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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
John 21

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

John 21:1. After these things, &c. — Grotius thinks this whole chapter was written by some of the elders of the church of Ephesus, and added to the rest of the book by the approbation of that society, as agreeable to the relations which they had heard from the mouth of St. John: and Le Clerc follows him in this conjecture; but Dr. Mill has taken pains to invalidate it; (Prolegom., p. 249;) and the beginning of John 21:24, destroys the force of Grotius’s arguments from the latter part of it. Jesus showed himself again to the disciples, &c. — Our Lord having first by the angels, and then in person, ordered his disciples to go home to Galilee, with a promise that they should see him there, it is reasonable to think that they would depart as soon as possible. Wherefore when they were come to their respective homes, and were employed in their former occupation of fishing, Jesus showed himself to them, as is related in the following verses.


Verse 2

John 21:2. There were together — Namely, in one house; Simon Peter, and Thomas, &c. — Doubtless they often met and conversed together about the great things which they had seen and heard during the three years in which they had attended on Christ as his disciples, and especially concerning the late events of which they had been eye-witnesses, namely, the death and resurrection of their Master. And Christ chose to manifest himself to them when they were assembled; not only to countenance Christian society, but that they might be joint witnesses of the same matters of fact, and so might corroborate one another’s testimony. Here were seven together, to attest what follows. One of these was Thomas, who is named next to Peter, as if he now kept closer to the meetings of the apostles than ever, in consequence of the rebuke and advice he had received from Christ. Another was Nathanael, whom we have not met with since we considered the first chapter of this gospel. Some, however, think he was the same with Bartholomew, one of the twelve. The two not named are supposed to be Philip of Bethsaida, and Andrew of Capernaum.


Verses 3-6

John 21:3-6. Simon Peter saith, I go a fishing — They were now waiting for Christ’s promised appearance to them, and it was certainly commendable in Peter that he wished to redeem the time and not be idle; but endeavour to make some provision for his own support, and for the entertainment of his friends. They say, We also go with thee — They were as willing as he to labour for a maintenance, and not to eat the bread of idleness. They went forth, therefore, and entered into a ship immediately — A small vessel on the lake or sea of Tiberias; and that night — Though it was the properest time for fishing, and they were diligent in throwing their nets; they caught nothing — The providence of God so ordering it that the subsequent miracle might be the more illustrious. But when the morning was now come — After they had been toiling all night to no purpose; Jesus appeared and stood on the shore over against them; but the disciples — Who had no expectation of seeing him there, and also being at some distance from him, and it not being yet perfectly light; knew not that it was Jesus — They observed a person upon the shore, but knew not who he was. Then — As they approached within call; Jesus saith, Children, have ye any meat? — Have you taken fish enough to furnish out a meal? They answered him, No — We have been toiling here this whole night in vain. And he said, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find — Reader, whether we would cast the temporal net with success, and gain a maintenance for ourselves, and those dependant upon us, or the spiritual net, so as to be successful fishers of men, we have need of the direction of Jesus, and ought to apply to him for it; which if we do aright we shall not do in vain; the direction we need shall certainly be granted us. They — Willing to try, at least, whether this stranger conjectured right, cast the net therefore as he had directed them; and now — To their great astonishment; they were not able to draw it — Into the ship again; for the multitude of fishes — Which they had enclosed in it. This was not only a demonstration of the power of our Lord, but a kind supply for them and their families. It was, likewise, an emblem of the great success which should attend them as fishers of men.


Verse 7-8

John 21:7-8. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved — Seeing such astonishing success after their preceding fruitless toil and disappointment; saith unto Peter, It is the Lord — Who has, on this occasion, renewed that miracle which he wrought in thy ship some years ago, when he first called us to attend him. Now when Peter heard, and saw, that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him — Or upper garment, as επενδυτης properly signifies, reverencing the presence of the Lord. For he was naked — Or rather, was stripped of it; for the word γυμνος, here used, does not always, like the English word naked, signify having no clothes on, or being totally uncovered, but not having all the clothes usually worn. In this sense the word seems to be used Acts 19:16, and in several passages of the Old Testament. And did cast himself into the sea — To swim to him immediately. The love of Christ draws men through fire and water. And the other disciples — Making the best of their way; came in a little ship — That is, in their small fishing vessel; dragging the net with fishes — Which doubtless considerably impeded their progress.


Verses 9-14

John 21:9-14. As soon as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals — The effect of Christ’s wonder-working power; and fish laid thereon, and bread — Which also he had prepared by a miracle, that they might see how easily he could make provision for them, when they were destitute of the ordinary means of supply. We need not be curious in inquiring whence this fire, fish, and bread came, any more than whence the meat came which the ravens brought Elijah. He that could multiply the loaves and fishes that were, could make new ones if he pleased, or turn stones into bread, fish, or flesh. We may take comfort from this instance of Christ’s care of his disciples; persuaded he has wherewith to supply all our wants, and knows what things we have need of. It is especially encouraging to Christ’s ministers, whom he hath made fishers of men, to learn, by such an instance, that they may depend upon him who employs them to provide for them what he sees to be needful. Jesus saith, Bring of the fish ye have now caught — Christ gave this order either because the fish already broiling on the fire was not sufficient for the company, or rather, perhaps, to show them the reality and greatness of the miracle, by making them attend to the number and largeness of the fish which they had caught, and to the circumstance of the net’s not being broken. Simon Peter went up, and — With the help of his brethren; drew the net to land — As Peter in the former instance had showed a more zealous affection to his Master’s person than any of them, so in this he showed a more ready obedience to his Master’s commands. Full of great fishes, a hundred and fifty and three — These were many more than they needed for their present supply; but they might sell them, and the money would serve to bear their expenses on their journey back to Jerusalem, whither they were shortly to return, and to support them while they waited there. And for all there were so many — And great fishes too; yet was not the net broken — So that they witnessed miracle upon miracle wrought for them. Jesus saith, Come and dine — Or, come and eat; for the word αριστησατε, here used, signifies sometimes to take meat in the morning, which is the meaning of it here. Dr. Doddridge reads, Come and refresh yourselves; and Bishop Pearce, Come and breakfast. “The ancients used regularly but two meals in a day; we use three. As of our three, dinner and supper have been regarded as the two principal, it has obtained, not only with us, but all over Europe, to call the first meal of the ancients by the first of these two, which is dinner; and the second by the latter, which is supper. It is the order which has fixed the names of these meals, and not the precise time of the day at which they were eaten, which is commonly variable.” — Campbell. None of the disciples durst — Or rather, presumed, or ventured to ask him, Who art thou? — For, as the last-mentioned divine justly observes, “the verb ετολμα, which our translators render durst, does not always, in the use of Greek authors, sacred or profane, express the boldness or courage implied in the English verb to dare, by which it is commonly rendered. When joined with a negative, as in this place, it often expresses merely a disinclination, arising from modesty, delicacy, respect, or an averseness to be troublesome in putting unnecessary questions. And it may here be properly translated presumed, or ventured; an interpretation confirmed by the words immediately following. The sense then will be, They knew him to be the Lord, and therefore did not presume to ask him a needless question. To say they durst not ask him, tends to convey the notion that our Lord’s manner of conversing with his disciples was harsh and forbidding, than which nothing can be more contrary to truth. It is not said by the evangelist here, that Jesus now ate with them; but his invitation to them in this verse implies it. Besides, Peter testifies, (Acts 10:41,) that his apostles did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead; meaning to tell Cornelius that that was one of the many infallible proofs by which he showed himself alive after his passion. It is reasonable, therefore, to think that he ate with his apostles on this occasion. Thus Jesus proved to his disciples anew the reality of his resurrection, not only by eating with them, but by working a miracle like that which, at the beginning of his ministry, made such an impression upon them as disposed them to be his constant followers. This is the third time Jesus showed himself to his disciples, &c. — The evangelist does not say that it was the third time Jesus appeared, but the third time that he appeared to his disciples; that is, to his apostles in a body; for in reality it was his seventh appearance. Besides, John himself has taken notice of three appearances before this.


Verse 15

John 21:15. When they had dined — On the kind provision wherewith Jesus had supplied them, and, it is likely, had been edified with such discourse as Jesus had generally used when eating with them; Jesus said to Simon Peter — Who, by his late denial of him, had given him great reason to call in question the sincerity of his love; Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? — He speaks to him by name, the more to affect him, as he did (Luke 22:31) when he warned him of a great approaching trial. He doth not call him Cephas, or Peter, a name signifying strength or stability, for he had lost the credit of that; but gives him his original name, Simon, adding, however, son of Jonas, as he had called him when he pronounced him blessed, Matthew 16:17. And the question he asked him is, of all others, one of the most important, and on which we should frequently and especially ask ourselves: for, on the one hand, if any man love not the Lord Jesus he is anathema, that is, exposed to the wrath and curse of God, 1 Corinthians 16:22; whereas the grace and blessing of God is the portion of all those who love him in sincerity, Ephesians 6:24. Observe, reader, the question is not, Dost thou know me? Dost thou believe in me? Dost thou admire, honour, or fear me? but, Dost thou love me? Give me but proof of that, as if Jesus had said, and I will acknowledge that thy repentance is sincere; that thy backslidings are healed, and that thou art recovered from thy fall. Peter had professed himself a penitent, had wept bitterly for his sin, had returned to the society of the disciples, and had taken great interest in the death and resurrection of Christ; deeply mourning for the former, and greatly rejoicing at being assured of the latter: but still this is not sufficient: the question is, Lovest thou me? Nay, further, Lovest thou me more than these? — More than thou lovest these persons, James or John, thy intimate friends, or Andrew, thy own brother and companion? Those do not love Christ aright, who do not love him better than the best friend they have in the world, and make it appear so whenever there is a comparison or competition between these objects of their love. Or, more than thou lovest these things, these boats and nets, and the other implements of fishing, by which thou earnest a livelihood: that is, more than thou lovest thy occupation and the gains of it. So Dr. Whitby. And the question, thus interpreted, “is neither so cold nor so foreign,” says Dr. Campbell, “as some have represented it. This was probably the last time that Peter exercised his profession as a fisherman. Jesus was about to employ him as an apostle; but as he disdained all forced obedience, and would accept no service that did not spring from choice, and originate in love, he put this question to give Peter an opportunity of professing openly his love, (which his late transgression had rendered questionable,) and consequently his preference of the work in which Jesus was to employ him, with whatever difficulties and perils it might be accompanied, to any worldly occupation, however gainful.” The sense, however, in which the words are more commonly taken is, Lovest thou me more than these men [thy fellow-disciples] love me? Thus interpreted, the question must be considered as having a reference to the declaration formerly made by Peter, (Matthew 26:33,) when he seemed to arrogate a superiority to the rest, in zeal for his Master and steadiness in his service; Though all men should be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. This gives a peculiar propriety to Peter’s reply here. “Convinced, at length, that his Master knew his heart better than he himself; conscious, at the same time, of the affection which he bore him, he dares make the declaration, [as to the sincerity of his love,] appealing to the infallible Judge, before whom he stood, as the voucher of his truth. But as to his fellow-disciples, he is now taught not to assume any thing. He dares not utter a single word which would lead to a comparison with those to whom he knew his woful defection had made him appear so much inferior.” He only says, Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee — “And his silence on this part of the question speaks strongly the shame he had on recollecting his former presumption, in boasting superior zeal and firmness, and shows, that the lesson of humility and self-knowledge he had so lately received, had not been lost.”

He saith unto him, Feed my lambs — Manifest thy love to me in a way which will be peculiarly acceptable; administer spiritual food to my people, even to the weakest and feeblest of my flock; give milk to babes, explain the first principles of my doctrine to those who, having but lately believed in me, are not yet thoroughly instructed in the truths, or established in the grace of the gospel. It may be worth observing here, that the original word αρνια, being the diminutive of αρνα, signifies the least of my lambs; and if, says Dr. Doddridge, “we interpret it as an intimation of the care which Peter, as a minister of Christ, was to take of little children, it seems perfectly congruous to the wisdom and tenderness of the great Shepherd of the sheep, to give so particular an injunction concerning it.”


Verse 16-17

John 21:16-17. He saith unto him again the second (and even the third) time, Simon, &c., lovest thou me? — Doubtless with a view to impress the importance of the question with the greater force on his mind; and perhaps, also, to remind Peter of his having thrice denied him, and thereby given him cause to question the sincerity of his love. But at these two latter times, Christ leaves out the words more than these: because Peter, in his answer, had modestly left them out. Observe, reader, though we cannot say we love Christ more than others do, yet we shall be accepted if we can say we love him indeed. This Peter professes to do again and again, confidently affirming, Yea, or surely, Lord, I love thee. He had a high esteem and value for his Lord; a grateful sense of his kindness; and was entirely devoted to his honour and interest; his desire was toward him, as one he should be undone without; and his delight in him, as one he should be unspeakably happy in. And let it be remembered, those who can truly say that they love the Lord Jesus, may take to themselves the comfort arising from an assurance of their having an interest in him, notwithstanding their daily infirmities. It deserves our notice here, that Peter could appeal to Christ himself for the proof of his love, saying once and again, Thou knowest that I love thee; and the third time, speaking yet more emphatically, Thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. He doth not vouch his fellow-disciples to witness for him; they might be deceived in him; nor doth he think his own word might be taken; the credit of that was more than shaken already: but he calls Christ himself to witness. Happy they that, on good grounds, can do the same! He saith unto him, Feed my sheep — The word rendered feed in the preceding verse, and in John 21:17 th βοσκε, properly means to give food; but the word here used, ποιμαινε, implies more largely to do all the offices of a shepherd, namely, to guide, watch, and defend the sheep, as well as to feed them. “From our Lord’s asking Peter if he loved him, before he gave him commission to feed his lambs and his sheep, it is justly inferred, that to render men duly qualified for the ministerial function, they must prefer the interest and honour of Christ to every other consideration whatever. This is the great qualification by which alone a minister can be animated to go through the labours and difficulties of his office, and be fortified against the dangers which may attend it. Moreover, Christ’s exhortation to Peter to feed his lambs and sheep, being the reply which he made to Peter’s declaration that he loved him, shows us that ministers best testify their love to Christ by their singular care and diligence in feeding his flock. Our Lord’s three-fold repetition of his commission to Peter, was probably in allusion to Peter’s three denials; and as it contains an oblique intimation that his repentance should bear some proportion to his sin, so it seems to have been intended by our Lord to convince the rest of the disciples of the sincerity of Peter’s conversion, and to prevent any slight which he might be exposed to from their suspecting the contrary. However, we are told that Peter was grieved at this repeated application to him: 1st, Because it seemed to him an intimation that Christ doubted the sincerity of his repentance; and to a person of his sanguine temper, nothing could have afforded a more sensible anguish than such a suggestion. 2d, It recalled his crime, with all its aggravating circumstances, into his mind; it renewed his grief for having offended, and it increased that grief from a consideration that he had given sufficient grounds for suspecting his fidelity, even after his conversion. 3d, It put him in fear lest his Master foresaw some further misconduct of his, which would be as great a contradiction to his professions of love to him as the former was. One would wonder that from circumstances so evidently humiliating to the mind of Peter, the Papists could have inferred a grant to him of supreme dominion over the church, clergy as well as laity; as if a charge to serve the sheep, gave a power to lord it over all the shepherds. The passage has doubtless a quite different meaning; for Peter, by his late cowardice and perfidy, having, as it were, abdicated the apostleship, was hereby no more than formally restored to his office, through the indulgence of his kind and merciful Master; and not raised to any new dignity above his brethren.” See Macknight, and Tillotson’s Works.


Verse 18-19

John 21:18-19. Verily I say unto thee, When thou wast young, &c. — Peter being thus restored to the apostolical office and dignity, from which he had fallen by openly denying his Master three several times, Jesus proceeded to forewarn him of the persecutions to which he in particular would be exposed in the execution of his office; intending thereby to inspire him with courage and constancy. When thou wast young thou girdedst thyself, &c. — Our Lord seems to speak thus in allusion to the strength and activity which he had now showed in swimming ashore after he had girded his fisher’s coat upon him. But when thou shalt be old — He lived about thirty-six years after this; thou shalt stretch forth thy hands — To be nailed to the cross; and another shall gird thee — Such as were condemned to be crucified, were tied to the cross till the nails were driven in; and shall carry thee — With the cross; whither thou wouldest not — According to nature: to the place where the cross was to be set up. In other words, Instead of that liberty which in thy youth thou enjoyedst, thou shalt in thine old age be bound and carried to prison and to death. Accordingly, the evangelist adds, This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God — Namely, that he should suffer martyrdom, and die with his hands stretched out on a cross. Observe, reader, 1st, It is not only by acting, but also and especially by suffering, that the saints glorify God. 2d, That with regard to death, which we must all suffer, it is the great concern of every good man, whatever death he dies, to glorify God in it. And when we die patiently, submitting to the will of God; die cheerfully, rejoicing in hope of the glory of God; and die usefully, witnessing to the truth and goodness of religion, and encouraging others, we glorify God in dying. 3d, That the death of the martyrs was, in a special manner, for the glorifying of God. The truths of God, which they died in defence of, were hereby confirmed; the grace of God, which carried them with so much constancy through their sufferings, was hereby magnified; and the consolations of God, which abounded toward them in their sufferings, and his promises, the springs of their consolations, have been hereby recommended to the faith and joy of all the saints. When he had spoken this, he saith, Follow me — That is, as I now walk along, and show thereby that thou art willing to conform to my example, and to follow me, even to the death of the cross. Agreeably to this, the unanimous testimony of antiquity assures us that Peter was crucified.


Verse 20-21

John 21:20-21. Then Peter, turning about — Namely, as he followed Jesus; seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following — Silently, and in humble token of his readiness likewise to suffer the greatest extremities in the service of so gracious a Master. Peter, seeing him follow Jesus in the same manner as he himself did, though he was not called to it, saith to Jesus, Lord, what shall this man do — What is to become of him? must he, who is now following with me, partake of the like sufferings, and in like manner testify his love by dying for thee? “There is a peculiar spirit and tenderness in this plain passage. Christ orders Peter to follow him, in token of his readiness to be crucified in his cause. John stays not for the call, he rises and follows him too; but says not one word of his own love or zeal. He chose that the action only should speak this; and even when he records the circumstance, he tells us not what the action meant, but with great simplicity relates the fact only. If here and there a generous heart sees and emulates it, be it so; but he is not solicitous that men should admire it. It was addressed to his beloved Master, and it was enough that he understood it.” — Doddridge.


Verse 22-23

John 21:22-23. Jesus saith, If I will that he tarry — Without dying; till I come — With power and great glory, to execute the judgment I have threatened on mine enemies. Till then he certainly did tarry, and who can say when or how he died? What is that to thee — Or to any one else? Follow thou me — Mind thou thine own duty, and endeavour to prepare for thine own sufferings, and pry not, with a vain curiosity, into the secret events which may befall him or any other of thy brethren. Then — As this answer was not rightly understood; went this saying abroad among the brethren — That is, among the other followers of Christ; (our Lord himself taught them to use that appellation, John 20:17;) that that disciple should not die; and the advanced age to which he lived gave some further colour for it; yet Jesus said not unto him — Or of him; He shall not die — Not expressly. And St. John himself, at the time of writing his gospel, seems not to have known clearly whether he should die or not; but, If I will, &c. — He only said the words expressed before, which, if St. John understood, he did not think proper to explain.


Verse 24

John 21:24. This is the disciple which testifieth these things — Being still alive after he had written them. From this verse Grotius and some others infer, that the Ephesian bishops added this whole chapter to St. John’s gospel, after his death. But, as Dr. Macknight observes, it evidently proves the contrary, for it assures us that John wrote the things contained in this chapter. And we know that his testimony is true — The church probably added these words to this gospel, as Tertius did those to St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans, Romans 16:23. Further, though the evangelist seems to conclude his gospel, (John 20:31,) it is no unusual thing with the sacred writers to add new matter after such conclusions. See the epistle to the Romans, and that to the Hebrews, at the end. As to the writer of this gospel being spoken of in the third person, it is agreeable to John’s manner; (see John 19:35;) who likewise speaks of himself in the plural number, 1 John 5:18-20. To conclude, the verse under consideration is shown to be genuine, by a similar passage in the conclusion of the third epistle, John 21:12. In detailing the events subsequent to the crucifixion, the reader may readily observe, that much matter is recorded in a small compass; and that though each evangelist has given his particular and connected narration, much new matter is introduced by each one, unnoticed by the others. To frame a general narrative by a combination of the whole, and to dispose the various circumstances in the order they are supposed to have occurred, have been objects of difficulty to harmonists. On these accounts, the following concise summary of the events, in the order they may rationally be supposed to have happened, is introduced, as arranged by Dr. Benson, and afterward adopted by Archbishop Newcome.

On the morning of the first day of the week, Jesus rises from the dead; a great earthquake happens about the time of his resurrection; and an angel appears, who rolls away the stone that closed the mouth of the sepulchre, sits upon it, and strikes the keepers with great fear; thus causing them to remove to such a distance, as to remain unnoticed by the women and others hereafter, Matthew 28:2-4. After his resurrection, many bodies of the saints rise from their graves, and are seen by many in Jerusalem, Matthew 27:52-53. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Salome, Joanna, and other women, (Mark 16:1; Luke 24:1; John 20:1,) go very early to the sepulchre, intending to embalm the body of Jesus, (having bought spices the preceding evening for that purpose.) In their way they consult about removing the stone from the door of the sepulchre. Perceiving it already taken away, they enter into the sepulchre, yet find not the body of the Lord Jesus, Mark 16:3-5; Luke 24:2-3; John 20:1. Mary Magdalene, hastily returning to Jerusalem, relates to Peter and John that they had taken the Lord out of the sepulchre, John 20:2. The other women remaining in the sepulchre, two angels appear unto them, and one of them requests the women to inform the disciples, and Peter in particular, that Jesus was risen, &c., Matthew 28:5-7; Mark 16:4-7; Luke 24:4-8. The women return from the sepulchre, relate these things to the apostles, and are discredited, Matthew 28:8; Mark 16:8; Luke 24:8-11. Peter and John having heard Mary Magdalene’s report of his having been taken away, and the women’s of his having risen, run to the sepulchre, and find the body removed according to their information, and wondering at what was come to pass, return home, Luke 24:12; John 20:3-10. The resurrection having been stated to the disciples at Jerusalem at this period, (Luke 24:22-24,) Cleophas and his companion leave their brethren to go to Emmaus. Mary Magdalene goes again to the sepulchre, tarries there after the apostles, (John 20:11,) and converses with the two angels who had before appeared to the women. Turning herself back, she perceives Jesus, who gradually makes himself known unto her; she consequently hastens to the city, and announces this his first appearance to the disciples, but they believe not, Mark 16:9-11; John 20:11-18. The other women, having told the disciples of his resurrection, continue in the city, while Peter and John visit, and Mary Magdalene revisits, the sepulchre: they then go back again, and upon finding it deserted, return toward Jerusalem. On their way, Jesus meets and requests them to direct his disciples to depart into Galilee, Matthew 28:9-10. This is his second appearance. The guards about this time leave the neighbourhood of the sepulchre, and inform the Jewish rulers of what had occurred within their knowledge, Matthew 28:11-15. According to Paul, (1 Corinthians 15:5,) the third appearance is to Cephas; and the fourth, to the two who some time prior to this left their brethren to proceed to Emmaus; who, immediately returning to Jerusalem, relate it to the other disciples, and are not credited, Matthew 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-36. The last time of his being seen on the day of his resurrection, being the fifth, was by the apostles as they sat at meat in the absence of Thomas, 1 Corinthians 15:5; Mark 16:14-18; Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-23. This concludes the great and glorious transactions of the important day on which Jesus rose from the dead. About the eighth day after his resurrection, he again, the sixth time, appears to his disciples, when Thomas was present, John 20:24-29. His seventh appearance occurs between the eighth and fortieth day, at the sea of Tiberias, to his disciples, (Matthew 28:16; John 21:1-24,) and his. eighth, to them upon the mountain in Galilee, Matthew 28:16-20. Paul (1 Corinthians 15:6) relates his having been seen of above five hundred brethren at once, many of whom, at the time of his writing this epistle, were living witnesses to this the ninth appearance. His tenth is to James; and his final appearance, being the eleventh, is to the apostles, on the ascension, 1 Corinthians 15:7; Acts 1:3-12; Mark 16:19-20; Luke 24:50-53.


Verse 25

John 21:25. And there are also many other things which Jesus did — Many which none of the evangelists have recorded; which, if they should be written every one — Every fact, and all the circumstances thereof; I suppose — This expression, which softens the hyperbole, (if this be one,) shows that John wrote this verse; the world itself could not contain the books that should be written — The construction of this verse, in our present translation, is fully justified by adducing from the Old Testament expressions equally hyperbolical. Thus Exodus 3:8, the land of Canaan is said to flow with milk and honey. Numbers 13:33, the spies, who returned from searching the land of Canaan, say they saw giants there of such a prodigious size, that they were, in their own sight, as grasshoppers. 7:12, the Midianites, &c., are said to lie along in the valley like grasshoppers, and their camels to be as the sand by the sea-shore for multitude. 1 Kings 10:27, Solomon is said to make silver be in Jerusalem as stones. The reader may find more examples of such hyperboles, both in sacred and profane authors, in a note of Bishop Pearce on this text. Such expressions are not unusual in the magnificent luxuriance of the oriental style, though rarely occurring in the simple, artless narrations of the apostles. Thus understood, the clause simply means, that Jesus performed a prodigious number of miracles. The text may, nevertheless, be considered in a sense somewhat different. This evangelist frequently uses the word world in a general sense, to denote its inhabitants, as John 8:26, and in other places, (see John 15:18,) as signifying the carnal and unbelieving part of mankind. The Greek word χωρεω, here translated contain, is not only used in that sense, but, when applied to the mind, denotes the reception and understanding of any thing, and is rendered to this purpose, Matthew 19:11-12; and Philemon 1:15. By adopting these observations the text may be understood to mean, I am persuaded the world itself would not receive the books that should be written; which is Doddridge’s translation. Whitby, Chandler, and many others, have supported this construction. According to it John informs us, that if all the miracles which Jesus performed were written, the world itself could not receive the books, could not believe them, because they would appear absolutely incredible. But to this interpretation it may be objected, that the phrase, αυτον τον κοσμον, the world itself, cannot mean the men of the world, for which reason the first sense, it seems, is to be preferred.

“I agree perfectly,” says Dr. Campbell, “with those interpreters who think that the hyperbole contained in this verse is much more tolerable than the torture to which some critics have put the words, in order to make them speak a different sense.”

“Perhaps,” says the pious Dr. Doddridge, referring to what St. John here declares respecting the many other things done by Jesus, which have not been recorded, “it may be a most delightful part of the entertainment of the heavenly world, to learn from our blessed Lord himself, or from those who conversed with him on earth, a multitude of such particulars of his life as will be well worthy our everlasting admiration. In the mean time, let us praise God for what is recorded, and let us study the sacred records which contain such authentic and exact accounts of those important facts, in which we are all so nearly concerned; records incomparably more valuable than the writings of our private estates, or the charters of our public liberties. Let us earnestly pray, that their great design may be answered in us; and make it our importunate request to Him, who is the giver of all grace, that through the operations of that Holy Spirit, (without the influence of which, even the Scripture itself, with all our advantages for understanding and improving it, will be but a sealed book, or a dead letter,) our faith may be nourished and confirmed by every portion of it which we read. And let us, above all, be concerned that our hearts may be so influenced by his word, and, as it were, delivered into the mould of it, that, believing in Christ, under all the characters he bears, we may have life through his name, and may at length receive the end of our faith in the complete salvation of our souls.” Amen! So may it be to the author of this work, and to all that do or may peruse it!

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on John 21:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/john-21.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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