Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

John 3:13

No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Jesus, the Christ;   Jesus Continued;   Life;   The Topic Concordance - Jesus Christ;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Christ Is God;   Christ, the Prophet;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Nicodemus;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Jesus christ;   John, gospel of;   Son of man;   Teacher;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Ascension of Jesus Christ;   Disciple, Discipleship;   Jesus Christ, Name and Titles of;   Man from Heaven;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Episcopacy;   Pre-Existence of Jesus Christ;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Moses;   Nicodemus;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Devil;   Jesus Christ;   Manoah;   Son of Man;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Holy Spirit;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Gospels;   John, Gospel of;   John, Theology of;   Logos;   Mss;   Nicodemus;   Scribes;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Above and below;   Annunciation, the ;   Ascension;   Attributes of Christ;   Creator (Christ as);   Death of Christ;   Discourse;   Earthly and Heavenly ;   Heaven;   Heaven ;   Holy Spirit;   Humanity of Christ;   Humiliation of Christ;   Individuality;   Mental Characteristics;   Metaphors;   Moses ;   Names and Titles of Christ;   Omnipresence;   Pre-Existence;   Property (2);   Prophet;   Righteous, Righteousness;   Sacrifice (2);   Session;   Son of God;   Son of Man;   Teaching of Jesus;   Trinity (2);   World ;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Ascension;   Son of Man, the;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Regeneration;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Son of man;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Pre-Existence of Jesus Christ;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Tabernacle, the;   Jesus of Nazareth;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Ascend;   Ephesians, Epistle to the;   Johannine Theology, the;   Nicodemus;   Person of Christ;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Nicodemus;  
Devotionals:
Daily Light on the Daily Path - Devotion for May 17;   Every Day Light - Devotion for December 4;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

No man hath ascended - This seems a figurative expression for, No man hath known the mysteries of the kingdom of God; as in Deuteronomy 30:12; Psalm 73:17; Proverbs 30:4; Romans 11:34. And the expression is founded upon this generally received maxim: That to be perfectly acquainted with the concerns of a place, it is necessary for a person to be on the spot. But our Lord probably spoke to correct a false notion among the Jews, viz. that Moses had ascended to heaven, in order to get the law. It is not Moses who is to be heard now, but Jesus: Moses did not ascend to heaven; but the Son of man is come down from heaven to reveal the Divine will.

That came down - The incarnation of Christ is represented under the notion of his coming down from heaven, to dwell upon earth.

Which is in heaven - Lest a wrong meaning should be taken from the foregoing expression, and it should be imagined that, in order to manifest himself upon earth he must necessarily leave heaven; our blessed Lord qualifies it by adding, the Son of man who is in heaven; pointing out, by this, the ubiquity or omnipresence of his nature: a character essentially belonging to God; for no being can possibly exist in more places than one at a time, but He who fills the heavens and the earth.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on John 3:13". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/john-3.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

And no man hath ascended into heavens - No man, therefore, is qualified to speak of heavenly things, John 3:12. To speak of those things requires intimate acquaintance with them - demands that we have seen them; and as no one has ascended into heaven and returned, so no one is qualified to speak of them but He who came down from heaven. This does not mean that no one had Gone to heaven or had been saved, for Enoch and Elijah had been borne there (Genesis 5:24; compare Hebrews 11:5; 2 Kings 2:11); and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and others were there: but it means that no one had ascended and “returned,” so as to be qualified to speak of the things there.

But he that came down … - The Lord Jesus. He is represented as coming down, because, being equal with God, he took upon himself our nature, John 1:14; Philippians 2:6-7. He is represented as “sent” by the Father, John 3:17, John 3:34; Galatians 4:4; 1 John 4:9-10.

The Son of man - Called thus from his being “a man;” from his interest in man; and as expressive of his regard for man. It is a favorite title which the Lord Jesus gives to himself.

Which is in Heaven - This is a very remarkable expression. Jesus, the Son of man, was then bodily on earth conversing with Nicodemus; yet he declares that he is “at the same time” in heaven. This can be understood only as referring to the fact that he had two natures that his “divine nature” was in heaven, and his “human nature” on earth. Our Saviour is frequently spoken of in this manner. Compare John 6:62; John 17:5; 2 Corinthians 8:9. Since Jesus was “in” heaven - as his proper abode was there - he was fitted to speak of heavenly things, and to declare the will of God to man And we may learn:

1.that the truth about the deep things of God is not to be learned from “men.” No one has ascended to heaven and returned to tell us what is there; and no infidel, no mere man, no prophet, is qualified of himself to speak of them.

2.that all the light which we are to expect on those subjects is to be sought in the Scriptures. It is only Jesus and his inspired apostles and evangelists that can speak of those things.

3.It is not wonderful that some things in the Scriptures are mysterious. They are about things which we have not seen, and we must receive them on the “testimony” of one who has seen them.

4.The Lord Jesus is divine. He was in heaven while on earth. He had, therefore, a nature far above the human, and is equal with the Father, John 1:1.

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Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on John 3:13". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/john-3.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

John 3:13

No man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven

Christ comforting Nicodemus

Christ having reproved Nicodemus for his ignorance, now shows the remedy thereof in Himself.

1. Christ’s sharp word is not His last. Having inflicted a wound He offers Himself, the only remedy, to cure it.

2. It is alike impossible for men, by their own parts and natural endowments, to comprehend spiritual mysteries and enter into God’s counsels, here called an ascending up to heaven.

3. In so far as sinners come to a true and saving knowledge of heavenly mysteries, they are in a sort transported up to heaven. If Capernaum were exalted to heaven by the offer of these things, what are they who embrace them?

4. It is proper in Christ only, in some sense, to ascend to heaven, both for the measure and degree of knowledge which, as God, is infinite, and, as man, is large as human nature is capable of, and for the kind of knowledge which, as God, is of Himself, and can only be man’s by communication from Him who came down from heaven.

5. The Son of God in the boson of the Father manifested Himself in our nature, that He might in our nature understand and communicate the heavenly mysteries; therefore it is marked as the ground of His ascending or comprehending these things that He came down, hereby showing that His abasing of Himself did exalt Him as Mediator to that dignity, to be the storehouse of wisdom to His people.

6. Christ, by His Incarnation, did not cease to be God, for He is still in heaven.

7. The Son of God has assumed the human nature into so strict a personal union that what is proper to either nature is ascribed unto the Person under whatsoever name. And hereby Christ shows His love to our nature that under that name, “Son of Man,” He ascribes what is proper to His Godhead to Himself. (G. Hutcheson.)

The text in relation to error

Three distinct heresies are overthrown by these words.

I. That of the NESTORIANS, who affirm a duality of persons as well as of natures in Christ; for unless our Blessed Lord were one Person, it could not in truth be affirmed that the Son of Man, even whilst on earth, was in heaven.

II. That of the CERINTHIANS and all others who deny the pre-existence and Divinity of Christ; for unless He had been God, it could not have been said that He came down from heaven even whilst still in heaven.

III. That of the MANICHAEANS, who deny the proper humanity of our Blessed Lord; for unless He had been really man, of the substance of His mother, it could not be said that He was the Son of Man. (Toletus.)

The Son of Man

The name is used

I. Not only because of His Incarnation, but also because of the manner of that Incarnation. When He came into this world and manifested Himself, so that we were able to see Him who by nature is invisible, He might have taken new flesh and a body created especially for Him, other than that of man. He, however, took man’s flesh, and calls Himself here the Son of Man, and so assures us that He was really born of woman; otherwise He would not be really the Son of Man. These words also declare, not only that He took our flesh, for this alone would not have made Him the Son of Man, but that He took it by being born.

II. These words remind us for our comfort that He is truly our Brother, and that we are all brethren of Christ by virtue of His birth as the Son of Man.

III. He uses these words to certify us of the fulfilment of those promises which declared that He should take our flesh and be the seed of man, the Son of David and of Abraham.

IV. Again, He uses these words in confirmation of our being made the sons of God; for if Christ for our sake became the Son of Man, we through His humiliation and Incarnation were therefore made the sons of God.

V. By using the name, Son of Man, the mark of His humiliation, He would teach us humility. (Toletus.)

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "John 3:13". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/john-3.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

And no one hath ascended into heaven, but he that descended out of heaven, even the Son of man who is in heaven.

Here Jesus claimed his unique office as God's messenger who descended to man out of heaven, and yet, in a sense, who was still in heaven. This verse, admittedly difficult, has led to the view that heaven is a state rather than a place, and that Jesus could say the Son of man was in heaven even while he was on earth. Another view supported by this is that during the personal ministry of Christ he continued in the full possession of his heavenly attributes. Still another concept that finds support is the doctrine of the ubiquitousness of Jesus. Dogmatism is out of order here, due to the textual questions regarding this verse. Westcott wrote that these words were "omitted by many very ancient authorities, and appear to be an early gloss bringing out the right contrast between the ascent of a man to heaven and the abiding of the Son of man in heaven."[15] In the International Version, this place reads: "No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven, the Son of man."

ENDNOTE:

[15] B. F. Westcott, op. cit., p. 57.

Copyright Statement
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on John 3:13". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/john-3.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And no man hath ascended into heaven,.... Though Enoch and Elias had, yet not by their own power, nor in the sense our Lord designs; whose meaning is, that no man had, or could go up to heaven, to bring from thence the knowledge of divine and heavenly things; in which sense the phrase is used in Deuteronomy 30:12, and which may be illustrated by John 1:18; wherefore inasmuch as Nicodemus had acknowledged Christ to he a teacher come from God, our Lord, would have him know, that he was the only teacher of heavenly things, as being the only person that had been in heaven, and in the bosom of the Father; and therefore, if he, and the rest of the Jews, did not receive instructions from him, they must for ever remain ignorant; for there never had been, nor was, nor could be, any mere man that could go up to heaven, and learn the mysteries of God, and of the kingdom of heaven, and return and instruct men in them:

but he that came down from heaven; meaning himself, who is the Lord from heaven, and came from thence to do the will of God by preaching the Gospel, working miracles, obeying the law, and suffering death in the room of his people, and thereby obtaining eternal redemption for them. Not that he brought down from heaven with him, either the whole of his human nature, or a part of it; either an human soul, or an human body; nor did he descend locally, by change of place, he being God omnipresent, infinite and immense, but by assumption of the human nature into union with his divine person:

even the son of man which is in heaven; at the same time he was then on earth: not that he was in heaven in his human nature, and as he was the son of man; but in his divine nature, as he was the Son of God; see John 1:18; though this is predicated of his person, as denominated from the human nature, which was proper to him only in his divine nature; for such is omnipresence, or to be in heaven and earth at the same time: just as on the other hand God is said to purchase the church with his blood, and the Lord of glory is said to be crucified, Acts 20:28, where those things are spoken of Christ, as denominated from his divine nature, which were proper only to his human nature; and is what divines call a communication of idioms or properties; and which will serve as a key to open all such passages of Scripture: and now as a proof of our Lord's having been in heaven, and of his being a teacher come from God, and such an one as never was, or can be, he opens and explains a type respecting himself, in the following verse.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on John 3:13". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/john-3.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

And no k man l hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, [even] m the Son of man which n is in heaven.

(k) Only Christ can teach us heavenly things, for no man ascends, etc.

(l) That is, has any spiritual light and understanding, or ever had any, but only the Son of God who came down to us.

(m) Whereas he is said to have come down from heaven, this must be understood as referring to his Godhead, and of the manner of his conception: for Christ's birth upon the earth was heavenly and not earthly, for he was conceived by the Holy Spirit.

(n) That which is proper to the divinity of Christ, is here spoken of the whole Christ, to show us that he is but one person in which two natures are united.

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Bibliographical Information
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on John 3:13". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/john-3.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

no man hath ascended, etc. — There is something paradoxical in this language - “No one has gone up but He that came down, even He who is at once both up and down.” Doubtless it was intended to startle and constrain His auditor to think that there must be mysterious elements in His Person. The old Socinians, to subvert the doctrine of the pre-existence of Christ, seized upon this passage as teaching that the man Jesus was secretly caught up to heaven to receive His instructions, and then “came down from heaven” to deliver them. But the sense manifestly is this: “The perfect knowledge of God is not obtained by any man‘s going up from earth to heaven to receive it - no man hath so ascended - but He whose proper habitation, in His essential and eternal nature, is heaven, hath, by taking human flesh, descended as the Son of man to disclose the Father, whom He knows by immediate gaze alike in the flesh as before He assumed it, being essentially and unchangeably ‹in the bosom of the Father‘” (John 1:18).

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on John 3:13". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/john-3.html. 1871-8.

People's New Testament

And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down... the Son of man which is in heaven. This implies: (1) That he existed before he appeared on earth. (2) That heaven was his true abode. (3) That, on earth, his spirit was in communication with heaven.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Original work done by Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
Johnson, Barton W. "Commentary on John 3:13". "People's New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pnt/john-3.html. 1891.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

But he that descended out of heaven (ει μη ο εκ του ουρανου καταβαςei mē ho ek tou ouranou katabas). The Incarnation of the Pre-existent Son of God who was in heaven before he came down and so knows what he is telling about “the heavenly things.” There is no allusion to the Ascension which came later. This high conception of Christ runs all through the Gospel and is often in Christ‘s own words as here.

Which is in heaven (ο ων εν τωι ουρανωιho ōn en tōi ouranōi). This phrase is added by some manuscripts, not by Aleph B L W 33, and, if genuine, would merely emphasize the timeless existence of God‘s Son who is in heaven even while on earth. Probably a gloss. But “the Son of man” is genuine. He is the one who has come down out of heaven.

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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on John 3:13". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/john-3.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

And ( καὶ )

Note the simple connective particle, with nothing to indicate the logical sequence of the thought.

Hath ascended

Equivalent to hath been in. Jesus says that no one has been in heaven except the Son of man who came down out of heaven; because no man could be in heaven without having ascended thither.

Which is in heaven

Many authorities omit.

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Bibliographical Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on John 3:13". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/john-3.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

For no one — For here you must rely on my single testimony, whereas there you have a cloud of witnesses: Hath gone up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven.

Who is in heaven — Therefore he is omnipresent; else he could not be in heaven and on earth at once. This is a plain instance of what is usually termed the communication of properties between the Divine and human nature; whereby what is proper to the Divine nature is spoken concerning the human, and what is proper to the human is, as here, spoken of the Divine.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on John 3:13". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/john-3.html. 1765.

The Fourfold Gospel

And no one hath ascended into heaven, but he that descended out of heaven1, [even] the Son of man, who is in heaven2.

  1. And no one hath ascended into heaven, but he that descended out of heaven. Nicodemus is here informed that Christ alone can teach concerning heavenly things. Jesus can so teach, for he did not begin on earth and ascend to heaven, but he came from heaven to earth, and returned thence (afterwards) to heaven.

  2. [Even] the Son of man, who is in heaven. Jesus speaks of himself as being present in heaven, because his divine nature was in constant communication with the powers of heaven. If we conceive of heaven as a locality (a proper conception), Jesus was upon the earth; but if we conceive of it as a present communion with the presence of God (also a proper conception), then Christ was in heaven as he talked with Nicodemus (John 8:29).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on John 3:13". "The Fourfold Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tfg/john-3.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

Никто не восходил на небо. Христос снова увещевает Никодима не полагаться на себя и свой разум, ибо никто из смертных не может проникнуть на небеса, кроме тех, кто идет туда под водительством Сына Божия. Восхождение на небеса означает здесь подлинное знание тайн Божиих и свет духовного разумения. Христос учит в этом месте тому же, чему и Павел, когда говорит, что душевный человек не разумеет относящегося к Богу (1Кор.2:14). Так что острие человеческого разума не проникает в божественное, поскольку не достигает Самого Бога. Однако обратим внимание на слова: Один Христос есть Тот, Кто пребывает на небесах. Он один взошел на небеса, всем другим вход туда закрыт. Первая часть предложения смиряет нас, преграждая доступ на небо всему миру. Павел повелевает всем желающим быть мудрыми для Бога и стать глупыми для самих себя (1Кор.3:18). А это мы делаем всего неохотнее. Итак, будем придерживаться следующего: когда дело доходит до познания Бога, наш разум слабеет и оказывается непригодным. Однако

Христос, сперва закрыв для нас небо, затем предлагает Свою помощь, говоря, что Сыну Человеческому дозволено то, в чем отказано всем прочим. Ибо, взойдя на небеса, Он сделал это не ради Себя и не как частное лицо, но чтобы быть для нас вождем и руководителем. Он называет Себя Сыном Человеческим, дабы мы не сомневались: у нас с Ним общий доступ на небеса, с Тем, Кто для того облекся в нашу плоть, чтобы сделать нас причастниками всех Своих благ. Поскольку же Он единственный, кого слушает Отец, Он и пустит нас в те потаенные места, которые иначе оставались бы закрытыми.

Однако кажется абсурдным, что Христос называет Себя сущим на небесах, живя в то же время на земле. Можно предположить, что это так в отношении Его божества. Однако контекст говорит об обратном: Он пребывает на небе именно как человек. Можно сказать, что здесь идет речь не о месте, а о положении перед Богом, коим Христос отличается от других людей. Поелику Он наследник царства Божия, из которого исключен весь человеческий род. Но для ответа на поставленный вопрос достаточно подметить следующее: во Христе, вследствие единства Его лица, свойства одной природы часто переносятся на другую. Итак, Христос, будучи на небесах, облекся в нашу плоть, дабы, протянув нам руку помощи, вознести с Собою на небо.

 

 

 

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on John 3:13". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/john-3.html. 1840-57.

Frédéric Louis Godet - Commentary on Selected Books

Ver. 13. "And no one hath ascended up to heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven."

The question, "how will you believe?" (John 3:12) implied, in the thought of Him who proposed it, the necessity of faith. John 3:13 justifies this necessity. The intermediate idea is the following: "Indeed, without faith in my testimony, there is no access for you to those heavenly things which thou desirest to know." καί : and yet. Olshausen, de Wette, Lucke, Luthardt and Meyer find in John 3:13 the proof, not of the necessity of faith in the revelation contained in the teaching of Jesus, but of that in revelation in general. But this thesis is too purely theoretical to find a place in such a conversation. Hengstenberg thinks that Jesus here wishes to reveal His divinityas the first among the heavenly things which Nicodemus has need to know. Meyer rightly answers that the negative form of the proposition is inconsistent with this intention. Besides, Jesus would have employed, in that case, the expression Son of God, rather than Son of man.

The general meaning of this saying is as follows: "You do not believe my word...And yet no one has ascended to heaven so as to behold the heavenly things and make them known to you, except He who has descended from it to live with you as a man, and who, even while living here below, abides there also; so that He alone knows them de visu, and so that, consequently, to believe in His teaching is for you the only means of knowing them." But how can Jesus say of Himself that He ascended to heaven? Did He speak of His ascension by way of anticipation (Augustine, Calvin, Bengel, Hengstenberg)? But His future ascension would not justify the necessity of faith in His earthly teaching. Lucke, Olshausen, Beyschlag, after the example of Erasmus, Beza, etc., think that heaven is here only the symbol of perfect communion with God—a communion to which Jesus had morally risen, and by virtue of which He alone possessed the adequate knowledge of God and of the things above. This sense would be admissible if the word ascended had not as its antithesis the term descended, which refers to a positive fact, that of the incarnation; the corresponding term ascend must, therefore, refer to a fact no less positive, or rather—since the verb is in the perfect and not the aorist—to a state resulting from a fact quite as positive. Meyer and Weiss, following Jansen, think that the idea of ascending may be regarded as applying only to men in general and that an abstraction from it can be made with reference to Jesus. Ascending is here only as if the indispensable condition for all other men of dwelling in heaven: "No one...except he who (without having ascended thither) has descended from it, he who is there essentially (Meyer), or who was there previously (Weiss)." This is an attempt to escape the difficulty of the εἱ μή, except; the fact of being in heaven is reserved for Jesus, while suppressing, so far as He is concerned, that of ascending; comp. the use of εἰ μή in Matthew 12:4; Luke 4:26-27; Galatians 1:19. However, the case is not altogether the same in those passages. We might try to take the εἰ μή in the sense of but, like the Hebrew ki im; but in that case John must have written κατέβη instead of ὁ καταβάς : "No one has ascended, but the Son of man descended."

The Socinians, perfectly understanding the difficulty, have had recourse to the hypothesis of a carrying away of Jesus to heaven, which was granted to Him at some time or other of His life before His public ministry. As for ourselves, we have no occasion to have recourse to such an hypothesis; we know a positive fact which is sufficient to explain thehas ascended when we apply it to Jesus Himself; it is that which occurred at His baptism. Heaven was then opened to Him; He penetrated it deeply by His gaze; He read the heart of God, and knew at that moment everything which He was to reveal to men of the divine plan, the heavenly things. In proportion as the consciousness of His eternal relation as Son to the Father was given to Him, there necessarily resulted from it the knowledge of the love of God towards mankind. Comp. Matthew 11:27.— Heaven is a state, before being a place. As Gess says: "To be in the Father is to be in heaven." Subsidiarily, no doubt, the word heaven takes also a local sense; for this spiritual state of things is realized most perfectly in whatever sphere of the universe is resplendent with all the glory of the manifestation of God. The moral sense of the word heaven prevails in the first and third clauses; the local sense must be added to it in the second. "No one has ascended..." signifies thus: "No one has entered into communion with God and possesses thereby an intuitive knowledge of divine things, in order to reveal them to others, except He to whom heaven was opened and who dwells there at this very moment."

And by virtue of what was Jesus, and Jesus alone, admitted to such a privilege. Because heaven is His original home. He alone has ascended thither, because He only descended thence. The term descended implies in His case the consciousness of having personally lived in heaven (Gess). This word denotes, therefore, more than a divine mission; it implies the abasement of the incarnation, and consequently involves the notion of pre-existence. It is an evident advance upon Nicodemus" profession of faith (John 3:2). The filial intimacy to which Jesus is exalted rests on His essential Sonship, previous to His earthly life. If the word descended implies pre-existence, the term, Son of man, brings out the human side in this heavenly revealer. The love of mankind impelled Him to become one of us, in order that He might speak to us as a man, and might instruct us in heavenly things in a manner intelligible to us. The recollection of Proverbs 30:4 seems not to be foreign to the expression which Jesus makes use of: "Do I know the knowledge of the holy ones? Who ascendeth to heaven and descendeth from it?"

The last words: who is in heaven are preserved in the text byTischendorf (8th ed.) and by Meyer, notwithstanding the Alexandrian authorities; Westcott rightly says: "They have against them the ancient MSS., and for them the ancient versions." But according to this critic, the testimony of the versions is in this case remarkably weakened by the contrary testimony of the Sinaitic MS. which so often accords with them. The rejection may have been the result of an accidental omission or of the difficulty of reconciling this addition with the idea of the preceding clause;—that of having descended. On the other hand, we can understand how these words may have been interpolated, in order to resolve the apparent contradiction between the idea ofbeing in heaven in order to have ascended thither, and that of having descended. At all events, the idea which these words express, that of the actual presence of Christ in heaven, is already very positively contained in the perfect ἀναβέβηκεν, has ascended. This tense indeed does not signify: has accomplished at a given moment the act of ascending (this would be the sense of the aorist), but He is there, He lives there, as having ascended thither. Thus the preceding antithesis is resolved. Jesus lives in heaven, as a being who has re-ascended thither after having descended in order to become Son of man (John 16:28). The Lord led two lives parallel to each other, an earthly life and a heavenly life. He lived in His Father, and, while living thus with the Father, He gave Himself unceasingly to men in His human life. The teaching in parables, in which the heavenly things take on His lips an earthly dress, is the true language answering to that existence which is formed of two simultaneous lives, the one penetrating the other.

Some interpreters (Luthardt, Weiss), understand the participle ( ὁ ὤν), in the sense of the imperfect who was (before the incarnation); this word, according to them, expresses the idea of pre-existence as a condition of the καταβαίνειν, of the act of descending. But this participle ( ὁ ὤν), if it is authentic, is rather in relation with the principal verb: has ascended, than with the participle ( ὁ καταβάς). "He lives in heaven, having re-ascended thither, inasmuch as He has descended thence." To express, without ambiguity, the idea of the imperfect, the periphrasis ( ὃς ὴν) would have been necessary; Lucke sees in ὁ ὤν a perpetual present. This idea may be applied to John 1:18, where the question is of the Son of God, but not to our passage, where the subject is the Son of man.

Meyer, Weiss and Keil maintain that Jesus explains here the knowledge which He has of divine things by His pre-existence. Such an idea can be found in these words only on condition of denying any application of the idea ofascending to Jesus, a thing which is impossible. The higher knowledge of Jesus is, much rather, presented here as the result of an initiation (has ascended), which took place for Him during the course of His human existence, and through which He received at a certain time the immediate and constant, though truly human, intuition of divine things. And, in fact, this is the impression which every word of Jesus produces: that of a man who perceives the divine directly, but who perceives it with a human consciousness like our own. It is impossible for me to understand how Weiss can, on the one hand, make this higher knowledge proceed from a recollection of His anterior existence, and maintain, on the other, that such knowledge "does not go beyond the limits of a truly human consciousness." The Son of man, living in heaven, so as to have re-ascended thither after having descended, is the sole revealer of divine things: this is the first of the ἐπουράνια, the heavenly secrets, which Jesus communicates to Nicodemus. The second is the salvation of men through the lifting up of this same Son of man, not on a throne, but on a cross, the supreme wonder of divine love to the world: John 3:14-16. This is the essential contents of the revelation which Jesus announced to him in John 3:13.

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Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on John 3:13". "Frédéric Louis Godet - Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsc/john-3.html.

Scofield's Reference Notes

Son of man

(See Scofield "Matthew 8:20")

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Scofield, C. I. "Scofield Reference Notes on John 3:13". "Scofield Reference Notes (1917 Edition)". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/srn/john-3.html. 1917.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

Ver. 13. And no man hath ascended, &c.] Objection. Therefore all but Christ are shut out of heaven. Solution. The Church and Jesus make but one Christ, caput et corpus unus Christus, 1 Corinthians 12:12. He counts not himself full without his members, who are called the "fulness of him that filleth all," Ephesians 1:23.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on John 3:13". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/john-3.html. 1865-1868.

Sermon Bible Commentary

John 3:13

Resurrection the Key to the Life of Christ.

Resurrection is the natural, inevitable issue of the life of the Man of Sorrows, the Lord of glory. Unless the universal life is one great tragedy, that life which from the first moment of its conscious activity had looked on, though it would not press on, to Calvary, could not find the term of that conscious activity in the rock-hewn tomb, where loving hands laid the crucified body of their Lord.

I. It was the force supplied by faith in the resurrection and reign of the Man Christ Jesus, the Man who had led a sinless and absolutely self-sacrificing life on earth, and who rose in Divine strength to make the power by which He lived and died the conqueror of sin and selfishness in man—it was just this force which lifted humanity out of the slough wherein it was fast settling, and gave to it a firm, rock-like foundation, on which it could build victoriously the temple of its higher life. It needed superhuman power, through the supernatural fact—the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus—to lay hold on the corrupt and dying world with a grasp strong enough to lift it, and to begin, by underbuilding it with a solid foundation of Divine truth, the work of its salvation.

II. None can read the great biography thoughtfully without feeling that the life which it portrays had the shadow of death on it from the first. And yet—and this is the transcendently wonderful feature—the atmosphere about it, the sentiment of it, was always of life, and never of death. There was no trace of habitual gloom hanging about the daily pathways of the Lord. All breathed the expression of vivid, intense, energetic, blessed, victorious life. Always the abiding thing, the victorious thing, the beautiful Divine thing, in the word and the work of the Man of Sorrows, is life. His life was entirely healthful, robust and hopeful, though Gethsemane and Calvary were clearly at the end of it. The life was never stronger, fuller, deeper in the springs than when He looked full face on death. What could such a life, what could such a death, as His mean but resurrection? Life was bursting through death as the agony deepened, and when, with the words, "It is finished," He gave up the ghost, the only thing that died was death.

J. Baldwin Brown, The Risen Christ the King of Men, p. 77.


References: John 3:13.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ix., p. 203; Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 85; A. Barry, Cheltenham College Sermons, p. 344; H. Wace, Expositor, 2nd series, vol. ii., p. 196. John 3:14.—R. D. B. Rawnsley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxii., p. 141.

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Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

Here our Saviour declares to Nicodemus, That none ever ascended up into heaven, to fetch down from thence the knowledge of divine mysteries, and to reveal the way of life and salvation to mankind by a Mediator, but only Christ himself; who, though he took upon him the human nature, and was then man upon earth yet was he at the same time in his divine nature actually in heaven as God. This text evidently proves two distinct natures in Christ; namely, a divine nature as he was God, and an human nature as man. In his human nature, he was then upon earth, when he spake these words; in his divine nature, he was at that instant in heaven.

Here observe, That the Son of God hath taken the human nature, into so close and intimate a union with his God-head, and what is proper to either nature is ascribed unto the person of our Saviour. The same person who was on earth as the Son of man, who was then in heaven as God, and yet but one person still.

Lord! what love hast thou shown to our human nature, that under that name thou ascribest to thyself what is proper to thy Godhead!

The Son of man which is in heaven. The Socinians produce this text, to prove that Christ after his baptism was taken up into heaven, there to be made acquainted with the will of God, to fit him for the execution of his prophetical office here on earth, and that for this reason he was said to be in the beginning with God, as Moses before him was taken up into the mount, and taught by God.

But, 1. We have not the least word of any such thing in Scripture, though we have a particular account of our Saviour's birth, circumcision, baptism, doctrine, miracles, death resurrection, ascension, yea, of small things compared with this; as his flight into Egypt, his sitting on a pinnacle of the temple; yet not a word of his assumption into heaven.

2. There was no need of it, because Almighty God could reveal himself to Christ, as well as to other prophets, out of heaven as well as in it: besides, Christ was fitted for his prophetic office by the unction of the spirit he received here on earth; and therefore this ascent was altogether needless.

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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on John 3:13". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wbc/john-3.html. 1700-1703.

Golden Chain Commentary on the Gospels

And no man has ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

AUG. After taking notice of this lack of knowledge in a person, who, on the strength of his magisterial station, set himself above others, and blaming the unbelief of such men, our Lord says, that if such as these do not believe, others will: No one has ascended into heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man who is in heaven. This may be rendered: The spiritual birth shall be of such sort, as that men from being earthly shall become heavenly: which will not be possible, except they are made members of Me; so that he who ascends, becomes one with Him who descended. Our Lord accounts His body, i.e. His Church, as Himself.

GREG. Forasmuch as we are made one with Him, to the place from which He came alone in Himself, thither He returns alone in us; and He who is ever in heaven, daily ascends to heaven.

AUG. Although He was made the Son of man upon earth, yet His Divinity with which, remaining in heaven, He descended to earth, He has declared not to disagree with the title of Son of man, as He has thought His flesh worthy the name of Son of God. For through the Unity of person, by which both substances are one Christ, He walked upon earth, being Son of God; and remained in heaven, being Son of man. And the belief of the greater, involves belief in the less. If then the Divine substance, which is so far more removed from us, and could for our sake take up the substance of man so as to unite them in one person; how much more easily may we believe, that the Saints united with the man Christ, become with Him one Christ, so that while it is true of all, that they ascend by grace, it is at the same time true, that He alone ascends to heaven, Who came down from heaven.

CHRYS. Or thus: Nicodemus having said, We know that You are a teacher sent from God; our Lord says, And no man has ascended, &c. in that He might not appear to be a teacher only like one of the Prophets.

THEOPHYL. But when you hear that the Son of man came down from heaven, think not that His flesh came down from heaven; for this is the doctrine of those heretics, who held that Christ took His Body from heaven, and only passed through the Virgin.

CHRYS. By the title Son of man here, He does not mean His flesh, but Himself altogether; the lesser part of His nature being put to express the whole. It is not uncommon with Him to name Himself wholly from His humanity, or wholly from His divinity.

BEDE If a man of set purpose descend naked to the valley, and there providing himself with clothes and armor, ascend the mountain again, he who ascended may be said to be the same with him who descended.

HILARY Or, His descending from heaven is the source of His origin as conceived by the Spirit: Mary gave not His body its origin, though the natural qualities of her sex contributed its birth and increase. That He is the Son of man is from the birth of the flesh which was conceived in the Virgin. That He is in heaven is form the power of His everlasting nature, which did not contract the power of the Word of God, which is infinite, within the sphere of a finite body. Our Lord remaining in the form of a servant, far from the whole circle, inner and outer, of heaven and the world, yet as Lord of heaven and the world, was not absent therefrom. So then He came down from heaven because He was the Son of man; and He was in heaven, because the Word, which was made flesh, had not ceased to be the Word.

AUG. But you wonder that He was at once here, and in heaven. Yet such power has He given to His disciples. Hear Paul, Our conversation is in heaven. If the man Paul walked upon earth, and had his conversation in heaven; shall not the God of heaven and earth be able to be in heaven and earth?

CHRYS. That too which seems very lofty is still unworthy of His vastness. For He is not in heaven only, but every where, and fills all things. But for the present He accommodates Himself to the weakness of His hearer, that by degrees He may convert him.

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Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

13.] The whole verse seems to have intimate connexion with and reference to Proverbs 30:4; and as spoken to a learned doctor of the law, would recall that verse,—especially as the further question is there asked, ‘Who hath gathered the wind in His fists?’ ( מִי אָסַף־רוּחַ בּחָפְנָיו), and ‘What is His name, and what His Son’s name?’ See also Deuteronomy 30:12, and the citation, Romans 10:6-8.

All attempts to explain away the plain sense of this verse are futile and ridiculous. The Son of Man, the Lord Jesus, the Word made Flesh, was in, came down from, heaven,—and was in heaven (heaven about Him, heaven dwelling on earth, ch. John 1:51), while here, and ascended up into heaven when He left this earth;—and by all these proofs, speaking in the prophetic language of accomplished Redemption, does the Lord establish, that He alone can speak of τὰ ἐπουράνια to men, or convey the blessing of the new birth to them. Be it remembered, that He is here speaking proleptically, of results of His course and sufferings on earth,—of the way of regeneration and salvation which God has appointed by Him. He regards therefore throughout the passage, the great facts of redemption as accomplished, and makes announcements which could not be literally acted upon till they had been so accomplished. See John 3:14 ff., whose sense will be altogether lost, unless this ἀναβέβηκεν be understood of His exaltation to be a Prince and a Saviour.

ὁ ὢν ἐν τῷ οὐρ.] See ch. John 1:18 and note. Doubtless the meaning involves ‘whose place is in heaven;’ but it also asserts the being in heaven of the time then present: see ch. John 1:51. Stier (iv. 68, edn. 2) speaks well of the majestic ὁ ὢν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, by which the Lord characterizes His whole life in the flesh between the καταβαίνειν and the ἀναβαίνειν. As uniting in Himself God, whose dwelling is heaven, with man whose dwelling is on earth, He ever was in heaven. And nearly connected with this fact is the transition to His being the fountain of eternal life, in John 3:14 ff.: cf. 1 Corinthians 15:47-50, where the same connexion is strikingly set forth.

To explain such expressions as ἀναβαίνειν εἰς τ. οὐρ., &c., as mere Hebrew metaphors (Lücke, De Wette, &c.) is no more than saying that Hebrew metaphors were founded on deep insight into divine truth:—these words in fact express the truths on which Hebrew metaphors were constructed. Socinus is quite right, when he says that those who take ἀναβ. εἰς τ. οὐ. metaphorically, must in all consistency take ὁ καταβὰς ἐκ τ. οὐρ. metaphorically also; “qualis descensus, talis etiam ascensus.”

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on John 3:13". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/john-3.html. 1863-1878.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

John 3:13. “And no other than I can reveal to you heavenly things.” This is what Jesus means, if we rightly take His words, not an assertion of His divinity as the first of the heavenly things (Hengstenberg), which would make the negative form of expression quite inexplicable. Comp. John 1:18, John 6:46.

The καὶ is simply continuative in its force, not antithetic (Knapp, Olshausen), nor furnishing a basis, or explanatory of the motive (Beza, Tholuck; Lücke, Lange).

οὐδεὶς ἀναβέβηκεν, κ. τ. λ.] which, on account of the perfect tense, obviously cannot refer to the actual ascension of Christ(158) (against Augustine, Beda, Theophylact, Rupertus, Calovius, Bengel, etc.); nor does it give any support to the unscriptural raptus in coelum of the Socinians (see Oeder ad Catech. Racov. p. 348 ff.); nor is it to be explained by the unio hypostatica of Christ’s human nature with the divine, by virtue of which the former may be said to have entered into heaven (Calovius, Maldonatus, Steinfass, and others). It is usually understood in a figurative sense, as meaning a spiritual elevation of the soul to God in order to knowledge of divine things, a coming to the perception of divine mysteries, which thus were brought down, as it were, by Christ from heaven (see of late especially Beyschlag); to support which, reference is made to Deuteronomy 30:12, Proverbs 30:4, Baruch 3:29, Romans 10:6-7. But this is incorrect, because Christ brought along with Him out of His pre-existent state His immediate knowledge of divine things (John 3:11; John 1:18; John 8:26, al.), and possesses it in uninterrupted fellowship with the Father; consequently the figurative method of representation, that during His earthly life He brought down this knowledge through having been raised up into heaven, would be inappropriate and strange. ἐκ τοῦ οὐρ. καταβ. also must be taken literally, of an actual descent; and there is therefore nothing in the context to warrant our taking ἀναβ. εἰς τ. οὐρ. symbolically. Hengstenberg rightly renders the words literally, but at the end of the verse he would complete the sense by adding, “who will ascend up into heaven.” This in itself is arbitrary, and not at all what we should look for in John; it is not in keeping with the connection, and would certainly not have been understood as a matter of course by a person like Nicodemus, though it were the point of the declaration: consequently it could not fitly be suppressed, and least of all as a saying concerning the future. Godet does not get beyond the explanation of essential communion with God on the part of Jesus from the time of His birth. The only rendering true to the words is simply this: Instead of saying, “No one has been in heaven except,” etc., Jesus says, as this could only have happened to any other by his ascending thither, “No one has ascended into heaven except,” etc.; and thus the εἰ μή refers to an actual existence in heaven, which is implied in the ἀναβέβηκεν. And thus Jansenius rightly renders: Nullus hominum in coelo fuit, quod ascendendo fieri solet, ut ibi coelestia contemplaretur, nisi, etc.; and of late Fritzsche the elder in his Novis opusc. p. 230; and now also Tholuck, and likewise Holtzmann in Hilgenfield’s Zeitschr. 1865, p. 222.

ἐκ τοῦ οὐρ. καταβάς] which took place by means of the incarnation. These words, like ὢν ἐν τ. οὐρ., are argumentative, for they necessarily imply the fact of existence in heaven; but ὢν, which must be taken as an attributive definition of υἱὸς τ. ἀνθρ., and not as belonging to καταβάς, and therefore taking the article, cannot be equivalent to ὃς ἦν (Luthardt; Hofmman, I. 134; Weiss, etc.), as if ποτε, τὸ πρότερον or the like were there, but is equivalent to ὅς ἐστι, whose existence is in heaven, who has there His proper abode, His home.(159)

υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρ.] Messianic designation which Christ applies to Himself, in harmony with the fulfilment of the prophetic representation in Daniel 7:13, which began with the καταβάς (comp. on John 1:51). Nicodemus could understand this only by means of a fuller development of faith and knowledge.

Note.

According to Beyschlag, p. 99 ff., this verse is utterly opposed to the derivation of Christ’s higher knowledge from the recollection of a pre-existent life in heaven. But we must bear in mind, (1) that the notion of an ascent to God to attain a knowledge of His mysteries (which Beyschlag considers the only right explanation) never occurs in the N. T. with reference to Jesus—a circumstance which would surprise us, especially in John, if it had been declared by Jesus Himself. But it was not declared by Him, because He has it not, but knows His knowledge to be the gift of His Father which accompanied Him in His mission (John 10:36). (2) He could not have claimed such an ascent to heaven for Himself alone, for a like ascent, though not in equal degree, must belong to other men of God. He must, therefore, at least have expressed Himself comparatively: οὐδεὶς οὓτως ἀναβέβηκεν . τ. οὐρ. ὡς , κ. τ. λ. Even the church now sings:

“Rise, rise, my soul, and stretch Thy wings

Towards heaven, Thy native place.”

But something distinct and more than this was the case with Christ, viz. as to the past, that He had His existence in heaven, and had come down therefrom; and as to His earthly presence, that He is in heaven.

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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on John 3:13". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/john-3.html. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

John 3:13. καί) And; you will see this is properly set down, if you change the interrogation at John 3:12, with some little time’s reflection, into an absolute [categorical] form of expression. In the preceding and present verse we are marked [characterized] as of ourselves aliens to heaven. Without reposing faith in My words and in Myself, saith Jesus, ye cannot understand or attain to heavenly things. The antecedent is put for the consequent. Similarly καί, and, is used ch. John 12:35, “Lest darkness come upon you; for he that walketh,” etc. [ καὶ περιπατῶν. The conjunction for the relative, in which darkness he who walketh].— οὐδείς) no man sprung on the earth. Angels evidently are not excluded: ch. John 1:51. Believers do not ascend, but are drawn by the Ascending [Saviour] after Himself, whom they have put on in their baptism. [Hence appears the indispensable need of faith.—V. g.]— εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν, to heaven) He most especially speaks of the heaven of the Divine majesty.— εἰ μή, unless) Here, having changed the past time of the verb ἀναβέβηκεν, hath ascended, into the future, understand ἀναβήσεται, shall ascend: comp. ch. John 6:62, “What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before?” Nowhere before His passion has the Lord spoken more clearly concerning His ascension, than in this passage, and in its parallel, ch. John 6:62; where similarly He adduces His ascension, as something much more difficult to be believed than those things were, which were then seeming so incredible to His hearers. On the whole, the two discourses, ch. 3 and 6, have a great similarity to one another; and the one treats of the rise, the other of the nourishment of the new life, [each alike] breathing altogether of heavenly things. The objection made to the Saviour is as to the how, τὸ πῶς. He [on the other hand] insists on the whence, and the whither [quorsum, whitherwards the new birth tends].— ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καταβάς, He who descends from heaven) The Son of man, having assumed human nature, whereas He had previously been in heaven as the Son of God, began to be on earth. Therefore That One, saith Jesus of Himself, can of Himself ascend, and will ascend to heaven. Proverbs 30:4, “Who hath ascended up to heaven, or descended?—What is His name, and what is His Son’s name?”— ὤν) who was in heaven, and, before the creation of the heavens, [was] with God: ch. John 1:1, notes. Thus, we may see, He both descended and will ascend. Comp. evidently ἦν, was, ch. John 6:62, “Where He was before:” so ὤν, who was [in the bosom of the Father: not which is, Engl. Vers.], ch. John 1:18. Frequently ὤν is used of the imperfect time: ch. John 9:25, “Whereas I was blind,” τυφλὸς ὤν, John 19:38, “Being a disciple” [i.e. who was a disciple]; Luke 24:44, “I spake whilst I was yet with you,” ἔτι ὤν; 2 Corinthians 8:9, “Though He was rich,—He became,” etc., πλούσιος ὤν. So ὤν in this passage is interpreted by Raphelius in his Appendix annot. from Herodotus, p. 682. Nor is he alone in this interpretation.

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on John 3:13". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/john-3.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

No man hath so ascended up to heaven, as to know the secret will and counsels of God, for of such an ascending it must be meant; otherwise, Elijah ascended up to heaven before our Saviour ascended. Thus the phrase is supposed to be used, Proverbs 30:4. None but Christ (who as to his Divine nature came down from heaven) hath ever so ascended thither;

even the Son of man, who was in heaven; we translate it is, but the participle wn is of the preter imperfect tense, as well as the present tense: or, who is in heaven, by virtue of the personal union of the two natures in the Redeemer; as we read. Acts 20:28, the church, which he hath purchased with his own blood. By reason of the personal union of the two natures in Christ, though the properties of each nature remain distinct, yet the properties of each nature are sometimes attributed to the whole person. The Lutherans have another notion, ascribing an omnipresence even to the human nature of Christ, because of its personal union with the Divine nature; and so affirm that Christ’s human nature, while it was on earth, was also substantially in heaven; as, on the other side, they are as stiff in maintaining that, although Christ’s human nature be now in heaven, yet it is also on earth, really and essentially present wherever the sacrament of the Lord’s supper is administered; but this is to ascribe a body unto Christ which is indeed no body, according to any notion we have of a body.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on John 3:13". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/john-3.html. 1685.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

Никто не восходил на небо Этот стих противопоставляет другие утверждения религиозной системы особому откровению от Бога. Иисус утверждал, что ни один человек не взошел на небо так, чтобы вернуться и рассказать о том, что происходит на небесах (ср. 2Кор. 12:1-4). Только у Него было постоянное жилище на небесах до Его воплощения, и поэтому только у Него есть истинное знание касательно небесной мудрости (ср. Пр. 30:4).

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MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on John 3:13". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mac/john-3.html.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Hath ascended up to heaven; learned heavenly things by actual presence there, and come down from that world to reveal them.

Son of man; Jesus Christ.

Which is in heaven; whose proper dwelling-place is in heaven. He left heaven for a season only, to return thither again.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on John 3:13". "Family Bible New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/john-3.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

13.Ascended’ came down.—After the words ascended up to heaven, there is implied the clause, and so no man is able to testify. The words do not mean that the Son of man had then ascended. They deny that any man had. And so the Son of man, which came down from heaven, is the sole authoritative testifier. He alone is the sure witness.

Which is in heavenThe Son of man needed not to ascend; for though on earth he is ever in heaven. See note on John 2:51. The person of the Son of man is again a Jacob’s ladder; though its feet are on earth its head is in heaven. The angels of God, that is, the revelations of God’s truth, can thus descend. And they descend with the absolute certainty of truth, because it is a living ladder, and its head has eyes that see things in heaven just as they are. The incarnate Son of man is the conductor from heaven to earth of all those divine facts and truths which the eternal Logos hath seen and known, and evermore will see and know, in his infallible unity with God. Now Nicodemus has first admitted, on the faith of miracles, that Jesus is sent from God; he is bound then to credit his declaration of his insight of heaven, and accept the highest mysteries, even of regeneration, etc.

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on John 3:13". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/john-3.html. 1874-1909.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

“And no man has ascended into Heaven, but he who descended out of Heaven, even the Son of Man who is in Heaven.”

In Proverbs 30:4 the question is asked, “Who has ascended up into heaven and descended?” and the expected answer is ‘nobody’. For as Jesus brings out here, the only One Who can ascend into Heaven is One Who has first descended. Only such a one can ascend to control the ‘ruach’ (Spirit, wind) and the rain (Proverbs 30:4). Thus the ‘ascending’ refers to Jesus exercising His power over things above. Jesus will later stress that He cannot work without the Father being present with Him. But the writer may well also wish us to gain the hint of His final ascension.

What are the ‘heavenly things’ of John 3:11? Firstly that Jesus has come from His glory in Heaven and has been made man. Secondly that He is the Son of man who has access to Heaven and Heaven’s secrets (compare Matthew 11:25-27). And thirdly that He alone is able to enter Heaven (compare John 6:62) as the glorious Son of Man to receive the kingdom and the power and the glory (Daniel 7:13), for ‘no one has ascended up into heaven except He Who descended from heaven, even the Son of Man’.

Jesus has already declared Himself to be the Son of Man (John 1:51), and now He links the title with the heavenly Son of Man (Daniel 7:13), as He does also in the other Gospels. He Himself is the One Who has come down from heaven, and maintains contact with Heaven (compare John 1:51) and can therefore finally return to His heavenly home in triumph as the glorious Son of Man.

‘Who is in Heaven’. This is omitted in many manuscripts, and although it is fairly strongly evidenced the weight of evidence must be seen as against it (p66, Aleph, B, L, W omit it. A Theta f1 f13 include it). However, the idea behind it, that Jesus has access to Heaven’s secrets is unquestionable (Matthew 11:25-27).

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on John 3:13". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/john-3.html. 2013.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Jesus explained why He could speak authoritatively about heavenly things. No teacher had ascended into heaven and returned to teach about heavenly things. Evidently Jesus was referring to being personally present in heaven since, obviously, many prophets had received visions of heaven (e.g, Isaiah 6; cf. 2 Corinthians 12:2-4; Revelation 1:10-20). However the Son of Man descended from heaven so He could teach about heavenly things. The NIV translation implies that Jesus had already ascended into heaven, but that is not what the Greek text says. The Greek words ei me, translated "but" or "except," contrast a human who might have ascended into heaven and the God-man who really did descend from heaven. Jesus here claimed to be the Son of Man ( Daniel 7:13-14) who had come from heaven to reveal God to humankind (cf. John 1:51).

"Throughout this Gospel John insists on Jesus" heavenly origin. This is one way in which he brings out his point that Jesus is the Christ. Here his heavenly origin marks Jesus off from the rest of humanity." [Note: Morris, p197.]

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on John 3:13". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/john-3.html. 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

John 3:13. And no one hath ascended up into heaven, but he that came down out of heaven, the Son of man. The connection is this: ‘How will ye believe if I tell you the heavenly things? And it is from me alone that ye .can learn them. No one can tell the heavenly things unless he has been in heaven, and no one has been in heaven and come down to earth save myself.’ Repeatedly does our Lord in this Gospel speak of His coming down out of heaven (John 6:33; John 6:38, etc.), using the very word that we meet with here; and hence it is impossible to give the phrase a merely figurative sense. He came forth from the Father, and came into the world (John 16:28), that He might declare the Father (chap. John 1:18) and speak unto the world what He had heard from Him (chap. John 8:26). But this requires that we take the other verb ‘hath ascended up’ in its literal sense, and then the words seem to imply that Jesus had already ascended into heaven. ‘Hath ascended up’ cannot refer to His future ascension; and there is no foundation for the view held by some, that within the limits of His ministry on earth He was ever literally taken up into heaven. What, then, is the meaning? There are several passages in which the words ‘save’ or ‘except’ present the same difficulty. One of the most familiar is Luke 4:27, where it seems at first strange to read, ‘Many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed saving Naaman the Syrian,’—no leper of Israel cleansed except a leper who was not of Israel! The mind is so fixed on the lepers and their cleansing, that the other words ‘of them’ are not carried on in thought to the last clause: ‘none of them was cleansed,—indeed, no leper was cleansed save Naaman the Syrian.’ So also in the preceding verse (Luke 4:26). In other passages (such as Galatians 2:16; Revelation 21:27) the same peculiarity exists, but it is not apparent in the Authorised Version. The verse before us is exactly similar. The special thought is not the having gone up into heaven, but the having been in heaven. This was the qualification for revealing the truths which are here spoken of as heavenly things. But none (none, that is, of the sons of men; for this is a general maxim, the exception is not brought in till afterwards) could be in heaven without ascending from earth to heaven. No one has gone up into heaven, and by thus being in heaven obtained the knowledge of heavenly things; and, indeed, no one has been in heaven save He that came down out of heaven, the Son of man. Observe how insensibly our Lord has passed into the revelation of the heavenly things themselves. He could not speak of His power to reveal without speaking of that which is first and chief of all the heavenly things, viz. that He Himself came down out of heaven to be the Son of man (on the name ‘Son of man’ see chap. John 1:51). The reference to our Lord’s humanity is here strikingly in place. He came down from heaven and became the Son of man to reveal these heavenly truths and (John 3:14-15) to give the heavenly blessings unto man.

The weight of evidence compels us to believe that the concluding words of this verse, as it stands in the Authorised Version, were not written by John. We can only suppose that they were a very early comment on, or addition to, the text, first written in the margin, then by mistake joined to the text. Were they genuine, they would probably refer to the abiding presence of the Son with the Father; but in such a sense it is very improbable that ‘Son of man’ would have been the name chosen. At all events, we have no other example of the same kind.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on John 3:13". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/john-3.html. 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

John 3:13. . The connection is: You have not believed earthly things, much less will you believe those which are heavenly; for not only are they in their own nature more difficult to understand, but there is none to testify of them save only that One who came down out of heaven. The sentence may be paraphrased thus: No one has gone up to heaven and by dwelling there gained a knowledge of the heavenly things: One only has dwelt there and is able to communicate that knowledge—He, viz., who has come down from heaven. “Presence in heaven” is considered to be the ground and qualification for communicating trustworthy information regarding “heavenly things”. Direct knowledge and personal experience of heavenly things alone justify authoritative declarations about them; as in earthly things one may expect to be believed if he can say, “we speak that we do know and testify that we have seen”. But this “presence in heaven” Jesus declares to be the qualification exclusively of one person. This person He describes as “He that came down out of heaven,” adding as a further description “the Son of Man” [who is in heaven]. This description identifies this person as Jesus Himself. He claims therefore to have a unique qualification for the declaration of truth about heavenly things, and this qualification consists in this, that He and He alone has had direct perception of heavenly things. He has been in heaven. By “heaven” it is not a locality that is indicated, but that condition which is described in the prologue as . And when He speaks of coming down out of heaven He can only mean manifesting Himself to those who are on that lower level from which they had not been able to ascend to the knowledge of heavenly things. In short, we have here the basis in Christ’s own words of the statement in the prologue that the Word was in the beginning with God, and became flesh to be a light to men. Why is introduced? It identifies the person spoken of, and it suggests that He who alone had the knowledge of heavenly things now wore human nature, was accessible, and was there for the purpose of communicating this knowledge. The words added in the T.R., , affirm that although He had come out of heaven He was still in it, and they show that a condition of being, not a locality, was meant by “heaven”.

 

 

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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on John 3:13". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/john-3.html. 1897-1910.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

No man hath ascended --- but he that descended from heaven, the Son of man, who is in heaven. These words, divers times repeated by our Saviour, in their literal and obvious sense, shew that Christ was in heaven, and had a being before he was born of the Virgin Mary, against the Cerinthians, &c. That he descended from heaven: that when he was made man, and conversed with men on earth, hew was at the same time in heaven. Some Socinians give us here their groundless fancy, that Jesus after his baptism took a journey to heaven, and returned again before his death. Nor yet would this make him in heaven, when he spoke this to his disciples. (Witham)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on John 3:13". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/john-3.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

And, &c. The kai (= And) here is a Hebraism, and does not mark the actual transition. There is nothing whatever in the context to show where the Paragraph breaks should be in this chapter; either in the MSS., or in the Versions. The Authorized Version varies in its different editions. The Authorized Version text in the Revised Version Parallel Bible has a at John 3:14 and John 3:16. The Camb. Paragraph Bible (Dr. Scrivener) has no break either at verses: John 3:3, John 3:14 or 16. The Revised Version has a break only at John 3:16, with WI and Scrivener"s Greek Text. The Companion Bible makes the important break at John 3:13, (1) because the Past Tenses which follow indicate completed events; (2) because the expression "only begotten Son "is not used b y the Lord of Himself; but only by the Evangelist (John 1:14, John 1:18; John 3:16, John 3:18; 1 John 4:9); (3) because "in the name of" (John 3:18) is not used by the Lord, but by the Evangelist (John 1:12; John 2:23. 1 John 5:13); (4) because to do the truth (John 3:21) Occurs elsewhere only in 1 John 1:6; (5) because "Who is in heaven "(John 3:13) points to the fact that the Lord had already ascended at the time John wrote; (6) because the word "lifted up" refers both to the "sufferings " (John 3:14; John 8:28; John 12:32, John 12:34) and to "the glory which should follow" (John 8:28; John 12:32. Acts 2:33; Acts 5:31); and (7) because the break at John 3:13 accords best with the context, as shown by the Structure B, above.

hath ascended = hath gone up (of himself). It does not say: "hath been taken up by God, "as Enoch and Elijah. But Christ had "gone up" when the Evangelist wrote these words. ascended. Greek. anabaino. As in John 1:51, John 2:13; John 5:1; John 7:8, &c. Matthew 20:17. Mark 6:51. Romans 10:6.

to = into. Greek. eis. App-104. Compare Deuteronomy 30:12. Proverbs 30:4. Acts 2:34. Romans 10:6. Ephesians 4:10.

heaven = the heaven. See note on Matthew 6:9, Matthew 6:10.

but = except, literal. if not. Greek. ei me.

came down. Greek katabaino. The opposite of "gone up".

from = out of. Greek. ek. App-104. Not the same word as in John 3:2.

the Son of Man. See App-98.

Which is, &c = Who is, &c., and was there when John wrote. This clause is in the Syriac, but is omitted by WI, and put by Revised Version in the margin. Omit "even".

in. Greek. en. App-104.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on John 3:13". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/john-3.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. How paradoxical this sounds: 'No one has gone up but He that came down, even He who is at once both up and down.' Doubtless it was intended to startle and constrain his auditor to think that there must be mysterious elements in His Person. The old Socinians, to subvert the doctrine of the pre-existence of Christ, seized upon this passage as teaching that the man Jesus was secretly caught up to heaven to receive his instructions, and then "came down from heaven" to deliver them. But the sense manifestly is this: 'The perfect knowledge of God is not obtained by any man's going up from earth to heaven to receive it-no man hath so ascended; but He whose proper habitation, in His essential and eternal nature, is heaven, hath, by taking human flesh, descended as "the Son of Man" to disclose the Father, whom He knows by immediate gaze alike in the flesh as before He assumed it, being essentially and unchangeably "in the bosom of the Father," (John 1:18.) Now comes He to tell him the heavenly things.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on John 3:13". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/john-3.html. 1871-8.

The Bible Study New Testament

13. Except the Son of Man. Over eighty times in the Gospels, Jesus calls himself “Son of Man,” emphasizing his humanity (compare Hebrews 2:14-15). The things he was doing declared him to be the Son of God. [The Jews understood the two titles to mean the same thing. See Luke 22:69-70] No one else but Jesus himself is COMPETENT to teach these things. [Some ancient authorities add: who is in heaven.]

 

 

 

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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on John 3:13". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/john-3.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(13) And no man hath ascended up.—There can be no other means of receiving heavenly truth. No man hath learnt it, and is able to teach it, except the Son of Man, who ever was, and is, in heaven. The thought has met us before (John 1:18). To Nicodemus it must have come as an answer to the words of Agur, which had passed into a proverb to express the vanity of human effort to know God. “Who hath ascended up into heaven or descended?. . . . What is his name, and what is his son’s name, if thou canst tell?” (Proverbs 30:4). No man had so passed to heaven and returned again to earth; but there was One then speaking with him who had been in heaven with God, and could tell him its eternal truths. He had that knowledge which a man could obtain only by ascending to heaven, and He came down from heaven with it. From the human point of view He was as one who had already ascended and descended. (Comp. Note on John 1:51.) This is the evident meaning of the sentence, and the form is quite consistent with it. To explain the perfect tense of the future ascension, or to introduce the idea of the “hypostatic union,” by virtue of which the human nature may be said to have ascended into heaven with the divine, is, to give an explanation, not of the text, but of a misunderstanding of it. (But comp. John 6:62.)

Which is in heaven.—These words are omitted in some MSS., including the Sinaitic and the Vatican. The judgment of most modern editors (not including Westcott and Hort) retains them. It is an instance where it is hard to account for the insertion by a copyist, but where the omission is not unlikely, owing to their seeming difficulty. And yet the difficulty is one which vanishes before the true idea of heaven. If heaven is thought of as a place infinitely distant beyond clouds and sky, or as a time in the far future when this world’s life shall end, then it is indeed hard to understand what is here meant by “the Son of Man which is in heaven;” and a copyist may well have found in omission the easiest solution of the difficulty. But if heaven is something wholly different from this coldness of distance in space or time; if it is a state, a life, in which we are, which is in us—now in part, hereafter in its fulness—then may we understand and with glad hearts hold to the vital truth that the Son of Man, who came down from heaven, was ever in heaven; and that every son of man who is born of water and of the Spirit is “made a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor (in the present, κληρονόμος) of the kingdom of heaven.”

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on John 3:13". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/john-3.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
no man
1:18; 6:46; Deuteronomy 30:12; Proverbs 30:4; Acts 2:34; Romans 10:6; Ephesians 4:9
but
6:33,38,51,62; 8:42; 13:3; 16:28-30; 17:5; 1 Corinthians 15:47
even
1:18; Matthew 28:20; Mark 16:19,20; Acts 20:28; Ephesians 1:23; 4:10
Reciprocal: Genesis 11:5 - GeneralExodus 3:8 - I am;  Exodus 19:11 - the Lord;  Numbers 11:17 - I will come;  2 Kings 2:12 - he saw him;  Song of Solomon 8:1 - find thee;  Isaiah 45:22 - Look;  Ezekiel 2:1 - Son;  Daniel 7:13 - one like;  Luke 5:24 - that the;  John 1:51 - the Son;  John 3:11 - We speak;  John 3:12 - heavenly;  John 3:31 - that cometh;  John 6:50 - the bread;  John 8:23 - Ye are from;  John 16:27 - and have;  Acts 7:34 - and am;  1 John 1:2 - which was

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on John 3:13". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/john-3.html.

Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Ver. 13. "And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven" (who will ascend to heaven).

That the Lord does not here attest the certainty of His knowledge in religious matters (Meyer: "And no other than I can reveal the heavenly things to you;" De Wette: "To be taken in a metaphorical sense, of knowing—the bringing down, as it were, of that which is in heaven"), but rather passes thus from the statement of earthly things to the statement of heavenly things, in which the earthly have their roots, is evident, besides from the inadmissibility, to be proved directly, of the figurative rendering of the ascending to heaven, from the manifest reference also in which the triple mention of heaven here stands to the heavenly things, the ἐπουράνια. Among the heavenly things, the true divinity of Christ takes the first place in the doctrine of salvation. For this is the foundation of the atonement instituted by Him. On this rests the forgiveness of sins which is sealed by baptism, and on this also the impartation of the Holy Spirit. The divinity of Christ is here taught, after the pride of Nicodemus has first been broken, and thus the way has been prepared for faith in the divinity of Christ, and the atonement founded upon it (vers. 14, 15).—"And no man hath ascended up to heaven." The meaning of these words, which have been in various ways incorrectly rendered, is indicated by the Old Testament passage, Proverbs 30:4, "Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended?" Vers. 2-6 here form a commentary to the motto: "If God be with me, I am strong." The object is, by reference to human limitation and baseness, to invite to unconditional subjection to the revealed word of God, with which he only is justified in dispensing, who can do as God does. No man can ascend up to heaven, the abode of Omnipotence and glory; none can raise himself to the Divine power and majesty: we are rather banished to the base and poor earth. "And descended," to effect those things which are afterwards enumerated: to gather the wind in His fist, to bind the waters in a garment, to establish the ends of the earth,—a descent like that in Genesis 11, equipped with the might of heaven. The question demands a negative answer, and, in meaning, the words, "no man hath ascended," of our text, correspond exactly to, "Who hath ascended?" in the Old Testament passage. Anton: "The world has stood long already, and there have always been heaven-ascenders, climbing spirits, and daring minds (Genesis 11:4, ‘Let us build a tower, whose top may reach to heaven;' Isaiah 14:13, ‘For thou saidst in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God'); but has any one ever once ascended? No one!" The questions are similar in Isaiah 40:12, "Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand?" etc.,—as much as to say, no man can do so; Job 38:12, "Hast thou commanded the morning?" vers. 29, 39; and so also many other declarations of God. From this passage we perceive,—1. That the Perfect has its usual signification; so that we cannot translate, with Luther, "No man ascendeth to heaven," which would also be grammatically unallowable. 2. That the ascension is to be taken in its proper sense. In the original passage, something is evidently spoken of which is absolutely impossible to man. Who ever ascended into heaven, so that he no longer needed to pray: Om Father, who art in heaven? We are led to conclude a real ascension here, not more by this original passage, than by all the parallel passages. In the whole New Testament ascending up to heaven stands only of ascension in the proper sense. Cf. John 6:62, John 20:17; Revelation 11:12; Luke 24:51. In Ephesians 4:9-10, ἀναβαίνειν, which stands in direct opposition to καταβαίνειν here, refers to the ascension. We are led to the proper sense also by the antithesis of the descending, and by the usage of the Old Testament, in which עלה occurs of the returning of God to heaven, when in a passing manner He had made Himself known, in prelude to His appearance on earth in the flesh. Genesis 17:22; Genesis 35:13; Psalms 47:5; Psalms 68:18. If now, after the proofs adduced, we can think only of a proper ascension, which in the case of Christ had not yet taken place, and must, moreover, render the words, even according to the original passage, as an absolute negation, admitting of no exception,

No man hitherto, or, no man ever; not, no one besides Me,—we must then supply at the close of the verse, "who will ascend to heaven." The hypothesis of such an ellipse can be open to no objection, since the proposition, without such an hypothesis, would be contrary to the evidence, so that no ambiguity can arise from the breviloquence. We have then three periods: He was in heaven, for He came down from thence; He is in heaven; and He will be in heaven. That the declaration begins with a reference to the ascension, is on account of the original passage. Christ comprises together that which He here declares of Himself in ver. 16, in the designation of Himself as the only-begotten Son of God.

By designating Himself as He who has descended from heaven, the Lord attributes to Himself a residence in heaven before His advent in the flesh, in harmony with what, in John 17:5, He says of the glory which He had with the Father before the world was; and in harmony also with John the Baptist, who in John 3:31 designates Him as having come from above, ἄνωθεν, and from heaven, ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, and as on this account absolutely exalted above all that is earthly. That the words presuppose the true divinity of Christ, so that we cannot think of such a descent as that of angels (such an one would not be compatible with His birth of Mary; only God and man form no irreconcilable antithesis), is shown by the unmistakeable reference to the passage of the Old Testament, in which a descent is attributed to God, when He transiently appears on the earth, or there makes known His glory, in prelude to His advent in the flesh. So, e.g., Exodus 3:8; Exodus 19:11, "The third day the Lord will come down in the sight of all the people upon Mount Sinai." Numbers 11:17; Numbers 12:5; Isaiah 31:4, "So shall the Lord of hosts come down to fight for Mount Zion." That the expression, which Jesus makes use of also in John 6:33; John 6:38; John 6:50-51; John 6:58 (cf. Ephesians 4:9-10), refers to the superhuman nature of Christ, even the Jews recognised in John 6:42.

Why does Christ here call Himself the Son of man? Because His humanity was a veil, which concealed from short-sighted eyes the heavenly majesty which He claims for Himself; as much as if He said. Notwithstanding that I stand before you as a man; or,

Thou seest Me, indeed, as an humble man, but, etc. This expression, however, by which the Lord concedes what is before the eyes, is itself adapted to remove the offence. It refers back to Daniel—cf. on John 1:32—where One like the Son of man, therefore like a man only on one side of His nature, appears in the clouds of heaven.

That ὁ ὤν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ can mean only, Who is in heaven, not, who was in heaven, is now again generally acknowledged. Winer (Gram. S. 305) says, "In the sense of, who was in heaven, it would nearly coincide with the sense of, who came down from heaven; but here something more special (and more emphatic) is to be declared (and the climax is not to be mistaken)." The words in brackets are to be struck out. There is no climax here. All three designations imply the same dignity. Each of itself leads to the conception of full divinity, which makes itself known in the past, the present, and the future of the Son of God. Not only the tautology is decisive against the interpretation, which was, but also the language. The participle Present, when unconnected with a Preterite or a temporal adverb, can stand only to designate the present, especially here, where the present evidently forms an antithesis to the past and the future. Heaven is here considered as the abode of God, as Aristotle says (in Tholuck, Sermon on the Mount, on Matthew 6:9), πάντες τὸν ἀνωτάτῷ τῷ θείῳ τόπον ἀποδιδόασι. To be or to sit in heaven, is always represented in the Old Testament as the Divine prerogative, and as equivalent to His holiness, and His abstractedness from all creaturely essence. Thus in Psalms 2:4; Psalms 11:4; Psalms 115:3, "But our God is in the heavens; He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased." Psalms 103:19, "The Lord hath prepared His throne in the heavens; and His kingdom ruleth over all." Ecclesiastes 5:2, "For God is in heaven, and thou upon earth,"

He the rich, and we the poor; He the Almighty, and we the helpless. In 2 Chronicles 20:6, Jehoshaphat says, "Jehovah, God of our fathers, art Thou not God in heaven, and rulest not Thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen?" The Lord, by designating Himself here as He who as the Son of man also is in heaven, "intimates that He is conscious of the Divine glory which He enjoyed with the Father even when He walked the earth in the base form of a servant." Coincident with our passage Isaiah 14:9, where Christ says, "He who seeth Me, seeth the Father." In this duplex existence which Christ ascribes to Himself, His believing followers do to a certain degree participate. They are upon earth, and yet at the same time, through connection with their Head, in heaven.

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Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on John 3:13". Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/heg/john-3.html.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

13.No one hath ascended to heaven. He again exhorts Nicodemus not to trust to himself and his own sagacity, because no mortal man can, by his own unaided powers, enter into heaven, but only he who goes thither under the guidance of the Son of God. For to ascend to heaven means here, “to have a pure knowledge of the mysteries of God, and the light of spiritual understanding.” For Christ gives here the same instruction which is given by Paul, when he declares that

the sensual man does not comprehend the things which are of God,
(
1 Corinthians 2:16;)

and, therefore, he excludes from divine things all the acuteness of the human understanding, for it is far below God.

But we must attend to the words, that Christ alone, who is heavenly, ascends to heaven, but that the entrance is closed against all others. For, in the former clause, he humbles us, when he excludes the whole world from heaven. Paul enjoins

those who are desirous to be wise with God to be fools with themselves,
(
1 Corinthians 3:18.)

There is nothing which we do with greater reluctance. For this purpose we ought to remember, that all our senses fail and give way when we come to God; but, after having shut us out from heaven, Christ quickly proposes a remedy, when he adds, that what was denied to all others is granted to the Son of God. And this too is the reason why he calls himself the Son of man, that we may not doubt that we have an entrance into heaven in common with him who clothed himself with our flesh, that he might make us partakers of all blessings. Since, therefore, he is the Father’s only Counselor, (Isaiah 9:6,) he admits us into those secrets which otherwise would have remained in concealment.

Who is in heaven. It may be thought absurd to say that he is in heaven, while he still dwells on the earth. If it be replied, that this is true in regard to his Divine nature, the mode of expression means something else, namely, that while he was man, he was in heaven. It might be said that no mention is here made of any place, but that Christ is only distinguished from others, in regard to his condition, because he is the heir of the kingdom of God, from which the whole human race is banished; but, as it very frequently happens, on account of the unity of the Person of Christ, that what properly belongs to one nature is applied to another, we ought not to seek any other solution. Christ, therefore, who is in heaven, hath clothed himself with our flesh, that, by stretching out his brotherly hand to us, he may raise us to heaven along with him.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on John 3:13". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/john-3.html. 1840-57.