John 17:25
O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.
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(25) O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee.—Better, . . . the world indeed knew Thee not. In these closing words of His prayer, our Lord again solemnly appeals to the Father (comp. Notes on John 17:1; John 17:5; John 17:11), but now with the special thought of the Father’s righteousness. This thought follows upon the prayer that those whom the Father had given Him may be where He is, and behold the divine glory; and the connection seems to be in the thought that sinful humanity cannot see God and live. The world, indeed, knew not God (comp. John 15:21; John 16:3), but the Son knew God, and the disciples had recognised that He had been sent by God, and in their knowledge of Him had passed through a moral’ change, by which they were no longer of the world, but were sons of God (John 1:12).



John 17:20 - John 17:26

The remainder of this prayer reaches out to all generations of believers to the end. We may incidentally note that it shows that Jesus did not anticipate a speedy end of the history of the world or the Church; and also that it breathes but one desire, that for the Church’s unity, as though He saw what would be its greatest peril. Characteristic, too, of the idealism of this Gospel is it that there is no name for that future community. It is not called ‘church,’ or ‘congregation,’ or the like-it is ‘them also that believe on Me through their word,’ a great spiritual community, held together by common faith in Him whom the Apostles preached. Is not that still the best definition of Christians, and does not such a conception of it correspond better to its true nature than the formal abstraction, ‘the Church’?

We can but touch in the most inadequate fashion the profound words of this section of the prayer which would take volumes to expound fitly. We note that it contains four periods, in each of which something is asked or stated, and then a purpose to be attained by the petition or statement is set forth.

First comes the prayer for unity and what the answer to it will effect {John 17:21}. Now in this verse the unity of believers is principally regarded as resulting from the inclusion, if we may so say, of them all in the ineffable union of the Father and the Son. Jesus prays that ‘they may all be one,’ and also ‘that they also may be in us’ {Rev. Ver.}. And their unity is no mere matter of formal external organisation nor of unanimity of creed, or the like, but it is a deep, vital unity. The pattern of it is the unity of the Father and the Son, and the power that brings it about is the abiding of all believers ‘in us.’ The result of such a manifestation in the world of a multitude of men, in all of whom one life evidently moves, fusing their individualities while retaining their personalities, will be the world’s conviction of the divine mission of Jesus. The world was beginning to feel its convictions moving slowly in that direction, when it exclaimed: ‘Behold how these Christians love one another!’ The alienation of Christians has given barbs and feathers to its arrows of scorn. But it is ‘the unity of the Spirit,’ not that of a, great corporation, that Christ’s prayer desires.

The petitions for what would be given to believers passes for a moment into a statement of what Jesus had already given to them. He had begun the unifying gift, and that made a plea for its perfecting. The ‘glory’ which He had given to these poor bewildered Galilaeans was but in a rudimentary stage; but still, wherever there is faith in Him, there is some communication of His life and Spirit, and some of that veiled and yet radiant glory, ‘full of grace and truth,’ which shone through the covering when the Incarnate Word ‘became flesh.’ It is the Christ-given Christ-likeness in each which knits believers into one. It is Christ in us and we in Christ that fuses us into one, and thereby makes each perfect. And such flashing back of the light of Jesus from a million separate crystals, all glowing with one light and made one in the light, would flash on darkest eyes the lustre of the conviction that God sent Christ, and that God’s love enfolded those Christlike souls even as it enfolded Him.

Again {John 17:24} comes a petition with its result. And here there is no mention of the effect of the answer on the world. For the moment the thoughts of isolation in, and a message to, the world fade away. The partially-possessed ‘glory’ seems to have led on Christ’s thoughts to the calm home of perfection waiting for Him who was ‘not of the world’ and was sent into it, and for the humble ones who had taken Him for Lord. ‘I will that’-that is a strange tone for a prayer. What consciousness on Christ’s part does it involve? The disciples are not now called ‘them that should believe on Me,’ but ‘that which Thou hast given Me,’ the individuals melt into the great whole. They are Christ’s, not merely by their faith or man’s preaching, but by the Father’s gift. And the fact of that gift is used as a plea with Him, to ‘perfect that which concerneth’ them, and to complete the unity of believers with Jesus by bringing them to be ‘with Him’ in His triumphant session at the right hand. To ‘behold’ will be the same as to share His glory, not only that which we beheld when He tabernacled among us, but that which He had in the pouring out on Him of God’s love ‘before the foundation of the world.’ Our dim eyes cannot follow the happy souls as they are lost in the blaze, but we know that they walk in light and are like Him, for they ‘see Him as He is.’

The last statement {John 17:25 - John 17:26} is not petition but vow, and, to our ears, promise. The contrast of the world and believers appears for the last time. What made the world a ‘world’ was its not knowing God; what made believers isolated in, and having an errand to, the world, was that they ‘knew’ {not merely ‘believed,’ but knew by experience} that Jesus had been sent from God to make known His name. All our knowledge of God comes through Him; it is for us to recognise His divine mission, and then He will unveil, more and more, with blessed continuity of increasing knowledge, the Name, and with growing knowledge of it growing measures of God’s love will be in us, and Jesus Himself will ‘dwell in our hearts by faith’ more completely and more blessedly through an eternity of wider knowledge and more fervent love.

John 17:25-26. O righteous Father — Faithful and just, as well as merciful. When he prayed that believers might be sanctified, he called him holy Father: but now, praying that they might be glorified, he terms him righteous Father: for it is a crown of righteousness which the righteous Judge will give, and the admission of believers into the presence of God, through Christ, flows, not only from the mercy, but even from the justice of God. The world hath not known thee — The world, being ignorant of thy nature and perfections, and of thy gracious counsels for the salvation of mankind, has rejected me; yet I have known thee — Have been perfectly acquainted with thy counsels and designs, and have accordingly directed the whole of my ministrations to thy glory. And these have known that thou hast sent me — And therefore have believed in me as the Messiah, a truth which they will courageously assert at the expense of their lives; which is the reason I am so solicitous that they should behold the glory thou hast given me. And I have declared to them thy name — Have made them acquainted with thy nature, perfections, and counsels, and especially thy new best name of love; and I will declare it — Still more fully, both by my word and by my Spirit; that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them — That their graces and services may be more eminent, as an evidence of thy unspeakable love to them; and that I also may take up my constant residence in them by my spiritual presence, when my bodily presence is removed, as it will quickly be.

17:24-26 Christ, as one with the Father, claimed on behalf of all that had been given to him, and should in due time believe on him, that they should be brought to heaven; and that there the whole company of the redeemed might behold his glory as their beloved Friend and Brother, and therein find happiness. He had declared and would further declare the name or character of God, by his doctrine and his Spirit, that, being one with him, the love of the Father to him might abide with them also. Thus, being joined to Him by one Spirit, they might be filled with all the fulness of God, and enjoy a blessedness of which we can form no right idea in our present state.Hath not known thee - See the notes at John 17:3. 25. O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee—knew thee not.

but I have known thee—knew thee.

and these have known—knew.

that thou hast sent—sentest

me—As before He said "Holy Father," when desiring the display of that perfection on His disciples (Joh 17:11), so here He styles Him "Righteous Father," because He is appealing to His righteousness or justice, to make a distinction between those two diametrically opposite classes—"the world," on the one hand, which would not "know the Father, though brought so nigh to it in the Son of His love, and, on the other, Himself, who recognized and owned Him, and even His disciples, who owned His mission from the Father.

It is observed, that the servants of God, in holy writ, have used in their prayers to give unto God such compellations as have been suitable to the things which they have begged of God in their prayers, and proper to express their faith in God, for the hearing of such their prayers: Christ here calls his Father by the name of

righteous, with relation to the argument which he here useth, which is from his disciples knowledge of him; under which term (as very often before) is comprehended their acceptance of him, believing in him, love to him, &c. Father, saith he, thou art righteous; it is a piece of thy righteousness to render to every man according to his work, Job 34:11 Psalm 62:12 Proverbs 24:12.

The world hath not known thee; the men of the world hate thee, are ignorant of thee, rebellious against thee;

but I have known thee; I have known thee, and have made thee known, and I have been obedient to thy will; and these my disciples have known me, and known, that is, received, embraced me, as one sent by thee, as the Messiah.

O righteous Father,.... God is righteous in all the divine persons: the Father is righteous, the Son is righteous, and the Holy Spirit is righteous: he is so in his nature; righteousness is a perfection of it; he is so in all his purposes and promises; in all his ways and works of providence and grace; in predestination, redemption, justification, pardon of sin, and eternal glory. Christ makes use of this epithet, as containing a reason why he might justly expect that all his petitions and claims, on behalf of himself and people, would be regarded:

the world hath not known thee; the unbelieving Jews, and idolatrous Gentiles, wicked men, one or another, know not God: as not the Father, so neither the Son, nor Spirit; though deity may be known by them, or that there is a God, yet they know not God in Christ, nor as the Father of Christ, or as their Father in him, nor what it is to have communion with him; nor do they know any of the things of God in a spiritual way; which shows the darkness and blindness of men by nature, the necessity of a divine illumination, and the miserable state of men without one:

but I have known thee; his nature, perfections and glory, his secret thoughts, purposes and designs, his covenant, promises and blessings, his love, grace and good will to his people, his whole mind and will; as he needs must, since he was one with him, and lay in his bosom;

and these have known that thou hast sent me; meaning his disciples and apostles, whom he distinguishes from the world; these knew the Father that sent him, and that he was sent by the Father; they knew the love of the Father in sending of him, the manner in which he was sent, and the end, man's redemption, for which he was sent; and acknowledged all this, and which laid them under an obligation to trust in him, love him, and magnify his grace; and is used by Christ as an argument with the Father to be concerned for them.

O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.
John 17:25-26. Conclusion of the prayer: Appeal to the justice of God, for, after that which Jesus here states of Himself and of the disciples in opposition to the world, it becomes the righteous Father not to leave ungranted what Jesus has just declared, John 17:24, to be His will (θέλω, ἵνα, κ.τ.λ.). Otherwise the final recompense would fail to come, which the divine justice (1 John 1:9) has to give to those who are so raised, as expressed in John 17:25, above the world; the work of divine holiness, John 17:11, would remain without its closing judicial consummation and revelation.

καὶ ὁ κόσμος, κ.τ.λ.] The apparent want of appropriateness of the καί, from which also its omission in D. Vulg. et al., is to be explained, is not removed by placing, with Grotius and Lachmann, only a comma after John 17:24, and allowing καὶ ὁ κόσμος σε οὐκ ἔγνω to run with what precedes, since this thought does not fit into this logical connection, and the address πάτερ δίκαιε, according to the analogy of John 17:11, leads us to recognise the introductory sentence of a prayer. According to Bengel and Ebrard, καὶκαί, et … et, correspond to one another, which, however, does not allow either of the antithetic character of the conceptions, or of the manifest reference of the second καί to ἐγὼ δέ. Following Heumann, De Wette, Lücke, Tholuck make καί correspond to the following δέ, so that two relations occurring at the same time, but of opposite, kinds,[204] would be indicated: “whilst the world knew Thee not, yet I knew Thee.” Not to be justified on grammatical grounds; for τέδέ (Kühner, II. p. 418; Hartung, Partikell. I. p. 92 f.; Klotz, ad Devar. p. 741 f.), but never καίδέ, is thus employed, and the passages of that kind adduced by Lücke from Plato, Menex. p. 235 E (where καὶ ἄλλους means also others), and Eryx. p. 393 E (where καὶ ἐλάχιστα is only even the least), are not in point; in other passages (as Soph. Ant. 428) καί is the simply connective and, without reference to the subsequent δέ. The καί in the present passage is rather the and serving to link on an antithetic relation (and notwithstanding), and is of very frequent occurrence, particularly in John, see on John 7:28. Had Jesus said: πάτερ, δίκαιος εἶ, καὶ ὁ κόσμος, κ.τ.λ., then καί would have been free from any difficulty. Nevertheless, the connection and its expression is the same. Christ is, in the address πάτερ δίκαιε, absorbed in the thought of the justice of God now invoked by Him, the thought, therefore, of this self-revelation of God, which was so easily to be recognised (Romans 1:18 ff.), in spite of which the world, in its blinded security, has not known Him (comp. Romans 1:28), and gives expression to this latter thought in painfully excited emotion (Chrysostom: δυσχεραίνων), immediately connecting it by καί with the address. After πάτ. δίκαιε we may suppose a pause, a break in the thought: Righteous Father—(yea, such Thou art!) and (and yet) the world knew Thee not![205] Luthardt also, with Brückner’s concurrence, takes ΚΑΊ as and yet, but so that it stands in opposition to the revelation of God through Christ previously (see John 17:22) stated. Too indefinite, and leaving without reason the characteristic πάτερ δίκαιε out of reference.

ἜΓΝΩ] namely, from Thy proofs in my words and deeds; ἜΓΝΩΝ, on the other hand (Nonnus: ΣΎΜΦΥΤΟς ἜΓΝΩΝ), refers to the immediate knowledge which the Son had in His earthly life of the Father moving in Him, and revealing Himself through Him. Comp. John 8:54-55. Not without reason does Jesus introduce His ἘΓῺ ΔΈ ΣΕ ἜΓΝΩΝ between the ΚΌΣΜΟς and the disciples, because He wills that the disciples should be where He is (John 17:24), which, however, presupposes a relative relation of equality between Him and them, as over against the world.

ΟὟΤΟΙ] Glancing at the disciples.

ὍΤΙ ΣΎ ΜΕ ἈΠΈΣΤ]. The specific element, the central point of the knowledge of God, of which the discourse treats; ΔΕΊΚΝΥΣΙΝ ἘΝΤΑῦΘΑ, ΜΗΔΈΝΑ ΕἸΔΟΤΑ ΘΕῸΝ, ἈΛΛʼ Ἢ ΜΌΝΟΝ ΤΟῪς ΥἹῸΝ ἘΠΕΓΝΩΚΌΤΑς Chrysostom. Comp. John 17:8; John 17:23; John 16:27, et al.

John 17:26. Whereby this ἔγνωσαν has been effected (comp. John 17:7), and will be completely effected (ΓΝΩΡΊΣΩ, through the Paraclete: ΚΑῚΚΑΊ, both … and also), that (purpose of the γνωρίσω) the love with which Thou hast loved me (comp. John 17:24) may be in them, i.e. may rule in their hearts,[206] and therewith—for Christ, communicating Himself through the Spirit, is the supporter of the divine life in believers (John 14:20 ff.; Romans 8:10; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 3:17),

I in them. On ἀγάπην ἀγαπᾶν, see on Ephesians 2:4. So rich in promise and elevating with the simply grand “and I in them,” resounds the word of prayer, and in the whole ministry and experience of the apostles was it fulfilled. As nothing could separate them from the love of God in Christ (Romans 8:39), Christ thus remained in them through the Spirit, and they have conquered far and wide through Him who loved them.

[204] Hence also the reading: εἰ καὶ ὁ κ. σ. οὐκ ἔγνω, ἀλλʼ ἐγὼ, κ.τ.λ., which is found not merely in Hippolytus, but also in the Constitt. Ap. 8. 1. 1.

[205] This interpretation is followed also by Hengstenberg. But Ewald places καὶ ὁ κόσμος to γνωρίσω, ver. 26, in a parenthesis, and then takes ἵνα ἡ ἀγάπη, κ.τ.λ., still as the contents of θέλε, ver. 24. How broken thus becomes the calm, clear flow of the prayer! According to Baeumlein, the parallel clauses would properly be καὶ ἐγὼ σὲ ἔγνων καὶ οὕτοι ἔγνωσαν; but there is interpolated before the first clause an opposite clause, which properly should have μέν, so that then the main thought follows with δέ. Alike arbitrary, but yet more contorted, is the arrangement of Godet.

[206] Comp. Romans 5:5. Bengel aptly remarks: “ut cor ipsorum theatrum sit et palaestra hujus amoris,” namely, διὰ πνεύματος ἁγίου, Rom. l.c. According to Hengstenberg (comp. also Weiss, p. 80), Jesus merely intends to say: “that Thou mayest love them with the love with which Thou hast loved me.” But this does not suit the expression ἐν αὐτοῖς ᾖ, neither in itself nor in the parallel relation to κἀγὼ ἐν αὐτοῖς. An inward efficacious presence must be thereby intended.


The originality of the high-priestly prayer stands upon the same footing with that of the longer discourses of Jesus generally in the Evangelist John. The substance of the contents is original, but the reproduction and vivid remodelling, such as could not come forth from the Johannean individuality, with which the recollection had grown up, otherwise than with quite a Johannean stamp. Along with this, however, in reference to contents and form, considering the peculiarly profound impression which the prayer of this solemn moment must necessarily have made upon the spirit and memory of that very disciple, a superior degree of fidelity of recollection and power of reddition must be assumed. How often may these last solemn words have stirred the soul of John! To this corresponds also the self-consciousness, as childlike as it is simple and clear in its elevation, the victorious rest and peace of this prayer, which is the noblest and purest pearl of devotion in the whole of the N. T. “For so plainly and simply it sounds, so deep, rich, and wide it is, that none can fathom it,” Luther. Spener never ventured to preach upon it, because he felt that its true understanding exceeded the ordinary measure of faith; but he caused it to be read to him three times on the evening before his death, see his Lebensbeschr. by Canstein, p. 145 ff. The contrary view, that it is a later idealizing fiction of a dogmatic and metaphysical kind (Bretschneider, Strauss, Weisse, Baur, Scholten), is indeed a necessary link in the chain of controversy on the originality of the Johannean history generally, but all the more untenable, the more unattainable, the depth, tenderness, intensity, and loftiness, as is here sustained from beginning to end, must have been for a later inventor. But to deny the inward truth and splendour of the prayer (see especially Weisse, II. p. 294), is a matter evincing a critically corrupt taste and judgment. The conflict of soul in Gethsemane, so soon after this prayer which speaks of overcoming the world and of peace, is indeed, considering the pure humanity of Jesus (which was not forced into stoical indifference), psychologically too conceivable, not, indeed, as a voluntarily assumed representation of all the horrors of death from the sin of the world (Hengstenberg), but rather from the change of feelings and dispositions in the contemplation of death, and of such a death, to be made to pass as an historical contradiction to chap. 17 See on Matt., note after Matthew 26:46. John himself relates nothing of the crisis of the conflict of soul; but this is connected with his peculiarity in the selection of the evangelical material in general, and he might be determined in this matter particularly by the account already given of the similar fact, John 12:23 ff., which he only adduces, whilst that conflict of soul was already a common property of Scriptural tradition (comp. also Hebrews 5:7), which he as little needed to repeat as the institution of the Lord’s Supper and many other things. That that conflict of soul had not for John the importance and historic reality which it had for the Synoptics, is considering the free selection which he has made out of the rich material of his recollection, a hasty conclusion (in answer to Baur, in the Theol. Jahrb. 1854, p. 224). The historic reality of the Gospel facts, if nothing essential is otherwise opposed to them, is not affected by the silence of John.

John 17:25. Πάτερ δίκαιε, “Righteous Father”. The appeal is now to God’s justice; “ut tua bonitas me miserat servandsn si qua fieri potuisset, omnibus; ita tui, justitia non patietur ob quorundam iacredulitatem frustrari vota credentium”. Erasmus. The Father’s justice is appealed to, that the believing may not share the fate of the unbelieving world καὶ ὁ κόσμος Elsner translates “quamvis,” and Lampe says all difficulty thus disappears. But Elsner’s examples are irrelevant. Meyer renders “Righteous Father—(yea, such Thou art!) and (and yet) the world knew Thee not.” Simcox suggests that the first καί is correlative not to the immediately following δέ, but to the second καί, the effect being something like: “While the world knew Thee not, though I knew Thee, these on their part knew”.… Similarly Westcott; “it serves to coordinate the two main clauses.… The force of it is as if we were to say: Two facts are equally true; it is true that the world knew Thee not; it is true that these knew that Thou didst send me.” May the καί not be intended to connect this clause with the preceding ὅτικόσμου, and to mark the contrast between the love that was in God before the foundation of the world and the world’s ignorance of Him, and especially of His love? But “I knew Thee and these knew,” etc. They did not know God directly as Christ did, but they knew they could accept Him as the Revealer of God. And to them who were willing to receive my message, because they knew I was sent by Thee, I made known Thy name and will make it known by my death (Weiss) and by sending the Spirit of truth (Westcott). The end in view in this manifestation by Christ was that the love with which the Father had loved the Son might rest on the disciples. ἵνα ἡ ἀγάπη ἣν ἠγάπησάς με. The construction is found in Ephesians 2:4, and is frequent in the classics; ἡ κρίσις ἣν ἐκρίθη, Lysias; τῇ νίκῃ ἣν ἐνίκησε, Arrian.—See Kypke. κἀγὼ ἐν αὐτοῖς. This is the end and crown of all. That He should desire this intimate communion with men, and should seek above all else to live in and through His disciples, is surprising proof of His love.

25, 26. Summary

25. righteous Father] The epithet (comp. John 17:11) harmonizes with the appeal to the justice of God which follows, which is based on a simple statement of the facts. The world knew not God; Christ knew Him; the disciples knew that Christ was sent by Him. ‘Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?’

hath not known] Better, knew not. So also ‘have known’ should in both cases be knew, and ‘hast sent’ should be didst send. The verbs are all aorists. The conjunction kai before ‘the world’ may be rendered ‘indeed,’ meaning ‘it is true the world knew Thee not, but yet &c.’ Translate; the world Indeed knew Thee not, but I knew Thee.

John 17:25. Πάτερ δίκαιε, Righteous Father) It is from His righteousness that the admission of believers, as contrasted with the world, to God through Christ flows: καὶ, καὶ, both, and.

Verse 25. - The prayer is thus over, and once more the great High Priest and Victim declares concerning himself some of the mysteries of his Person and of his relation with his disciples and with the world. O righteous Father (cf. Vers. 1, 5, Πάτερ simply; Ver. 11, πάτερ α{γιε; Ver. 24, Πάτερ without any characterization). The righteousness of God is a more exalted perfection than his holiness, one that might seem more at variance with the exercise of his paternal compassion; yet this righteousness is conspicuously displayed in the redemptive love which Christ had thus manifested, and the beloved disciple (1 John 1:9) declares that God is faithful and "righteous" in forgiving the repentant sinner. The blending of the idea of righteousness with Fatherhood is the sublime revelation made by the Lord Jesus, and he gathers the two ideas together into an indissoluble unity. Justice and mercy are seen by the whole work of the Son of God to have been the outflow and effulgence of the one all-comprehending and infinite love. The καὶ that here follows has created some difficulty, though some manuscripts emit it (D and Vulgate), probably in consequence of its inappropriateness; but it is received on strong ancient authority. Meyer and Hengstenberg take it thus: Righteous Father (yea, such thou art), and (yet) the world knew thee not. But would our Lord have hesitated, as it were, to express this truth, without justifying it against the unbelief of the world? Moulton tries to explain the simple adversative force of the καὶ and δὲ by "both the world learned not to know thee, but I learned to know thee." Godet has expressed the καὶ more effectively by translating, The world, it is true, knew thee not, but I knew thee. The Revised Version has, with the Authorized Version, simply omitted the καὶ. It is one of the most solemn of the Lord's condemnations of the κόσμος. The Apostle Paul said (1 Corinthians 1:21), "The world through its wisdom knew not God;" and in Romans 1:18-23 he shows that this ignorance was willful and practical and without excuse. The history of the struggling of the world after God has shown how dense the human darkness is. There have been signs that men groped after the idea of a Father who should be blind to their faults and indifferent to their follies, and utter a righteous Lord who has exalted righteousness and hated iniquity; but it was left for Christ to blend these apparently discordant beams into the radiance of a perfect glory. How many illustrations do the sad and shameless perversions of human intelligence supply! But I knew thee, because of the eternity of that ineffable love wherewith thou hast loved me, and because of the depth of that righteous love which thou hast manifested to the world in sending me upon my mission. And these knew - came to know by personal intuition - that thou didst send me (cf. John 16:27, and Vers. 8, 23) on the mission of redeeming the world. They have learned that I have come with all thy authority and in all thy power; that I have come out from thee; that I entered into the world; that I have glorified thee among men; that my thoughts are thy thoughts, and my "words" (ῤημάτα) are thy (Logos) "Word;" that my works of love are the works of the Father; and that my promises are the manifestation of thy Name to the men whom thou hast given me. John 17:25
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