John 6:4
And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was near.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) A feast.—Better, the feast. Comp. John 5:1. This is added by St. John only, and is not simply a note of time, but gives a key of interpretation to the sign itself, and to the discourse which followed.

6:1-14 John relates the miracle of feeding the multitude, for its reference to the following discourse. Observe the effect this miracle had upon the people. Even the common Jews expected the Messiah to come into the world, and to be a great Prophet. The Pharisees despised them as not knowing the law; but they knew most of Him who is the end of the law. Yet men may acknowledge Christ as that Prophet, and still turn a deaf ear to him.The passover - See the notes at Matthew 26:2, Matthew 26:17.

A feast of the Jews - This is one of the circumstances of explanation thrown in by John which show that he wrote for those who were unacquainted with Jewish customs.

4. passover … was nigh—but for the reason mentioned (Joh 7:1), Jesus kept away from it, remaining in Galilee. See Poole on "John 6:3" And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh. This was the third passover, since our Lord's baptism, and entrance on his public ministry; see John 2:13. Whether Christ went up to this feast is not certain; some think he did not; but from what is said in John 7:1, it looks as if he did: how nigh it was to the feast, cannot well be said. Thirty days before the feast, they began to talk about it; and especially in the last fifteen days, they made preparations for it, as being at hand (b); and if there was now so long time to it, there was time enough for Jesus to go to it.

(b) T. Bab. Pesach. fol. 6. 1. Maimon. & Bartenora in Misn. Shekalim, c. 3. sect. 1.

And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
John 6:4. Ἐγγύς] close at hand. See on John 5:1. Paulus wrongly renders it not long since past. See, on the contrary, John 2:13, John 7:2, John 11:55. The statement is intended as introductory to John 6:5, explaining how it happened (comp. John 11:55) that Jesus, after He had withdrawn to the mountain, was again attended by a great multitude (John 6:5),—a thing which could not have happened had not the Passover been nigh. It was another crowd (not, as is commonly assumed, that named in John 6:2, which had followed Him in His progress towards the lake), composed of pilgrims to the feast, who therefore were going the opposite way, from the neighbourhood of the lake in the direction of Jerusalem. Thus John 6:4 is not a mere chronological note (B. Crusius, Maier, Brückner, Ewald), against which the analogy of John 7:2 (with the οὖν following, John 6:3) is decisive; nor is it, because every more specific hint to that effect is wanting, to be looked upon as referring by anticipation[224] to the following discourse of Jesus concerning eating His flesh and blood as the antitype of the Passover (B. Bauer; comp. Baur, p. 262, Luthardt, Hengstenberg, and already Lampe).

ἡ ἑορτὴ τ. Ἰουδαίων] ΚΑΤ. ἘΞΟΧΉΝ. There is no intimation that Jesus Himself went up to this feast (Lücke). See rather John 7:1.

[224] Comp. also Godet: Jesus must have been in the position “d’un proscrit,” and could not go to Jerusalem to the Passover; He therefore saw in the approaching multitudes a sign from the Father, and thought, “Et moi aussi, je célébrerai une pâque.” This is pure invention.John 6:4. But another crowd was to be accounted for, as John 6:4 intimates, ἦν δὲ ἐγγὺςἸουδαίων, “now the Passover, the Jewish feast, was at hand”. [Grotius says: “Hoc ideo interjicit, ut intelligatur tempus fuisse opportunum ad eliciendam multitudinem, et quo melius cohaereat quod de herba sequitur”. Godet’s account of the insertion of this clause, that it was meant to show that the nearness of the Passover suggested to Jesus the idea “we will keep a Passover here,” is plainly out of the question.]—ἐπάρας οὖν … Jesus therefore (or better, “accordingly”; οὖν connects what He saw with the foregoing statement).4. And the Passover] Better, Now the Passover.

a feast of the Jews] Rather, the feast of the Jews. Possibly this near approach of the Passover is given merely as a date to mark the time. As already noticed (see on John 2:13), S. John groups his narrative round the Jewish festivals. But the statement may also be made as a further explanation of the multitude. Just before the Passover large bands of pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem would be passing along the east shore of the lake. But we find that the multitude in this case are quite ready (John 6:24) to cross over to Capernaum, as if they had no intention of going to Jerusalem; so that this interpretation of the verse is uncertain. Still more doubtful is the theory that this verse gives a key of interpretation to the discourse which follows, the eating of Christ’s flesh and blood being the antitype of the Passover. Of this there is no indication whatever. It is safest to regard the verse as a mere note to time. In any case the addition of ‘the feast of the Jews’ again indicates that the author is writing away from Palestine. From John 7:1 it would seem that Jesus did not go up to Jerusalem for this PassoverJohn 6:4. Ἐγγύς, nigh) There was a great concourse of men at that time of the year: ch. John 11:55, “Many went out of the country up to Jerusalem, before the Passover, to purify themselves.”Verse 4. - Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. The ordinary meaning of ἐγγύς need not be departed from (cf. John 2:13; John 7:2; John 11:55). This valuable note of time is confirmed by another hint incidentally dropped. A month later than the Passover it could not be said that "much grass" was in the place. In the late spring such a phrase would most inadequately represent the scene that was indelibly impressed on the fourfold tradition. Whatever the unnamed feast was (John 5:1), whether Trumpets, Purim, or Passover, we have reached the month Abib, when the crowds of pilgrims were gathering for their southern journey. If the Purim were the unnamed feast, then the suggestion arises that Christ's reception at Jerusalem had prevented his remaining until the Passover of that year. If the Passover be meant (John 5:1), then a year has passed between ch. 5. and 6. Nor is this a day too long for the crowd of events and teachings recorded by the synoptists as having taken place before the death of John. The note of time may be recorded as implying the dominant sentiment in the minds of the people. The great deliverance from Egyptian bondage was burned into the national conscience, and the fanatic desire for a second Moses to lead them out of Roman servitude was at such seasons fanned into a flame. The Lord had his own thought about the Paschal lamb, and knew that God was preparing a Lamb for sacrifice. In mystic, parabolic sense he foreknew that men would and must consume the flesh of this sacrifice. He was ready, moreover, to show them that he could supply all their need. The great Prophet who had said of himself, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!" had just fallen beneath the executioner's axe. The people were bereft of a great prophet and leader, and to Christ's eye they were "as sheep without a shepherd." Verily he was preparing to lay down his life as a good Shepherd for these sheep - to provide for them in the future a feast of living bread. All this may rationally be admitted, without for a moment conceding that second-century ideas like these were the formative causes of the narrative. The miracle that follows stands on an entirely distinct basis, and is more powerfully attested than any ether miracle, except the resurrection of Christ. If it stood in John's record alone, there might be some colour for the supposition that we have merely a parable of great beauty. But the threefold tradition long anterior to John's Gospel deprives even the pseudo-John of the possibility of inventing it. On the other hand, the appearance of the narrative in John's Gospel deprives it of the mythical character which some have attributed to the authors of the synoptic Gospels. Thoma, in the spirit of Strauss, here imagines that the synoptists were busy in fashioning a miracle of sustenance and a portent upon the waters - a sign on land and sea - to correspond with the manna and Red Sea marvels of the Book of Exodus. "The mountain" (τὸ ὄρος) is, as he thinks, a similitude of the Mount Sinai, and, as the latter represented the giving of the Law, this was associated with the mountain of Beatitudes. He goes further, and sees in the Johannine narrative the Christian (agapae) feasts, and the deliverance of the Apostle Paul from shipwreck! He is even more ingenious still, and suggests that the "five thousand" fed at the first miraculous meal, with twelve baskets of fragments, correspond with the results of the first preaching of the twelve apostles, and that the seven loaves among the four thousand reflect "the many hundreds" who were benefited by the seven evangelists. He endeavours by a most elaborate process to make it appear that John has here combined into one tableau minute traces derived from the five several accounts of the two miracles. The old rationalistic theory was that the miracle was only an exaggerated poetical statement of the fact; that a good example of charity on the part of the apostles was followed by others, and so food was found for the entire multitude. This hypothesis breaks on the rock that the authors of these Gospels intended to convey a perfectly different idea. The effect of such cheap philanthropy and pragmatic travesty of a royal act would not have been that the multitudes would have rushed to the conclusion that he had done a kingly deed, or one in the least way calculated to suggest the notion that he could feed armies at his will. All efforts to extirpate by such theories the supernatural character of the occurrence fail, and force the reader back upon the plain statements of the fourfold narrative. A feast (ἡ ἑορτὴ)

With the definite article, the feast; pointing to something well known.

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