John 18:37
Pilate therefore said to him, Are you a king then? Jesus answered, You say that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Every one that is of the truth hears my voice.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(37) Art thou a king then?—The sentence is both a question and an inference from the word “kingdom” of the previous verse. There is a strong emphasis, and it may be sarcasm, expressed in the pronoun, “Does it not follow then that Thou art a king?”

Thou sayest that I am a king.—Or, perhaps, Thou sayest; for I am a king. (Comp. Matthew 26:25.)

To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world.—Better, Unto this end have I been born, and unto this end am I come unto the world. Our translators have rendered the same Greek words by different English words—“To this end,” “for this cause,” intending probably that the first phrase should be understood of the words which precede, and the second of those which follow: “To this end (that I may be a king) was I born, and for this (that I may bear witness unto the truth) came I into the world.” Had this been the meaning, it would have been almost certainly expressed by the usual distinction in Greek; and in the absence of any such distinction, the natural interpretation is, “To be king have I been born, and to be a king came I into the world, in order that I may bear witness unto the truth.” The birth and the entrance into the world both refer to the Incarnation, but make emphatic the thought that the birth in time of Him who existed with the Father before all time, was the manifestation in the world of Him who came forth from the Father. This thought of “coming into the world” is frequent in St. John. (Comp. especially John 10:36; John 16:28.)

That I should bear witness unto the truth.—Comp. Note on John 1:8. He has indeed a kingdom, and He came into the world to be a king; but His rule is that of the majesty of Truth, and His kingdom is to be established by His witness of the eternal truth which He had known with His Father, and which He alone could declare to man. (Comp. Notes on John 1:18; John 16:13.) He came to be a witness—a martyr—to the truth, and to send forth others to be witnesses and martyrs to the same truth, through the Holy Spirit, who should guide them into all truth. Such was His kingdom; such the power by which it was to rule. It was not of this world: it possessed neither land nor treasury, neither senate nor legions, neither consuls nor procurators; but it was to extend its sceptre over all the kingdoms of the earth.

Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.—He has spoken of His kingdom. Who are its subjects, and what its power over them? Every one is included who, following the light which God has placed in his soul, comes to “the true Light which lighteth every man;” who, made in the image of God, and with capacities for knowing God, seeks truly to know Him; every one who, in an honest and true heart, is of the truth, and-therefore hears the voice of Him who is the Truth. The thought is familiar to us from the earlier chapters of the Gospel. (Comp. e.g., John 3:21; John 7:17; John 8:47; John 10:16.)

18:33-40 Art thou the King of the Jews? that King of the Jews who has been so long expected? Messiah the Prince; art thou he? Dost thou call thyself so, and wouldest thou be thought so? Christ answered this question with another; not for evasion, but that Pilate might consider what he did. He never took upon him any earthly power, never were any traitorous principles or practices laid to him. Christ gave an account of the nature of his kingdom. Its nature is not worldly; it is a kingdom within men, set up in their hearts and consciences; its riches spiritual, its power spiritual, and it glory within. Its supports are not worldly; its weapons are spiritual; it needed not, nor used, force to maintain and advance it, nor opposed any kingdom but that of sin and Satan. Its object and design are not worldly. When Christ said, I am the Truth, he said, in effect, I am a King. He conquers by the convincing evidence of truth; he rules by the commanding power of truth. The subjects of this kingdom are those that are of the truth. Pilate put a good question, he said, What is truth? When we search the Scriptures, and attend the ministry of the word, it must be with this inquiry, What is truth? and with this prayer, Lead me in thy truth; into all truth. But many put this question, who have not patience to preserve in their search after truth; or not humility enough to receive it. By this solemn declaration of Christ's innocence, it appears, that though the Lord Jesus was treated as the worst of evil-doers, he never deserved such treatment. But it unfolds the design of his death; that he died as a Sacrifice for our sins. Pilate was willing to please all sides; and was governed more by worldly wisdom than by the rules of justice. Sin is a robber, yet is foolishly chosen by many rather than Christ, who would truly enrich us. Let us endeavour to make our accusers ashamed as Christ did; and let us beware of crucifying Christ afresh.Art thou a king then? - Dost thou admit the charge in any sense, or dost thou lay claim to a kingdom of any kind?

Thou sayest ... - This is a form of expression denoting affirmation. It is equivalent to yes.

That I am a king - This does not mean simply that Pilate affirmed that he was a king; it does not appear that he had done this; but it means, "Thou affirmest the truth; thou declarest what is correct, for I am a king." I am a king in a certain sense, and do not deny it.

To this end ... - Compare John 3:11-12, etc. Jesus does not here affirm that he was born to reign, or that this was the design of his coming; but it was to bear witness to and to exhibit the truth. By this he showed what was the nature of his kingdom. It was not to assert power; not to collect armies; not to subdue nations in battle. It was simply to present truth to men, and to exercise dominion only by the truth. Hence, the only power put forth in restraining the wicked, in convincing the sinner, in converting the heart, in guiding and leading his people, and in sanctifying them, is that which is produced by applying truth to the mind. Men are not forced or compelled to be Christians. They are made to see that they are stoners, that God is merciful, that they need a Redeemer, and that the Lord Jesus is fitted to their case, and yield themselves then wholly to his reign. This is all the power ever used in the kingdom of Christ, and no men in his church have a right to use any other. Alas! how little have persecutors remembered this! And how often, under the pretence of great regard for the kingdom of Jesus, have bigots attempted by force and flames to make all men think as they do! We see here the importance which Jesus attached to truth. It was his sole business in coming into the world. He had no other end than to establish it. We therefore should value it, and seek for it as for hid treasures, Proverbs 23:23.

Every one ... - See John 8:47.

37. Art thou a king then?—There was no sarcasm or disdain in this question (as Tholuck, Alford, and others, allege), else our Lord's answer would have been different. Putting emphasis upon "thou," his question betrays a mixture of surprise and uneasiness, partly at the possibility of there being, after all, something dangerous under the claim, and partly from a certain awe which our Lord's demeanor probably struck into him.

Thou sayest that I am a king—It is even so.

To this end was I—"have I been."

born and for this cause came I—am I come.

into the world, that I may bear witness to the truth—His birth expresses His manhood; His coming into the world, His existence before assuming humanity: The truth, then, here affirmed, though Pilate would catch little of it, was that His Incarnation was expressly in order to the assumption of Royalty in our nature. Yet, instead of saying, He came to be a King, which is His meaning, He says He came to testify to the truth. Why this? Because, in such circumstances it required a noble courage not to flinch from His royal claims; and our Lord, conscious that He was putting forth that courage, gives a turn to His confession expressive of it. It is to this that Paul alludes, in those remarkable words to Timothy: "I charge thee before God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who, in the presence of Pontius Pilate, witnessed the good confession" (1Ti 6:13). This one act of our Lord's life, His courageous witness-bearing before the governor, was selected as an encouraging example of the fidelity which Timothy ought to display. As the Lord (says Olshausen beautifully) owned Himself the Son of God before the most exalted theocratic council, so He confessed His regal dignity in presence of the representative of the highest political authority on earth.

Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice—Our Lord here not only affirms that His word had in it a self-evidencing, self-recommending power, but gently insinuated the true secret of the growth and grandeur of His kingdom—as A Kingdom of truth, in its highest sense, into which all souls who have learned to live and count all things but loss for the truth are, by a most heavenly attraction, drawn as into their proper element; THE King of whom Jesus is, fetching them in and ruling them by His captivating power over their hearts.

Art thou a king then? Pilate seems to have spoken this rather in derision and mockery, than out of any desire to catch him in his words. Christ neither owneth himself to be a king, nor yet denieth it, but tells Pilate that he said so; and to this end he was born, and for this cause he came into the world, to bear testimony to the truth: i.e. I cannot deny but that I have a spiritual kingdom, that is truth, and I must attest the truth; it was a part of my errand into the world; and every one who is by Divine grace disposed to believe and love the truth, will hear and obey my doctrine. Pilate therefore said unto him,.... Upon this free and full declaration of Christ, concerning his kingly office, and the nature of his kingdom:

art thou a king then? or thou art a king then: for, from his having a kingdom, it might be very justly inferred that he was a king:

Jesus answered, thou sayest that I am a king; and which was very rightly said; and Christ by these words owns and confesses, that he was one: adding,

to this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. The end of Christ's being born, which was of a virgin, in a very miraculous manner, and of his coming into the world, which was by the assumption of human nature, among many other things, was to bear testimony to truth in general; to the whole Gospel, the word of truth, and every branch of it, which he brought with him, constantly preached in life, and confirmed by his death; and particularly to this truth, that he was a King, and had a kingdom in a spiritual sense:

everyone that is of the truth; that is of God, belongs to the sheep of Christ, knows the truth as it is in Jesus, and is on the side of truth, and stands by it:

heareth my voice; the voice of his Gospel; and that not only externally, but internally; so as to approve of it, rejoice at it, and distinguish it; and the voice of his commands, so as cheerfully to obey them from a principle of love to him.

Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
John 18:37. A βασιλεία Jesus had actually ascribed to Himself in John 18:36, which Pilate certainly did not expect; hence he asks, in surprise and not without a flash of haughty scorn: Nonne igitur rex tu es? since thou, that is, speakest of thy βασιλεία. On οὐκοῦν, not elsewhere found in the N. T., see Kühner, ad Xen. Mem. Exc. III. p. 517 ff.; Baeumlein, Partik. p. 198. The sentence is an inference, but asking (is it not then true, that thou art a king?) whether the questioned person agrees.

ὅτι] Confirmation of the assertion expressed by σὺ λέγεις (comp. Matthew 26:25).

ἐγώ] Corresponding to the contemptuously emphasized σύ at the end of Pilate’s question, emphasized with noble self-consciousness, and still more emphatically brought into prominence by the ἐγώ, which immediately begins the next sentence (“potens anadiplosis,” Bengel); the repetition of εἰς τοῦτο twice also adds weight.

γεγένν. and ἐλήλ. εἰς τ. κόσμ.] must, according to Grotius, Lücke, and De Wette, designate the birth and the official appearance; a separation which is not justified by the Johannean ἔρχεσθαι εἰς τ. κόσμ., in which the birth is substantially included (John 3:17, John 9:39, John 11:27, John 12:47, John 16:28, John 1:9). The ἐλήλ. εἰς τ. κόσμ. sets forth the birth once again, but in relation to its specific higher nature, as the entrance of the sent of God into the world, so that the divine ἀποστέλλειν εἰς τὸν κόσμον (John 3:17, John 10:36, John 17:18) is correlative.[232] The coming into the world is related to the conception of being born, as the leaving of the world (John 16:28) and going to the Father to the conception of dying.

ἵνα μαρτυρ. τῇ ἀληθ.] He was to bear testimony on behalf of the divine truth; for He had seen and heard it with God. Comp. John 3:11; John 3:32, John 1:17-18.

ὁ ὤν ἐκ τ. ἀληθ.] Genetic designation (comp. on Galatians 3:7) of the adherents of His kingdom; their origin is the divine truth, i.e. their entire spiritual nature is so constituted, that divine truth exercises its formative influence upon them. These are the souls drawn by the Father (John 6:44 ff.), and given to Christ as His own. Comp. John 8:47. Bengel correctly observes: “Esse ex veritate praecedit, audire sequitur.”

ἀκούει μου τ. φωνῆς] hears from me the voice, i.e. (otherwise, John 12:47), he gives ear to that which I speak, follows my call, command, etc. With this Jesus has declared Himself regarding His kingdom, to the effect partly that He is a king, and with what definition He is so, partly as to what subjects He has; and thus He has completely answered the question; in no sense, however, as Hengstenberg thinks, has He omitted to answer it as too difficult for Pilate’s comprehension, and expressed Himself instead concerning His prophetic office. The πᾶς ὁ ὢν, κ.τ.λ. belongs essentially to the characteristic of His kingdom; a special design, however, entertained in this point, with reference to Pilate (an appeal to his religious consciousness, Chrysostom, Olshausen, Neander; justification as to why Jesus has not more adherents, Calvin; a reminder for Pilate, how he would have to lay hold upon salvation), lies entirely remote from the sense, equally remote with an appeal “a caecitate Pilati ad captum fidelium,” Bengel, or from the judge to the man (Hengstenberg).

[232] Calovius aptly says: Christ was so born, “ut quum antea fuerit apud patrem, in tempore nascendo in mundum venerit, a patre in mundum missus.” Contrary to the words and the context is Scholten’s view, that γεγένν. denotes the premundane procession from God.John 18:37. Pilate understands only so far as to interrupt with Οὐκοῦνσύ; “So then you are a king?” On οὐκοῦν see Klotz’s Devarius, p. 173. To which Jesus replies with the explicit statement: Σὺ λέγειςἐγώ. “Thou sayest.” This, says Schoettgen (Matthew 26:25), is “solennis adfirmantium apud Judaeos formula”; so that ὅτι must be rendered with R.V[92] marg. “because” I am a king. Erasmus, Westcott, Plummer, and others render, “Thou sayest that I am a king,” neither definitely accepting nor rejecting the title. But this interpretation seems impossible in the face of the simple σὺ λέγεις of the synoptists, Matthew 27:2, Mark 15:2, Luke 23:3. We must then render, “Thou art right, for a king I am”. In what sense a king, He explains: ἐγὼ εἰς τοῦτο γεγέννημαι κ. τ. λ. “For this end have I been born, and for this end am I come into the world;” the latter expression, by being added to the former, certainly seems to suggest a prior state. Cf. John 1:9. The end is expressed in ἵνα μαρτυρήσω τῇ ἀληθείᾳ, “that I might witness to the truth,” especially regarding God and His relation to men. The consequence is that every one who belongs to the truth (moral affinity expressed by ἐκ) obeys Him, ἀκούει in a pregnant sense, cf. John 10:8-16. They become His subjects, and form His kingdom, a kingdom of truth. For which Pilate has only impatient scorn: τί ἐστιν ἀλήθεια;—“Tush, what is Aletheia?” It was a kingdom which could not injure the empire. What have I to do with provinces that can yield no tribute, and threaten no armed rebellion?

[92] Revised Version.37. Art thou a king then] The Greek for ‘then’ (oukoun) occurs here only in N.T. The ‘Thou’ is even more emphatic than in John 18:33. The two together give a tone of scorn to the question, which is half an exclamation. ‘So then, Thou art a king!’ Comp. John 1:21.

Thou sayest that, &c.] This may be rendered, Thou sayest (truly); because, &c. But the A. V. is better: Christ leaves the title and explains the nature of His kingdom—the realm of truth.

To this end … for this cause] The Greek for both is the same, and should be rendered in the same way in English; to this end. Both refer to what precedes; not one to what precedes and one to what follows. To be a king, He became incarnate; to be a king, He entered the world.

was I born … came I] Better, have I been born … am I come. Both verbs are perfects and express not merely a past event but one which continues in its effects; Christ has come and remains in the world. The pronoun is very emphatic; in this respect Christ stands alone among men. The verbs point to His previous existence with the Father, although Pilate would not see this. The expression ‘come into the world’ is frequent in S. John (John 1:9, John 9:39, John 11:27, John 16:28): as applied to Christ it includes the notion of His mission (John 3:17, John 10:36, John 12:47; John 12:49, John 17:18).

that I should] This is the Divine purpose of His royal power.

bear witness unto the truth] Not merely ‘witness the truth,’ i.e. give a testimony that is true, but bear witness to the objective reality of the Truth: again, not merely ‘bear witness of,’ i.e. respecting the Truth (John 1:7; John 1:15, John 2:25, John 5:31-39, John 8:13-18, &c.), but ‘bear witness to,’ i.e. in support and defence of the Truth (John 5:33). Both these expressions, ‘witness’ and ‘truth,’ have been seen to be very frequent in S. John (see especially chaps. 1, 3, 5, 8. passim). We have them combined here, as in John 5:33. This is the object of Christ’s sovereignty,—to bear witness to the Truth. It is characteristic of the Gospel that it claims to be ‘the Truth.’ “This title of the Gospel is not found in the Synoptists, Acts, or Apocalypse; but it occurs in the Catholic Epistles (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:22; 2 Peter 2:2) and in S. Paul (2 Thessalonians 2:12; 2 Corinthians 13:8; Ephesians 1:13, &c.). It is specially characteristic of the Gospel and Epistles of S. John.” Westcott, Introduction to S. John, p. 44.

that is of the truth] That has his root in it, so as to draw the power of his life from it. Comp. John 18:36, John 3:31, John 8:47, and especially 1 John 2:21; 1 John 3:19.

“It is of great interest to compare this confession before Pilate with the corresponding confession before the high priest (Matthew 26:64). The one addressed to the Jews is in the language of prophecy, the other addressed to a Roman appeals to the universal testimony of conscience. The one speaks of a future manifestation of glory, the other of a present manifestation of truth … It is obvious how completely they answer severally to the circumstances of the two occasions.” Westcott, in loco.John 18:37. Ἐγώ. ἐγὼ, I. I) A powerful Anadiplosis [The repetition of the same word in the end of the preceding and beginning of the following member of a sentence. Append.]—εἰς τοῦτο, for this) So twice. The first εἰς τοῦτο may be referred to the preceding clause, concerning His being “a King,” in order to intimate that He was born a King: Matthew 2:2, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?” The second may be referred to what follows as to “bearing witness unto the truth.” Comp. οὗτοι, καὶ οὗτοι in Deuteronomy 27:12-13, “These shall stand upon Mount Gerizim to bless—and these upon—Ebal to curse.”—γεγέννημαι, I was born) Herein His human nativity is signified. Pilate was not capable of comprehending His divine Sonship. Yet it is declared here, notwithstanding, that not the whole origin of Jesus is contained in His human nativity, when there is subjoined, I came into the world.—τῇ ἀληθείᾳ, unto the truth) The truth, which previously had been told to the people (Jewish), in His passion is preached to princes also, and to the Gentiles. This then is the crowning point of His preaching. All heard and saw the Christ: the truth was offered even to Pilate. The kingdom of the truth is opposed to the kingdom of this world.—πᾶς, every one) Jesus appeals from the blindness of Pilate to the capability of comprehension existing on the part of believers.—ὁ ὢν ἐκ τῆς ἀληθείας, he who is of the truth) To be of the truth precedes: to hear follows.—ἀκούει, heareth) with pleasure and intelligence. And these are the citizens of the kingdom of Christ.—τῆς φωνῆς, My voice) which is true, in its assertion of My kingdom.Verse 37. - Pilate therefore said to him, Art thou a King then? The precise mean-lug of this exclamation depends on the accentuation of ουκουν - whether it be οὐκοῦν equivalent to igitur, "therefore:" "Therefore on your own showing you are a King!" or whether οὔκουν be the form; then it would have the force of nonne igitur? expecting an affirmative response. It is an ἅπαξ λεγόμενον in the New Testament, but it generally implies an inference and a question expecting agreement with the questioner. Here Pilate flashes out with haughty rebuke. He had satisfied himself that Jesus was no political rival; hut, in wonderment and scorn, he would sound a little deeper the mystery of the kingly claim. It is not a judicial inquiry, but a burst of ironical surprise: So then, after all, thou art a King, even then? wavering between positive and negative reply. Hengstenberg sees neither irony nor scorn in the obsess, but a certain amount of disturbed equanimity. Jesus answered, Thou sayest it, that I am a King. This mode of affirmation is not found in classical Greek or the LXX., but occurs in the New Testament, and in the synoptists also it is given as the great answer of Jesus. Some have translated the ὅτι as "for" or "because," and added "well" and "rightly" to the λέγεις. Thus: Thou sayest well, for I am a King. Hengstenberg and Lampe separate this declaration from what follows, which they interpret exclusively of the prophetic office of Jesus: but the εἰς τοῦτο points backwards as well as forwards, and our Lord accepts that which he proceeds to explain as his royal functions. Westcott, however, says that Jesus neither accepts nor rejects the title of King, but simply reiterates Pilate's words, "Thou sayest that I am a King; I will proceed to explain what I mean by my royal mission." Seeing, however, that our Lord had already implicitly avowed his kingly state, it is far better to discern in the reply an acknowledgment of the inference which Pilate had scornfully drawn (see parallel method of answering the question, "Art thou the Son of God?" Luke 22:70, "Ye say that I am;" ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι compared with Mark 14:62). This is the "good confession" to which St. Paul referred (1 Timothy 6:13). This is the assumption, before the tribunal of the whole world, that he was and would forever remain its true King. To this end have I been born. Γεγέννημαι is an important admission of his true humanity, which Keim and others are unwilling to find in the Fourth Gospel. And to this end have I come into the world. These words are not tautological. In the first clause he asserts his birth as a man, in the second he refers to the state of being which preceded his incarnation (cf. here John 16:28, note), out of which he came, and to which he is now returning. The being "born" of woman is one fact, the "coming into this world" is another which he makes antithetical to his return to the Father. Ἐλήλυθα, present perfect, being used instead of ἤλθον, and implies that his "coming is permanent in its effects, and not simply a past historic fact" (Westcott). In order that I might bear witness unto the truth. This is his supreme claim. There is an absolute reality. God's way of thinking about things is the closest approximation we can make to the concept of "truth per se." In this is comprehended all the reality of the Divine nature and character; all that the eternal God thinks concerning man and the laws which have been given him, and concerning the failure of man to realize God's idea of what he ought to have been; all the absolute fact, just as it really is, of man's peril and his prospects, the actual relations between body and spirit, between the individual and the community; all man's positive need of redemption; all the deep mystery of Christ's own Person and work. These constitute the mighty realm of things, beings, duties, and prospects, which we call truth. Jesus said he had been born and had come into the world in order to bear witness to truth. From John the Baptist's standpoint, that prophet bore witness concerning the light (John 1:7, 8), and, according to the range of his vision, he too (John 5:33) bore "witness to the truth" (i.e. so far as he knew it) of the Christ. Our Lord now solemnly declares that he himself came to bear witness to THE TRUTH in all its amplitude. Hengstenberg sees in these words simply a reference here to the prophetic office of Christ; but the next clause shows that our Lord is actually defining by this claim the extent of the kingdom that is "not from hence" or from this world as its origin. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. To "hear the voice" is to obey as a supreme authority (John 10:8, 16, 27), and the phrase shows how widely the thought ranges. Every mind open to the influence of truth, every one who is set against the unrealities of mere opinion or tradition, who derives life and joy from the realm of reality, every one who therefore knows how different he might be, how much he needs, who is "of God," as the Source and Beginning and Ground of all things. Compare here the remarkable parallel to this sentiment, John rift. 47; and also the words of the high-priestly prayer, "All thine are mine, and mine are thine," and "Those whom thou hast given me are thine; thine they were, and thou gavest them me." The same large embrace of human souls is conspicuous here, Every one that is of the truth heareth the voice of Christ, and will accept his authority as final and supreme. The sublime witness to the truth which he had been bearing, in this manifestation of the Name of the Father, would make the voice of Jesus the imperial and august authority for all who fell how much they needed truth. The Sanhedrists said that "truth is the seal of God," and they played upon the word אמת or "truth," by making it equivalent to the first and middle and last of all things, seeing that ת מ א, are the first, middle, and last of the letters of the alphabet Art thou then (οὐκοῦν εἷ σύ)

The interrogative particle οὐκοῦν, not therefore, occurs only here in the New Testament. It is ironical. In John 18:33 the emphasis is on thou: here upon king. So then, after all, thou art a king.

Was I born - came I((γεγέννημαι - ἐλήλυθα)

Both perfects. Have I been born - am I come. So Rev. The Greek order is I for this have been born, etc., throwing the emphasis on Christ's person and destiny. The perfect describes His birth and coming not merely as historical facts, but as abiding in their results. Compare this confession before Pilate (1 Timothy 6:13) with the corresponding confession before the high-priest (Matthew 26:64). "The one, addressed to the Jews, is framed in the language of prophecy; the other, addressed to a Roman, appeals to the universal testimony of conscience. The one speaks of a future manifestation of glory, the other speaking of a present manifestation of truth. The one looks forward to the Return, the other looks backward to the Incarnation" (Westcott).

Of the truth (ἐκ τῆς ἀληθείας)

Literally, out of: sprung from: whose life and words issue from the truth. See on John 14:6, and compare John 8:47.

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