character of the divine promise; and this we are justified in presupposing in him who was the chosen recipient of divine revelations. For inventions of the Rabbis regarding revelations of future events asserted, on the ground of Genesis 17:17, to have been made to Abraham, see Fabric. Cod. Pseudepigr. I. p. 423 ff. The seeing of the day (the experimental perception thereof through the living to see it, Luke 17:22; Polyb. x. 4. 7; Soph. O. R. 831, 1528; and see Wetstein and Kypke on the passage) to which ( ἵνα) the exultation of Abraham was directed, was, for the soul of the patriarch, a moment of the indefinite future. And this seeing was realized, not during his earthly life, but in his paradisaical state (comp. Lampe, Lücke, Tholuck, De Wette, Maier, Luthardt, Lechler in the Stud. u. Krit. 1854, p. 817, Lange, Baeumlein, Ebrard, Godet), when he, the ancestor of the Messiah and of the nation, learnt that the Messianic age had dawned on the earth in the birth of Jesus as the Messiah. In like manner the advent of Jesus on the earth was made known to Moses and Elias (Matthew 17:4), which fact, however, does not justify us in supposing that reference is here made to occurrences similar to the transfiguration (Ewald). In Paradise Abraham saw the day of Christ; indeed, he there maintained in general a relation to the states and experiences of his people (Luke 16:25 ff.). This was the object of the καὶ εἶδε καὶ ἐχάρη; it is impossible, however, to determine exactly the form under which the εἶδε was vouchsafed to him, though it ought not to be explained with B. Crusius as mere anticipation. We must rest contented with the idea of divine information. The apocryphal romance, Testamentum Levi, p. 586 f. (which tells us that the Messiah Himself opens the gates of Paradise, feeds the saints from the tree of life, etc., and then adds: τότε ἀγαλλιάσεται ἀβραὰμ καὶ ἰσαὰκ κ. ἰακὼβ κἀγὼ χαρήσομαι καὶ πάντες οἱ ἅγιοι ἐνδύσονται εὐφροσύνην), merely supplies a general confirmation of the thought that Abraham, in the intermediate state of happiness, received with joy the news of the advent of Messiah. Supposing, however, that the relation between promise ( ἠγαλλιάσατο, ἵνα ἴδῃ, etc.) and fulfilment ( καὶ εἶδε κ. ἐχάρη), expressed in the two clauses of the verse, do require the beholding of the day of Christ to be a real beholding, and the day of Christ itself to be the day of His actual appearance, i.e. the day of the incarnation of the promised One on earth, it is not allowable to understand by it, either, with Raphelius and Hengstenberg, the appearance of the angel of the Lord (Genesis 18), i.e. of the Logos, to Abraham; or, with Luther, “the vision of faith with the heart” at the announcement made in Genesis 22:18 (comp. Melancthon, Calvin, and Calovius);(40) or, with Olshausen, a prophetic vision of the δόξα of Christ (comp. John 12:41); or, with Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euth. Zigabenus, Erasmus, and most of the older commentators, also Hofmann, the beholding of an event which merely prefigured the day of Christ, a typical beholding, whether the birth of Isaac be regarded as the event in question (Hofmann; see also his Schriftbew. II. 2, p. 304 f.), or the offering up of Isaac as a sacrifice, prefiguring the atoning sacrifice and resurrection of Christ (Chrysostom, Grotius, and many others). According to Linder, in the Stud. und Krit. 1859, p. 518 f., 1867, p. 507 f., the day of Christ denotes nothing but the time of the birth of Isaac, which was promised in Genesis 18:10, so that Christ would thus appear to have represented Himself as one of the angels of the grove of Mamre (comp. Hengstenberg), and, by the expression ἡμέρα ἐμή, to have denoted a time of special, actual revelation. Taken thus, however, the day in question would be only mediately the day of Christ; whereas, according to the connection and the express designation τὴν ἡμέραν τὴν ἐμήν, Christ Himself must be the immediate subject of the day, as the one whose appearance constitutes the day emphatically His

His κατʼ ἐξοχὴν, analogously to the day of His second advent (Luke 17:24; 1 Corinthians 1:8; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:14; Philippians 1:6; Philippians 2:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:2); hence, also, the plural had not to be employed (in answer to Linder’s objection).

καὶ ἐχαρη] appropriately interchanged for ἠγαλλ., the latter corresponding to the first outburst of emotion at the unexpected proclamation.


Verse 57

John 8:57. The Jews, referring κ. εἶδε κ. ἐχάρη to the earthly life of Abraham, imagine the assertion of Jesus to imply that He had lived in the days of the patriarch, and professed to have been personally acquainted with him! How absurd is this!

πεντήκοντα] Placed first to indicate emphasis, corresponding to the position afterwards assigned to the word ἀβρ. Fifty years are specified as the period when a man attains his full growth (comp. Numbers 4:3; Numbers 4:39; Numbers 8:24 f.; Lightfoot, p. 1046 f.): thou hast not yet passed the full age of manhood! Consequently, neither the reading τεσσαράκοντα is to be preferred (Ebrard), nor need we conclude either that Jesus was above forty years of age (the Presbyters of Asia Minor in Iren. II. 22. 5); or that He was taken to be so old διὰ τὴν πολυπειρίαν αὐτοῦ (Euth. Zigabenus); or that He looked so old (Lampe, Heumann, Paulus); or that they confounded “the intensity of the devotion of His soul” as it showed itself in His person, with the traces of age (Lange, Life of Jesus). In the act of instituting a comparison with the two thousand years that had elapsed since Abraham’s day, they could not well care about determining very precisely the age of Christ. In answer to E. v. Bunsen (The Hidden Wisdom of Christ, etc., Lond. 1865, II. p. 461 ff.), who seeks to establish the correctness of the statement in Irenaeus, see Rösch in Die Jahrb. für deutsche Theol. 1866, p. 4 f. Without the slightest reason, Bunsen finds in the forty-six years of chap. John 4:2, the age of Christ. But even Keim is not opposed to the idea of Christ being forty years of age (Gesch. Jes. I. p. 469; comp. his Geschichtl. Chr. p. 235).


Verse 58

John 8:58. Not a continuation of the discourse in John 8:56, so that Jesus would thus not have given any answer to the question of the Jews (B. Crusius); but, as the contents themselves, and the solemn ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λ. ὑμ. shows, an answer to John 8:57. This reply asserts even more than the Jews had asked, namely, πρὶν, etc., before Abraham became, or was born (not: was, as Tholuck, De Wette, Ewald, and others translate),(41) I am; older than Abraham’s origin is my existence. As Abraham had not pre-existed, but came into existence(42) (by birth), therefore γενέσθαι is used; whereas εἰ΄ί denotes being per se, which belonged to Jesus, so far as He existed before time, as to His divine nature, without having previously come into being. Comp. I. 1. 6; and see even Chrysostom. The Praesens denotes that which continues from the past, i.e. here: that which continues from before time (John 1:1, John 17:5). Comp. LXX.; Psalms 90:2; also Jeremiah 1:5. ʼεγώ εἰμι must neither be taken as ideal being (De Wette), nor as being Messiah (Scholten), and transferred into the counsel of God (Sam. Crellius, Grotius, Paulus, B. Crusius), which is forbidden even by the use of the Praesens; nor may we, with Beyschlag, conceive the being as that of the real image of God,—a thought which, after John 8:57, is neither suggested by the context, nor would occur to Christ’s hearers without some more precise indication; nor, lastly, is the utterance to be regarded merely as a momentary vision, as in a state of prophetic elevation (Weizsäcker), inasmuch as it corresponds essentially to the permanent consciousness which Jesus had of His personal (the condition, in the present connection, of His having seen Abraham) pre-existence, and which everywhere manifests itself in the Gospel of John. Comp. on John 17:5, John 6:46; John 6:62. The thought is not an intuitive, conclusion backwards, but a glance backward, of the consciousness of Jesus (against Beyschlag). Only noteworthy in a historical point of view is the perverse explanation of Faustus Socinus, which from him passed over into the Socinian confession of faith (see Catech. Racov., ed. Oeder, p. 144 f.): “Before Abraham becomes Abraham, i.e. the father of many nations, I am it, namely, the Messiah, the Light of the world.” He thus admonishes the Jews to believe on Him while they have an opportunity, before grace is taken from them and transferred to the heathen, in which way Abraham will become the father of many nations.


Verse 59

John 8:59. The last assertion of Jesus strikes the Jews as blasphemous; they therefore set themselves, in the spirit of zealotry, to inflict punishment (comp. John 10:31). A stoning in the temple is mentioned also by Joseph. Antt. xvii. 9. 3. The stones were probably building stones lying in the fore-court. See Lightfoot, p. 1048.

ἐκρύβη κ. ἐξῆλθεν] He hid Himself (probably in the crowd), and went out (whilst thus hidden).(43) The word ἐκρύβη explains how He was able to go out, and therefore (how very different from this is Luke 4:30!) precludes the notion of anything miraculous ( ἀόρατος αὐτοῖς κατέστη τῇ ἐξουσίᾳ τῆς θεότητος, Euth. Zigabenus; comp. Grotius, Wolf, Bengel, Luthardt, Hilgenfeld, and even Augustine),—a notion which gave rise to the addition in the Text. Rec. (see the critical observations), which Ewald defends. Baur, who likewise defends the Text. Rec. (p. 384 ff.), finds here also a docetic disappearance (comp. on John 7:10 f.); if, however, such was John’s meaning, he selected the most unsuitable possible terms to express it in writing ἐκρύβη (comp. on the contrary, Luke 24:31 : ἄφαντος ἐγένετο ἀπʼ αὐτῶν) and ἐξῆλθεν ἐκ τοῦ ἱεροῦ. The “providential protection of God” (Tholuck) is a matter of course, but is not expressed.

There is no exegetical ground for supposing that the simple close of the narrative is designed to prefigure the death of Christ, which, being accomplished under the appearance of legality, released the Lord from the judgment of Israel, so that He left the old Israel as the school of Satan, and, on the other hand, gathered around Him the true Israel (Luthardt). Note how the breach between Jesus and the Jews gradually approached the extremity, and “how admirable, even in the details, is the delineation of the ever-increasing intensification of the crisis” (Ewald, Gesch. Chr. p. 477, ed. 3).

 


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Bibliography Information
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on John 8:4". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/john-8.html. 1832.

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Saturday, November 16th, 2019
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