Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary - Alford
The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.Chap. 20:1-29.] Jesus alive from the dead. Completion of the disciples’ faith wrought thereby. And herein, 1-18] Contrast between His former life, within the conditions of the flesh, and His present, in which His communion with His own partakes of His new relation to the Father. Compare Matthew 28:1: Mark 16:1: Luke 24:1.
On the chronology of the events of the Resurrection, see note on Matthew 28:1. I attempt no harmony of the accounts:—I believe all such attempts to be fruitless;—and I see in their failure strong corroboration of the truth of the evangelic narratives. It is quite impossible that so astounding an event, coming upon various portions of the body of disciples from various quarters and in various forms, should not have been related, by four independent witnesses, in the scattered and fragmentary way in which we now find it. In the depth beneath this varied surface of narration rests the great central fact of the Resurrection itself, unmoved and immoveable. As it was this above all other things to which the Apostles bore their testimony, so, in their testimony to this, we have the most remarkable proof of each having faithfully elaborated into narrative those particular facts which came under his own eye or were reported to himself by those concerned. Hence the great diversity in this portion of the narrative:—and hence I believe much that is now dark might be explained, were the facts themselves, in their order of occurrence, before us. Till that is the case, (and I am willing to believe that it will be one of our delightful employments hereafter, to trace the true harmony of the Holy Gospels, under His teaching of whom they are the record,) we must be content to walk by faith, and not by sight. We must also remember in this case, that our Evangelist is selecting his points of narration with a special purpose,—to shew us how the belief of the disciples was brought out and completed, after the unbelief of Israel: cf. vv. 30, 31.
1, 2. Μαρ. ἡ Μαγδ.] She was not alone (Matt., Mark, Luke). Does this appear in the οἴδαμεν below? This is not, as Meyer says, precluded by the οἶδα in ver. 13. Mary there speaks in her own person, which she might do however accompanied. Still, probably not. She uses the plural as involving all the disciples in her own feeling of ignorance and of consequent sorrow. So Meyer: and it is more natural to take it thus. One thing we may conclude for certain, that she, for some reason, did not see the vision related in Matt., Mark, and Luke.
3.] Luke, ver. 12, speaks only of Peter’s going. Meyer directs attention to the interchange of aorists and graphic imperfects in this and the following verse.
4-8.] Full of most interesting and characteristic detail. John, probably the younger, outruns Peter;—but when there, reverently (not “ne pollueretur,” as .) abstains from entering the sepulchre. The ardent and impetuous Peter goes directly in—John follows—and believes. What can exceed the inner truth of this description? And what is not related, is as full of truth as that which is. For, vv. 6, 7, we seem to hear the very voice of Peter describing to his companion the inner state of the tomb.
On σουδ. see reff.
Notice βλέπει, of the cursory glance of John, who did not go in,—θεωρεῖ, of the exhaustive gaze of Peter who did. Notice also that John when he stooped and looked in saw only the ὀθόνια, which seem to have been lying where the Feet were, nearer the entrance, whereas Peter, on going in, saw the σουδάριον which was perhaps deposited further in, near the place of the Head. Nor should, as Meyer observes, the minute distinction of κείμενα τὰ ὀθόνια in ver. 5 and τὰ ὀθόνια κείμενα in ver. 6, be altogether overlooked.
8. ἐπίστευσεν] Nothing is said of Peter—did he believe too? I think not;—and that John modestly suppresses it. But what did John believe? Was it merely, “corpus fuisse translatum, ut dixerat Maria?” (Bengel, so August., Erasm., Grot., Stier, Ebrard.) Surely not; the facts which he saw would prevent this conclusion: nor does John so use the word πιστεύειν. He believed that Jesus was risen from the dead. He received into his mind, embraced with his assent, the fact of the resurrection, for the first time. He did this, on the ocular testimony before him; for as yet neither of them knew the Scripture, so as to be à priori convinced of the certainty that it would be so. But (see above) Peter does not seem to have as yet received this fact;—accounting probably for what he saw as Mary had done. Lampe beautifully says “Concludimus, ab hoc momento in ipsis monumenti tenebris animum Joannis fide salvifica resurrectionis Jesu, tanquam novo quodam orti solis justitiæ radio, collustratum fuisse.”
10.] Luke has the very same expression, ἀπῆλθεν πρὸς ἑαυτόν. This is remarkable, as he evidently has a fragment of the same incident.
πρὸς ἑαυτ., to their lodging.
11.] She had come with them, but more slowly. εἱστήκει, was standing, strictly imperfect: not ‘had been standing.’
12.] From what has been said above, my readers will not expect me to compare the angelic appearances in the four Gospels. What wonder, if the heavenly hosts were variously and often visible on this great day, when “the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” What can be more accurate in detail than this description of the vision of Mary? Every word was no doubt carefully related to the Apostle, and as carefully recorded. And all is significant: they are in white, because from the world of light: they sit, as not defending, but peacefully watching the Body: at the Head and the Feet, for the Body of the Lord was from head to foot in the charge of His Father and of His servants. (Luthardt.)
13.] Here again the finest psychological truth underlies the narrative. The other women (Mark, ver. 5: Luke, ver. 5) were afraid at the vision; but now Mary, having but one thought or desire, to recover the lost Body of her Lord (τὸν κύριόν μου), feels no fear.
The angels doubtless are proceeding further to assure her as they did the women before:—but this is broken off by the appearance of the Lord Himself, or perhaps by Mary’s turning away.
14.] ἐστράφη—having her attention attracted by the consciousness of some one [being] present near her—not perhaps by the approach of Jesus. Or it might be (Stier, Ebrard) with intent to go forth and weep again, or further to seek her Lord. Chrysostom’s reason is very beautiful, but perhaps hardly probable: καὶ ποία αὕτη ἀκολουθία, πρὸς ἐκείνους διαλεγομένην, καὶ μηδέπω μηδὲν ἀκούσασαν παρʼ αὐτῶν, στραφῆναι πρὸς τὰ ὀπίσω; ἐμοὶ δοκεῖ ταῦτα λεγούσης αὐτῆς, ἄφνω φανεὶς ὁ χριστὸς ὄπισθεν αὐτῆς ἐκπλῆξαι τοὺς ἀγγέλους, κἀκείνους θεασαμένους τὸν δεσπότην, καὶ τῷ σχήματι, καὶ τῷ βλέμματι, καὶ τῷ κινήματι εὐθέως ἐμφῆναι, ὅτι τὸν κύριον εἶδον· καὶ τοῦτο τὴν γυναῖκα ἐπέστρεψε, καὶ εἰς τὰ ὀπίσω στραφῆναι ἐποίησεν. Homil. in Joann. lxxxvi. 1. We need not surely enquire too minutely, why she did not know Him. The fact may be psychologically accounted for—she did not expect Him to be there, and was wholly preoccupied with other thoughts: or, as Dräseke (cited by Stier, vii. 12, edn. 2) says, “Her tears wove a veil, which concealed Him who stood before her. The seeking after the Dead prevents us from seeing the Living.”
15.] The same kind of repetition by the Lord of what the angel had before said is found in Matthew 28:7-10.
It is idle to enquire why she thought Him to be the gardener (see specimens of such speculations in Lücke and Stier in loc.): but I may once for all observe that we must believe the clothing of His risen Body to have been that which He pleased to assume; not earthly clothing, but perhaps some semblance of it. Certainly, in this case, He was clothed;—or she must at once have recognized Him. But see on στραφεῖσα below.
κύριε, the appellation of courtesy to an unknown person.
κἀγὼ αὐτ. ἀρῶ] She forgets her lack of strength for this, in the overbearing force of her love. (Meyer.)
16.] With one word, and that one word her name, the Lord awakens all the consciousness of His presence: calling her in that tone doubtless in which her soul had been so often summoned to receive divine knowledge and precious comfort.
στραφεῖσα seems to imply that she had not been looking full at Him before.
ῥαββουνί] See ref.: רֵבּוֹנִי, either my Master,—or only Master, the י being merely paragogic; which last appears (from διδάσκαλε) to be the case here.
That she gives way to no impassioned exclamations, but pours out her satisfaction and joy in this one word, is also according to the deepest psychological truth. The addition of και προσέδραμεν ἅψασθαι αὐτοῦ (see digest: so also, but with προέδραμεν, the cursives 13, 346) is an explanatory gloss to μή μου ἅπτου—but doubtless a correct one. “It was the former name with which He called her: His former appellation in which she replied; and now she seeks to renew the former intercourse.” (Luthardt.)
17.] The connexion between the prohibition and its reason is difficult, and has been very variously given. See a complete discussion of the exegetical literature of the passage in Stier, vi. 640-667. The sense seems to me to be connected with some gesture of the nature alluded to in the gloss above quoted, but indicating that she believed she had now gotten him again, never to be parted from Him. This gesture He reproves as unsuited to the time, and the nature of His present appearance. ‘Do not thus—for I am not yet restored finally to you in the body—I have yet to ascend to the Father.’ This implies in the background another and truer touching, when He should have ascended to the Father. “Vis me tangere, Maria; vis omnino frui amicitia mea: id nunc non licet, quum tantum οἰκονομικῶς, ad fidem vestram roborandam me do conspiciendum. At ubi ad Patrem ascendero, veniet tempus quum frui mea amicitia perfectissime poteris, non terrestri contactu, sed tali qui loco illi, i.e. cœlo conveniat, spirituali.” Grotius. With this my view nearly agrees, not confining (as indeed neither does he) the latter enjoyment to in cœlo, but understanding it to have begun here below. So Leo the Great, Serm. lxxiv. (. lxxii.) 4, p. 295: “Hinc illud est quod post resurrectionem suam Dominus Mariæ Magdalenæ personam Ecclesiæ gerenti cum ad contactum ipsius properaret accedere dicit; Noli me tangere, nondum enim ascendi ad Patrem meum: hoc est, nolo ut ad me corporaliter venias, nec ut me sensu carnis agnoscas: ad sublimiora te differo, majora tibi præparo: cum ad Patrem ascendero, tunc me perfectius veriusque palpabis, apprehensura quod non tangis, et creditura quod non cernis.”
The two renderings of ἅπτου to be guarded against are, (1) a laying hold of to retain (= μή με κράτει), (2) a laying hold of to worship (ἐκράτησαν αὐτοῦ τοὺς πόδας Matthew 28:9). Neither of these senses can be extracted from the word without forcing.
πορεύου δέ] Stier remarks that this was a far greater honour than that which had been forbidden her;—just as the handling of the Lord allowed to Thomas was a far less thing than the not seeing and yet believing.
τοὺς ἀδελφ. μου] By this term He testifies that He has not put off his humanity, nor his love for his own, in his resurrection state: see Hebrews 2:11.
πατ. μου κ. πατ. ὑμῶν] This distinction, μου κ. ὑμῶν, when ἡμῶν seems so likely to have been said, has been observed by all Commentators of any depth, as indicating an essential difference in the relations. (Stier),—ἄλλως ἐμοῦ, κατὰ φύσιν· ἄλλως ὑμῶν, κατὰ θέσιν. :—“Non ait, Patrem nostrum; aliter ergo meum, aliter vestrum; natura meum, gratia vestrum. Et, Deum meum et Deum vestrum. Neque hic dixit Deum nostrum; ergo et hic aliter meum, aliter vestrum. Deum meum, sub quo et Ego sum homo; Deum vestrum, inter quos et Ipsum Mediator sum.” Tract. cxxi.3.
The μου is the ground and source of the ὑμῶν,—therefore the Lord so speaks. Stier, vii. 32, edn. 2. “Nos, per Illum: Ille, singularissime et primo.” Bengel. But the θεόν μου indicates that He is still man: cf. Ephesians 1:3 and passim: 1Corinthians 3:23: and especially Hebrews 2:11. In the ἀναβαίνω is included His temporary stay which He was now making with them—I am ascending—q. d. ‘I am on my way.’
19.] The circumstance of the doors being shut is mentioned here and in ver. 26, to indicate what sort of appearances these were. Suddenly, unaccounted for by any approach,—the Lord rendered Himself visible to His disciples. Nor did this affect the truth of that resurrection Body, any more than his withdrawing himself from mortal sight occasionally affected the truth of His fleshly Body. Both were done by that supernatural power dwelling in Him, by which His other miracles were wrought. It seems to have been the normal condition of His fleshly Body, to be visible to mortal eyes:—of His risen Body, not to be. But both these He could suspend when He pleased, without affecting the substance or truth of either.
διὰ τ. φόβ. τ. Ἰουδ.] This was natural enough;—the bitter hatred of the Jews (both people and rulers) to their Master,—and his own prophetic announcements,—would raise in them a dread of incipient persecution, now that He was removed.
ἦλθεν—not, by ordinary approach; nor, through the closed doors;—nor in any visible manner;—but (subjectively, of Himself) the word describes that unseen arrival among them which preceded His becoming visible to them.
ἔστη εἰς τ. μ.] Compare Luke, ver. 36, ἔστη ἐν μέσῳ. The εἰς, as in ch. 21:4, denotes the coming, and standing, in one—the standing without motion thither, which in ordinary cases would be standing as the result of motion thither;—so that in this case ἔστη itself is the verb of motion.
εἰρ. ὑμ.] See on Luke ver. 36, and ch. 14:27.
Ver. 20 answers to Luke, ver. 39.
ἐχάρησαν] The first and partial fulfilment of ch. 16:20-22: see notes there.
The disciples seem to have handled Him: see Luke, ver. 39: 1John 1:1, and below, ver. 25.
21.] ‘Peace be unto you’ is solemnly repeated, as the introduction of the sending which follows. The ministers and disciples of the Lord are messengers of peace. This view is more natural than that of : ὑπὸ πολλῆς χαρᾶς ὡς εἰκὸς θορυβοῦντας καταστέλλει, ἵνα προσέχωσιν οἷς μέλλει ἐρεῖν.
καθώς] He confirms and grounds their Apostleship on the present glorification of Himself, whose Apostleship (Hebrews 3:1) on earth was now ended, but was to be continued by this sending forth of them. This commission was not now first given them, but now first fully assured to them: and their sending forth by Him their glorified Head, was to be, in character and process, like that of Himself by the Father.
22.] To understand this verse as the outpouring of the Spirit, the fulfilment of the promise of the Comforter, is against all consistency, and most against John himself: see ch. 16:7, and ch. 7:39. To understand it rightly, we have merely to recur to that great key to the meaning of so many dark passages of Scripture, the manifold and gradual unfolding of promise and prophecy in their fulfilment. The presence of the Lord among them now was a slight and temporary fulfilment of His promise of returning to them; and so the imparting of the Spirit now, was a symbol and foretaste of that which they should receive at Pentecost:—just as, to mount a step higher, that itself, in its present abiding with us, is but the first-fruits and pledge (Romans 8:23: 2Corinthians 1:22) of the fulness which we shall hereafter inherit. “The relation of this saying to the effusion of the Spirit is the same which chap. 3 bears to Baptism, chap. 6 to the Lord’s Supper, chap. 17:1 to the Ascension, &c.” (Luthardt.) Further: this giving of the Spirit was not the Spirit’s personal imparting of Himself to them, but only a partial instilling of His influence. He proceeds forth in His work (as in His essence) from the Father and the Son: this breathing of His influence was an imparting of Him from the Son in His risen Body, but that Body had not yet been received up, without which union of the God-manhood of the Son to the glory of the Father the Holy Spirit would not come.
What was now conferred is plain from our ver. 23—by which authority to discern spirits and pronounce on them is re-assured (see Matthew 18:18)—and from Luke, ver. 45, by which a discerning of the mind of the Spirit is given to them. We find instances of both these gifts being exercised by Peter in Act_1, in his assertion of the sense of Scripture, and his judgment of Judas. Both these however were only temporary and imperfect.
That no formal gifts of Apostleship were now formally conferred, is plain by the absence of Thomas, who in that case would be no apostle in the same sense in which the rest were.
ἐνεφύσησεν (see reff.) was the word expressing the act of God in the original infusion of the spirit of life into man. This act is now by God incarnate repeated, sacramentally (see λάβετε, Matthew 26:26 ), representing the infusion of the new life, of which He is become by His glorified Humanity the source to his members: see Job 33:4: Psalm 33:6: 1Corinthians 15:45.
23.] The present meaning of these words has been spoken of above. They reach forward however beyond that, and extend the grant which they re-assure to all ages of the Church. The words, closely considered, amount to this: that with the gift and real participation of the Holy Spirit, comes the conviction, and therefore the knowledge, of sin, of righteousness, and judgment;—and this knowledge becomes more perfect, the more men are filled with the Holy Ghost. Since this is so, they who are pre-eminently filled with His presence are pre-eminently gifted with the discernment of sin and repentance in others, and hence by the Lord’s appointment authorized to pronounce pardon of sin and the contrary. The Apostles had this in an especial manner, and by the full indwelling of the Spirit were enabled to discern the hearts of men, and to give sentence on that discernment: see Acts 5:1-11; Acts 8:21; Acts 13:9. And this gift belongs to the Church in all ages, and especially to those who by legitimate appointment are set to minister in the Churches of Christ: not by successive delegation from the Apostles,—of which fiction I find in the N.T. no trace,—but by their mission from Christ, the Bestower of the Spirit for their office, when orderly and legitimately conferred upon them by the various Churches. Not however to them exclusively,—though for decency and order it is expedient that the outward and formal declaration should be so:—but in proportion as any disciple shall have been filled with the Holy Spirit of wisdom, is the inner discernment, the κρίσις, his.
κρατεῖν here (see ref.) corresponds to δέειν in Matthew 16:19 (see the distinction there); 18:18, ἀφιέναι to λύειν.
24-29.] He proves Himself to His own to be Lord and God, to be believed on by them, though not seen. Thomas’s doubt, and its removal.—Peculiar to John.
24.] οὐκ ἦν—for what reason does not appear. Euthym. says, εἰκὸς γὰρ αὐτὸν μετὰ τὸ διασκορπισθῆναι τοὺς μαθητάς, … μήπω συνελθεῖν αὐτοῖς. I incline, with Stier (vii. 117, edn. 2), to think that it could not have been accidentally (Lücke), nor “negotio aliquo occupatus” (Grot.). On such a day, and in such a man, such an absence must have been designed. Perhaps he had abandoned hope;—the strong evidence of his senses having finally convinced him that the pierced side and wounded hands betokened such a death that revivification was impossible.
25.] He probably does not name the Feet, merely because the Hands and Side would more naturally offer themselves to his examination than the Feet, to which he must stoop. He requires no more than had been granted to the rest: but he had their testimony in addition, and therefore ample ground for faith to rest on. Olshausen calls him the “Rationalist among the Apostles.” Meyer lays some stress on τόπον being used (see var. readd.) instead of τύπον in the second place: “τύπος videtur, τόπος impletur,” Grot.;—he would see the τύπος, but place his finger in the τόπος. Valeat quantum: but meantime the authority is but weak, and the mistake so obvious, that we can hardly with any safety adopt τόπον.
26.] There is not the least reason for supposing, with Olshausen, that this appearance was in Galilee. The whole narrative points out the same place as before.
The eight days’ interval is the first testimony of the recurring day of the Resurrection being commemorated by the disciples:—but, it must be owned, a weak one;—for in all probability they had been thus assembled every day during the interval. It forms however an interesting opening of the history of the Lord’s Day, that the Lord Himself should have thus selected and honoured it.
27.] Our Lord says nothing of the τύπος τῶν ἥλων—He does not recall the malice of his enemies.
The words imply that the marks were no scars, but the veritable wounds themselves;—that in His side being large enough for a hand to be thrust into it. This of itself would shew that the resurrection Body was bloodless. It is φέρε κ. ἴδε in the case of the hands, which were exposed—but merely φέρε κ. βάλε in the case of the side, which was clothed. So Meyer: but query?
μὴ γ. ἄπιστ., not merely, ‘Do not any longer disbelieve in my Resurrection;’—but Be not (do not become)—as applied generally to the spiritual life, and the reception of God’s truth—faithless, but believing. The E. V. is excellent.
That Thomas did not apply his finger or his hand, is evident from ὅτι ἑώρακάς με below.
28.] The Socinian view, that these words, ὁ κύρ. μου κ. ὁ θεός μου, are merely an exclamation, is refuted—(1) By the fact that no such exclamations were in use among the Jews. (2) By the εἶπεν αὐτῷ. (3) By the impossibility of referring ὁ κύριός μου to another than Jesus: see ver. 13. (4) By the N.T. usage of expressing the vocative by the nom. with an article. (5) By the utter psychological absurdity of such a supposition: that one just convinced of the presence of Him whom he deeply loved, should, instead of addressing Him, break out into an irrelevant cry. (6) By the further absurdity of supposing that if such were the case, the Apostle John, who of all the sacred writers most constantly keeps in mind the object for which he is writing, should have recorded any thing so beside that object. (7) By the intimate conjunction of πεπίστευκας—see below. Dismissing it therefore, we observe that this is the highest confession of faith which has yet been made;—and that it shews that (though not yet fully) the meaning of the previous confessions of His being ‘the Son of God’ was understood. Thus John, in the very close of his Gospel (see on vv. 30, 31) iterates the testimony with which he began it—to the Godhead of the Word who became flesh: and by this closing confession, shews how the testimony of Jesus to Himself had gradually deepened and exalted the Apostles’ conviction, from the time when they knew Him only as ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ Ἰωσήφ (ch. 1:46), till now when He is acknowledged as their Lord and their God.
29.] The ὅτι ἑώρ. blames the slowness and required ground of the faith: the πεπίστευκας recognizes and commends the soundness of that faith just confessed.
Meyer remarks on the perf. πεπίστευκας, “thou hast become believing and now believest,” and the aorr. ἰδόντες and πιστεύσαντες, which are not usitative (an usage never occurring in the N.T.), but indicate the state of those described from the time of the μακαριότης predicated of them, “who never saw, and yet became believers.” The aorists, as often in such sentences (see a remarkable coincidence Luke 1:45), indicate the present state of those spoken of, grounded in the past.
Wonderful indeed, and rich in blessing for us who have not seen Him, is this, the closing word of the Gospel. For these words cannot apply to the remaining Ten: they, like Thomas, had seen and believed. “All the appearances of the forty days,” says Stier (vii. 139, edn. 2), “were mere preparations for the believing without seeing.” On the record of them, we now believe: see 1Peter 1:8.
30, 31.] Formal close of the Gospel (see notes on ch. 21.).
30.] μὲν οὖν—yea, and,—or, moreover: meaning, ‘This book must not be supposed to be a complete account.’
καί, and indeed:—many and other signs. σημεῖα, 31.
σημεῖα,not, as Theophyl., Euthym., Lücke, Olsh., “proofs of His resurrection,”—but, as ch. 12:37 and elsewhere in this Gospel, miracles in the most general sense—these after the Resurrection included:—for John is here reviewing his whole narrative, τὸ βιβλίον τοῦτο.
31.] The mere miracle-faith, so often reproved by our Lord, is not that intended here. This is faith in Himself, as the Christ the Son of God: and the Evangelist means, that enough is related in this book to be a ground for such a faith, by shewing us His glory manifested forth (see ch. 2:11).
πιοτ. ζωὴν ἔχ.] Thus he closes almost in the words of his prologue, ch. 1:4, 12.
ἐν τῷ ὀν. αὐτ. (see reff. Acts, 1 Cor.) is the whole standing of the faithful man in Christ,—by which and in which he has life eternal.