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Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies
John 5



Other Authors
Verse 1

A feast ( ἑορτὴ )

Or festival. What festival is uncertain. It has been identified with the Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles; also with the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Dedication, and the Feast of Purim.

Verse 2

Sheep-market ( τῇ προβατικῇ )

The word is an adjective pertaining to sheep, which requires to be completed with another word, not with ἀγορᾷ , market, but with πύλῆ , gate. This gate was near the temple on the east of the city. See Nehemiah 3:1, Nehemiah 3:32; Nehemiah 12:39. Some editors join the adjective with the following κολυμβήθρα , pool, making the latter word κολυμβήθρᾳ (the dative case), and reading the sheep-pool. Wyc., a standing water of beasts.

Pool ( κολυμβήθρα )

In the New Testament only in this chapter and John 9:7, John 9:11. Properly, a pool for swimming, from κολυμβάω , to dive. In Ecclesiastes 2:6(Sept.) it is used of a reservoir in a garden. The Hebrew word is from the verb to kneel down, and means, therefore, a kneeling-place for cattle or men when drinking. In ecclesiastical language, the baptismal font, and the baptistery itself.

Called ( ἐπιλεγομένη )

Strictly, surnamed, the name having perhaps supplanted some earlier name.

Bethesda ( βηθεσδὰ )

Commonly interpreted House of Mercy; others House of the Portico. The readings also vary. Tischendorf and Westcott and Hort give βηθζαθά , Bethzatha, House of the Olive. The site cannot be identified with any certainty. Dr. Robinson thinks it may be the Fountain of the Virgin, the upper fountain of Siloam. See Thomson's “Land and Book,” “Southern Palestine and Jerusalem,” pp. 458-461.

Porches ( στοὰς )

Cloisters, covered porticoes.

Verse 3

Great multitude

The best texts omit great.

Impotent ( ἀσθεσούντων )

Rev., sick. Yet the A.V. gives the literal meaning, people without strength. Wyc., languishing.

Withered ( ζηρῶν )

Literally, dry. So Wyc. The following words, to the end of John 5:4, are omitted by the best texts.

Verse 5

Had an infirmity thirty and eight years

Literally, having thirty and eight years in his infirmity.

Verse 6

Had been now a long time ( πολὺν ἤδη χρόνον ἔχει )

Literally, he hath already much time.

Wilt thou ( θέλεις )

Not merely, do you wish, but are you in earnest? See on Matthew 1:19. Jesus appeals to the energy of his will. Not improbably he had fallen into apathy through his long sickness. Compare Acts 3:4; John 7:17.

Whole ( ὑγιὴς )


Verse 7

Put ( βάλῃ )

Literally, cast; indicating the hasty movement required to bring him to the water before its agitation should have ceased. See on Mark 7:30; see on Luke 16:20.

Verse 8

Bed ( κράββατον )

Used by both Mark and Luke. See on Mark 2:4, and compare Acts 5:15; Acts 9:33.

Verse 10

Cured ( τεθεραπευμένῳ )

See on Matthew 8:7; see on Luke 5:15; see on Acts 17:25.

To carry ( ἆραι )

Rev., more correctly, to take up. It is Jesus' own word in John 5:8.

Verse 11

He that made - the same ( ὁ ποιήσας - ἐκεῖνος )

The demonstrative pronoun points with emphasis to the subject of the preceding clause. A characteristic usage of John. See John 1:18, John 1:33; John 9:37; John 10:1; John 12:48, etc.

Verse 12



What man is he, etc.

“See the cunning of malice. They do not say, 'Who is he that healed thee?' but, 'Who bade thee take up thy bed?'” (Grotius, in Trench, “Miracles.”)

Take up thy bed

Omit bed. Literally, take up and walk.

Verse 13

He that was healed ( ἰαθεὶς )

Compare John 5:10, and note the different word for healing. See references there.

Who it was ( τίς ἐστιν )

The present tense, who it is.

Had conveyed Himself away ( ἐξένευσεν )

The verb means, literally, to turn the head aside, in order to avoid something. Hence, generally, to retire or withdraw. Only here in the New Testament.

Verse 14

Findeth - said

Note the lively interchange of the tenses, as in John 5:13.

Sin no more ( μηκέτι ἁμάρτανε )

No longer continue to sin. See on Matthew 1:21. Jesus thus shows His knowledge that the sickness was the result of sin.

A worse thing

Than even those thirty-eight years of suffering.

Come unto thee ( σοί γένηται )

Rev., better, befall thee. Literally, come to pass.

Verse 15

Told ( ἀνήγγειλεν )

See on John 4:25. The best texts, however, read εἶπεν , said.

Verse 16

Did the Jews persecute

The imperfect tense ( ἐδίωκον ) might be rendered began to persecute, as this is an opening of hostilities against Jesus, or, more probably, corresponds with the same tense in ἐποίει , he did, or better, was wont to do. Διώκω , to persecute, is originally to run after, to pursue with hostile purpose, and thence to harass.

And sought to kill Him

The best texts omit.

He did

See above. Godet observes: “the imperfect malignantly expresses the idea that the violation of the Sabbath has become with Him a sort of maxim.”

Verse 17


The discussion turned on work on the Sabbath. The Father's work in maintaining and redeeming the world has continued from the creation until the present moment ( ἕως ἄρτι ): until now, not interrupted by the Sabbath.

And I work ( κἀγὼ ἐργάζομαι )

Or, I also work. The two clauses are coordinated. The relation, as Meyer observes, is not that of imitation, or example, but of equality of will and procedure. Jesus does not violate the divine ideal of the Sabbath by His holy activity on that day. “Man's true rest is not a rest from human, earthly labor, but a rest for divine, heavenly labor. Thus the merely negative, traditional observance of the Sabbath is placed in sharp contrast with the positive, final fulfillment of spiritual service, for which it was a preparation” (Westcott).

Verse 18

Had broken ( ἔλυε )

Literally, was loosing: the imperfect tense. See on He did, John 5:16. Not, broke the Sabbath in any particular case, but was annulling the law and duty of Sabbath observance.

His Father ( πατέρα ἴδιον )

Properly, His own Father. So Rev.

Verse 19

Verily, verily

See on John 1:51.

But what He seeth

Referring to can do nothing, not to of himself. Jesus, being one with God, can do nothing apart from Him.

The Father do ( τὸν πατέρα ποιοῦντα )

Rev., rightly, doing. The participle brings out more sharply the coincidence of action between the Father and the Son: “the inner and immediate intuition which the Son perpetually has of the Father's work” (Meyer).

Likewise ( ὁμοίως )

Better, as Rev., in like manner. Likewise is popularly understood as equivalent to also; but the word indicates identity of action based upon identity of nature.

Verse 20

Loveth ( φιλεῖ )

To love is expressed by two words in the New Testament, φιλέω and ἀγαπάω . Ἁγαπάω indicates a reasoning, discriminating attachment, founded in the conviction that its object is worthy of esteem, or entitled to it on account of benefits bestowed. Φιλέω represents a warmer, more instinctive sentiment, more closely allied to feeling, and implying more passion. Hence ἀγαπάω is represented by the Latin diligo, the fundamental idea of which is selection, the deliberate choice of one out of a number, on sufficient grounds, as an object of regard. Thus φιλέω emphasizes the affectional element of love, and ἀγαπάω the intelligent element. Socrates, in Xenophon's “Memorabilia,” advises his friend Aristarchus to alleviate the necessities of his dependents by furnishing means to set them at work. Aristarchus having acted upon his advice, Xenophon says that the women in his employ loved ( ἐφίλουν ) him as their protector, while he in turn loved ( ἠγάπα ) them because they were of use to him (“Memorabilia,” ii., 7, §12). Jesus' sentiment toward Martha and Mary is described by ἠγάπα , John 11:5. Men are bidden to love ( ἀγαπᾶν ) God (Matthew 22:37; 1 Corinthians 8:3); never φιλεῖν , since love to God implies an intelligent discernment of His attributes and not merely an affectionate sentiment. Both elements are combined in the Father's love for the Son (Matthew 3:17; John 3:35; John 4:20). Ἁγάπη is used throughout the panegyric of love in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, and an examination of that chapter will show how large a part the discriminating element plays in the Apostle's conception of love. The noun αγάπη nowhere appears in classical writings. As Trench remarks, it “is a word born within the bosom of revealed religion.”' Εράω , in which the idea of sensual passion predominates, is nowhere used in the New Testament. Trench has some interesting remarks on its tendency toward a higher set of associations in the Platonic writings (“Synonyms,” p. 42).

Greater works will He show Him

As Jesus does whatever He sees the Father do (John 5:19), the showing of greater works will be the signal for Jesus to do them. On works, as a characteristic word in John, see on John 4:47.

Ye may marvel

The ye is emphatic ( ὑμεῖς ) and is addressed to those who questioned His authority, whose wonder would therefore be that of astonishment rather than of admiring faith, but might lead to faith. Plato says, “Wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder” (“Theaetetus,” 105); and Clement of Alexandria, cited by Westcott, “He that wonders shall reign, and he that reigns shall rest.” Compare Acts 4:13.

Verse 21

Raiseth - quickeneth

Physically and spiritually.

The Son quickeneth

Not raiseth and quickeneth. The quickening, however ( ζωοποιεῖ , maketh alive ), includes the raising, so that the two clauses are coextensive. In popular conception the raising precedes the quickening; but, in fact, the making alive is the controlling fact of the raising. Ἑγείρει , raiseth, means primarily awaketh.

Verse 22

For the Father ( οὐδὲ γὰρ ὁ πατὴρ )

The A.V. misses the climax in οὐδὲ ;not even the Father, who might be expected to be judge.

Hath committed ( δέδωκεν )

Rev., given. The habitual word for the bestowment of the privileges and functions of the Son. See John 5:36; John 3:35; John 6:37, John 6:39; John 10:29, etc.

All judgment ( τὴν κρίσιν πᾶσαν )

Literally, the judgment wholly.

Verse 23

Which sent Him

A phrase peculiar to John, and used only by the Lord, of the Father. See John 4:34; John 6:38, John 6:39; John 7:16, John 7:28, John 7:33, etc.

Verse 24


Closely connected with believeth.

Hath eternal life

See on John 3:36.

Shall not come into condemnation ( εἰς κρίσιν οὐκ ἔρχεται )

The present tense, cometh not. So Rev. Not condemnation, but judgment, as Rev. See on John 3:17. Wyc., cometh not into doom. The present, cometh, states the general principle or order.

From death ( ἐκ θανάτου )

Rev., correctly, out of death, pointing to the previous condition in which he was.

Life ( τὴν ζωήν )

The life; the ideal of perfect life.

Verse 25

The dead


Verse 26

As - so ( ὥσπερ - οὕτως )

The correspondence is that of fact, not of degree.

Hath he given ( ἔδωκεν )

Rev., more strictly, gave, the aorist tense pointing back to the eternal past.

Verse 27


See on John 1:12.



The Son of man

Better, a son of man. The article is wanting. The authority is assigned to Him as being very man. John uses the article everywhere with this phrase, except here and Revelation 1:13; Revelation 14:14. See on Luke 6:22.

Verse 28

The graves ( τοῖς μνημείοις )

Rev., better; tombs. Two words are used in the New Testament for the place of burial, τάφος , and μνημεῖον or μνῆμα . The former emphasizes the idea of burial ( θάπτω , to bury ); the latter of preserving the memory of the dead; from μιμνήσκω , to remind.

Verse 29

Have done good - have done evil

Note again the use of the different verbs for doing with good and evil. See on John 3:21. On the word for evil ( φαῦλα ), see on John 3:20.

Resurrection of life ( ἐὰν ἐγὼ )

The phrase occurs only here in the New Testament: so resurrection of judgment ( ἀνάστασιν κρίσεως ).

Verse 30

Of the Father

Omit. Rev., of Him that sent.

Verse 31

If I ( ἐὰν ἐγὼ )

The I expressed for emphasis: I alone.

True ( ἀληθής )

As distinguished from false. See on John 1:9.

Verse 33

Ye sent

Rev., rightly, have sent. The perfect tense, with allusion to something abiding in its results. Similarly, bare witness should be hath born. Note the expressed ye ( ὑμεῖς ), emphatically marking the contrast between the human testimony which the Jews demanded, and the divine testimony on which Jesus relies (John 5:34).

Verse 34

But I ( ἐγὼ δὲ )

Emphatic, in contrast with ye (John 5:33).

Receive ( λαμβάνω )

See on John 3:32.

Testimony ( τὴν μαρτυρίαν )

Rev., properly the witness. The restoration of the article is important. It has the force of my, marking the witness as characteristic of Christ's work. The only testimony which I accept as proof.

From man

Or from a man, with a primary reference to the Baptist. Rev. renders, the witness which I receive is not from man.

These things

With reference to the Baptist.

Ye may be saved

The ye ( ὑμεῖς ), marking them as those who might be influenced by the inferior, human testimony; though they did not apprehend the divine testimony.

Verse 35

A burning and shining light ( ὁ λύχνος ὁ καιόμενος καὶ φαίνων )

Rev., correctly, the lamp that burneth and shineth. Λύχνος , lamp, as contrasted with the light ( φῶς ). See John 1:5, John 1:7, John 1:8, John 1:9; and compare John 8:12; John 9:5; John 12:46. Wyc., lantern. The Baptist did not, like Jesus, shine by his own light. The definite article with lamp, points to it as a familiar household object. Burning hints at the fact that the lamp gives but a transitory light. In burning the oil is consumed.

Ye were willing

Again the emphatic ὑμεῖς , ye.

To rejoice ( ἀγαλλιασθῆναι )

The word signifies exultant, lively joy. See Matthew 5:12; Luke 1:47; Luke 10:21; 1 Peter 1:6. The interest in the Baptist was a frivolous, superficial, and short-lived excitement. Bengel says, “they were attracted by his brightness, not by his warmth.”

Verse 36

Greater witness ( τήν μαρτυρίαν μείζω )

The article, omitted in A.V., has the force of my, as in John 5:34. Rev., the witness which I have is greater.

Hath given

See on John 5:22.

To finish ( ἵνα τελειώσω )

Literally, in order that I should accomplish. Rev., accomplish. See on John 4:34.

The same works ( αὐτὰ τὰ ἔργα )

Rev., more correctly, the very works.

Verse 37

Himself ( αὐτὸς )

The best texts substitute ἐκεῖνος , he; reading, “the Father which sent me, He hath born witness.” So Rev.

Voice - shape

Not referring to the descent of the dove and the voice from heaven at Jesus' baptism, but generally and figuratively to God's witness in the Old Testament Scriptures. This is in harmony with the succeeding reference to the word.

Verse 38

His word

Emphatic, commencing the sentence. Compare John 17:6sqq.; 1 John 1:10; 1 John 2:14.

Verse 39

Search ( ἐρευνᾶτε )

Rev., rightly, ye search. Jesus is appealing to a familiar practice of which for in them ye think is explanatory. See 1 Peter 1:11; Romans 8:27; 1 Corinthians 2:10; Revelation 2:23.

The scriptures ( τὰς γραφὰς )

Literally, the writings; possibly with a hint at the contrast with the word (John 5:38).

They ( ἐκεῖναι )

Those very scriptures.

Verse 40


More than a simple copula. Rather and yet. See on Luke 18:7.

Ye will not ( οὐ θέλετε )

Indicating stubborn determination. See on Matthew 1:19.

Verse 41

I receive not honor from men

The Greek order is: glory from men I receive not. Compare John 5:34. His glory consists in his loving fellowship with God. Men who do not love God are not in sympathy with Him.

Verse 42

I know ( ἔγνωκα )

See on John 2:24.

The love of God

Love toward God. This was the summary of their own law. The phrase occurs elsewhere in the Gospels only in Luke 11:42.

In you ( ἐν ἑαυτοῖς )

Rev., rightly, in yourselves. Compare John 6:53; 1 John 5:10; Mark 4:17.

Verse 44

Ye believe

Again the emphatic ye, the reason for the emphasis being given in the succeeding clause.

Which receive ( λαμβάνοντες )

Literally, receiving (as ye do): seeing that ye receive.

Seek not the honor that cometh from God only ( καὶ τὴν δόξαν τὴν μόνου Θεοῦ οὐ ζητεῖτε )

The Rev. gives it capitally, following the Greek order: and the glory that cometh from the only God ye seek not. Not God only, which entirely overlooks the force of the definite article; but the only God. Compare 1 Timothy 6:15, 1 Timothy 6:16; John 17:3; Romans 16:27.

Verse 45

I will accuse ( κατηγορήσω )

From κατά , against, and ἀγορεύω , to speak in the assembly ( ἀγορά ). Hence, properly, to bring an accusation in court. John uses no other verb for accuse, and this only here, John 8:6, and Revelation 12:10. Once in the New Testament διαβάλλω occurs (Luke 16:1, on which see note), signifying malicious accusation, and secret, as distinguished from public, accusation ( κατηγορία ). Αἰτιάομαι occurs once in the compound προῃτιασάμεθα , we before laid to the charge (Romans 3:9). This has reference especially to the ground of accusation ( αἰτία ). Ἑγκαλέω occurs only in Acts, with the exception of Romans 8:33. It means to accuse publicly, but not necessarily before a tribunal. See Acts 23:28, Acts 23:29; Acts 26:2, Acts 26:7.

In whom ye trust ( εἰσ ̔̀ον ὑμεῖς ἠλπίκατε )

A strong expression. Literally, into whom ye have hoped. Rev., admirably, on whom ye have set your hope.

Verse 47

Writings ( γράμμασιν )

It is important to understand the precise sense of this word, because it goes to determine whether Jesus intended an antithesis between Moses' writings and His own words, or simply between Moses ( ἐκείνου ) and Himself ( ἐμοῖς ).

Γράμμα primarily means what is written. Hence it may describe either a single character or a document. From this general notion several forms develop themselves in the New Testament. The word occurs in its narrower sense of characters, at Luke 23:38; 2 Corinthians 3:7; Galatians 6:11. In Acts 28:21, it means official communications. Paul, with a single exception (2 Corinthians 3:7), uses it of the letter of scripture as contrasted with its spirit (Romans 2:27, Romans 2:29; Romans 7:6; 2 Corinthians 3:6). In Luke 16:6, Luke 16:7, it denotes a debtor's bond (A.V., bill ). In John 7:15, Acts 26:24) it is used in the plural as a general term for scriptural and Rabbinical learning. Compare Sept., Isaiah 29:11, Isaiah 29:12) where a learned man is described as ἐπιτάμενος γράμματα , acquainted with letters. Once it is used collectively of the sacred writings - the scriptures (2 Timothy 3:15), though some give it a wider reference to Rabbinical exegesis, as well as to scripture itself. Among the Alexandrian Greeks the term is not confined to elementary instruction, but includes exposition, based, however, on critical study of the text. The tendency of such exegesis was often toward mystical and allegorical interpretation, degenerating into a petty ingenuity in fixing new and recondite meanings upon the old and familiar forms. This was illustrated by the Neo-Platonists' expositions of Homer, and by the Rabbinical exegesis. Men unacquainted with such studies, especially if they appeared as public teachers, would be regarded as ignorant by the Jews of the times of Christ and the Apostles. Hence the question respecting our Lord Himself: How knoweth this man letters ( γράμματα John 7:15)? Also the comment upon Peter and John (Acts 4:13) that they were unlearned ( ἀγράμματοι ). Thus, too, those who discovered in the Old Testament scriptures references to Christ, would be stigmatized by Pagans, as following the ingenious and fanciful method of the Jewish interpreters, which they held in contempt. Some such feeling may have provoked the words of Festus to Paul: Much learning ( πολλά γράμματα ) doth make thee mad (Acts 26:24). It is well known with what minute care the literal transcription of the sacred writings was guarded. The Scribes ( γραμματεῖς ) were charged with producing copies according to the letter ( κατὰ τὸ γράμμα ).

The one passage in second Timothy cannot be urged in favor of the general use of the term for the scriptures, especially since the best texts reject the article before ἱερὰ γράμμα , so that the meaning is apparently more general: “thou hast known sacred writings.” The familiar formula for the scriptures was αἱ γραφαὶ ἁγίαι . A single book of the collection of writings was known as βιβλίον (Luke 4:17), or βίβλος (Luke 20:42); never γραφή , which was the term for a particular passage. See on Mark 12:10.

It seems to me, therefore, that the antithesis between the writings of Moses, superstitiously reverenced in the letter, and minutely and critically searched and expounded by the Jews, and the living words ( ῥήμασιν , see on Luke 1:37), is to be recognized. This, however, need not exclude the other antithesis between Moses and Jesus personally.


Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on John 5:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, October 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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