Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary - Alford
Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.'Chap. 8:1.] John never elsewhere mentions the Mount of Olives (not even in ch. 18:1): and when he introduces a new place, it is his habit to give explanations (see ch. 1:45; 5:2, and λεγομένην ch. 4:5; 19:13, 17). (Stier, who says (iv. 348, edn. 2), “The simple answer to Alford’s remark is, that John here, and here only, mentions the Mt. of Olives,” omits all allusion to this habit of the Evangelist, which alone gives weight to my remark.)
πορεύομαι with εἰς is not found elsewhere in John; but (in the Gospels) only in Matt. and Luke, and the frag. Mar_16. fin. Nor is ὄρθρον, nor παραγίνομαι εἰς nor ὁ λαός in this sense, but always ὁ ὄχλος (see ὁ λαός ch. 11:50; 18:14): nor such an expression as καθίσας ἐδίδασκεν αὐτούς (v. r.):—but all these are found in Luke. It is not in John’s manner to relate that Jesus taught them, without relating what He taught.
3.] John does not usually connect with δέ, more commonly with οὖν: but δέ is found thus used here, vv. 1, 2, 3, (5, where the conjunction of δὲ … δέ is not in St. John’s manner, see Galatians 2:20,) 6 (twice v. r.), 7, 9, 10, 11 (twice v. r.). Thence, there is not one δέ of mere connexion (ver. 35 is no exception) through the remaining forty-eight verses of the chapter. Nor does he ever mention οἱ γραμματεῖς elsewhere, but usually calls the opponents of Jesus οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι, or οἱ ἄρχοντες. οἱ γρ. κ. οἱ Φ. is a very common expression in the synoptic narrative.
The account gives no light as to the capacity in which these Scribes and Pharisees acted when they brought the woman. Probably, only as tempting Jesus, and not in the course of any legal proceedings against her. Such would have required (Leviticus 20:10: Deuteronomy 22:22) that the man also should have been put to death.
4.] The λέγουσιν αὐτῷ ἐκπειράζοντες αὐτόν savours much more of the synoptic Gospels than of John: see Matthew 16:1; Matthew 19:3; Matthew 22:18, Matthew 22:35: Mark 8:11; Mark 10:2; Mark 12:15, &c. Obviously our ch. 6:6 is no example to the contrary. (So Luthardt.) The difficulty is even greater than the last, to say, in what sense this was a temptation, to lead to His accusation. The principal solutions of it have been, (1) that the command of the law had fallen into disuse from the frequency of the crime, and to re-assert it would be contrary to the known mildness of Jesus (Michaelis (first part), , ). But what reason had any of His sayings,—who came to fulfil the Law, not to destroy it,—given them to expect such mildness in this case? And suppose He had re-asserted the law,—how could they have accused Him? (2) That some political snare was hereby laid for Him, whereby the Roman power might have been brought to bear against Him (Grotius and others). But this does not in any way appear; for (α) the Romans certainly allowed to the Jews (by connivance) the power of putting to death according to their law,—as they did in the case of Stephen: (β) our Lord’s answer need not have been so worded as to trench upon this matter: and (γ) the accusers would have been more deeply involved than Himself, if such had been the case, being by the law the prominent persons in the execution.
So that I leave the difficulty unsolved. Lücke (whose discussion on it see, ii. 261 ff.) observes: “Since Jesus seems to avoid every kind of decision on the question put to Him, it follows that He found in it no reference to the great subjects of His teaching, but treated it as a purely civil or political matter, with which in His ministry He had no concern. Some kind of civil or political collision the question certainly was calculated to provoke: but from the brevity of the narration, and our want of more accurate knowledge of criminal proceedings at the time, it is impossible to lay down definitely, wherein the collision would have consisted.” p. 267.
5.] I will just remark that the very fact of their questioning thus, ‘Moses commanded, … but what sayest Thou?’ belongs to the last days of the Lord’s ministry, and cannot well be introduced chronologically where it here stands: nor does John any where introduce these questions between the law of Moses and Jesus; but the synoptic Gospels often do.
The command here mentioned is not to be found, unless ‘putting to death’ generally, is to be interpreted as = stoning: compare Exodus 31:14 and 35:2, with Numbers 15:35, Numbers 15:36, in which the special order given by God would sanction such a view. But the Rabbis taught “omne mortis supplicium in scriptura absolute positum esse strangulationem.” Tract. Sanhedr. ch. 10. (Lücke, De Wette.) The passage Ezekiel 16:38, Ezekiel 16:40 proves nothing, or proves too much; for it is added, “and thrust thee through with their swords.”
I would rather suppose that from Deuteronomy 22:21, Deuteronomy 22:23, Deuteronomy 22:24, an inference was drawn what kind of a death was intended in ver. 22, the crime being regarded as the same; “he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife.” We have similar indefiniteness in ib. ver. 25, where evidently the same punishment is meant: see the whole matter discussed in Lücke, ii. 257 ff.
6. κατέγ. εἰς τ. γῆν] ὅπερ εἰώθασι πολλάκις ποιεῖν οἱ μὴ θέλοντες ἀνακρίνεσθαι πρὸς τοὺς ἐρωτῶντας ἄκαιρα καὶ ἀνάξια. γνοὺς γὰρ αὐτῶν τὴν μηχανὴν προσεποιεῖτο γράφειν εἰς τὴν γῆν, καὶ μὴ προσέχειν οἷς ἔλεγον προσεποιεῖτο γράφειν εἰς τὴν γῆν, καὶ μὴ προσέχειν οἷς ἔλεγον. Euthym. The habit was a usual one to signify pre-occupation of mind, or intentional inattention: see instances in Wetstein and Lücke. The one ordinarily cited from Ælian is irrelevant: see Lücke, ii. 269 note. The additions προσποιούμενος or μὴ προσπ. are glosses.
It does not follow that any thing was actually written. Stier refers to Jeremiah 17:13, but perhaps without reason.
This minute circumstance speaks strongly for the authenticity of the narration.
7.] ἀναμάρτ. is common in the classics: see instances in Lücke. It is not here used in the general sense, ‘without sin’ (E. V.), nor in the strictest, ‘free from the crime of adultery’ (it can hardly be that any of the Pharisees should have held themselves sinless,—or that all should have been implicated in adultery):—but—as ἁμαρτωλός, Luke 7:37,—of the sin of uncleanness generally. Stier, who contends strongly for the genuineness of this narrative in this place, finds in ver. 46 an allusion to this saying. I cannot say that his attempts to establish a connexion with the subsequent discourse are to me at all satisfactory: I am much more inclined to think with Luthardt (i. 16), that the whole arrangement and plan of our Gospel is broken by the insertion of this passage. The Lord Jesus was not sent to be a ruler and a judge in this or that particular case of crime, see Luke 12:14; but the Ruler and Judge of all: and His answer expresses this, by convicting them all of sin before Him. τόν (see digest), if genuine, refers to the first stone, which by Deuteronomy 17:7 the witnesses were to cast.
8.] ἵνα μή, βλέποντος εἰς αὐτούς, αἰσχύνωνται, ῥᾷον οὕτως ἐλεγχθέντες, καὶ ἵνα, ὡς αὐτοῦ δῆθεν ἀσχολουμένου εἰς τὸ γράφειν, ἐξῇ αὐτοῖς ὑπαναχωρῆσαι πρὸ φανερωτέρας καταγνώσεως· καὶ αὐτῶν γὰρ ἐφείδετο διʼ ὑπερβολὴν χρηστότητος. Euthym. The gloss in (see var. readd.) is curious.
9.] They had said, τὰς τοιαύτας—they now perceive that they themselves were τοιοῦτοι. There is no historical difficulty in this conduct of the Pharisees, as Olshausen finds;—they were struck by the power of the word of Christ. It was a case somewhat analogous to that in which His ἐγώ εἰμι struck His foes to the ground, ch. 18:6.
The variations of reading are very wide (see digest) in the latter part of the verse. We can hardly (with some) lay any stress on πρεσβυτέρων, as indicating the natural order of conviction of sin. If the consciences of older sinners have heavier loads on them, those of younger ones are more tender.
μόνος, i.e. with the multitude and the disciples; the woman standing between Him and the disciples on one hand,—and the multitude on the other.
10, 11.] πλήν (v. r.) is only found here in John, Gosp. and Epp.
κατακρίνω also is not found elsewhere in John, who uses κρίνω in its strict sense for it. The question is evidently so worded for the sake of οὐδὲ ἐγώ σε κατακρίνω: but it expresses the truth in the depth of their hearts. The Lord’s challenge to them would lead to a condemnation by comparison with themselves, if they condemned at all: which they had not done. The words of Jesus were in fact a far deeper and more solemn testimony against the sin than could be any mere penal sentence. And in judging of them we must never forget that He who thus spoke knew the hearts,—and what was the peculiar state of this woman as to penitence. We must not apply in all cases a sentence, which requires His divine knowledge to make it a just one.]
12-59.] The conflict between Jesus and the Jews, at its height.
12-20.] Testimony to Himself as the Light.
12.] The attempts of Bengel, Schulthess, and Stier, to establish a connexion with the passage concerning the woman taken in adultery are forced and harsh. It was, say they, the early morning (ver. 2) and the sun was just rising, to which these words τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσ. allude,—and the walking in darkness is an allusion to the woman, whose deed of darkness had been detected in the night. But not to dwell on other objections to this view,—e.g. that such an allusion to the woman would be wholly out of character after our Lord’s previous treatment of her,—how come these Pharisees, who on the hypothesis of the above Commentators are the same as those who accused the woman, to be again so soon present? Was this at all likely? We cannot escape from this difficulty with Stier, iv. 363, edn. 2, by supposing a multitude of the people to have been witnesses on both occasions: the οἱ Φαρισαῖοι of the one must surely extend through the other, if this connexion is to be maintained.
On the other hand, this discourse comes in very well after ch. 7:52. The last saying of Jesus (ch. 7:37, 38) had referred to a festal usage then just over: He now adds another of the same kind. It was the custom during the first night, if not during every night, of the feast of tabernacles (see authorities in Wetstein), to light up two large golden chandeliers in the court of the women, the light of which illuminated all Jerusalem. All that night they held a festal dance by the light.
Now granted that this was on the first night only,—what is there improbable in the supposition that our Lord—standing in the very place where the candlesticks had been or perhaps actually were—should have alluded to that practice, as He did to the outpouring of water in ch. 7:37, 38? Surely to say in both cases, as Lücke and De Wette do, that the allusion could not have been made unless the usage took place on that day, is mere trifling. While the feast lasted, and the remembrance of the ceremonies was fresh, the allusion would be perfectly natural.
13.] See ch. 5:31. The assertion there was, that His own unsupported witness (supposing that possible) would not be trustworthy, but that His testimony was supported by, and in fact coincident with, that of the Father. The very same argument is here used, but the other side of it presented to us. He does witness of Himself, because His testimony is the testimony of the Father;—He being the λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ, and the Father witnessing in Him.
14. ὅτι οἶδα κ.τ.λ.] See on ch. 7:29. This reason binds His testimony to that of the Father; for He came forth from the Father, ch. 16:28, and was returning to Him.
“Lumen,” says Augustine (Tract. in Joan. xxxv. 4) “et alia demonstrat et seipsum.… Testimonium sibi perhibet lux: aperit sanos oculos et sibi ipsa testis est, ut cognoscatur lux.”
Then again, he only who knows can witness: and Jesus only knew this.
Notice ἦλθον and ἔρχομαι,—I know whence I came:—this goes back to the ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν of ch. 1:1; but ye know not whence I come,—‘do not recognize even My present mission.’
We must not for a moment understand κἂν ἐγὼ μαρτ. with Grotius, “even though I should witness,” &c.: “etiamsi nulla essent de me prœgressa prophetarum, nulla Joannis Baptistœ testimonia.”
It does not suppose a case, but allows the fact.
15, 16.] There is no allusion to the foregoing history; the train of thought is altogether another.
‘The end of all testimony, is the forming, or pronouncing, of judgment. Ye do this by fleshly rules, concerning me and my mission: I judge no man, i. e. it is not the object nor habit of this My mission on earth; but even if I be called on to exercise judgment, my judgment is decisive:’ not exactly ἀληθής, but ἀληθινή, which rather means, genuine; which a judgment can only be by being true and final: see ch. 5:30 and note.
17.] The ὑμετέρῳ seems to give this sense to the clause:—‘So that if you will have the mere letter of the law, and judge my testimony by it, I will even thus satisfy you:’ ὑμετ. thus implying, ‘The law which you have made so completely your own by your kind of adherence to it.’
19.] Augustine (in Joan. Tract. xxxvii. 2, vol. iii. pt. ii.) and others imagine that the Jews thought of a human father, in thus speaking. But surely before this, as Stier remarks (iv. 370, edn. 2), the Jews must have become accustomed to ὁ πατήρ μου too well to mistake its meaning. It is rather a question asked in mere scorn, by persons who know, but will not recognize, the meaning of a word uttered by another.
εἰ ἐμὲ ᾔδειτε] See ch. 14:9 ff. and note.
οὔπω ἐληλύθει ἡ ὥρα αὐτοῦ] See ch. 7:8, 30.
21-59.] Further discourses of Jesus. The Jews attempt to stone Him. This forms the great conclusion of the series of discourses to the Jews. In it our Lord testifies more plainly still to His divine origin and sinlessness, and to the cause of their unbelief; until at last their enmity is worked up to the highest pitch, and they take up stones to cast at Him. It may be divided into four parts: (1) vv. 21-24,—announcing to them the inevitable consequence of persistence in their unbelief on His withdrawal from them: (2) vv. 25-29,—the things which He has to say and judge of them, and the certainty of their own future recognition of Him and His truthfulness: (3) vv. 30-47,—the first springing up of faith in many of them is by Him corrected and purified from Jewish pride, and the source of such pride and unbelief detected: (4) vv. 48-58,—the accusation of the Jews in ver. 48, gives occasion to Him to set forth very plainly His own divine dignity and prœ-existence.
21.] The time and place of this discourse are not definitely marked; but in all probability they were the same as before. Only no stress must be laid on the οὖν as connected with ver. 20, for it is only the accustomed carrying forward by the Evangelist of the great self-manifestation of Jesus.
ζητ. με includes the idea ‘and shall not find me,’ which is expressed in ch. 7:34, 36:—ye shall continue seeking Me.
καὶ ἐν τ. ἁμ.… and shall die (perish) in (not because of (Lampe, Kuinoel)) your sin. This sin is not unbelief, for, ver. 24, it is clearly distinguished from that: but, ‘your state of sin, unremoved, and therefore abiding and proving your ruin’ (see on ver. 24).
The words do not refer to the destruction of Jerusalem, but to individual perdition. In these discourses in John, the public judgment of the Jews is not prominently brought forward, as in the other Evangelists.
ὅπου ἐγὼ ὑπ … is the consequence, not the cause (by any absolute decree) of their dying in their sins (see ch. 7:34; 13:33). This latter sense would have required ὅπου γάρ. 22.
22.] It is at least probable that they allude to the idea mentioned by Josephus, himself a Pharisee, in his speech at Jotapata, B. J. iii. 8. 5:—ὅσοις δὲ καθʼ ἑαυτῶν ἐμάνησαν αἱ χεῖρες, τούτων μὲν ᾅδης δέχεται τὰς ψυχὰς σκοτιώτερος:—and with the bitterest malice taunt Him with thus being about to go where they, the children of Abraham, could never come. ὁ Ἡρακλέων … φησὶν ὅτι πονηρῶς διαλογιζόμενοι οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι ταῦτα ἔλεγον, καὶ μείζονας ἑαυτοὺς ἀποφαινόμενοι τοῦ Σωτῆρος καὶ ὑπολαμβάνοντες ὅτι αὐτοὶ μὲν ἀπελεύσονται πρὸς τὸν θεὸν εἰς ἀνάπανσιν αἰώνιον, ὁ δέ Σωτὴρ εἰς φθορὰν καὶ εἰς θάνατον ἑαυτὸν διαχειρισάμενος ὅπου ἑαυτοὺς οὐκ ἐλογίζοντο ἀπελθεῖν. tom. ixx. c. 4, vol. iv. p. 302. De Wette thinks this too refined, and that such a meaning would, if intended, have been marked in our Lord’s answer.
23.] ‘Ye cannot come where I am going, because we both shall return thither whence we came: I to the Father from Whom (ἐκ τῶν ἄνω) I came: ye to the earth and under the earth (for that more awful meaning surely is not excluded) whence ye came’ (ἐκ τῶν κάτω).
Then ὁ κόσμος οὗτος of course does not only imply ‘this present state of things,’ but involves the deeper meaning, of the origin of that state of things (see ver. 44) and its end, ver. 24.
24.] Since this (ver. 23) is the case,—if ye do not believe that I am He, the Deliverer,—and be renewed by Faith, ye shall die in your sins (plural here, as struck nearer home to their consciences, and implying individual acts of sin, the results of the carnal state). On ἐγώ εἰμι see note, ver. 58.
25.] Their question follows on ἐγὼ ἐκ τῶν ἄνω εἰμί, ver. 23, and the dubious elliptical expression ἐγώ εἰμι of the last verse. It is intended to bring out a plain answer on which their enmity might fasten.
Our Lord’s reply has been found difficult, principally from the ambiguity of ὅτι and ὅ τι. No sense can however be given by ὅτι which will at all harmonize with the context, notwithstanding Luthardt’s defence of it. Lücke’s interpretation (edn. 3) after Euthym., “Why do I speak with you at all?” is not only ungrammatical, but most alien from the whole character of our Lord’s discourses. I assume then that ὅ τι is to be read. Then comes another question: what does λαλῶ mean? It has been usually rendered ‘say,’ or ‘tell;’ ‘even the same that I said unto you from the beginning,’ E. V. But as De Wette has observed, λαλῶ will not bear this. It is never ‘to say’ simply, but ‘to discourse,’ or ‘to hold converse,’ ‘to speak.’ Again, what is τὴν ἀρχήν? not to be taken substantively (as Aug., , Vulg. principium), so as to mean ‘The beginning, as I, &c.’ (so recently, Bp. Wordsw.): but adverbially, with all Greek interpreters (see reff.). And adverbially it may mean (1) ‘in the beginning,’ ‘from the beginning,’ but not ‘firstly:’ (2) ‘generally,’ ‘at all,’ ‘omnino,’ usually with a negative clause, but sometimes with an affirmative. Thus Soph. Antig. 92, ἀρχὴν δὲ θηρᾶν οὐ πρέπει τἀμήχανα: Herod. i. 9, ἀρχὴν γὰρ ἐγὼ μηχανήσομαι οὕτω: iv. 25, τοῦτο οὐκ ἐνδέκομαι τὴν ἀρχήν: Plato, Lysis, p. 265, πῶς οὖν οἱ ἀγαθοὶ τοῖς ἀγαθοῖς ἡμῖν φίλοι ἔσονται τὴν ἀρχήν; See many more examples in Hermann on Viger, p. 722. The common rendering takes the first of these meanings;—but the above remarks on λαλῶ will set that rendering aside;—and together with the assumption of λαλῶ = ἔλεξα, the meaning, ‘in the beginning,’ or ‘at first,’ or ‘from the beginning,’ falls to the ground. We have then the second meaning of τὴν ἀρχήν, generally, or ‘traced up to its principle,’—for such is the account to be given of this meaning of the word.
The rendering of καί, ‘even,’ and placing it before τὴν ἀρχ., as done in E. V., is ungrammatical. It must be taken with λαλῶ, being inseparable from it by its position between the relative ὅ τι and the verb: as in the clause, ὃς καὶ παρέδωκεν αὐτόν.
This being premised, the sentence must be rendered (literally) thus: Essentially, that which I also discourse unto you: or In very deed, that same which I speak unto you. He is the λόγος—His discourses are the revelation of Himself. And there is especial propriety in this:—When Moses asked the name of God, “I am that which I am,” was the mysterious answer; the hidden essence of the yet unrevealed One could only be expressed by self-comprehension; but when God manifest in the flesh is asked the same question, it is ‘I am that which I speak:’ what He reveals Himself to be, that He is (see on next verse). The above sense is maintained by De Wette, and strikingly expanded and illustrated by Stier, iv. 378 ff., edn. 2. The meaning maintained by Meyer, “Do ye ask, what I have been long telling you?” is ingenious, but seems to be by implication refuted by what has been said above. He gives a good résume of the interpretations.
26.] He is, that which He speaks; and that, He has received from the Father;—He has His definite testimony to give, and His work to do: and therefore, though He has much that He could speak and judge about the Jews, He does it not, but overlooks their malice,—not answering it,—that He may go forward with the λαλεῖν εἰς τὸν κόσμον, the revelation of Himself: the ἀλήθεια of which is all-important, and excludes less weighty things.
27.] They did not identify ὁ πέμψας με with ὁ πατήρ μου. However improbable this may be after ὁ πέμψας με πατήρ, ver. 18 (De Wette), it is stated as a fact; and the Evangelist certainly would not have done so without some sure ground:—εἰκὸς αὐτοὺς διαπορεῖν πρὸς ἀλλήλους λέγοντας Τίς ἐστιν ὁ πέμψας αὐτόν; Euthym. There is no accounting for the ignorance of unbelief, as any minister of Christ knows by painful experience.
28.] This connects (οὖν being the continuation of the foregoing, see above on ver. 21) with ver. 26, and also with ver. 27, as the τότε γνώσεσθε shews, referring to the οὐκ ἔγνωσαν. On ὑψ. see ch. 3:14. ‘When ye shall have been the instruments of accomplishing that death by which He shall enter into His glory:’ for the latter idea is clearly implied here.
τότε γνώσ.] Perhaps, in different ways:—some, by the power of the Holy Spirit poured out after the exaltation of Christ, and to their own salvation; others by the judgments which were to follow ere long, and to their own dismay and ruin.
The construction and connexion of the following appears to be this: καὶ ἀπʼ ἐμαυτοῦ … depends on ὅτι, and is an expansion of ἐγώ εἰμι: whereas ver. 29 is an independent assertion.
The interchange of ποιῶ and λαλῶ is remarkable. The construction is not elliptical, so that ποιῶ κ. λαλῶ should be understood in both cases; but the declaration of ver. 25 is still in the Lord’s mind, His ποιεῖν being all a declaration of the Father,—a λαλεῖν in the widest sense. Cf. Bengel: “cognoscetis ex re, quod nunc ex verbo non creditis.”
29.] ἀφῆκεν, aor. referring to the appointment of the Father by which His work was begun, and which the μετʼ ἐμοῦ ἐστιν carries on through that work: see ch. 16:32.
ὅτι, because;—not ‘for,’ as if what follows were merely a token that it is so (Olsh.). The τὰ ἀρεστὰ αὐτ. ποιῶ πάντ. is the very essential being of the Son, and is the cause why the Father is ever with Him.
30.] They believed on Him with a higher degree of faith than those in ch. 2:23, inasmuch as faith wrought by hearing is higher than that by miracles; but still wanted confirming.
31.] ἐν τῷ λ. τῷ ἐμῷ = ἐν ἐμοί, ch. 15:7, though that perhaps is spoken of a deeper entrance into the state of union with Christ. Remaining in His word is not merely obeying His teaching, but is the inner conviction of the truth of that revelation of Himself, which is his λαλιά or λόγος.
ἐστέ, for probably they had given some outward token of believing on Him, e.g. that of ranging themselves among His disciples.
32.] In opposition to the mere holding of the truth. The knowing of the truth answers to the feeding on Christ;—is the inner realization of it in the man. And in the continuing increase of this comes true freedom from all fear and error and bondage.
33.] The answerers are the πεπιστευκότες, not some others among the hearers, as many Commentators (Lampe, Kuinoel, De Wette, Lücke, edn. 3) have maintained;—see, as a proof of this, ver. 36, addressed to these same persons. They had not yet become ἀληθῶς μαθηταί, were not yet distinct from the mass of the unbelieving; and therefore, in speaking to them, He ascribes to them the sins of their race, and addresses them as part of that race.
σπέρμα Ἀβ. ἐσμ.] See Matthew 3:9. The assertion οὐδενὶ δεδ. πώπ. was so contrary to historical truth, that we must suppose some technical meaning to have been attached to δεδουλεύκαμεν, in which it may have been correct. The words cannot be meant of that generation only, for πώποτε connects with σπέρμα Ἀβ. ἐσ., and generalizes the assertion.
As usual (see ch. 3:4; 4:11; 6:52), they take the words of our Lord in their outward literal sense. Perhaps this was not always an unintentional misunderstanding.
34.] ποιῶν τὴν ἁμαρτ., not = ἁμαρτάνων, for that all do; but = ἐργαζόμενος τὴν ἀνομίαν, Matthew 7:23. It implies living in the practice of sin,—doing sin, as a habit: see reff. The mere moral sentiment of which this is the spiritual expression, was common among the Greek and Roman philosophers. See Wetstein: also Romans 6:12: 2Peter 2:19.
35.] I believe, with Stier and Bengel, the reference to be to Hagar and Ishmael, and Isaac: the bond and the free. They had spoken of themselves as the seed of Abraham. The Lord shews them that there may be, of that seed, two kinds; the son, properly so called, and the slave. The latter does not abide in the house for ever: it is not his right nor his position—‘Cast out the bondwoman and her son.’ ‘But the son abideth ever.’ For the application, see on following verses.
ὁ δοῦλος and ὁ υἱός are in this verse generic merely.
36.] Ye then, being in sin, are carnal: the sons of the bondwoman, and therefore need liberation. Now comes in the spiritual reality, into which the discourse passes from the figure. This liberation can only take place by means of Him of whom Isaac was the type—the Seed according to promise; those only who of His Spirit are born again, and after His image, are ὄντως ἐλεύθεροι—truly sons of God, and no longer children of the bondwoman, but of the free. See by all means Galatians 4:19 (where the subject really begins, not at ver. 21) to end, which is the best commentary on this verse. There neither is, nor can be here, any allusion either to the liberation of the sabbatical year (Œcolampadius); or to the subject of Hebrews 3:5, Hebrews 3:6 (Euthym., after Chrys.).
37.] ‘Ye are Abraham’s seed, according to the flesh and the covenant: but’—and here the distinction appears—‘ye ποιεῖτε τὴν ἁμαρτίαν by seeking to kill Me, because My λόγος (see above on ver. 31) οὐ χωρεῖ—does not work (spread, go forward,—‘ne marche pas’) in you’ (not, among you). Herodian, v. 3. 31, says of a report, ὥστε εἰς πᾶν χωρῆσαι τὸ στρατιωτικόν, ‘it spread through the whole army.’ Such expressions as τὰ πράγματα χωρεῖ κατὰ λόγον, Polyb. xxiii. 15. 12,—ταῦτα καλῶς κατὰ νοῦν ἐχώρει αὐτῷ, ib. x. 15. 4,—πῶς οὖν οὐ χωρεῖ τοὖργον; Aristoph. Pax 464, seem also to illustrate this meaning.
38.] We have the same remarkable relation between λαλεῖν and ποιεῖν, as in ver. 28: except that here the ποιεῖν is applied to the Jews only; λαλεῖν being used in the same comprehensive sense as there.
But notice the distinction in the restored text between ἑώρακα παρὰ τῷ πατρί and ἠκούσατε παρὰ τοῦ πατρός, ὁ πατήρ being a common term, and the articles possessive. [The speaking and doing were in each case from the father of each. But] Jesus was πρὸς τὸν θεόν, in a relation of abiding unity with His Father: they were ἐκ τοῦ πατρὸς τοῦ διαβ.,—he was the suggester of their course, the originator of their acts. Jesus was the υἱός, who remains in the house and sees the father’s acts: they the δοῦλοι, merely prescribed to and under bondage.
The οὐν implies accordingly,—by the same rule.
39, 40.] There is a distinction between σπέρμα and τέκνα. The former our Lord grants that they were (ver. 37), but the latter (by implication—see below on the construction) He denies them. See Romans 9:7, οὐ γὰρ πάντες οἱ ἐξ Ἰσραήλ, οὗτοι Ἱσραήλ· οὐδʼ ὅτι εἰσὶν σπέρμα Ἁβραάμ, πάντες τέκνα. The latter betokens likeness, true genuine descent in character and habits.
The reading in the text is remarkable as connecting together the present ἔστε and the imperfect ἐποιεῖτε. In such a case there must be a suppressed change of meaning between the protasis and the apodosis. The εἰ ἔστε concedes, in a certain sense: the ἐποιεῖτε denies, by making an assumption at variance with present fact. The sentence is in fact a combination of a protasis of one form with an apodosis of another. It might have been, (a) εἰ ἔστε …, ποιεῖτε; or, (b) εἰ ἦτε …, ἐποιεῖτε. But as it stands, protasis (a) is joined with apodosis (b): and thereby the τέκνα τοῦ Ἀβραὰμ εἶναι in any worthy sense is denied, while in the mere formal sense it is conceded.
τοῦτο, this; not, ‘tale quid:’ and ἐποίησεν, fecit, not ‘fecisset:’ for the statement is one of a fact:—this did not Abraham, as E. V.: see Gen_18.
41.] ποιεῖτε—not imperative, which destroys the sense.
ἐκ πορν.] Stier remarks, that they now let fall Abraham as their father, being convicted of unlikeness to him. They see that a spiritual paternity must be meant, and accordingly refer to God as their Father. This consideration will rule the sense of ἐκ πορν., which must therefore be spiritual also. And spiritually the τέκνα πορνείας, ref. Hosea, are idolaters. πολύθεος ὁ ἐκ πόρνης, τυφλώττων περὶ τὸν ἀληθῆ πατέρα, καὶ διὰ τοῦτο πολλοὺς ἀνθʼ ἑνὸς γονεῖς αἰνιττόμενος. Philo de Migr. Abr. 13, vol. i. p. 447. Ishmael cannot well be alluded to; for they would not call the relation between Abraham and Hagar one of πορνεία. Still less can Origen’s interpretation be adopted, ἔλεγον Ἡμεῖς μᾶλλον ἕνα πατέρα ἔχομεν τὸν θεόν, ἤπερ σύ, ὁ φάσκων μὲν ἐκ παρθένου γεγεννῆσθαι, ἐκ πορνείας δὲ γεγεννημένος, καὶ διὰ τὸ αὐχεῖν τὸ ἐκ παρθένου γεγεννῆσθαι λέγων ἕνα πατέρα ἔχειν μόνον, τὸν θεόν (tom. 20:14, p. 327),—for our Lord never proclaimed this of Himself. There may possibly be a reference to the Samaritans (ver. 48), who completely answered in the spiritual sense to the children of fornication: see Deuteronomy 31:16: Isaiah 1:21: Ezekiel 16:15 ff.; 20:30 .
42.] ‘If you were the children of God, the ethical proof (as Lutbardt well calls it) of such descent would be, that you would love Me, who am κατʼ ἐξοχήν the Son of God, and who am come by the mission, and bearing the character, of God.’
ἥκω conveys the result of ἐξῆλθον, as Meyer; who also remarks that mere sending will not exhaust ἐξῆλθον, which must be taken metaphysically, of the proceeding forth of the Eternal Son from the essence of the Father.
43.] λαλιὰν γινώσκειν is to understand the idiom or dialect in which a man speaks, λαλ. being his manner of speech: see Matthew 26:73, and Song of Solomon 4:3, LXX. Why do ye not understand my speech? as E. V. But this of course does not here refer to the mere outward expression of the Lord’s discourses, but to the spiritual idiom in which He spoke, and which can only be spiritually understood. Then ὁ λόγος ὁ ἐμός is the matter of those discourses, the Word itself.
The connexion of the two clauses is, Why, &c.? Because ye cannot receive, hear with the inner ear (see reff., and ch. 6:60), that which I say. And the verification and ground of this ‘cannot’ is in the next verse. Meyer remarks, that in questions and answers, the emphatic words come last—being here γινώσκετε and τὸν λόγον τ. ἐμόν. 44.
44.] The first article τοῦ is important, and to be rendered (against Meyer) as in E. V., your father the devil. This verse is one of the most decisive testimonies for the objective personality of the devil. It is quite impossible to suppose an accommodation to Jewish views, or a metaphorical form of speech, in so solemn and direct an assertion as this.
θέλετε ποιεῖν is important, and should have been in E. V. more marked: Your will is to do: or, as A.V.R. “ye love to do” [or, are inclined to do]. It indicates, as in ch. 5:40, the freedom of the human will, as the foundation of the condemnation of the sinner.
ἀνθρωποκτόνος] The most obvious reference seems to be, to the murder of Abel by Cain: see the Apostle’s own comment on these words, 1John 3:12, 1John 3:15. But this itself was only a result of the introduction of death by sin, which was the work of the devil: Adam and Eve were the first whom he murdered. But then again both these were only manifestations of the fact here stated by divine omniscience respecting him: that he was ἀνθρωποκτόνος.
ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς, the author and bringer in of that hate which is ἀνθρωποκτονία, 1John 3:15.
The mention of murder is introduced because the Jews went about to kill Jesus; and the typical parallel of Cain and Abel is certainly hinted at in the words: see Lücke’s note, ii. 338 ff., and Stier, iv. 414 (edn. 2) ff.
οὐχ ἕστηκεν, not ‘abode not,’ E. V.; a sense which ἕστηκα will not bear, being always present in meaning, and = ‘I have placed myself,’ i.e. I stand: see Matthew 12:47; Matthew 20:6: Mark 9:1; Mark 11:5: John 3:29: Acts 1:11; Acts 7:33: Romans 5:2; Romans 11:20 al. fr.: whereas the pluperfect, εἱστήκειν, ‘I had placed myself,’ i.e. I stood, is imperfect in sense: see Matthew 12:46. And that this place forms no exception, is shewn by ὅτι οὐκ ἔστιν (not ἦν) immediately following. But as the account of this present sense shews, it is not a mere present, but a present dependent on and commencing with an implied past fact. And that fact here is, the fall of the devil, which was not an insulated act, but in which state of apostasy from the truth he ἕστηκεν,—it is his status. So Euthym.: ἐμμένει, ἀναπαύεται.
ἡ ἀλήθεια, as De Wette remarks, is objective: the truth of God:—in this he standeth not, because there is no truth (‘truthfulness,’ subjective) in him. His lie has become his very nature, and therefore he is thoroughly alien from the truth of God. To take ὅτι as ‘not the cause, but the proof’ (for, i.e. ‘for we see it by this, that’ …) is not only to do violence to construction, but to overthrow the whole sense of the passage.
τὸ ψεῦδος, a lie; generic: we in English have retained the article in the expression ‘to speak the truth,’ but not in the corresponding one. He ἐλάλει τὸ ψεῦδος to Eve.
ἐκ τ. ἰδ., of his own, as E. V., not, ‘according to his character’ (De Wette),—but ‘out of his own resources,’ ‘treasures:’ see Matthew 12:35.
ὁ πατ. αὐτοῦ] i.e. either τοῦ ψεύδους—(absolutely, or as understood in ψεύστης,—Orig., Euthym., Theophyl., &c. Nitzsch (Theol. Zeitschrift, 1822), De Wette, Lücke, Wordsw., and Winer, § 22. 3. b),—or τοῦ ψεύστου (= τῶν ψευστῶν), of the liar generally. The former is not the fact,—for the devil is not the father τοῦ ψεύδους, but τῶν ψευστῶν, by being himself one whose very nature has become τὸ ψεῦδος. Certainly by this he has become the author, promoter, of falsehood among men; but this kind of paternity is not here in question: the object being to shew that he was the father of these lying Jews. I therefore hold the latter interpretation, with Bengel, Meyer, and Stier.
The construction of this passage with the art. before πατήρ has presented insuperable difficulty to Bp. Middleton and others: see Midd. in loc. The rendering which he proposes is this: “When (any of you) speaks that which is false, he speaks after the manner of his kindred (ἐκ τῶν ἰδίων!), for he is a liar, and so also is his father,” i.e. the devil. To which the late Prof. Scholefield proposes an emendation, to take away the comma after ἐστίν, and translate, “For his father also is a liar,” not knowing, apparently, that this was the ancient heretical interpretation according to which the πατὴρ αὐτοῦ was the Demiurge: see Meyer, edn. 3, and Hilgenfeld, referred to by him as supporting this rendering. It is really almost incredible that learned men, students of our Lord’s discourses, should seriously uphold an interpretation so utterly absurd and preposterous. It is only an instance how the judgment may be warped by the adoption of canons respecting the article grounded on insufficient observation. The instances which Middleton adduces to prove that according to the ordinary rendering, the article must be omitted before πατήρ, none of them touch the question. The article here is emphatic, and could not be omitted, any more than in the sentence ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ἄρτος τῆς ζωῆς. The simple account to be given of this construction, is that it = ὅτι ψεύστης ἐστίν, καὶ ὁ πατὴρ αὐτῶν: but by ψεύστης being singular, the pronoun is attracted into the singular also.
45.] ‘And the very reason why ye do not believe Me (as contrasted with him) is, because I speak the truth;—you not being of the truth, but of him who is falsehood itself.’ This implies a charge of wilful striving against known and recognized truth. Euthymius fills up the context—εἰ μὲν ἔλεγον ψεῦδος, ἐπιστεύσατέ μοι ἄν, ὡς τὸ ἴδιον τοῦ πατρὸς ὑμῶν λέγοντι: see ch. 5:43.
46.] ἁμαρτία here is strictly sin: not ‘error in argument,’ or ‘falsehood.’ These two latter meanings are found in classical Greek, but never in the N.T. or LXX. And besides, they would introduce in this most solemn part of our Lord’s discourse, a vapid tautology. The question is an appeal to His sinlessness of life, as evident to them all,—as a pledge for His truthfulness of word: which word asserted, be it remembered, that He was sent from God. And when we recollect that He who here challenges men to convict him of sin, never could have upheld outward spotlessness merely (see Matthew 23:26-28), the words amount to a declaration of His absolute sinlessness, in thought, word, and deed. Or, the connexion may be as stated by Euthym.: εἰ μὴ διότι τὴν ἀλήθειαν λέγω ἀπιστεῖτέ μοι, εἴπατε, τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν ἐλέγχει με περὶ ἁμαρτίας ὑπʼ ἐμοῦ γενομένης, ἵνα δόξητε διʼ ἐκείνην ἀπιστεῖν