John 5:39
Search the scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(39) Search the scriptures.—Better, Ye search the Scriptures. The question whether the mood is imperative or indicative, whether we have here a commandment to examine the writings of the Old Testament canon, or a reference to their habit of doing so, is one which has been discussed through the whole history of New Testament exposition, and one on which the opinion of those best qualified to judge has been, and is, almost equally divided. It is not a question of the form of the Greek word, for it may certainly be either. The English reader therefore is in a position to form his own opinion, and is in possession of almost all the evidence. He should observe that all the parallel verbs in the context are in the indicative—“Ye have neither heard” . . . “nor have seen” (John 5:37); “Ye have not His Word . . . ye believe not” (John 5:38); “Ye think that . . . ye have” (John 5:39); “Ye will not . . ye might have” (John 5:40). Why should there be a sudden change of construction in this instance only?

We find, then, this order of thought. (1) God has in the Old Testament witnessed of Me, but ye, with unreceptive hearts, have never heard a voice nor seen a shape of God (John 5:37). (2) Ye have not His word dwelling in you, or it would have witnessed of Me (John 5:38). (3) Instead of receiving the Scriptures as a living power within you, ye search and explain the letter of them from without (John 5:39). (4) Ye think they contain eternal life, and hence your reverence for them (John 5:39). (5) They really are witnesses of Me, and yet you; seeking in them eternal life, are not willing to come to Me that ye may have this life.

It is believed that this is the most natural interpretation of the words, and that it gives a fuller meaning than any other to the teaching of Christ.

The only objection to it of weight is that the Greek word for “search” (ἐρευνᾶτε) is one which would not have implied blame. It means to search after, track, inquire after (comp. John 7:52); but, surely, this is just the expression for the literal spirit in which the Rabbis treated their Scriptures. Moreover, it is not the searching which is matter for blame, but the fact of the searching and not finding, which is matter for wonder.

Here, too, as elsewhere, the argument from the meaning of a Greek word must be pressed only within strict limits when we remember that it represents in translation a late Hebrew original. The Hebrew language had a word which just at that time was frequent on every Rabbi’s lips, and which exactly corresponds to it. As early as the Book of Chronicles we find mention of the Midrashim, or Commentaries in the sense in which this word is used, e.g., in “Cæsar’s Commentaries.” The rest of the Acts of Abijah are “written in the Midrash of the prophet Iddo” (2Chronicles 13:22). More than we now know of the history of Joash is “written in the Midrash of the Book of Kings” (2Chronicles 24:27). In both cases our Authorised version renders the word by “story;” but this was at a time when its connection with “history” as involving “inquiry” was not forgotten. (Comp. The Translators to the Reader:—“This will be easily granted by as many as know story, or have any experience.”) These Midrashim sprang up after the Captivity, when the people had lost the older language of the Law and the Prophets; and paraphrases, expositions, and homilies, became at first indeed necessary, but grew into a vast and intricate system with “Secrets” and “Precepts,” and “Fences” and “Traditions of Elders” (Matthew 15:2; Mark 7:3), which gave abundant room for the learning and pride of men, but made the word of God of none effect (Matthew 15:6; Mark 7:13). Now, the period of the arrangement of the Midrashim of the Law commenced half a century before the ministry of Christ. Hillel the First succeeded to the presidency of the Sanhedrin, B.C. 30, and Akiba, his successor in the compilation of the Mishna, was a boy when these words were spoken. The influence of the former was all-powerful among those who now accused Jesus of breaking what the Law did not contain but the Midrash did. Those who now listened to Christ were disciples or assistants of the great Rabbi whose school of a thousand pupils left eighty names of note.

May it not be, then, that the true meaning of these words is to be found in their bearing upon these Rabbinic lives and works?—“Ye make your Midrashim on the Scriptures; ye explain, and comment, and seek for hidden mystic meaning; ye do all this because ye think they contain eternal life; their true meaning is not hidden; they tell of life, and ye who seek it do not hear them, and will not come unto Me that ye might have life.”

John 5:39-40. Search the Scriptures — Because the Jews were exceedingly averse to acknowledge Jesus for their Messiah, notwithstanding that the evidences of his mission were so unexceptionable, he appeals, lastly, to their own scriptures, which, for further proof, and their full satisfaction, he desires them to search, because these writings, as they justly supposed, contained the knowledge of eternal life, and of the way leading to it, and therefore the knowledge of the Messiah. As if he had said, I can with confidence refer you to them, knowing that they confirm my pretensions in the most ample manner, the characters of the Messiah pointed out by them, being all fulfilled in my person. It must be observed that the word ερευνατε, here rendered imperatively, search, may with equal propriety be translated as Le Clerc, L’Enfant, Vitringa, Raphelius, &c., contend it ought to be, in the present tense, ye search, the ambiguity of the word justifying either translation. If thus rendered, the sense of the passage will be; Ye search the Scriptures, because in them ye think ye have eternal life, or, infallible directions from God, concerning the true way of obtaining it. Now they testify of me; yet, or, nevertheless, ye will not come to me that ye might have life. — Dr. Doddridge, who reads the clause in that manner, observes, he thinks the following words, which express their high opinion of the Scriptures, rather suit this translation than the common one, and that it is exceeding probable that, at a time when the Pharisees were so impatient of the Roman yoke, they would with great diligence search the sacred oracles for predictions relating to the Messiah; though it is too plain they had an unhappy bias on their minds, which prevented the good effects which might have been expected from that inquiry, had it been impartial. It must be observed, however, that Origen, Chrysostom, and Austin, confirm our version, which certainly is fully as agreeable to the scope of the passage; for having told them that they would find abundant evidence of his mission in the Scriptures, he observed, that their want of faith was not owing to any deficiency in the proofs of his mission, but to the wickedness and obstinacy of their own dispositions. It is justly observed by Grotius, on the word ερευνατε, search, or, ye search, that it does not merely mean to read, but to weigh and consider with an attentive mind, as it is taken John 7:52, where the Jews bid Nicodemus search and look; and 1 Peter 1:10-11, where we read of the ancient prophets inquiring and searching diligently, respecting the salvation to be received through the Messiah, and the time of its manifestation, of which they had prophesied. The expression means the same with that used Acts 17:11, namely, ανακρινειν τας γραφας, where we read of the Jews at Berea searching the Scriptures daily, to know whether the things declared to them by Paul and Silas really accorded with those divine oracles or not. For in them ye think — Or rather, as δοκειτε evidently means, ye know, or, are assured; ye have eternal life — Ye know they show you the way to eternal life; and these very Scriptures testify of me, and of the necessity of believing in, receiving and obeying me, in order thereto. And yet, such is the obstinacy of your hearts, that, notwithstanding you profess so great a regard for them, ye will not come to me — Will not believe in, and make application to me; that ye may have life — Even that eternal life which they direct you to seek, and assure you may be obtained in this way; but you rather choose to die under the force of your inveterate prejudices. It is justly observed by Dr. Whitby here, that if the Jews were justified in supposing that the doctrine of eternal life was contained in the scriptures of the Old Testament, and that they, by searching, might find it there, it must be to them a sufficient rule of faith and practice: but that, if in this they erred, it behooved Christ to correct in them an error so pernicious.5:39-44 The Jews considered that eternal life was revealed to them in their Scriptures, and that they had it, because they had the word of God in their hands. Jesus urged them to search those Scriptures with more diligence and attention. Ye do search the Scriptures, and ye do well to do so. They did indeed search the Scriptures, but it was with a view to their own glory. It is possible for men to be very studious in the letter of the Scriptures, yet to be strangers to its power. Or, Search the Scriptures, and so it was spoken to them in the nature of an appeal. Ye profess to receive and believe the Scripture, let that be the judge. It is spoken to us as advising or commanding all Christians to search the Scriptures. Not only read them, and hear them, but search them; which denotes diligence in examining and studying them. We must search the Scriptures for heaven as our great end; For in them ye think ye have eternal life. We must search the Scriptures for Christ, as the new and living Way, that leads to this end. To this testimony Christ adds reproofs of their unbelief and wickedness; their neglect of him and his doctrine. Also he reproves their want of the love of God. But there is life with Jesus Christ for poor souls. Many who make a great profession of religion, yet show they want the love of God, by their neglect of Christ and contempt of his commandments. It is the love of God in us, the love that is a living, active principle in the heart, which God will accept. They slighted and undervalued Christ, because they admired and overvalued themselves. How can those believe, who make the praise and applause of men their idol! When Christ and his followers are men wondered at, how can those believe, the utmost of whose ambition is to make a fair show in the flesh!Search the scriptures - The word translated "search" here means to "search diligently" or "search anxiously." It was applied to miners, who search for precious metals - who look anxiously for the "bed" of the ore with an intensity or anxiety proportionate to "their sense" of the value of the metal. Compare the notes at Job 28:3. It is applied by Homer to a lioness robbed of her whelps, and who "searches" the plain to "trace out" the footsteps of the man who has robbed her. It is also applied by him to dogs tracing their game by searching them out by the scent of the foot. It means a diligent, faithful, anxious investigation The word may be either in the indicative or imperative mood. In our translation it is in the imperative, as if Jesus commanded them to search the Scriptures. Cyril, Erasmus, Beza, Bengel, Kuinoel, Tholuck, DeWette, and others, give it as in the indicative: Chrysostom, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Wetstein, Stier, Alford, and others, regard it as in the imperative, or as a command. It is impossible to determine which is the true interpretation. Either of them makes good sense, and it is proper to use the passage in either signification. There is abundant evidence that the Jews did search the books of the Old Testament. It is equally clear that all people ought to do it.

The scriptures - The writings or books of the Old Testament, for those were all the books of revelation that they then possessed.

In them ye think ye have eternal life - The meaning of this is: "Ye think that by studying the Scriptures you will obtain eternal life. You suppose that they teach the way to future blessedness, and that by diligently studying them you will attain it." We see by this:

1. That the Jews in the time of Jesus were expecting a future state.

2. The Scriptures teach the way of life, and it is our duty to study them.

The Bereans are commended for searching the Scriptures Acts 17:11; and Timothy is said from a child to have "known the holy scriptures, which are able to make us wise unto salvation," 2 Timothy 3:15. Early life is the proper time to search the Bible, for they who seek the Lord early shall find him.

They are they ... - They bear witness to the Messiah. They predict his coming, and the manner of his life and death, Isaiah 53:1-12; Daniel 9:26-27, etc. See the notes at Luke 24:27.

39-42. Search the scriptures, &c.—"In the Scriptures ye find your charter of eternal life; go search them then, and you will find that I am the Great Burden of their testimony; yet ye will not come to Me for that life eternal which you profess to find there, and of which they tell you I am the appointed Dispenser." (Compare Ac 17:11, 12). How touching and gracious are these last words! Observe here (1) The honor which Christ gives to the Scriptures, as a record which all have a right and are bound to search—the reverse of which the Church of Rome teaches; (2) The opposite extreme is, resting in the mere Book without the living Christ, to direct the soul to whom is its main use and chiefest glory. Search the Scriptures; the words may be read either imperatively (as our translation readeth them) or indicatively, You do search the Scriptures; that is, of the Old Testament, for the books of the New Testament were not at that time written; but as they had the books of the Old Testament, so they made use of them: Moses was read in the synagogues every sabbath day; and they (the Pharisees especially) were very well versed both in the law and the prophets.

For in them ye think ye have eternal life; they did agree that the way of salvation and everlasting life was revealed unto them in the Holy Scriptures; nay, they did judge, that eternal life was to be obtained by their observation of the law.

They are they which testify of me: they (saith our Saviour) are my principal testimony; he doth not only say, they testify, but they are they which testify. No writings but those testify of me; I principally appeal to them to give you an account of me. Search the Scriptures,.... The writings of Moses, and the prophets, which were of divine inspiration and authority, and are often appealed unto by Christ, and his apostles, for the truth of what they delivered; and were the standard of faith, and the test of doctrines; and therefore to be searched diligently into, for finding divine knowledge and improvement in it, and for the trial of doctrines. The words may be rendered in the indicative, as an assertion, "ye do search the Scriptures": the Jews had the sacred oracles committed to them, and these they read, not only their kings, princes, and judges, but the common people, who brought up their children to the reading of them, and instructed them in them: and besides this, these writings were read, and expounded publicly in their synagogues every sabbath day; and at this time especially these records were examined, and particularly those of them which respected the Messiah, since there was now a general expectation of him: and certain it is, that the chief priests, Scribes, and elders, or the sanhedrim, were very much versed in the Scriptures, and could readily refer to those which concerned the Messiah; see an instance of this in Matthew 2:4;

for in them ye think ye have eternal life; not the doctrine of eternal life, nor the promises of it, nor the way to it; though all these are contained in them, and pointed out by them: for though life and immortality are brought to light by the Gospel, and the promise of eternal life belongs to the covenant of grace, and the way of life and righteousness by Christ is manifested without the law, and not by it; yet there is much of the Gospel, and an exhibition of the covenant of grace, and its promises, and Christ, the way of life, is directed to typically by the tree of life, and the brazen serpent, and other things in those writings. But the meaning here is, that they imagined, by having these writings in their hands, and by their reading them, and hearing them expounded every sabbath day, they should obtain and inherit everlasting life: hence they call (r) the law eternal life, and say (s) concerning the reading of it, that

"he that begins to read in the book of the law is obliged to bless after this manner: blessed be he that has chosen us above all nations, and hath given us his law.--And he that finishes blesses after him in this manner: blessed is he who hath given us his law, the law of truth, and has planted "eternal life" in the midst of us.''

This was an opinion of theirs: so the Persic version reads, "for such is your opinion"; and though this was a very vain one, yet it shows what a very high opinion they had of the Scriptures: and now to these our Lord appeals as witnesses for him, and against which they could not object, upon their own principles:

and they are they which testify of me; as they do of his proper deity and divine sonship, calling him Jehovah, God, the mighty God, and the Son of God; and of his offices as prophet, priest, and King; and of his incarnation of a virgin; and of the tribe, family, and place of his birth; of the miracles which he should work; of the treatment he should meet with from men; of his sufferings and death; of the circumstances leading on to them, and attending them; as his riding on an ass into Jerusalem, the betraying him by one of his familiar acquaintance, the selling him for thirty pieces of silver, the spitting upon, and scourging him, giving him gall for his meat, and vinegar for his drink, and parting his garments, and casting lots for his vesture, and the crucifixion of him, and that between two thieves; and of his burial, resurrection from the dead, ascension to heaven, and session at the right hand of God, and of his future coming to judgment.

(r) Zohar in Gen. fol. 100. 3.((s) Maimon. in Misn. Megilla, c. 4. sect. 1.

Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
John 5:39-40 bring out to view the complete perversity of this unbelief. “The Scriptures testify of me, as the Mediator of eternal life; he, therefore, who searches the Scriptures, because in them he thinks he has eternal life, will by that witness be referred to me; ye search the Scriptures, because, etc., and yet refuse to follow me according to their guidance.” How inconsistent and self-contradictory is this! That ἐρευνᾶτε is Indicative (Cyril, Erasmus, Casaubon, Beza, Bengel, and many moderns, also Kuinoel, Lücke, Olshausen, Klee, De Wette, Maier, Hilgenfeld, Brückner, Godet), and not Imperative (Chrysostom, Augustine, Theophylact, Euthymius Zigabenus, Luther, Calvin, Aretius, Maldonatus, Cornelius a Lapide, Grotius, Calovius, Wolf, Wetstein, Paulus, B. Crusius, Tholuck, Hofmann, Luthardt, Baeumlein, Ewald, Hengstenberg, arguing from Isaiah 34:16), is thus clear from the context, in which the Imperative would introduce a foreign element, especially out of keeping with the correlative καὶ οὐ θέλετε. Comp. also Lechler in the Stud. u. Krit. 1854, p. 795. The searching of the Scriptures might certainly be attributed to the Jews, comp. John 7:52 (against B. Crusius and Tholuck); but a special significance is wrongly attached to ἐρευνᾶτε (a study which penetrates into the subject itself, and attains a truly inward possession of the word, Luthardt); and the contradiction of John 5:40, which forms such a difficulty, is really nothing but the inconsistency which Jesus wishes to bring out to view.

ὑμεῖς] emphatic, for you, ye on your part, are the people who think this. Still there lies in δοκεῖτε neither blame,[222] nor (as Ewald maintains, though John 5:45 is different) a delicate sarcastic reference to their exaggerated and scholastic reverence for the letter of Scripture, but certainly a contrast to the actual ἔχειν, which Jesus could not affirm concerning them, because they did not believe in Him who was testified of in the Scriptures as the Mediator of eternal life. Comp. Hofmann, Schriftbeweis, I. 671. Theoretically considered, they were right in their δοκεῖν, but practically they were wrong, because Christ remained hidden from them in the Scriptures. Comp. as to the thing itself, 2 Corinthians 3:15-16; and on ἔχειν ζωὴν αἰ., John 3:15.

ἐν αὐταῖς] The possession of Messianic life is regarded as contained in the Scriptures, in so far as they contain that by which this possession is brought about, that which is not given outside the Scriptures, but only in them.

καὶ ἐκεῖναι, κ.τ.λ.] Prominence assigned to the identity of the subject, in order to bring out the contrast more fully: and they, those very Scriptures which ye search, are they which, etc.

καὶ οὐ θέλετε] καὶ does not mean and yet, but simply and. This simplicity is all the more striking, more striking and tragic even than the interrogative interpretation (Ewald). On ἐλθεῖν πρός με, denoting a believing adherence to Christ, comp. John 6:35. They stood aloof from Him, and this depended on their will, Matthew 23:37.

ἵνα ζωήν ἔχ.] “in order that that δοκεῖν of yours might become a reality.”

[222] According to Hilgenfeld, Lehrbegr. p. 213 (comp. his Evang. p. 272, and Zeitschr. 1863, p. 217), directed against the delusion of the Jews, that they possessed the perfect source of blessedness in the literal sense of the O. T. which proceeded from the Demiurge, and was intended by him. Even Rothe, in the Stud. u. Krit. 1860, p. 67, takes δοκεῖτε in the sense of a delusion, viz. that they possessed eternal life in a book. Such explanations are opposed to the high veneration manifested by Jesus towards the Holy Scriptures, especially apparent in John, though here even Weiss, p. 106, approves of the interpretation of an erroneous δοκεῖν.

Vers. 41–44. “I do not utter these reproaches against you from (disappointed) ambition, but because I have perceived what a want of all right feeling towards God lies at the root of your unbelief.”

δόξαν παρὰ ἀνθρ.] These words go together, and stand emphatically at the beginning of the sentence, because there is presupposed the possibility of an accusation on this very point. Comp. Plato, Phaedr. p. 232 A; see also 1 Thessalonians 2:6.

οὐ λαμβ.] i.e. “I reject it,” as in John 5:34.

ἔγνωκα ὑμᾶς] “cognitos vos habeo; hoc radio penetrat corda auditorum,” Bengel.

τ. ἀγάπ. τ. θεοῦ] If they had love to God in their hearts (this being the summary of their law!), they would have felt sympathy towards the Son, whom the Father (John 5:43) sent, and would have received and recognised Him. The article is generic; what they lacked was love to God.

ἐν ἑαυτοῖς] in your own hearts; it was an excellence foreign to them, of which they themselves were destitute—a mere theory, existing outside the range of their inner life.

John 5:43. Actual result of this deficiency with reference to their relation towards Jesus, who had come in His Father’s name, i.e. as His appointed representative, and consequently as the true Christ (comp. John 7:28, John 8:42), but who was unbelievingly despised by them, whereas, on the other hand, they would receive a false Messiah.

ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι τῷ ἰδίῳ] in his own name, i.e. in his own authority and self-representations, not as one commissioned of God (which He of course is alleged to be), consequently a false Messiah;[223] ψευδώνυμος ἀνὴρ ἀντίθεος, Nonnus. He will be received, because he satisfies the opposite of the love of God, viz. self-love (by promising earthly glory, indulgence towards sin, etc.). For a definite prophecy of false Messiahs, see Matthew 24:24. To suppose a special reference to Barkochba (Hilgenfeld), is arbitrarily to take for granted the uncritical assumption of the post-apostolic origin of this Gospel. According to Schudt, Jüdische Merkwurdigkeit. vi. 27–30 (in Bengel), sixty-four such deceivers have been counted since the time of Christ.

John 5:44. The reproach of unbelief now rises to its highest point, for Jesus in a wrathful question denies to the Jews even the ability to believe.

ὑμεῖς] has a deeply emotional emphasis: How is it possible for you people to believe? And the ground of this impossibility is: because ye receive honour one of another (δόξαν παρὰ ἀλλ. are taken together), because ye reciprocally give and take honour of yourselves. This ungodly desire of honour (comp. John 12:43; Matthew 23:5 sqq.), and the indifference, necessarily concomitant therewith, towards the true honour, which comes from God, must so utterly blight and estrange the heart from the divine element of life, that it is not even capable of faith. That divine δόξα is indeed the true glory of Israel (Luthardt), comp. Romans 2:29, but it is not here designated as such, as also the δόξαν παρὰ ἀλλ. λαμβ. does not appear as a designation of the “spurious-Judaism,” which latter is in general a wider conception (Romans 2:17 ff.).

τὴν παρὰ, κ.τ.λ.] for it consists in this, that one knows himself to be recognised and esteemed of God. Comp. as to the thing itself, John 12:43; Romans 2:29; Romans 3:23.

παρὰ τοῦ μόνου θεοῦ] not “from God alone” (Grotius, De Wette, Godet, and most others, from an erroneous reference to Matthew 4:4; Matthew 4:10), but from, the alone (only) God. Cf. John 17:3; Romans 16:26; 1 Timothy 6:15. The adj. shows the exclusive value of this honour.

οὐ ζητεῖτε] The transition from the participle to the finite tense gives greater independence and impressiveness to the second clause.

[223] This reference of the text to false Messiahs is not too narrow (Luthardt, Brückner), because ἔλθῃ corresponds to the ἐλήλυθα; and this, as the entire context shows, indicates that the appearance of the Messiah had taken place. This also tells against Tholuck’s general reference to false prophets. Many of the Fathers have taken the words to refer to Antichrist.39. Search the Scriptures] It will never be settled beyond dispute whether the verb here is imperative or indicative. As far as the Greek shews it may be either, ‘search,’ or ‘ye search,’ and both make sense. The question is, which makes the best sense, and this the context must decide. The context seems to be strongly in favour of the indicative, ye search the Scriptures. All the verbs on either side are in the indicative; and more especially the one with which it is so closely connected, ‘and ye will not come.’ Ye search the Scriptures, and (instead of their leading you to Me) ye are not willing to come to Me. The tragic tone once more: see on John 1:5. The reproach lies not in their searching, but in their searching to so little purpose. Jewish study of the Scriptures was too often learned trifling and worse; obscuring the text by frivolous interpretations, ‘making it of none effect’ by unholy traditions.

for in them ye think] ‘Ye’ is emphatic; because ye are the people who think; it is your own opinion. Not that they were wrong in thinking that eternal life was to be found in the Scriptures; their error was in thinking that they, who rejected the Messiah, had found it. Had they searched aright they would have found both the Messiah and eternal life.

they are they] See on John 10:1.John 5:39. Ἐρυνᾶτε, ye search) Hafenreffer, in his edition of the New Testament, Greek and Latin, translates, Ye inquire into [inquiritis] the Scriptures. He thereby has guarded against any one understanding search into [scrutamini] as an Imperative. Of the ancients, Athanasius also recognises it as an Indicative, Profecti in pagum, T. i., f. 989: and Nonnus. For which reason Cyril need not have been afraid of being left alone in giving, or being about to give, that explanation. Brentius says, that there are interpreters of great judgment, who decide for the Indicative: and the whole structure of the discourse certainly confirms it: comp. John 5:33, etc., and especially that clause, because ye think. Jesus approves of their search into the Scriptures, which they were not wanting in, inasmuch as at that very feast they read much of them in public; just as He approves of the embassy to John, John 5:33, and their high estimation of Moses, John 5:45; but He adds, that none of these are enough by themselves. Wherefore this explanation is attended with no loss to the sense: and they are usually, to say the least, equally diligent searchers of the Scriptures, who decide on the Indicative (which very lately has been adopted by Zeltner and Walchius), as those who decide on the Imperative. This clause, Ye search and ye will not come, Paul has rendered by synonymous expressions, 2 Corinthians 3:15-16, “Even to this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. Nevertheless, when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.” Some one has demanded, that similar instances of the second person plural indicative, closing a period, should be brought forward. See therefore ch. John 7:28, κἀμὲ οἴδατε, καὶ οἴδατε πόθεν εἰμί; John 12:19; Matthew 22:29; Matthew 24:6; Matthew 27:65; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Jam 4:2-3. On the other hand, the imperative occurs with ὑμεῖς, ye, Matthew 28:5, μὴ φοβεῖσθε ὑμεῖς; Mark 13:23. The imperative, Search ye, “Seek ye out of the book of the Lord and read,” Isaiah 34:16. The hearers of Jesus Christ (though they had not heard the testimony even of John, who was greater than the prophet, and though they had not read the Scriptures) might at that time have derived faith from the words alone of Jesus Christ.—τὰς γραφάς, the Scriptures) of Moses, John 5:46, “He wrote of Me;” and of the prophets.—ὑμεῖς, ye) This is joined rather with the word think than with search, and contains the proof, and is put as it were by Anaphora [repetition of the same word in the beginnings of clauses]: comp. the notes, John 5:33. So also ye, John 5:45, “Moses, in whom ye trust.”—δοκεῖτε ἔχειν, ye appear to have) In antithesis to ἵνα ἔχητε, that you may really have, John 5:40, “Ye will not come to Me, that ye may have life.” Akin to this is that clause, John 5:45, Ye have placed your trust in Moses.—ἐν αὐταῖς, in them) By the mere fact alone, that you search them, ye think that you have life.—ζωήν, life) Why dost thou deny, O Socinian, that there was known to the ancients the hope of eternal life?—καὶ ἐκεῖναικαὶ οὐ θέλετε, and those—and ye will not) A double Epicrisis [an enunciation added to a sentence, to make the subject in hand the more clear]: the one, καὶ ἐκεῖναι εἰσιν αἱ μαρτυροῦσαι περὶ ἐμοῦ, approves of the search and trust of the Jews; the other, καὶ οὐ θέλετε ἐλθεῖν πρός με, etc., shows their defect. Ἐκεῖναι, those, subjoined to the αὐταῖς, in them, has in some measure the force of removing to a distance. Life is to be had more nigh at hand in Christ than in the Scriptures.Verses 39, 40. -

(d) The witness of the Scriptures. Verse 39. - Ye search the Scriptures. A large number of commentators, from Chrysostom and Augustine to Luther, Tholuck, Hengstenberg, M'Clellan, Luthardt, and Ewald, with the Authorized Version, regard this as an imperative command. This is grammatical, and corresponds to the language of Isaiah 34:16; but with Cyril, Bengel, De Wette, Meyer, Godet, Lange, Westcott, Plummer, Watkins, we think the whole context demands the indicative. The second clause, "because in them," etc., follows far more obviously upon an assertion than upon a precept. The "ye will not" that follows is far more in harmony with the indicative than with the supposed command. The Lord says, "You have a third great testimony to my claim, and yet you are not prepared to accept it." Ye search the Scriptures. The verb ἐρεῦναν is used (John 7:52; 1 Peter 1:11; Romans 8:27; 1 Corinthians 2:10) for minute, prolonged search. The kind of investigation which the rabbis spent upon the text and letter of the Holy Scriptures is a proverb, and led to the allegorical mystical meanings of the Genesisaras and other Hebrew literature. "Ye search the Scriptures" rather than the living Word, rather than the Divine meaning and message from the living God which they do contain. This is one term out of many which the Lord employed for the sacred literature which was the great heritage of the Hebrew people. Elsewhere he called it "the Law," "the Law and prophets," "Moses and the prophets," "your Law," "the wisdom of God." He admits their study, prolonged and eager, of the sacred writings, and he justifies the ground and motive of such search, viz.: because ye think in them ye have eternal life; or, ye shall have, or shall find, eternal life. Some powerful critics, like Meyer, urge that our Lord agrees so far with the Jews, that he sympathizes with their search, and that censure or ironical language would be inconsistent with the Saviour's reverence for the Scriptures. But the expression is very unusual on that hypothesis, "Ye think [or, 'imagine'] ye have in them," rather than "ye have through them." Surely our Lord is here condemning the superstitious idea that, in the mere possession of the letter, they were possessors of the eternal life; that, apart from the indwelling Word, apart from the heart of the message itself, some magical advantage was springing. Hillel, whoso view of Scripture may be expressed in a saying ('Aboth,' 2:8), "He who has gotten to himself words of the Law hath gotten to himself the life of the world to come," here differs utterly from the Lord, who, on the doctrine of Holy Scripture, takes ground similar to that which he had taken with reference to the temple and the sabbath. It is not the bare possession of the Scriptures, nor the prolonged examination of its mere letter, that is the condition of eternal life. "Search" which is originated and stimulated by a vague idea of the life-giving force of the letter, is illusive. We may think that in them we have eternal life, but our Lord would undeceive us. Moreover, from the depths of his own consciousness and knowledge of his own mission, he adds: And they are they which testify concerning me. This is one of the keynotes of New Testament teaching, viz. Christ's idea of the Old Testament, that it was a sketch or portraiture drawn in successive ages and on various material of himself - that it was an outline of great principles which he was about, not to rub out, but to fill in, not "to destroy, but to fulfil." The histories, the experiences, the ceremonial, the dynasties; the offices, the songs and prayers, the predictive and typical sorrows there depicted, were all prelibations and unconscious prophecies of himself. "They testify concerning me," and, together with my works and with my forerunner and, more than all, with my Father's own voice speaking and my Father's own face shining through all, they complete the manifold testimony to the fact that I have come to do his will, to work with him, to deliver, to restore, to give life, and to execute judgment also, when my hour is come. If this be so, then strange, inconsistent, and tragic is the ultimate issue - Search (ἐρευνᾶτε)

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

The scriptures (τὰς γραφὰς)

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

They (ἐκεῖναι)

Those very scriptures.

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