|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
5:30-38 Our Lord returns to his declaration of the entire agreement between the Father and the Son, and declared himself the Son of God. He had higher testimony than that of John; his works bore witness to all he had said. But the Divine word had no abiding-place in their hearts, as they refused to believe in Him whom the Father had sent, according to his ancient promises. The voice of God, accompanied by the power of the Holy Ghost, thus made effectual to the conversion of sinners, still proclaims that this is the beloved Son, in whom the Father is well pleased. But when the hearts of men are full of pride, ambition, and the love of the world, there is no room for the word of God to abide in them.
Verse 31. - At this point the Lord proceeds to meet the clamour which most probably arose, the doubt and questioning which broke the silence with which his solemn defence had been received. We can hear between the lines the cries of an excited crowd, declaring that these words are simply his own. Such testimony as this to himself must be sustained and sanctioned. Why and how can this Teacher take such ground as to assert about himself what no prophet, no rabbi, no chief priest of the people, not even the greatest man of men, Moses himself, had ever dared to claim? Christ admits that such assumptions as these need justification and approval over and above his ipse dixit. The words that follow are startling: If I bear witness concerning myself, my witness is not true. At first sight this is in direct contradiction to John 8:14, where, in reply to the Pharisees' "Thou bearest witness concerning thyself; thy witness is nor true," he replied, "Though I bear witness of myself, my witness is true; because I know whence I came, and whither I go." The absolute unison with the Father, which he was not only conscious of, but had also revealed to the Pharisees, lifted his own word to the grandeur of a word of God. The Divine beamed through the human, the infinite through the finite. Here he says, "If I bear - if I and I alone were bearing witness to myself," then - supposing a case, which, as a matter of fact, is impossible - "my witness is not true." If he were acting alone, which is an inconceivable supposition, seeing that in the depths of his consciousness he knew that he was one with the Father, then for his human nature to break away thus from the Father and disdain his testimony would nullify and falsify his witness. He is not bearing witness alone.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
If I bear witness of myself,.... Which was not allowed any man to do; nor indeed is it proper that a man should be a witness in his own cause: and, according to the Jewish canons, a man might not be a witness for his wife, because she was reckoned as himself.
"An husband is not to be believed in bearing witness for his wife, that had been carried captive, that she is not defiled, , "for no man witness of himself" (k).''
So likewise they say (l),
"a city that is subdued by an army, all the priestesses (or priests' daughters) that are found in it are rejected (from the priesthood, as defiled); but if they have witnesses, whether a servant, or an handmaid, lo, they are to be believed; but no man is to be believed for himself: says R. Zechariah ben Hakatzah, by this habitation (swearing by the temple) her hand was not removed from my hand, from the time the Gentiles entered Jerusalem, till they went out: they replied to him, "no man bears witness of himself".''
Christ reasons here upon their own principles, and according to their sense of things, that should he bear witness of himself; then, says he,
my witness is not true, , not to be believed, or admitted as an authentic testimony: and so the Ethiopic version renders it, "is not credible"; not valid in law, or in such a court of judicature in which Christ now was; for, as according to the Jewish law, no man was admitted a witness for himself, so neither was anything established by a single testimony, but by the mouth of two or three witnesses, Deuteronomy 19:15. Christ's meaning is, that his testimony alone, his single witness, how true soever it was, would stand for nothing in their court; and therefore he would not insist upon it, but drop it; for "true" here, is not opposed to that which is "false", but to that which is not valid in law. Christ's testimony was true in itself; nor could it be any other, it coming from him, who is truth itself, the "Amen", and faithful witness; but being considered as an human testimony, and in his own cause, was not to be admitted as sufficient; and this he allows. From arguments, proving his equality with the Father, he passes to testimonies; and without ranking use of his own, he had enough to produce, and which were valid and authentic, and are as follow.
(k) Maimon. Issure Bia, c. 18. sect. 19. (l) Misn. Cetubot, c. 2. sect. 9. T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 27. 2. Juchasin, fol. 56. 1.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
31. If I … witness of myself—standing alone, and setting up any separate interest.
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