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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
John 8

 

 

Verse 1

1. Mount of Olives—The mount of Olives is nowhere else mentioned in John. By the other Evangelists it is mentioned as the usual retiring place of Jesus at night during Passion Week. And this brings the narrative to the precise place where we assign it.


Verse 2

2. Early in the morning—See note on Luke 10:38.

Sat down—Quietly, and as an admitted teacher; unlike his position in the entire context.


Verses 2-11

§ 82.THE WOMAN TAKEN IN ADULTERY, John 8:2-11.

A majority of the best biblical scholars agree that this narrative of the adulteress, (including John 7:53,) though of apostolic antiquity, could scarce have been written by John. The external proofs are: 1. Its absence from a large share of the best manuscripts. 2. The absence of quotations of the passage in the earliest Christian writers. And, 3. The great variety of readings in the different copies of the passage. The internal proofs are: 1. Its unlikeness to the style of John, both in its general tenor and its particular terms. 2. The possibility of removing it from the text without producing any break. 3. Its discordance with the current of thought, so as to form an actual interruption. To the force of these arguments we are obliged to yield. In the entire context there is an open hostility between the Jews and Jesus; but in this passage there is on the contrary a state of pretended friendship and deference. They come with submissive air to receive from him, as authoritative judge, a legal decision, tempting him. This mode of tempting him is precisely of the same cast, and implies the same state of things, as we find in § 115. In some manuscripts, indeed, the passage is found at the end of Luke 21. The most suitable place for it is, perhaps, among the similar attempts at tempting in Mark 12:13-35. There can be no reasonable doubt of its forming a true part of Gospel history. The only questions are as to its authorship and place.


Verse 3

3. Brought unto him a woman—They brought her before him in his character as a Messiah, or prophet Judge; who, according to the Jewish dispensation, would be divinely authorized, regardless of civil government, (especially of a foreign domination like the Roman,) to pronounce sentence. He would be like one of the judges of the Book of Judges, or like the seers, or, still more loftily, like the promised Messiah, an oracle and a representative of Jehovah; his sentence would be divine and its execution obligatory.


Verse 5

5. StonedDeath was the punishment for adultery under the Mosaic law; stoning was its method in case the female was betrothed. This must have been the case of the present woman, to bring her under their statement.


Verse 6

6. Tempting him—Putting him to the test. Endeavouring to subject him to a dilemma. The dilemma was this: If he decided the case, he rebelled against the Roman government by taking law into his own hands; if he declined it, he abdicated his claim as Messiah. And still more: if he decided that the Mosaic law should be fulfilled, he would, contrary to Roman decree, inflict capital punishment; if he disregarded Moses, he submitted to Rome, and degraded his Messiahship with all earnest Jews.

Stooped down—From his sitting posture.

Wrote on the ground—On the hard pavement of the temple court. The written character, if any, would be in the slight layer of dust. This writing was a sign of purposed inattention to their address. It declared that this was a case with which he had nothing to do. With singular tact it declared this in act, which it would not do to declare in words. What did Jesus write? This question, though discussed by commentators, is very much like asking what did the seven thunders (Revelation 10:4) utter? And yet, when Jesus resumed his writing, in John 8:8, there seems a solemn significance about it. To the culprit accusers themselves it doubtless seemed that that finger could write their own deeds of darkness, recalled by conscience to their present recollection.


Verse 7

7. Continued asking—They do not easily take a hint that their room is better than their company. They do, at this moment, doubtless understand that he intimates his rejection of all prerogative in the case. But they mean that no amount of finger-writing shall defeat their purpose.

Said unto them—Thus doth Judge Messiah decide: The accused is beyond all question worthy of death. Let, then, the low standard of modern degeneracy be at once abolished, and let the pure ideal of Moses’s law be restored in its severest purity. As soon, therefore, as a court, witnesses, and executioners of the true Mosaic standard are furnished, let them execute the absoluteness of the Mosaic sentence by casting the first stone!

Without sin—That is, without a sin of such enormity as would render him liable to stand in the woman’s place if Mosaic or Messianic law should be applied. No man who cannot stand this test has a right to require the old ideal to be revived.

First cast a stone—Each man is now himself put to a still more trying test than they had applied to Jesus. All the responsibility is rolled back upon themselves. Some one must lead; and he, unless purer than the woman, slays her without authority, and is so a murderer. All can readily follow if some one will lead; but which will single himself out for the deed? The retort is complete. They would impose on him the hazard of pronouncing sentence of capital punishment; and he, without incurring that, flings upon them the hazard of inflicting it. And yet they are unable to pretend that he has declined the Messianic office, or lowered the Mosaic law. Indeed, they are placed in a predicament of shame likely to prevent all desire on their part to allude to the matter.


Verse 8

8. Again… wroteNow what does that awful finger write? On his part the act of writing declares that the finger of judgment (symbolized by the finger of the future final Judge) is ever making its record however the present case be dismissed. Each guilty memory on their part, perhaps, reads a different record of scenes of shame, or deeds of sin, to encounter the Judge’s eye.


Verse 9

9. Convicted by their own conscience—There is an interval of silence, Jesus writing, they ruminating. Not a man would dare lift a stone. If this be the Messiah, none dares assume in such a presence that himself is pure. If he be not Messiah, the Roman law may deal with the man who leads in execution. The whole scene becomes intolerable to the actors, and they retreat. Of the gross licentiousness of the Jews at this period, even of those most jealous for Jewish institutions, Josephus furnishes ample proof. “There is evidence,” says Tholuck, “that at this period many of the Rabbins high in position were living in adultery.”

One by one—It was easier for any one to lead in the departing than in the stoning.

Beginning at the eldest Who from the gravity of their age may have held themselves most excusable from flinging the deathly missile.

The last—Who could leave without any comrade to witness his shame.

Jesus… alone—Jesus, as ever, is victor.

Woman standing—Petrified, doubtless, with fear and shame. She had been surrendered over to death; every moment, perhaps, she expected to be led without the city to the execution. Minute after minute had passed of suspense but of dawning hope. The Searcher of hearts alone knew how her conscience may have been awakened by the near approach of death.


Verse 10

10. No man condemned thee?—They had all individually condemned her in opinion, holding her as really guilty. None of them had condemned her legally, so as to hold her liable to the legal execution.


Verse 11

11. Neither do I condemn thee—Namely, as a legal judge pronouncing a judicial sentence; such as they had required of him. Nor, indeed, as a divine judge; for that office he reserves to his second coming, (John 8:15.)

Neander says: “He takes the sin out of the domain of earthly judicature, which is foreign to his own divine office, into his own peculiar province of morality.” He deals with her not by human but by divine law. Go—As he claimed no municipal authority to detain her.

Sin no more—Though as a judge Jesus, as having no jurisdiction, could not condemn her, yet, as a preacher of righteousness, he rebukes her of sin, and as a Redeemer points her to repentance and reformation.

On the whole, though unable to assign this narrative to the authorship of John, we conclude that in none of the instances of Jewish tempting of Jesus are his replies more delicately discriminating or more transparently wise.


Verse 12

12. Light of the world—What suggested this topic will appear from the following statement in Stier’s Words of Jesus, vol. v, p. 314.

“There was, originally, on the evening of the second (not the first) day of the feast a peculiar festive illumination observed; according to Maimonides it was repeated on each of the remaining evenings, and the pleasure which the people would take in such things renders his word very probable. In the court of the women, where the treasury (John 8:20) was, and so on the spot where the Lord was now speaking, there stood two colossal golden LAMPS, which were ascended by steps; their light, kindled after the evening sacrifice, diffused its brilliance, it was said, over the whole of Jerusalem.

With childlike merriment (John 5:35) they held a dance with torches around these luminaries, in which the most reverend men, suppose, the liberal accompaniment of shouting and singing on the part of the people.

“The meaning of this symbolical rite was similar to that of the pouring out of the water, with which the account of that ceremony places it in connection. The people had indeed forgotten its significance; but its meaning was there, and that manifold; it had reference, most obviously, partly to God’s former mercies to Israel, and partly to His merciful designs in the future. The water poured out at the Feast of Tabernacles reminded them of the rock in the wilderness, and the brilliant light reminded them of the pillar of fire which guided them; but even as the water spoke also of the fountain which should pour forth its streams at the Messiah’s coming, so also did the light speak of the promised shining forth of God out of Zion. It is not improbable that there was even a more distinctive reference in the evening illumination to the promise of Zechariah 14:7; since, in the fourteenth verse of that chapter, that time is specified as the Feast of Tabernacles for all people.

“It was not indeed into the midst of the tumultuous whirl that Jesus sounded forth his testimony—I am the true Light! But it is sufficiently obvious, nevertheless, that he does refer to the festival, though past; for the minds of the people were full of the ideas connected with it, long after it was over. Even if the gorgeous illumination occurred on the second day only of the feast, yet an allusion to it would fall in with the people’s thought readily enough; the lamps were not yet removed, and in their near neighbourhood the Lord now spake.”

Certainly it was suitable that the real Light should succeed the symbolical, as the real Sacrifice succeeded the typical.

The lofty strain of self-announcement as the world’s Light, with which the discourse here commences, is forthwith broken off by the malignant interruption. No less than seven such interruptions occur in the discourse, giving it a variety of unexpected turns, and changing, to a great degree, its entire train. In this first half, (John 8:12-30,) Jesus asserts his own and his Father’s attestation, John 8:14-19; the fatal effect of rejection, John 8:21-24; the sure evidence of the attestation, John 8:25-29. conversation, (John 8:31-40,) and Jesus meets them with a firm reply. Formerly he accepted the human maxim that self-attestation is not to be received as true, and in compliance with the maxim he quoted three witnesses. Now he places himself above the maxim, and gives his own word as authoritative and final. His own I know is ample assurance to the world.


Verses 12-59

§ 83.JESUS’S THIRD DISCOURSE AT THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES TO THE HOSTILE JEWS, John 8:12-59.

His self-assertion against their unbelief in him as Son of God.

It is divisible into two parts: 1. His self assertion, as Son of God, against Jewish unbelief, John 8:13-30. 2. His supreme Lordship, even above Abraham, John 8:31-58.

The discourse was delivered on the last great day of the feast, (John 7:37,) a few hours probably after the scenes of the previous chapter. The place was the Treasury (John 8:20) of the temple.


Verse 15

15. After the flesh—Ye judge me according to your own depraved natures, (note on John 3:6,) instead of accepting me after a holy manner and disposition.

I judge no man—I descend not to the low level of human judgments, of man upon man.


Verse 16

16. If I judge… true—Such is the rectitude and infallibility of my divine nature.

Not alone—My consciousness is illuminated by the divine consciousness of the Father.


Verse 17-18

17, 18. Jesus, after having asserted his superiority to the requirement of other witness, now graciously condescends to furnish it—that of the Father.


Verse 19

19. Where is thy Father?—If thy Father is thy witness, let him be produced. To this demand Jesus asserts his own identity with the Father.

He is Deity manifest, as the Father is Deity essential. In seeing him they see God in humanity. So uncompromising were the claims that the Son of God asserted!


Verse 20

20. The treasury—In the court of the women. See note on Mark 12:41.

Hour… not… come—See note on John 2:4. The hour of his submission to death at their hands. Jewish rage could not go beyond the fixed bounds. When they rejected Jesus, it was not his misfortune so truly as theirs.


Verse 21

Fatal effects of rejecting Jesus, John 8:21-24.

21. Go my way—Pass through my mission of life, death, and ascension.

Die in your sins—Not merely, as some interpret, die for your sins; but die in guilt, in impenitence, and in a sinful state of purpose.

Ye cannot come—The separation is complete and irreversible.


Verse 22

22. Will he kill himself?—On a former occasion they had interpreted such an intimation by Jesus as expressing an intention to depart to the Gentiles, (see John 7:35;) now they put a still more malignant construction upon his words. He intends to be a suicide! Of such the Jews, unlike the Greeks and Romans, entertained a supreme horror.


Verse 23

23. From beneath—An expression quite as strong as (John 8:44) of your father, the devil. As opposed to from above or heaven, it must mean from the infernal, from hell. The fact that they were thus infernal is verified both by their infernal suggestion in regard to suicide, and by the fact that dying in sin their destiny is hell.


Verse 24

24. I am he—The italic word he is unnecessarily supplied by the translators. The words are,

If ye believe not that I am—If they believe not that his avowed nature was his real nature; that the being, the I he claimed to be, was true and actual. Jesus was careful not to assume to these Jews the name of Messiah, for they would forthwith expect that he would be the hero Messiah of their fancy.

Ye shall die in your sins—They would perish in sin because they reject the only redemption from sin.


Verse 25

25. Who art thou?—Since you declare I am, and require our faith, declare who you are. How gladly would they have had him declare,

I am your leader to universal supremacy. The same that I said—Tholuck’s rendering of this much disputed passage seems to us the true one: What I told you already in the beginning, that am I. He refuses to add the word Messiah, hero, liberator. Just what all his discourses to them have described him to be, just that he is; and with that, were their hearts unperverted, they would be most joyously satisfied.


Verse 26

26. Many things to say—Many a lesson would it require to correct the selfish feelings and expectations so deeply fixed in their hearts, in order to the appreciating and accepting the holy Son of God.

Judge of you—To condemn and banish from your minds.

He that sent me—By this he Jesus plainly means, as they might have known from previous explanations, his Father; but they are conjuring up hopes that some one else is meant.


Verse 27

27. Understood not… the Father—Perhaps, think these men, he now means some coadjutor in attaining Messianic power.


Verse 28

28. When ye have lifted up—Jesus here plainly means the lifting to the cross. And this by implication embraces his lifting to his throne of glory.

That I am—Rejecting the unauthorized he. Even on his cross the shuddering Jews, amidst the signs from heaven, felt a guilty consciousness that they were crucifying the Holy One. But the words from this extend into a broader meaning. It is the crucifixion by which the world knows the power of Christ, the Redeemer and Judge. Consequent upon that, Israel must look upon Him whom they have pierced, and mourn. The cross is the prelude to the judgment-throne.


Verse 29

29. He… is with me—Did some of these listeners fabricate for a moment the theory that this lifting up, in John 8:28, was a kingly elevation to the Messianic throne; and the Father who was with him, etc., was the aid to his high design? We have, then, the key to the brief belief of the many of the next verse.


Verse 30

30. Many believed—Induced by the new hope that he was soon to be lifted up to a kingly throne.


Verse 31

31. If ye continue—Theirs was one of the cases which, founded on false suppositions, would fail as soon as the supposition was dissipated. Perseverance is not always a test of the reality of faith; for real faith does often diminish and disappear. But faith based upon mistake must cease when the mistake is corrected.


Verse 32

32. Truth… make… free—Our Lord forthwith applies the test to the genuineness of their faith. The word free, the favourite political term of the zealous Jew, waiting for an emancipator to break the Roman yoke, is a test word. For that gracious freedom which truth affords, in emancipating the soul from irrational and self-destructive action, this Hebrew patriot has no patience. For him the only freedom is release from Rome; the only Messiah is the liberator.


Verse 33

33. They answered—Many commentators refer this they, not to the many who believed, but to the Jews; the they and them in 14-28. The little episode of 30-32 is thus held as a pleasant parenthesis, and the believers are allowed to be genuine and, perhaps, permanent. But if the they refer to the many, they were already disgusted with his freedom by

truth. Never in bondage—The Jewish nation was then in bondage to the Roman power. The freedom of which they speak must have been an ideal freedom, ignoring all acknowledgment of the iron fact of Roman domination. Otherwise, they must mean that they have never been slaves or personal serfs to any slaveholder.


Verse 34

34. Committeth sinDoeth or practiseth sin. The verb is in the continuous present, expressing what is persistently done.

Servant—Slave. Sin, like a slaveholder, blinds his understanding, inflames his passions, and hems in his will. He is circumscribed within the territory of evil.


Verse 35

35. Servant abideth not—The slave’s place in the household is not natural, but forced and transferable. He may be emancipated, sold, or induced to escape. The son is natural permanent heir. The sinner is in God’s house, but unnaturally. In fact he is slave not to the father of the house in which he is, but to another outdoor master.


Verse 36

36. Son… shall make you free—Break the bond, and transform the slave to a freeman.

Free indeed—There is none can question his emancipation act.

The remainder of this discourse may be thus analyzed.

I. Character of these Jews, in implied contrast with Jesus, John 8:37-47.

II. Character of Jesus, in comparison with Israel, John 8:48-58.

I. They are Abraham’s seed, (corporeally,) but not his children, (morally,) as shown by their murderous intent, John 8:37-40. They are not children of God but of Satan, (in contrast with him, the Son of God,) John 8:41-47.

II. Against their calumnies Jesus maintains that he speaks, not from a demon, but from God, the life-giving word, 4vv. 8-51. Against their cavils (John 8:52-53) he maintains he honours God supremely, (John 8:54-55,) and is prior to, and Lord of, even Abraham!

I. Abraham’s corporeal seed are not his spiritual children, John 8:37-40.


Verse 37

37. Seed—Literal descendants.


Verse 39

39. Abraham’s children—That they desired the death of Abraham’s truest son and actual Lord, is proof that they are not in soul true sons of Abraham.


Verse 41

Children, not of God, but of Satan, John 8:41-47.

41. Born of fornication—True, legitimate sons of Abraham, we have our Divine Father, God alone. The one paternity insures the other paternity. And, corporeally, Jesus would admit both. Spiritually, he denies both. For as being murderers in intent, they are no children of Abraham, 40; nor of God, 42; but of the murderer Satan, 44.


Verse 42

42. Ye would love me—Spiritual worship is shown by conformity of character. True sons of God will love the Son of God, not seek to murder him.


Verse 43

43. Speech… word—The speech is his discourse; the word is his doctrine. As they would not accept his doctrine, so they would persistently pervert and misunderstand his language.

Hear—Listen to, accept.


Verse 44

44. Your father—Not Abraham, not God, but the devil. It is clear that the devil is here named as a personal being, as truly as Abraham or God.

Lusts… will do—Their sonship consists in the conformity of their lusts and their doings to their father’s.

A murderer—As these men are in heart murderers of Jesus, John 7:19; John 8:28; John 8:37; John 8:40.

Murderer from the beginning—He murdered the previously pure and perfect Adam, and through him murdered the race. Cain was his son and image, showing by his character what his father Satan was.

Abode not in the truth—In which he once stood, but, as his lie to Eve showed, most disastrously fell. So that as the devil is here most clearly named as a personal being, so his FALL, from his previous purity is decisively implied.

No truth in him—He is so completely full of lie, that there is no room for truth in him Such are the great mass of wicked men. Satan’s falsehood so completely fills them, that they admit not a particle of the opposite truth of God.

He speaketh of his own—Speaketh out from the full fund that is in him.

Father of it—The grand original inventor of all lying in the universe. Before he lied, the harmony of truth universally reigned. God and all were truth; Satan created lie.

Others, however, as Alford, render this phrase, Father of him, that is, of the liar. Satan is the liar and the liar’s father. This accords with the current of thought, as Jesus is speaking of moral paternity and sonship.


Verse 45

45. Ye believe me not—Jesus brings the principle home upon these Jews. Like their satanic father, they were normally so full of untruth that they disbelieved truth because it was truth. Right nature is exactly reversed. Falsehood is the thing to be believed. Such is man’s perversion by sin!


Verse 46

46. Convinceth—Convicts or proves guilty of sin. This is a lofty appeal to their higher nature. For though men be full of falsehood, as Satan himself, yet, like Satan himself, there is the basis of a noble, a divine nature beneath all. Their very debasement is, that the divine vessel is filled with the infernal evil. To that divine in man, through the dense falsehood with which they are filled, Jesus now makes a divine appeal. Does not the transparent purity of his character, if they will give their own conscience fair play, prove that he is the reverse of Satan, the impersonation of Truth?

If I say the truth As this is undeniable to your inmost conscience.

Why… not believe—Why not cast the body of falsity from out your souls, and bring your whole nature into harmony with that higher and clearly discerned truth? Thus will ye cease to be sons of the Liar and become sons of God.


Verse 47

47. Of God—Preferring God to Satan.

Heareth God’s words—His preference for God induces him to prefer the truth of God.

Therefore—It follows that the reason why ye reject truth is because ye reject the God of truth. And this forms the answer to the searching question in John 8:46.

Such is the fearful picture which the Son of God draws of these, the seed of Abraham. Children of Satan in heart and deed, they excluded regeneration by a resolute exclusion of truth. From them, then, Christ was shut out, and Satan was shut in. Jesus then proceeds to a firm attestation of his own high nature, closing with the grand climax of John 8:58.

II. Christ’s exalted character assertedhe is prior to, and Lord of, Abraham.

In this lofty strain of self-assertion, Jesus blends a tone of deepest humility touching himself as towards God, and the gentlest firmness towards his opposers.


Verse 48

48. Answered the Jews—They seem for a while silenced by the terrible words of John 8:44, in which Jesus assigns them their true dark satanic character. They now rally to assault, and reduce him to the defensive by making himself the topic of debate.

Say we not well John 7:20. Daring as we felt our words to be, were they not about true? The same misgiving as to their own fierce blasphemy appears again in Now we know, etc. Between the underlying consciousness of their own wicked falsity and their upper tone of depraved bravado, there is a struggle.

A Samaritan—As a favourer of Samaritans, (see notes on Matthew 10:5;) as a reviler of us Jews, (John 8:44;) as worse than a Gentile. For Samaritan was the worst human epithet their vocabulary furnished,

Hast a devil—Rather, a demon. The supernatural in him (and something supernatural they are forced to confess) is not divine but diabolical. The superhuman power of his denunciation they are glad to attribute to a devil within him. John narrates no casting out of demons; but all recognize the fact of demoniac possession.


Verse 49

49. Have not—Simple, firm, explicit denial without retort.

Honour my Father—The divine within me, not the diabolic. He honours the Father (42) in attributing all that is divine in himself to Him, and vindicating Him from all paternity to them.

Ye do dishonour me—In attributing my divinity to the devil.


Verse 50

50. Not mine own glory—Though he asserts his own dignity as divine, yet it is for no vain glory to himself, but for the glory of God the Father.

One that seeketh—That seeketh and obtaineth the glory, for it is His supreme right.

And judgeth—Judgeth those who withhold his glory or dishonour his Son.


Verse 51

51. Verily—Having asserted his own nature as God’s Son, Jesus now concentrates into one sentence the object of his mission as Son, eternal life to all who accept him.

Never see death—Even in dying he shall not die but live. Death shall be swallowed up in victory. Eternal life shall rob the process of dissolution of real death, and transform it into a mere transition into higher existence.


Verse 52

52. Now we know—We had been frightened by the boldness of our blasphemy, but now, now we know! They put on a new amount of forced bravado in order to override and silence his high claims, flouting them as the supremest, maddest arrogance. Superior, forsooth, to Abraham and all the prophets!

Abraham—The greatest to them of human names. And he who was greater than Abraham was greater than all Israel, than all the human race. Stupendous claim for this young Galilean to assert!

Never taste of death—As Israelites they could not but understand that life in the midst of death, glorious immortality, was a true doctrine. But they chose to put a mere bodily meaning to his words, to sustain their charge of stupendous arrogance.


Verse 53

53. Makest thou thyself?—A most audacious form of saying that his supremacy was all of his own fabrication. Jesus responds in terms of calm, humble firmness.


Verse 54

54. Honour myself—If my honour is, as you say, self-fabricated.

Is nothing—It is the nothing you pronounce it.

Your God—The source of my true dignity is the God of Abraham, of the prophets, of Israel, and, as ye claim, of yourselves. Your quarrel is therefore with them and Him.


Verse 55

55. Have not known him—Have not understood him, or you would have recognized him in his Son.

I know him not—To know him as truly as I know him, and yet deny my knowledge of him, would be basest falsehood and apostacy.

Liar like unto you—He would forthwith place himself upon a par with them, denying that the Father is in the Son, and so in truth denying the Son.

Keep—Not contradict and disobey.


Verse 56

56. Your father Abraham—He prepares to assert his superiority over Abraham in his highest title, their boasted father; much more, then, over all other Jews.

Rejoiced—Exulted, leaped for joy.

To see my day Literally, that he should see my day. Abraham’s exultation was in hope of seeing Christ’s day.

And he saw it—Saw it in accordance with his exultant hope. But when did he thus see Christ’s day. The interpretation hitherto most common is that concisely given by Dr. A. Clarke on the passage.

And he saw it—Not only in the first promise, Genesis 3:15, for the other patriarchs saw this as well as he; and not only in that promise which was made particularly to himself, Genesis 12:7; Genesis 22:18, (compared with Galatians 3:16,) that the Messiah should spring from his family; but he saw this day especially when Jehovah appeared to him in a human form, Genesis 18:2; Genesis 18:17, which many suppose to have been a manifestation of the Lord Jesus.”

But many later leading commentators, as Tholuck, Stier, and Alford, hold, that as Abraham’s exultant hope of seeing preceded the seeing itself, the seeing cannot be a mere prophetic seeing but a real. It must then be a seeing by Abraham from paradise. Tholuck says, “Such a sympathy is ascribed to Abraham as that spoken of in 1 Peter 1:12, where the angels are said to look down with joy upon the redemption wrought out, and in Luke 9:31, where Moses and Elias speak with the Redeemer of his decease at Jerusalem.” This is a much more striking meaning; but would not, then, he saw it have been in the present tense? Is not Abraham’s seeing in paradise, a permanent seeing?


Verse 57

57. Fifty years old—Thou hast not seen half a century; much less seventeen centuries. From these words Irenaeus inferred that Jesus was near fifty years old. Others have inferred that he seemed prematurely old, either from the marks of enduring sorrow in his features, or from his apparent precocious maturity of mind. He was not yet thirty-three; and the fifty here named is simply an even sum to measure off the intervening centuries.

Seen Abraham—Jesus had not said that he had seen Abraham, or that Abraham had seen him, but simply that Abraham had seen his day. They, however, in trying to exaggerate his words into absurdity, really elevate them into a higher truth. Jesus, as he will soon declare, had seen Abraham.


Verse 58

58. Before Abraham was—Before Abraham became, or came into being. The Greek term was, as applied to Abraham, is wholly different from the AM claimed by Christ to himself.

I am—The permanent present of the verb of existence. Present, before Abraham was; present to-day, yesterday, and forever. Biblical scholars of all ages have seen in this sublime word the I am that I am of the eternal Jehovah. Thus does Jesus, threading through all the intricacies of Jewish gainsaying, wind up with this grand climax of self-affirmed eternity!


Verse 59

59. Took they up stones—Upon the climax follows an explosion. For the honour of Abraham and all the prophets, this professed giver of life shall die. This claimant to an eternity of existence shall come to a speedy end. However Socinian in their sentiments these angry Jews may themselves have been, they put no Socinian interpretation on Jesus’s words.

Stones to cast—To the query how should stones be lying in the temple court, the plausible reply is, they may have been there for temple repairs.

Hid himself—There is no indication that his disciples, as some think, formed a covert to defend his person. Such a movement on their part could hardly be unmentioned. While the Jews were in the act of selecting the fatal stones, Jesus probably moved away by a route which interposed protecting objects between him and them, and so escaped from the temple. The closing phrases, going through the midst of them, and so passed by, are the same Greek as Luke 4:30, improperly transferred to this place.

 


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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on John 8:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/john-8.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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