corner graphic   Hi,    
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to

Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies
John 12



Other Authors
Verse 1

Which had been dead


He raised

For He, read Jesus.

Verse 3

A pound ( λίτραν )

Only here and John 19:39. Matthew and Mark, ἀλάβαστρον , a flask.

Of spikenard ( νάρδου πιστικῆς )

So Mark. See on Mark 14:3.

Very precious ( πολυτίμου )

Literally, of much value. Matthew has βαρυτίμου , of weighty value.


See on John 11:2.


The Synoptists mention only the pouring on the head.

Verse 4

Simon's son


Verse 5

Three hundred pence ( τριακοσίων δηναρίων )

Or three hundred denarii On the denarius, see on Matthew 20:2. Mark says more than three hundred pence. Three hundred denariiwould be about fifty dollars, or twice that amount if we reckon according to the purchasing power.

The poor ( πτωχοῖς )

See on Matthew 5:3. No article: to poor people.

Verse 6

And had the bag, and bare what was put therein ( καὶ τὸ γλωσσόκομον εἶχε, καὶ τὰ βαλλόμενα ἐβάσταζεν )

The best texts read ἔχων , having, and omit the second καὶ andThe rendering would then be, and having the bag bare, etc.

The bag ( γλωσσόκομον )

Only here and John 13:29. Originally a box for keeping the mouth-pieces of wind instruments. From γλῶσσα , tongue, and κομέω , to tend. The word was also used for a coffin. Josephus applies it to the coffer in which the golden mice and emerods were preserved (1 Samuel 6:11). In the Septuagint, of the chest which Joash had provided for receiving contributions for the repairing of the Lord's house (2 Chronicles 24:8). Rev. gives box, in margin.

Bare ( ἐβάσταζεν )

Carried away or purloined. This meaning is rather imparted by the context than residing in the verb itself, i.e., according to New Testament usage (see on John 10:21). Unquestionably it has this meaning in later Greek, frequently in Josephus. Render, therefore, as Rev., took away. The rendering of the A.V. is tautological.

Verse 7

Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this ( ἄφες αὐτήν εἰς τὴν ἡμέραν τοῦ ἐνταφιασμοῦ )

This passage presents great difficulty. According to the reading just given, the meaning is that Mary had kept the ointment, perhaps out of the store provided for Lazarus' burial, against the day of Christ's preparation for the tomb. The word ἐνταφιασμοῦ is wrongly rendered burial. It means the preparation for burial, the laying out, or embalmment. It is explained by John 19:40, as the binding in linen cloths with spices, “as the manner of the Jews is ἐνταφιάζειν toprepare for burial,” not to bury. It is the Latin pollingere, to wash and prepare a corpse for the funeral pile. Hence the name of the servant to whom this duty was committed was pollinctor. He was a slave of the libitinarius, or furnishing undertaker. Mary, then, has kept the ointment in order to embalm Jesus with it on this day, as though He were already dead. This is the sense of the Synoptists. Matthew (Matthew 26:12) says, she did it with reference to my preparation for burial. Mark, she anticipated to anoint.

The reading of the Received Text is, however, disputed. The best textual critics agree that the perfect, τετήρηκεν , she hath kept, was substituted for the original reading τηρήσῃ , the aorist, she may keep, or may have kept, by some one who was trying to bring the text into harmony with Mark 14:8; not understanding how she could keep for His burial that which she poured out now. Some, however, urge the exact contrary, namely, that the perfect is the original reading, and that the aorist is a correction by critics who were occupied with the notion that no man is embalmed before his death, or who failed to see how the ointment could have been kept already, as it might naturally be supposed to have been just purchased. (So Godet and Field.)

According to the corrected reading, ἵνα , in order that, is inserted after ἄφες αὐτὴν , let her alone, or suffer her; τετήρηκεν , hath kept, is changed to τηρήσῃ , may keep, and the whole is rendered, suffer her to keep it against the day of my burying. So Rev.

But it is difficult to see why Christ should desire to have kept for His embalmment what had already been poured out upon Him. Some, as Meyer, assume that only a part of the ointment was poured out, and refer αὐτό , it, to the part remaining. “Let her alone, that she may not give away to the poor this ointment, of which she has just used a portion for the anointing of my feet, but preserve it for the day of my embalmming.” Canon Westcott inclines to this view of the use of only a part. But the inference from the synoptic narratives can be only that the whole contents of the flask were used, and the mention of the pound by John, and the charge of waste are to the same effect. There is nothing whatever to warrant a contrary supposition.

Others explain, suffer her to have kept it, or suffer that she may have kept it. So Westcott, who says: “The idiom by which a speaker throws himself into the past, and regards what is done as still a purpose, is common to all languages.”

Others, again, retain the meaning let her alone, and render ἵνα , in order that, with an ellipsis, thus: “Let her alone: (she hath not sold her treasure) in order that she might keep it,” etc.

The old rendering, as A.V., is the simplest, and gives a perfectly intelligible and consistent sense. If, however, this must be rejected, it seems, on the whole, best to adopt the marginal reading of the Rev., with the elliptical ἵνα : let her alone: it was that she might keep it. This preserves the prohibitory force of ἄφες αὐτήν , which is implied in Matthew 26:10, and is unquestionable in Mark 14:6. Compare Matthew 15:14; Matthew 19:14; Matthew 27:49.

Note that the promise of the future repute of this act (Matthew 26:13; Mark 14:9) is omitted by the only Evangelist who records Mary's name in connection with it.

Verse 9

Much people ( ὄχλος πολὺς )

The best texts insert the article, which converts the expression into the current phrase, the common people. So Rev.

Knew ( ἔγνω )

Rev., more correctly, learned. They came to know.

Verse 10

The chief priests

See on John 12:47.

Verse 11

Went away ( ὑπῆγον )

Withdrew from their company.

Verse 12

A great multitude ( ὄχλος πολὺς )

Some editors add the article and render, the common people.

Verse 13

Branches of palms ( τὰ βαΐ́α τῶν φοινίκων )

The A.V. overlooks both the articles, the branches of the palms. βαΐ́α occurs only here in the New Testament, and means palm branches, or, strictly, tops of the palms where the fruit is produced. Of the palms may have been added by John for readers unacquainted with the technical term, but the expression palm branches of the palms, is similar to housemaster of the house ( οἰκοδεσπότης τῆς οἰκίας , Luke 22:11). The articles are commonly explained as marking the trees which were by the wayside on the route of the procession. Some think that they point to the well-known palm branches connected with the Feast of Tabernacles. On the different terms employed by the Evangelists for “branches,” see on Mark 11:8.

To meet ( εἰς ὑπάντησιν )

Very literally, to a going to meet.

Cried ( ἔκραζον )

Imperfect, kept crying as he advanced.


Meaning O save!

Blessed ( εὐλογημένος )

A different word from the blessed of Matthew 5:3( μακάριος ). This is the perfect participle of the verb εὐλογέω , to speak well of, praise, hence our eulogy. Matthew's word applies to character; this to repute. The ascription of praise here is from Psalm 118:25, Psalm 118:26. This Psalm, according to Perowne, was composed originally for the first celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles after the completion of the sacred temple. The words of the twenty-fifth verse were sung during that feast, when the altar of burnt-offering was solemnly compassed; that is, once on each of the first six days of the feast, and seven times on the seventh day. This seventh day was called “the Great Hosanna,” and not only the prayers for the feast, but even the branches of trees, including the myrtles which were attached to the palm branch, were called “Hosannas.”

The King of Israel

The best texts add καὶ , even the king, etc.

Verse 14

A young ass ( ὀνάριον )

Only here in the New Testament. Matthew mentions an ass and a colt; Mark and Luke a colt only.

Verse 18

Met ( ὑπήντησεν )

The verb means to go to meet. Hence Rev., went and met.

Verse 19

Is gone after Him ( ὀπίσω αὐτοῦ ἀπῆλθεν )

The phrase occurs only here. Literally, is gone away.

Verse 20

Greeks ( Ἕλληνες )

Gentiles, not Hellenists. See on Acts 6:1. Jesus comes into contact with the Gentile world at His birth (the Magi) and at the close of His ministry.

Verse 22

Philip - Andrew

They appear together in John 1:45; John 6:7, John 6:8. Compare Mark 3:18.

Verse 23

Answered ( ἀπεκρίνατο )

The best texts read ἀποκρίνεται , answereth.

The hour is come, that ( ἐλήλυθεν ἡ ὥρα ἵνα )

This is not equivalent to “the hour is come in which.” The hour is used absolutely: the critical hour is come in order that the Son, etc.

Verse 24

Verily, verily

See on John 1:51; see on John 10:1.

A corn ( ὁ κόκκος )

Properly, the corn or grain. The article should be inserted in the translation, because Jesus is citing the wheat-grain as a familiar type of that which contains in itself the germ of life. So wheat has the article: the corn of the wheat. The selection of the corn of wheat as an illustration acquires a peculiar interest from the fact of its being addressed to Greeks, familiar with the Eleusinian mysteries celebrated in their own country. These mysteries were based on the legend of Dionysus (Bacchus). According to the legend his original name was Zagreus. He was the son of Zeus (Jupiter) by his own daughter Persephone (Proserpina), and was destined to succeed to supreme dominion and to the wielding of the thunderbolt. The jealousy of Here (Juno), the wife of Zeus, incited the Titans against him, who killed him while he was contemplating his face in a mirror, cut up his body, and boiled it in a caldron, leaving only the heart. Zeus, in his wrath, hurled the Titans to Tartarus, and Apollo collected the remains of Zagreus and buried them. The heart was given to Semele, and Zagreus was born again from her under the form of Dionysus. The mysteries represented the original birth from the serpent, the murder and dismemberment of the child, and the revenge inflicted by Zeus; and the symbols exhibited - the dice, ball, top, mirror, and apple - signified the toys with which the Titans allured the child into their power. Then followed the restoration to life; Demeter (Ceres) the goddess of agriculture, the mother of food, putting the limbs together, and giving her maternal breasts to the child. All this was preparatory to the great Eleusinia, in which the risen Dionysus in the freshness of his second life was conducted from Athens to Eleusis in joyful procession. An ear of corn, plucked in solemn silence, was exhibited to the initiated as the object of mystical contemplation, as the symbol of the god, prematurely killed, but, like the ear enclosing the seed-corn, bearing within himself the germ of a second life.

With this mingled the legend of Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, who was carried off by Pluto to the infernal world. The mother wandered over the earth seeking her daughter, and having found her, applied to Zeus, through whose intervention Persephone, while condemned to Hades for a part of the year, was allowed to remain upon earth during the other part. Thus the story became the symbol of vegetation, which shoots forth in spring, and the power of which withdraws into the earth at other seasons of the year. These features of the mysteries set forth, and with the same symbol as that employed by Christ here, the crude pagan conception of life rising out of death.

Alone ( αὐτὸς μόνος )

Literally, itself alone. Rev., by itself alone.

Verse 25

Life ( ψυχὴν )

See on Mark 12:30; see on Luke 1:46.

Shall lose ( ἄπολέσει )

The best texts read ἀπολλύει , loseth. See on Luke 9:25.

In this world

This earthly economy, regarded as alien and hostile to God. The words are added in order to explain the strong phrase, hateth his life or soul.

Shall keep ( φυλάξει )

See on 1 Peter 1:4.

Verse 26

Serve ( διακονῇ )

See on Matthew 20:26; see on Mark 9:35; see on 1 Peter 1:12.

Me ( ἐμοὶ )

Notice the emphatic recurrence of the pronoun in this verse.

My Father

Rev., rightly, the Father. “Very much of the exact force of St. John's record of the Lord's words appears to depend upon the different conceptions of the two forms under which the fatherhood of God is described. God is spoken of as 'the Father' and as 'my Father.' Generally it may be said that the former title expresses the original relation of God to being, and specially to humanity, in virtue of man's creation in the divine image; and the latter more particularly the relation of the Father to the Son incarnate, and so indirectly to man in virtue of the incarnation. The former suggests those thoughts which spring from the consideration of the absolute moral connection of man with God; the latter, those which spring from what is made known to us through revelation of the connection of the incarnate Son with God and with man. 'The Father' corresponds, under this aspect, with the group of ideas gathered up in the Lord's titles, 'the Son' 'the Son of man;' and 'my Father' with those which are gathered up in the title 'the Son of God,' 'the Christ'” (Westcott).

Verse 27

My soul

See reff. on John 12:25. The soul, ψυχή , is the seat of the human affections; the spirit ( πνεῦμα ) of the religious affections.

Is troubled ( τετάρακται )

The perfect tense; has been disturbed and remains troubled. The same verb as in John 11:33. Notice that there it is said. He groaned in the spirit ( τῷ πνεύματι ). His inward agitation did not arise from personal sorrow or sympathy, but from some shock to His moral and spiritual sense.

What shall I say?

A natural expression out of the depths of our Lord's humanity. How shall I express my emotion? Some commentators connect this with the following clause, shall I say, Father, save me, etc. But this does not agree with the context, and represents a hesitation in the mind of Jesus which found no place there.

Save me

The shrinking from suffering belongs to the human personality of our Lord (compare Matthew 26:39); but the prayer, save me from this hour, is not for deliverance from suffering, but for victory in the approaching trial. See Hebrews 5:7. The expression is very vivid. “Save me out of this hour.”

For this cause

Explained by glorify thy name. For this use, namely, that the Father's name might be glorified.

Verse 28

Glorify ( δόξασον )

(Wyc., clarify, as the Vulgate clarifca.)


See on Matthew 28:19.

Verse 30

For my sake

Emphatic in the Greek order. It is not for my sake that this voice hath come.

Verse 31

The prince of this world ( ὁ ἄρχων ροῦ κόσμου τούτου )

The phrase occurs only in the Gospel; here, John 14:30; John 16:11.

Shall be cast out ( ἐκβληθήσεται ἔξω )

In every case but one where the word ἐκβάλλω occurs in John, it is used of casting out from a holy place or society. See John 2:15; John 9:34, John 9:3; 3 John 1:10; Revelation 12:2. Compare John 10:4.

Verse 32

Be lifted up ( ὑψωθῶ )

See on John 3:14. The primary reference is to the cross, but there is included a reference to the resurrection and ascension. Bengel says: “In the very cross there was already something tending towards glory.” Wyc., enhanced.

From the earth ( ἐκ τῆς γῆς )

Literally, out of the earth.

Will draw ( ἑλκύσω )

See on John 6:44.

All men ( πάντας )

Some high authorities read πάντα , all things.

Unto Me ( πρὸς ἐμαυτόν )

Rev., rightly, unto myself: in contrast with the prince of this world.

Verse 34

The law

See on John 10:34.

Verse 35

With you ( μεθ ' ὑμῶν )

The best texts read πάντα , among you.

While ye have ( ἕως )

The best texts read ὡς , as: walk in conformity with the fact that you have the Light among you.

Lest darkness come upon you ( ἵνα μὴ σξοτία ὑμᾶς καταλάβῃ )

Rev., better, that darkness overtake you not. On overtake see on taketh, Mark 9:18; and see on perceived, Acts 4:13.

Verse 40

He hath blinded, etc.

These words of Isaiah are repeated five times in the New Testament as the description of the Jewish people in its latest stage of decay. Matthew 13:13; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; John 12:40; Acts 28:26.

Hardened ( πεπώρωκεν )

See on the kindred noun πώρωσις , hardness, Mark 3:5.

Understand ( νόησωσιν )

Rev., better, perceive. Mark has συνιῶσιν , understand. See on understanding, Luke 2:47.

Be converted ( ἐπιστραφῶσιν )

See on Matthew 13:15; see on Luke 22:32. Rev., more accurately, turn, with the idea of turning to or toward something ( ἐπί ).

Verse 41

When ( ὅτε )

The best texts read ὅτι , because.

His glory

In the vision in the temple, Isaiah 6:1, Isaiah 6:3, Isaiah 6:5.

Of Him


Verse 42

Among the chief rulers ( καὶ ἐκ τῶν ἀρχόντων )

Rev., more neatly and accurately, even of the rulers.

Believed on Him ( ἐπίστευσαν εἰς αὐτόν )

See on John 1:12. It is to be noted that John here uses of this imperfect faith which refused to complete itself in confession, the formula for complete faith. Compare believed in His name (John 2:23), and see note there.

Confess Him ( ὡμολόγουν )

The Him, or, Rev., it, is not in the text. The verb is used absolutely. They did not make confession. See on Matthew 7:23; see on Matthew 10:32; see on Matthew 14:7.

Lest they should be put out of the synagogue ( ἵνα μὴ ἀποσυνάγωγοι γένωνται )

Better, that they should not be, etc. Compare Rev., John 12:35. On the phrase, be put out of the synagogue, see on John 9:22.

Verse 43

Praise ( δόξαν )

Much better, Rev., glory, because suggesting a contrast with the vision of divine glory referred to in John 12:41. Compare John 5:44.

Than ( ἤπερ )

The word cannot be rendered by a corresponding word in English The force is, “more than the glory of God, though He is so much more glorious.” The word is found nowhere else in the New Testament. Some authorities read ὕπερ , above.

Verse 44

Cried ( ἔκραξεν )

This is not meant to relate a reappearance of Jesus in public. The close of His public ministry is noted at John 12:36. It is in continuation of the Evangelist's own remarks, and introduces a summary of Jesus' past teaching to the Jews.

Believeth - on Him that sent Me ( πιστεύει - εἰς τὸν πέμψαντά με )

This is the first and almost the only place in the Gospel where the words believe on are used with reference to the Father. This rendering in John 5:24is an error. See John 14:1. The phrase is constantly associated with our Lord. At the same time it is to be noted that it contemplates the Father as the source of the special revelation of Christ, and therefore is not absolutely an exception to the habitual usage. The same is true of John 14:1.

Verse 45

Seeth ( θεωρεῖ )

Rev., properly, beholdeth. Compare John 14:9. The word is purposely chosen to mark an intent, continuous contemplation of Christ, issuing in ever larger knowledge of the Father.

I am come ( ἐλήλυθα )

The perfect tense, pointing to the abiding result of His manifestation. Compare John 5:43; John 7:28; John 8:42; John 16:28; John 18:37.

Abide in darkness

The phrase occurs only here. Compare 1 John 2:9, 1 John 2:11; also John 8:12; John 12:35.

Verse 47

Believe not ( μὴ πιστεύσῃ )

The best texts read φυλάξῃ , keep (them).

Came ( ἦλθον )

The aorist tense, pointing to the purpose of the coming, as I am come (John 12:46) to the result. Compare John 8:14; John 9:39; John 10:10; John 12:27, John 12:47; John 15:22. Both tenses are found in John 8:42; John 16:28.

Verse 48

Rejecteth ( ἀθετῶν )

See on Luke 7:30.

The word ( ὁ λόγος )

Comprehending all the sayings ( ῥήματα ).

The same ( ἐκεῖνος )

That. The pronoun of remote reference Westcott finely remarks: “The resumptive, isolating pronoun places in emphatic prominence the teaching which is regarded as past, and separated from those to whom it was addressed. It stands, as it were, in the distance, as a witness and an accuser.”

The last day

Peculiar to John. See John 6:39.

Verse 49

Of myself ( ἐξ ἐμαυτοῦ )

Out of myself. This formula occurs only here. The usual expression is ἀπ ' ἐμαυτοῦ . Ἁπό , from, as distinguished from ἐκ , out of, marks rather the point of departure, while ἐκ , including this idea, emphasizes the point of departure as the living and impelling source of that which issues forth. In John 7:17, we read, “whether it be out of God ( ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ ), or whether I speak from myself ( ἀπ ' ἐμαυτοῦ ).”

Gave ( ἔδωκεν )

The best texts read δέδεκεν , the perfect tense, hath given, the result of the gift still abiding. So Rev.

Say - speak ( εἴπω - λαλήσω )

The former relating to the substance, and the latter to the form of Jesus' utterances.


Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on John 12:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, December 3rd, 2020
the First Week of Advent
Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology