John 5:31
If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(31) If I bear witness of myself.—This verse is the link between the thoughts of Christ’s person (John 5:17-30) and the witness to Him (John 5:32-40). He can do nothing of Himself (John 5:30), and does not even bear witness of Himself. If He did, it would be on technical grounds not to be credited. He meets the objection then doubtless in their minds, and soon expressed in their words. (Comp. Notes on John 8:13-18.)

John 5:31-35. If I bear witness of myself my witness is not true — Heylin and Wesley read, is not valid; Doddridge, is not [to be admitted as] true; and Campbell, is not to be regarded; observing, “In every country, where there are standing laws, and a regular constitution, there is what is called a forensic, or judicial use of certain words, which differs considerably from familiar use.” Thus the word δικαιος, rendered a just person, (Matthew 27:24,) seems to mean no more than, not guilty of the crime charged. “The like holds of the word αληθης, (here rendered true,) which, when used in reference to the procedure in judicatories, denotes, not what is in itself true, but what is proved, or what is accounted legal proof. Thus it is said, that a man’s testimony of himself is not true. A man may certainly give a true testimony of himself; but, in law, it is not evidence; and is therefore held as untrue. This sense of the word often occurs in this gospel.” As if he had said, I have certainly entered a very high claim, and asserted my dignity in very strong terms, but I do not require any man to believe me merely on the authority of my own testimony. There is another that beareth witness of me — A person of undoubted reputation and veracity. He refers to the testimony of John, given him in the hearing of their own deputies. But at the same time he observed, that the truth of his mission did not depend on human testimony, though it was given by one who was a burning and shining light, and in whom they greatly rejoiced, because the prophetic spirit, which had so long ceased, seemed to be again revived in him. For he proceeds; But I receive not — Or, I have no need to receive; testimony from man: but these things — Concerning John, whom ye yourselves reverence; I say, that ye may be saved — Namely, from that destruction which John foretold would be the portion of those who should reject me. So really and seriously did Christ will their salvation. Yet they were not saved. Most, if not all of them, died in their sins. He was a burning and a shining light — Inwardly burning with love and zeal; outwardly shining with all holiness. Some infer from this expression that the Baptist was now dead; yet he does not seem to have been killed till a little before the third passover. The reason is, the miracle of the loaves, performed in the desert of Bethsaida immediately after word was brought of John’s death, is said to have happened a little before that feast, John 6:4. If so, our Lord’s meaning is, that John was a burning and a shining light, not while he lay in prison, but while his ministry lasted; for during his imprisonment his light may be said to have been extinguished. Accordingly it is added, And ye were willing for a season Προς ωραν, for an hour; to rejoice in his light — Ye hearkened to him with great pleasure, till his credit was impaired in your estimation by his imprisonment. Or the meaning may be, that they did not continue long to manifest that regard for his preaching, which, at his first appearance, they seemed to promise; because his doctrine was too strict and severe to be approved of, or endured long by so carnal and worldly-minded a people.5:30-38 Our Lord returns to his declaration of the entire agreement between the Father and the Son, and declared himself the Son of God. He had higher testimony than that of John; his works bore witness to all he had said. But the Divine word had no abiding-place in their hearts, as they refused to believe in Him whom the Father had sent, according to his ancient promises. The voice of God, accompanied by the power of the Holy Ghost, thus made effectual to the conversion of sinners, still proclaims that this is the beloved Son, in whom the Father is well pleased. But when the hearts of men are full of pride, ambition, and the love of the world, there is no room for the word of God to abide in them.If I bear witness of myself - If I have no other evidence than my own testimony about myself.

My witness - My testimony; my evidence. The proof would not be decisive.

Is not true - The word "true," here, means worthy of belief, or established by suitable evidence. See Matthew 22:16; "We Know that thou art true" - that is, worthy of confidence, or that thou hast been truly sent from God, Luke 20:21; John 8:13, John 8:17. The law did not admit a man to testify in his own case, but required two witnesses, Deuteronomy 17:6. Though what Jesus said was true John 8:13, John 8:17, yet he admitted it was not sufficient testimony alone to claim their belief. They had a right to expect that his statement that he came from God would be confirmed by other evidence. This evidence he gave in the miracles which he performed as proof that God had sent him.

31. If I … witness of myself—standing alone, and setting up any separate interest. This seemeth to contradict what he saith, John 8:14, Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: but our Saviour here speaketh according to the common opinion of the Jews, or indeed of men, who are ready to suspect any one’s testimony who testifieth of himself. He tells them, he could grant them this, though his record of himself was true, yet he could allow them their common received opinion and saying, John 8:13, that the testimony of one testifying of himself is suspicious; for it is certain that a man may testify truth of himself, only such a testimony is suspicious: he tells them, he did not only testify of himself, his reputation did not stand upon his own single word. If I bear witness of myself,.... Which was not allowed any man to do; nor indeed is it proper that a man should be a witness in his own cause: and, according to the Jewish canons, a man might not be a witness for his wife, because she was reckoned as himself.

"An husband is not to be believed in bearing witness for his wife, that had been carried captive, that she is not defiled, , "for no man witness of himself" (k).''

So likewise they say (l),

"a city that is subdued by an army, all the priestesses (or priests' daughters) that are found in it are rejected (from the priesthood, as defiled); but if they have witnesses, whether a servant, or an handmaid, lo, they are to be believed; but no man is to be believed for himself: says R. Zechariah ben Hakatzah, by this habitation (swearing by the temple) her hand was not removed from my hand, from the time the Gentiles entered Jerusalem, till they went out: they replied to him, "no man bears witness of himself".''

Christ reasons here upon their own principles, and according to their sense of things, that should he bear witness of himself; then, says he,

my witness is not true, , not to be believed, or admitted as an authentic testimony: and so the Ethiopic version renders it, "is not credible"; not valid in law, or in such a court of judicature in which Christ now was; for, as according to the Jewish law, no man was admitted a witness for himself, so neither was anything established by a single testimony, but by the mouth of two or three witnesses, Deuteronomy 19:15. Christ's meaning is, that his testimony alone, his single witness, how true soever it was, would stand for nothing in their court; and therefore he would not insist upon it, but drop it; for "true" here, is not opposed to that which is "false", but to that which is not valid in law. Christ's testimony was true in itself; nor could it be any other, it coming from him, who is truth itself, the "Amen", and faithful witness; but being considered as an human testimony, and in his own cause, was not to be admitted as sufficient; and this he allows. From arguments, proving his equality with the Father, he passes to testimonies; and without ranking use of his own, he had enough to produce, and which were valid and authentic, and are as follow.

(k) Maimon. Issure Bia, c. 18. sect. 19. (l) Misn. Cetubot, c. 2. sect. 9. T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 27. 2. Juchasin, fol. 56. 1.

If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not {p} true.

(p) Faithful, that is, worthy to be credited; see Joh 8:14.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
John 5:31. Justification of His witness to Himself from John 5:19 ff., intermingled with denunciation of Jewish unbelief (John 5:31-40), which Jesus continues down to John 5:47.

The connection is not that Jesus now passes on to the τιμή which is due to Him (John 5:23), and demands faith as its true form (Luthardt), for the conception of τιμή does not again become prominent; but ἐπειδὴ τοιαῦτα περὶ ἑαυτοῦ μαρτυρήσας ἔγνω τοὺς Ἰουδαίους ἐνθυμουμένους ἀντιθεῖναι καὶ εἰπεῖν· ὅτι ἐὰν σὺ μαρτυρεῖς περὶ σεαυτοῦ, ἡ μαρτυρία σου οὐκ ἔστιν ἀληθής· οὐδεὶς γὰρ ἑαυτῷ μαρτυρῶν ἀξιόπιστος ἐν ἀνθρώποις διʼ ὑποψίαν φιλαυτίας· προέλαβε καὶ εἶπεν ὃ ἔμελλον εἰπεῖν ἐκεῖνοι, Euthymius Zigabenus. Comp. Chrysostom. Thus at the same time is solved the seeming contradiction with John 8:14.

ἐγώ] emphatic: if a personal witness concerning myself only, and therefore not an attestation from another quarter. Comp. ἄλλος, John 5:32.

οὐκ ἔστιν ἀληθ.] i.e. formally speaking, according to the ordinary rule of law (Chetub. f. 23. 2 : “testibus de se ipsis non credunt,” and see Wetstein). In reality, the relation is different in Christ’s case, see John 8:13-16; but He does not insist upon this here, and we must not therefore understand His words, with Baeumlein, as if He said: εἰ ἐγὼ ἐμαρτύρουνοὐκ ἂν ἦν ἀληθὴς ἡ μαρτυρία μου. Chap. John 8:54-55 also, and 1 Corinthians 4:15; 1 Corinthians 13:1, Galatians 1:8, are not conceived of in this way.John 5:31. Ἐὰν εγὼ μαρτυρῶἀληθής. Jesus anticipates the objection, that these great claims were made solely on His own authority [ἔγνω τοὺς Ἰουδαίους ἐνθυμουμένους ἀντιθεῖναι, Euthym.]. The Jewish law is given by Wetstein, “Testibus de se ipsis non credunt,” or “Homo non est fide dignus de se ipso,” and cf. Deuteronomy 19:15. The same law prevailed among the Greeks, μαρτυρεῖν γὰρ οἱ νόμοι οὐκ ἐῶσιν αὐτὸν ἑαυτῷ (Demosth., De Cor., 2), and among the Romans, “more majorum comparatum est, ut in minimis rebus homines amplissimi testimonium de sua re non dicerent” (Cicero, Proverbs Roscio, 36, Wetstein). Grotius says: “Romani dicunt neminem idoneum testem esse in re sua”. But how can Jesus say that if His witness stands alone it is not true? Chrysostom says He speaks not absolutely but with reference to their suspicion [πρὸς τὴν ἐκείνων ὑπόνοιαν]. And on occasion He can maintain that His testimony of Himself is true, chap. John 8:13, where He says “Though I witness of myself my witness is true,” and demands that He be considered one of the two witnesses required. Here the point of view is different, and He means: Were I standing alone, unauthenticated by the Father, my claims would not be worthy of credit. But ἄλλος ἐστὶν ὁ μαρτυρῶν περὶ ἐμοῦ (on the definite predicate with indefinite subject vide Winer, p. 136). “It is another that beareth witness of me,” namely, the Father [σημαίνει τὸν ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς ὄντα θεὸν καὶ Πατέρα, Cyril, Melanchthon, and the best modern interpreters, Holtzmann, Weiss, Westcott]. Grotius, following Chrysostom and Euthymius, says “facillimum est ut de Johanne sumamus, quia de eo sunt quae proxime sequuntur”. Against this is (1) the disclaimer of John’s testimony, John 5:34; (2) and especially the accentuated opposition of ὑμεῖς, John 5:33, and ἐγώ, John 5:34. For other reasons, see Lücke. Of this witness Jesus says οἶδα ὅτιἐμοῦ. Why this addition? Is it an overflow of satisfaction in the unassailable position this testimony gives Him? Rather it is the offset to the supposition made in John 5:31, “my witness is not true”. [Cyril’s interpretation is inexact, but suggestive: μονονουχὶ τοῦτο διδάσκων, ὅτι Θεὸς ὢν ἀληθινὸς, οἶδα, φησὶν, ἐμαυτὸν, κεχαρισμένον δὲ οὐδὲν ὁ Πατὴρ ἐρεῖ περὶ ἐμοῦ.]31. my witness is not true] Nothing is to be understood; the words are to be taken quite literally: ‘If I bear any witness other than that which My Father bears, that witness of Mine is not true.’ In John 8:14 we have an apparent contradiction to this, but it is only the other side of the same truth: ‘My witness is true because it is really My Father’s.’

31–47. The unbelief of the Jews

31–35. These claims rest not on My testimony alone, nor on that of John, but on that of the Father.John 5:31. Ἐὰν ἐγώ) if I alone. A condition impossible to occur; comp. ch. John 8:16, “Yet if I judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent Me,” with John 5:13, “The Pharisees said, Thou bearest record of Thyself; Thy record is not true.”—ἀληθής) true witness, i.e. sure, incontrovertible.Verse 31. - At this point the Lord proceeds to meet the clamour which most probably arose, the doubt and questioning which broke the silence with which his solemn defence had been received. We can hear between the lines the cries of an excited crowd, declaring that these words are simply his own. Such testimony as this to himself must be sustained and sanctioned. Why and how can this Teacher take such ground as to assert about himself what no prophet, no rabbi, no chief priest of the people, not even the greatest man of men, Moses himself, had ever dared to claim? Christ admits that such assumptions as these need justification and approval over and above his ipse dixit. The words that follow are startling: If I bear witness concerning myself, my witness is not true. At first sight this is in direct contradiction to John 8:14, where, in reply to the Pharisees' "Thou bearest witness concerning thyself; thy witness is nor true," he replied, "Though I bear witness of myself, my witness is true; because I know whence I came, and whither I go." The absolute unison with the Father, which he was not only conscious of, but had also revealed to the Pharisees, lifted his own word to the grandeur of a word of God. The Divine beamed through the human, the infinite through the finite. Here he says, "If I bear - if I and I alone were bearing witness to myself," then - supposing a case, which, as a matter of fact, is impossible - "my witness is not true." If he were acting alone, which is an inconceivable supposition, seeing that in the depths of his consciousness he knew that he was one with the Father, then for his human nature to break away thus from the Father and disdain his testimony would nullify and falsify his witness. He is not bearing witness alone. If I((ἐὰν ἐγὼ)

The I expressed for emphasis: Ialone.

True (ἀληθής)

As distinguished from false. See on John 1:9.

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