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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
John 8

 

 

Verses 1-11

PERICOPE ADULTERS.

John 7:53 to John 8:11. Jesus and the Woman Accused of Sin.—The well-known story of the woman taken in adultery has no claim to be regarded as part of the original text of this gospel. It breaks the close connexion between John 7 and John 8:12 ff., and in style and vocabulary it is clearly Synoptic rather than Johannine. Of early Greek MSS the Cambridge MS (D) alone contains it, and in a text which differs considerably from that of the later Greek MSS from which it passed into the Received Text. Of early VSS the Latin alone contains it, and it was absent from some forms even of the Latin. It is supported by no early Patristic evidence. The evidence proves it to be an interpolation of a "Western" character. It is found in various places, after John 7:36 in one Greek MS, after John 7:44 in the Georgian Version, at the end of the gospel in other MSS. In one important group of Greek cursives it is found attached to Luke 21:37.

Eusebius (H.E., iii. 39) tells us that Papias recorded a similar story "of a woman accused before the Lord of many sins," which was also in the Gospel according to the Hebrews. This suggests as the most probable explanation of its association with the Fourth Gospel that the story, which bears every mark of preserving a true tradition, found a place in Papias' books of "Expositions of the Dominical Logia," as illustrating the Lord's saying (John 8:15), "I judge no man" (see Light-foot, Essays on Supernatural Religion, pp. 203ff.).

The evidence of Codex D and other textual phenomena suggest perhaps that it existed in more than one Greek translation. If so the original was not Latin, as the Latin texts show clear traces of translation from Greek. Its insertion in certain MSS in Lk. is due to the similarity between John 8:1 f. and Luke 21:37 ff.

The incident is not one which early Christian opinion would have been likely to invent. It is beyond the power of the sub-apostolic age to produce. As Lightfoot says, "they had neither the capacity to imagine, nor the will to invent, an incident which, while embodying the loftiest of all moral teaching, would seem to them dangerously lax in its moral tendencies."

Like other questions addressed to the Lord the "tempting" consisted in the endeavour to catch Him in a dilemma. If He pronounced against the strict carrying out of the Mosaic Law He would be discredited with the people. If He counselled action contrary to the decrees of the Roman authorities, who had withdrawn from the Jews the power of inflicting capital punishment, His enemies would get material for accusation against Him. The answer contained nothing which disparaged legal punishment, and it threw on the accusers the responsibility of taking action. It left untouched the question of Jewish and Roman relations, and it raised the deeper moral issues of the right to condemn and the true end of punishment.

[John 8:9. when they heard it: C. R. Gregory (ET, x. 193) quotes an ancient MS as giving "when thay read it."—A. J. G.]

(See also Supplement)


Verses 12-20

John 8. Further Controversy in Jerusalem.

John 8:12-20. The Light of the World; Discourse in the Treasury.—If we remove the Pericope adulterai (John 7:53 to John 8:11, clearly a later addition, though a genuine piece of gospel tradition, possibly belonging originally to Lk. and inserted here to illustrate John 8:15, "I judge no man"), this section regains its natural connexion with John 8:7, and especially John 7:15-24. It is another specimen of the controversies of the period. John 8:12 may refer to the custom of lighting at this Feast the great candelabra in the Court of the Women where the treasury was (John 8:20), to commemorate the pillar of fire. The Pharisees dispute the credentials of Jesus. His reply is in effect the old prophetic claim to speak for God. He knows whence He is. His claims have the necessary legal witness (Deuteronomy 17:6), His own and God's. They reply that He does not produce His second witness. Their scoffing only reveals their deep ignorance of God. His arrest is not yet attempted. God has more work for Him to do in the capital.


Verses 21-30

John 8:21-30. Warnings of Coming Doom.—But He knows that in the end the rulers must have their way. He tells the Pharisees that His time is short, and that they will need Him when it is too late. The "Jews" are scornful. Is He thinking of suicide? In answer He emphasizes the gulf which separates them from Him and His teaching. Who is He, they ask, to make such claims? He reiterates the hopelessness of the situation. Why does He talk with them at all? (So John 8:25 mg. The view that He called Himself "The beginning" comes from the Vulg.; the Gr. cannot be so translated. It is very doubtful whether the words can mean either "Essentially I am what I say" or "I am what I have told you all along from the beginning.") He has much to say. But they would not listen to God's truth. He must say it to a different audience (John 8:26). They will never understand till they have "exalted" the Son, through suffering and rejection, to the honour God has appointed for Him. Then they will know that He is no self-boaster, but God's obedient Messenger.


Verses 31-59

John 8:31-59. Controversy with the "Jews" who Believed.—Many are convinced by this appeal. The following section summarises the teaching by which Jesus tried to bring the more favourably disposed of the "Jewish" party to a fuller faith. If they will make Christ's teaching a real part of their lives, they will gain the truth which sets men free. They take offence. If they have had to submit to foreign power, they have never been reduced to slavery. Sin is slavery, Jesus replies, and the slave has no secure place in the house as the son has. The author adds that true freedom is the gift of the "Son." Jesus admits their physical descent from Abraham (John 8:37). But their conduct does not correspond to their parentage. They do not dissociate themselves from their party's policy of trying to get rid of one whose teaching is unacceptable. He follows His Father's example. Let them follow the example of theirs. They again assert their parentage. He replies that their deeds disprove it, and point to other parentage. They are no bastards, they answer, but God's children. If that were so, He tells them, they would love God's Messenger. Their murderous intent proves their kinship with the devil, the murderer from the beginning. He could not stand in the truth, lies are his own, for he is the father of them. (Many commentators insist that John 8:44 b must be translated, "For a liar is also his father," and. suggest a reference to the father of the devil, or alter the beginning of the verse into "Ye are of your father Cain," cf. 1 John 3:12. Neither expedient is satisfactory.) They refuse to believe because He speaks the truth. No one has convicted Him of sin. Their refusal to hear shows that they are not "of God." His words convince the Jews that He is an enemy of the race, and mad. No madman, He answers, could honour God as He does. They dishonour Him by such an accusation. But His honour is in higher hands. If a man keeps His word, he will gain true life and never see death. To the Jews this assertion proves His madness. How can His word confer a privilege not granted to Abraham or the Prophets? He answers that what He claims comes from the Father. Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing the glory of the Messianic times, and from his abode in Paradise he has seen it and is glad. Apocryphal writings show that, according to Jewish tradition, the Messianic glories were revealed to Abraham during his earthly life, and speak of the "joy" shown by him. Cf. 4 Esd. 3:14, "Unto him didst thou reveal the end of the times secretly"; Apoc. Baruch 4:4, the heavenly Jerusalem shown to A. by night; Jubilees (15:17 and Charles Pseudep., p. 36 n.), Abraham "rejoiced." The Jews are scornful, referring what is said to the earthly life of Abraham. How can one not yet fifty years old have seen Abraham? In answer Jesus asserts His priority to Abraham in terms which, whatever may have been their original form and meaning, are used by the author in the sense of pre-existence, and seem to His hearers blasphemous. Again in this chapter it is almost impossible to separate speech and comment. But it adds a chapter to the real history of the ministry, showing how in Jerusalem, as in Galilee, those whom His teaching attracted were alienated when He refused to promise political freedom, and spoke of the slavery of sin, attempting to teach His higher views by distinguishing between physical and spiritual kinship to Abraham and to God. Though told in the terms of Johannine theology, it is a real stage in the controversy with His people that is "interpreted."

[John 8:48. Behind the word Samaritan may he the Aramaic Shomroni, i.e. son of Shomron, the father of Ashmedai, prince of demons, otherwise Samml or Satan.

John 8:57. ℵ, Syr. Sin., and the Sahidic read "has Abraham seen thee?"—A. J. G.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on John 8:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/john-8.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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