John 6:51
I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
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(51) I am the living bread.—The words are again repeated (comp. John 6:35; John 6:48), but with a new fulness of meaning. He spoke before of bread which was “of life,” characterised by life, producing life. He now speaks of this bread as “living,” containing the principle of life in itself. (Comp. John 4:13-14; John 5:26). Once again, too, He answers their demand for bread “from heaven” (John 6:31). The lifeless manna fell and lay upon the ground until they gathered it, and passed to corruption if they did not. Each day’s supply met the need of each day, but met that only. He is the bread containing life in Himself, coming by His own will and act from heaven, living among men, imparting life to those who eat by coming to and believing on Him, so that it becomes in them a principle of life, too, which cannot die, but shall live for ever.

And the bread that I will give is my flesh.—The following words, “which I will give,” should be, probably, omitted, and the whole clause should be read—And the bread that I will give is My flesh for the life of the world. The words are in every way full of meaning, and the history of their interpretation is a long chapter in the history of Christian doctrine. Their connection with the words used at the institution of the Lord’s Supper will be dealt with in Excursus C: The Sacramental Teaching of St. John’s Gospel. Their meaning for the immediate hearers is to be found in the thoughts which led up to them, and which they would suggest to a spiritually-minded Jew. They are, indeed, to be spiritually interpreted (John 6:63), and many, even among the disciples, feel it is a hard saying which they cannot hear (John 6:60); but the elements of the interpretation are to be sought in the Jewish mind. They have followed Him after a miracle which multiplied a few common barley loaves and fishes, and made them more than enough for thousands (John 6:22-24); He has rebuked the mere bread-seeking spirit, and declared to them the true food (John 6:26; John 6:29); they have demanded a sign from heaven like the manna (John 6:30-31); He has answered that the manna was the Father’s gift, and that He is the true bread from heaven (John 6:32-35); He has shown parenthetically the real ground of their unbelief (John 6:36-46), and again returned to the thought of the bread of life which they have murmured at (John 6:41-42), and which He has more fully explained (John 6:47-51). He now identifies the bread of which He has spoken with His flesh, and says that He will give that for the life of the world. This form of human flesh is, as bread, the means by which life is conveyed; it is the word by which the Eternal Spirit speaks to the spirit of man. (Comp. John 1:14, which is the only other passage in this Gospel, and Luke 24:39, of the resurrection body, which is the only other passage in the New Testament, where the word “flesh” is used of the person of Christ.)

These are the thoughts which have immediately led to these words; but many a chord in the Jewish mind ought to have vibrated to them. The emphatic “I will give,” whether it is repeated or not, refers perhaps to the contrast with Moses (John 6:32), but certainly to a gift in the future, and, therefore, not to the Incarnation, but to the Crucifixion. The great Teacher, whom many of them had heard, realised that the human form they now looked upon was the “Lamb of God” of Isaiah’s prophecy (John 1:36, Note). It was now the time of their Paschal Feast (John 6:4), when Jewish families were assembling to eat the flesh which told of the deliverance from Egyptian bondage and the birth of the nation’s life. Every day of Temple service told of flesh given in sacrifice for sin, and eaten in maintenance of the individual life. His words, uttered at this Passover, and fulfilled at the next, announce a gift of His own flesh as the true Paschal Lamb, as the sacrifice for the sins of the world, and as the sustenance of the true life of mankind.

John 6:51. I am the living bread — Because it was a matter of infinite importance to his hearers that they should form a just judgment of his ability to save them, and believe in him as the Saviour of the world, he affirmed a third time that he was himself the living bread, which came down from heaven to make and keep men alive to God. and render them immortal; and that all who did eat of it should live for ever, because he was about to give them his flesh to eat, by making it an expiation for the sins of the world. The intelligent reader will observe that there is a beautiful gradation in our Lord’s discourse. The first time that he called himself the bread of life, (John 6:35,) he assigned the reason of the name somewhat obscurely: He that cometh to me shall never hunger, &c. The second time he called himself the bread of life, (John 6:47,) he spake more plainly: He that believeth on me hath everlasting life; therefore, I am the bread of life. And by connecting this with the affirmation, (John 6:46,) that he was the only teacher of mankind that had ever personally seen, and conversed intimately with, the Father, he intimated that he gave life to men by his doctrine, being on that account also the bread of life. The third time he called himself bread, he added to the name the epithet of living; not only because he gives life to men by quickening their souls, raising their bodies from the dead, and making them eternally happy, but because he giveth them life in these senses, by means of his human nature, which was not an inanimate thing, like the manna, but a living substance. For he told them plainly, that the bread which he would give them was his flesh, which he would give for the life of the world — And spake of men’s eating it in order to its having that effect. But the meaning of this expression he had directed them to before, when, in calling himself the bread of life, he always joined believing on him as necessary to men’s living by him. Wherefore to eat, in the remaining part of this discourse, is to believe. See Macknight.

6:47-51 The advantage of the manna was small, it only referred to this life; but the living Bread is so excellent, that the man who feedeth on it shall never die. This bread is Christ's human nature, which he took to present to the Father, as a sacrifice for the sins of the world; to purchase all things pertaining to life and godliness, for sinners of every nation, who repent and believe in him.The bread that I will give is by flesh - That is, his body would be offered as a sacrifice for sin, agreeably to his declaration when he instituted the Supper: "This is my body which is broken for you," 1 Corinthians 11:24.

Life of the world - That sinners might, by his atoning sacrifice, be recovered from spiritual death, and be brought to eternal life. The use of the word world hero shows that the sacrifice of Christ was full free ample, and designed for all men, as it is said in 1 John 2:2, "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." In this verse Jesus introduces the subject of his death and atonement. It may be remarked that in the language which he used the transition from bread to his flesh would appear more easy than it does in our language. The same word which in Hebrew means "bread," in the Syriac and Arabic means also "flesh."

51. I am, &c.—Understand, it is of Myself I now speak as the Bread from heaven; of Meif a man eat he shall live for ever; and "THE Bread which i will give is my Flesh, which i will give for the life of the world." Here, for the first time in this high discourse, our Lord explicitly introduces His sacrificial death—for only rationalists can doubt this not only as that which constitutes Him the Bread of life to men, but as THAT very element IN Him which possesses the life-giving virtue.—"From this time we hear no more (in this discourse) of "Bread"; this figure is dropped, and the reality takes its place" [Stier]. The words "I will give" may be compared with the words of institution at the Supper, "This is My body which is given for you" (Lu 22:19), or in Paul's report of it, "broken for you" (1Co 11:24). I am the living bread which came down from heaven: See Poole on "John 6:33". See Poole on "John 6:35". Our Saviour’s so often inculcating this, and what follows, lets us see both how necessary this is to be known, and also how difficult the work of believing is.

Those words,

he shall live for ever, expound those that went before in the John 6:50, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. His saying that the bread which he giveth is his flesh, expounds what he said before, viz. how he is the bread of life, viz. by giving his flesh, that is, his life, for the life of the world, that many might be saved; hereby showing us, that the object of our faith is a Christ crucified, 1 Corinthians 2:2.

I am the living bread which came down from heaven,.... This is the same with what is said in John 6:33, which is true of Christ, as he has life in him; and is the author and giver of life to others; and is of an heavenly original, and came from heaven to give life to men: and such is the virtue of this living and heavenly bread, that

if any man eat of this bread he shall live for ever; not a natural, but a spiritual life; a life of sanctification, which is begun here, and will be perfected hereafter; and a life of glory, which will never end:

and the bread that I will give is my flesh; or "body", as all the Oriental versions render it. Here our Lord explains more clearly and fully what he means, under the notion of bread; and which shows, that by bread he did not design merely his doctrine, but his flesh, his human nature; though not as abstracted from his deity, but as in union with it:

which I will give for the life of the world; and which he did by the offering up of his body, and making his soul, or giving himself an offering, a propitiatory sacrifice for sin; which was done in the most free and voluntary manner, in the room and stead of his people, to procure eternal life for them, even for the whole world of his elect; whether among Jews or Gentiles; particularly the latter are here meant, in opposition to a notion of the Jews, that the world, or the Gentiles, would receive no benefit by the Messiah when he came; See Gill on John 3:16.

{11} I am the {q} living bread which came down from heaven: if any man {r} eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

(11) Christ being sent from the Father is the selfsame unto us for the getting and keeping of everlasting life, as bread and flesh, yea, meat and drink, are to the use of this transitory life.

(q) Which gives life to the world.

(r) That is to say, whoever is truly a partaker of Christ, who is our food.

John 6:51. Continuation of the exposition concerning the bread of life, which He is. “I am not only the life-giving bread (ὁ ἄρτος τ. ζωῆς, John 6:48); I am also the living bread; he who eats thereof shall live for ever,” because the life of this bread is imparted to the partaker of it. Comp. John 5:26, John 14:19. Observe the threefold advance: (1) ὁ ἄρτος τ. ζωῆς, John 6:48, and ὁ ἄρτος ὁ ζῶν, John 6:51; (2) the universal καταβαίνων, John 6:50, and the historically concrete καταβάς, John 6:51; (3) the negative μὴ ἀποθάνῃ, John 6:50, and the positive ζήσεται εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, John 6:51.

καὶ ὁ ἄρτος δὲ ὃν ἐγὼ δώσω] Christ is the bread, and He will also give it (consequently give Himself); how this is to take place, He now explains. The advance lies in ὃν ἐγὼ δώσω; hence also the καὶ δέ which carries on the discourse, and the emphatic repetition of the thought, ἣν ἐγὼ δώσω. Translate: “and the bread also which I (I on my part, ἐγώ) will give [instead now of saying: is myself, He expresses what He means more definitely] is my flesh,” etc. Concerning καὶδέ, atque etiam, καὶ being and, and δέ expressing the idea on the other hand, see in particular Krüger, and Kühner, ad Xen. Mem. i. 1. 3; Bäumlein, Partik. p. 149. It often introduces, as in this case, something that is specially important. See Bremi, ad Dem. Ol. II. p. 173. Observe, moreover, that what Christ promises to give is not external to His own Person (against Kling in the Stud. u. Krit. 1836, p. 142 f.).

ἡ σάρξ μού ἐστιν] He promises to give His flesh, i.e. by His bloody death, to which He here, as already in John 2:19, and to Nicodemus, John 3:14-15, prophetically points. Σάρξ is the living corporeal substance; this His living corporeity Christ will give, give up, that it may he slain (ἣν ἐγὼ δώσω), in order that thereby, as by the offering of the propitiatory sacrifice,[237] He may be the means of procuring eternal life for mankind, i.e. ὑπὲρ (for the benefit of) Τῆς ΤΟῦ ΚΌΣΜΟΥ ΖΩῆς; comp. 1 John 4:10; 1 John 4:14. But as the atoning efficacy which this giving up of His flesh has, must be inwardly appropriated by faith, Christ’s σάρξ, according to the figure of the bread of life, inasmuch as He means to give it up to death, appears as the bread which He will give to be partaken of (ὃν ἐγὼ δώσω). In the repeated ΔΏΣΩ there lies the ἙΚΟΎΣΙΟΝ of the surrender (Euthymius Zigabenus). But observe the difference of reference, that of the first ΔΏΣΩ to the giving up for eating, and that of the second to the giving up to death.[238] That eating is the spiritual manducatio,[239] the inward, real appropriation of Christ which, by means of an ever-continuing faith that brings about this appropriation, and makes our life the life of Christ within us (Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 3:17), takes place with regard to all the benefits which Christ “carne sua pro nobis in mortem tradita et sanguine suo pro nobis effuso promeruit.” Forma Concordiae, p. 744. On the idea of the life of Christ in believers, see on Php 1:8. On σάρξ, so far as it was put to death in Christ by His crucifixion, comp. 1 Peter 3:18; Ephesians 2:14; Colossians 1:20 ff.; Hebrews 10:20. This explanation, which refers the words to Christ’s propitiatory death, is that of Augustine, Luther, Melancthon, Calvin, Beza, Aretius, Grotius, Calovius, Wetstein, Lampe, and most others, also of Kuinoel, Lücke, Tholuck, Ammon, Neander, J. Müller (Diss. 1839), Lange, Ebrard, Dogma v. Abendm. I. p. 78 ff.; Keim, in the Jahrb. f. d. Theol. 1859, p. 109 ff.; Weiss; comp. also Ewald, Kahnis (Dogmat. I. p. 624), Godet.[240] Others, following Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Basil, have understood by σάρξ the entire human manifestation of the Logos, which He offered up for the world’s salvation, including therein His death (so in modern times, in particular, Paulus, D. Schulz, Lehre vom Abendm., B. Crusius, Frommann, De Wette, Baeumlein; comp. Schleiermacher, L. J. p. 345, and Reuss). Not only is the future δώσω opposed to this view, but the drinking of the blood in John 6:53 still more distinctly points to Christ’s death as exclusively meant; because it would not be apparent why Jesus, had He intended generally that collective dedication of Himself, should have used expressions to describe the appropriation of it, which necessarily and directly point to and presuppose His death. That general consecration was already affirmed in ἐγὼ εἰμι ὁ ἄρτος, κ.τ.λ.; the advance from being and giving now demands something else, a concrete act, viz. His atoning death and the shedding of His blood. This tells also against the profounder development of the self-communication of Jesus which is said to be meant here, and is adopted by Hengstenberg and Hofmann (Schriftbew. II. 2, p. 245 ff.), following Luther;[241] viz. that faith in the human nature of Jesus eats and drinks the life of God, or that His life-giving power is bound up in His flesh, i.e. in His actual human manifestation (Brückner). Others, again, have explained it of the Lord’s Supper; viz. Chrysostom, Cyril, Theophylact, Euthymius Zigabenus, most of the Fathers (among the Latin Fathers, Cyprian, Hilary, perhaps also Augustine, etc.) and Catholic writers, also Klee and Maier, further, Calixtus too, strongly opposed by Calovius; and among moderns, Scheibel, Olshausen, Kling in the Stud. u. Krit. 1836, p. 140 ff.; Lindner, Köstlin, Delitzsch in Rudelbach’s Zeitschrift, 1845, ii. p. 29; Kaeuffer in the Sächs. Stud. 1846, p. 70 ff.; Kahnis, Abendm. p. 104 ff.; Luthardt; Richter in the Stud. u. Krit. 1863, p. 250; further, while also calling in question the genuineness of the discourse, Bretschneider, Strauss, Weisse, Baur, Hilgenfeld, and many others. Thus, as John 3:5 refers to baptism, we have now, it is said, a reference to the second sacrament. This explanation[242] has already this against it, that the eating and drinking is regarded as continuous (John 6:56); and, moreover, it can be maintained only by surrendering the authenticity of John. But if this be assumed, and the discourse be regarded as historical, Jesus could not Himself speak in the manner in which He here does of the Lord’s Supper. Had this been His reference, He would have spoken inappropriately, and in terms which differ essentially from His own mode of expression at the institution of the holy meal, irrespective of the fact that a discourse upon the Lord’s Supper at this time would have been utterly incomprehensible to His hearers, especially to the Ἰουδαίοι who were addressed. Moreover, there nowhere occurs in the Gospels a hint given beforehand of the Supper which was to be instituted; and therefore, that this institution was not now already in the thoughts of Jesus (as Godet, following Bengel and others, maintains), but was the product of the hour of the Supper itself, appears all the more likely, seeing how utterly groundless is the assumption based on John 6:4, that Jesus, in the feeding of the multitude, improvised a paschal feast. To this it must be added, that the promise of life which is attached to the eating and drinking could apply only to the case of those who worthily partake. We would therefore have to assume that the reporter John (see especially Kaeuffer, l.c.; comp. also Weisse, B. Crusius, Köstlin, etc.) had put this discourse concerning the Lord’s Supper into the mouth of Christ; and against this it tells in general, that thus there would be on John’s part a misconception, or rather an arbitrariness, which, granting the genuineness of the Gospel, cannot be attributed to this most trusted disciple and his vivid recollections; and in particular, that the drinking of the blood, if it were, as in the Lord’s Supper, a special and essential part, would not have remained unmentioned at the very end of the discourse, John 6:57-58; and that, again, the evangelist would make Jesus speak of the Lord’s Supper in terms which lie quite beyond the range of the N. T., and which belong to the mode of representation and language of the apostolic Fathers and still later writers (see the passages in Kaeuffer, p. 77 ff.; Rückert, p. 274 f.; Hilgenfeld, Evang. p. 278).[243] This is specially true of the word σάρξ, for which all places in the N. T. referring to the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26 ff.; Mark 14:22 ff.; Luke 24:24 ff.; 1 Corinthians 11:23 ff.) have σῶμα; so that here accordingly there ought to have been stated the identity, not of the bread and the flesh (which Baur in particular urges), but of the bread and the body; while with reference to the blood, the element identified (the wine) ought also to have been mentioned. Further, the passage thus taken would speak of the literal “eating and drinking” of the flesh and blood, which is a much later materializing of the N. T. κοινωνία in the Lord’s Supper; and lastly, the absolute necessity of this ordinance,[244] which John 6:53 ff. would thus assert, is not once mentioned thus directly by the Fathers of the first centuries; whereas the N. T., and John in particular, make faith alone the absolutely necessary condition of salvation. Had John been speaking of the Lord’s Supper, he must have spoken in harmony with the N. T. view and mode of expression, and must have made Jesus speak of it in the same way. But the discourse, as it lies before us, if taken as referring to the Lord’s Supper, would be an unexampled and utterly inconceivable ὕστερον πρότερον; and therefore even the assumption that at least the same idea which lay at the root of the Lord’s Supper, and out of which it sprang, is here expressed (Olshausen, Kling, Lange, Tholuck, etc.; comp. Kahnis, Keim, Luthardt, Hengstenberg, Ewald, Godet), is only admissible so far as the appropriation of Christ’s life, brought about by faith in His death, which here is enjoined with such concrete vividness as absolutely necessary,[245] likewise constitutes the sacred and fundamental basis presupposed in the institution of the Supper and forms the condition of its blessedness; and therefore the application of the passage to the Lord’s Supper (but at the same time to baptism and to the efficacy of the word) justly, nay necessarily, arises. Comp. the admirable remarks of Harless, p. 130 ff.

According to Rückert (Abendm. p. 291 f.), the discourse is not intended by Jesus to refer to the Supper, but is so intended by John, through whose erroneous and crude method of apprehension the readers are supposed to be taught, whether they themselves believed in an actual eating of the flesh and drinking of the blood, or whether this was a stumbling-block to them. An interpretation this which is neither indicated by the text nor has any historical basis.

Upon the history of the interpretation of our text, see Lücke, ed. 2, App. 2; Lindner, vom Abendm. p. 241 ff.; Tischendorf, De Christo pane vitae, 1839, p. 15 ff.; Mack, Quartalschr. 1832, I. p. 52 ff.; Kahnis, p. 114 ff.; Rückert, p. 273 ff. The exposition which takes it to refer to faith in the atoning death forms the basis of Zwingle’s doctrine of the Eucharist. See Dieckhoff, evangel. Abendmahlslehre, I. p. 440.

[237] Not that by the death of Jesus the barrier of the independent individuality existing between the Logos and the human being is destroyed. See against this explanation (Köstlin, Reuss), so foreign to John, Weiss, Lehrbegr. p. 65 ff.

[238] The words ἣν ἐγὼ δώσω are wanting in B C D L T א, a few cursives, several versions (following Vulg. It.), and Fathers (even Origen twice), and are rejected by Lachm., Ewald, Tisch., Baeumlein, Harless. The preponderance of testimony is certainly against them; and in omitting them we should not, with Kling, take ἡ σάρξ μου as in apposition with ὁ ἄρτος (see, on the contrary, Rückert, Abendm. p. 259), but simply render it: “the bread which I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world” (the former is the latter for the life of the world). But this short pregnant mode of expression is so little like John, and the repetition of ἣν ἐγὼ δώσω is so completely Johannean, that I feel compelled to retain the words as genuine, and to regard their omission as a very early error, occasioned by the occurrence of the same words a little before. Following א, Tischendorf now reads, after κ. ὁ ἄρτ. δὲ: ὃν ἐγὼ δώσω ὑπὲρ τῆς τοῦ κόσμου ζωῆς, ἡ σάρξ μου ἐστίν. This is manifestly an arrangement resorted to in order to asssign to the words ὑπ. τ. τ. κ. ζωῆς the place which, in the absence of ἣν ἐγὼ δώσω, seemed to belong to them. Baeumlein supposes that ὑπ. τ. τ. κ. ζωῆς is an ancient gloss.

[239] The expression “resurrection of the flesh” cannot be justified from John 6, as Delitzsch, Psychol. p. 460 [E. T. p. 541], supposes. If it cannot be justified by anything in St. Paul, which Delitzsch admits, it can least of all by anything in St. John. When, indeed, Delitzsch says (p. 339), “The flesh of Christ becomes in us a tincture of immortality, which, in spite of corruption, sustains the essence of our flesh, in order one day at the resurrection to assimilate also His manifestation to itself,” we can only oppose to such fancies, “Ne ultra quod scriptum est.”

[240] Who, however, attaches great importance to the corporeal side of the real fellowship of believers with Christ, by virtue of which they will become at the resurrection the reproduction of the glorified Christ, referring to Ephesians 5:30. The eating and drinking alone are figurative, while the not merely spiritual, but also bodily appropriation, must, according to him, be taken literally. This, however, is not required by the ἀναστήσω αὐτὸν, κ.τ.λ., ver. 54, which we already had in ver. 39, and is not even admissible by ver. 63.

[241] “Therefore one eats and drinks the Godhead in His human nature.—This flesh does not carnalize, but will deify thee, i.e. give thee divine power, virtue, and work, and will take away sins,” and so on (Pred. Dom. Oculi).

[242] A view which Luther decidedly opposed previous to the controversy regarding the Lord’s Supper. In the heading or gloss he says: “This chapter does not speak of the sacrament of the bread and wine, but of spiritual eating, i.e. of the belief that Christ, both God and man, hath shed His blood for us.”

[243] Hilgenfeld calls the passages in Justin, Apol. i. 66; Ignatius, ad Smyrn. 7, ad Romans 7, an admirable commentary upon our text. They would, indeed, be so if our evangelist himself were a post-apostolic writer belonging to the second century.

[244] Its limitation to the Contemtus sacramenti (Richter) is a dogmatic subterfuge which has no foundation in the text.

[245] “He makes it so that it could not be plainer, in order that they might not think that he was speaking of something else, or of anything that was not before their eyes; but that He was speaking of Himself.”—LUTHER.

John 6:51. In John 6:51 Jesus adds two fresh terms in explanation of the living bread, which, however, through their want of apprehension, increased their difficulty. The first is ἐγώ εἰμιζωῆς. In giving this explanation He slightly alters the designation of Himself as the Bread: He now claims to be not “the bread of life,” but ὁ ἄρτος ὁ ζῶν, “the living bread”. Godet says: “The manna, as not itself living, could never impart life. But Jesus, because He Himself lives, can give life.” That is correct, but is not the full meaning. ὁ ζῶν contrasts the bread with the βρῶσις ἀπολλυμένη; and as “living water” is water running from a fountain in perpetual stream, and not a measured quantity in a tank, so “living bread” is bread which renews itself in proportion to all needs like the bread of the miracle. The second fresh intimation now made is ὁ ἄρτος ὃν ἐγὼ δώσω ἡ σάρξ μου ἐστίν … This intimation is linked to the foregoing by a double conjunction καὶ ὁ ἄρτος δέ, “and besides” indicating, according to classical usage, a new aspect or expansion of what has been said. The new intimation is at first sight an apparent limitation: instead of “I am the bread,” He now says “My flesh is the bread”. Accordingly some interpreters suppose that by “flesh” the whole manifestation of Christ in human nature is meant. Cf. ὁ λόγος σάρξ ἐγένετο. Thus Westcott says: “The life of the world in the highest sense springs from the Incarnation and Resurrection of Christ. By His Incarnation and Resurrection the ruin and death which sin brought in are overcome. The thought here is of support and growth, and not of Atonement.” To this there are two objections. (1) If σάρξ is equivalent to the whole manifestation of Christ in the flesh, this is not a new statement, but a repetition of what has already been said. And (2) the δώσω compels us to think of a giving yet future. Besides, the turn taken by the conversation, John 6:53-57, seems to point rather to the atoning sacrifice of Christ. [So Euthymius: τὴν σταύρωσιν αὐτοῦ προσημαίνει. τὸ δὲ, ἣν ἐγὼ δώσω, τὸ ἑκούσιον ἐμφαίνει τοῦ τοιούτου πάθους. So too Cyril: Ἀποθνήσκω, φησὶν, ὑπὲρ πάντων, ἵνα πάντας ζωοποιήσω διʼ ἐμαυτοῦ, καὶ ἀντίλυτρον τῆς ἁπάντων σαρκὸς τὴν ἐμὴν ἐποιησάμην. Bengel says: “Tota haec de carne et sanguine Jesu Christi oratio passionem spectat”. Beza even finds in δώσω the sense “offeram Patri in ara crucis”.] The giving of His flesh, a still future giving which is spoken of as a definite act, is, then, most naturally referred to the death on the cross. This was to be ὑπὲρ τῆς τοῦ κόσμου ζωῆς, “for the sake of the life of the world”. ὑπέρ when used in connection with sacrifice tends to glide into ἀντί; see the Alcestis of Eurip. passim and Lampe’s note on this verse. Here, however, the idea of substitution is not present. It is only hinted that somehow the death of Christ is needed for the world’s life. This statement, however, only bewilders the crowd; and the next paragraph, John 6:52-59, gives expression to and deals with this bewilderment.

51. the living bread] Not merely the Bread of life (John 6:48), the life-giving Bread, but the living Bread, having life in itself, which life is imparted to those who partake of the Bread.

which came down] At the Incarnation. Now that the Bread is identified with Christ, we have the past tense of what took place once for all. Previously (John 6:33; John 6:50) the present tense is used of what is continually going on. In one sense Christ is perpetually coming down from heaven, in the other He came but once: He is ever imparting Himself to man; He only once became man.

he shall live for ever] Just as ‘living Bread’ is a stronger expression than ‘Bread of life,’ so ‘live for ever’ is stronger than ‘not die.’

and the bread that I will give] The precise wording of this sentence is somewhat uncertain, but the best reading seems to be: and the Bread that I will give is My Flesh for the life of the world. That in Christ’s mind these words looked onwards to the Eucharist, and that in thus speaking to believers throughout all time He included a reference to the Eucharist has already been stated to be highly probable. (See above, Introduction to 26–58). But that the reference is not exclusively, nor even directly, to the Eucharist is shewn from the use of ‘Flesh’ (sarx) and not ‘Body’ (sôma). In all places where the Eucharist is mentioned in N.T. we have ‘Body,’ not ‘Flesh;’ Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24 ff. Moreover the words must have had some meaning for those who heard them at Capernaum. Evidently they have a wider range than any one Sacrament. Christ promises to give His Flesh (by His bloody death soon to come) for the benefit of the whole world. But this benefit can only be appropriated by the faith of each individual; and so that which when offered by Christ is His Flesh appears under the figure of bread when partaken of by the believer. The primary reference, therefore, is to Christ’s propitiatory death; the secondary reference is to all those means by which the death of Christ is appropriated, especially the Eucharist. Not that Christ is here promising that ordinance, but uttering deep truths, which apply, and which He intended to apply, to that ordinance, now that it is instituted.

51–58. Further definition of the identification of the Spiritual Bread with Christ as consisting in the giving of His Body and the outpouring of His Blood

In John 6:35-50 Christ in His Person is the Bread of Life: here He is the spiritual food of believers in the Redemptive work of His Death.

John 6:51. Ὁ ζῶν, the living) This participle acts both as a means of giving increased weight to His speech, and as a declaration, by which it is shown that His speech is not concerning ordinary bread.—δώσω, I will give[150]) ought to be read.—ἡ σάρξ μου, My flesh) A new step in the discourse. The δὲ ἐπιτατικόν [intensive], indeed, and the I will give in the Future, are in accordance with this: for heretofore there had been no mention made in this discourse of flesh; then at John 6:53, also of blood. The Father giveth the true bread, John 6:32, which is Christ Himself: John 6:35, “I am the bread of life.” Christ giveth the living bread, His own flesh. The portion of the discourse concerning the bread is rather allegorical, in accommodation to the miracle that precedes it: that concerning the flesh and blood is literal.—ὑπὲρ τῆς τοῦ κόσμου ζωῆς, for the life of the world) and so, for many, Mark 14:24, “This is My blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many.” Jesus framed His words so skilfully, that immediately at the time, and at all times subsequently, they would indeed apply in their strict literal sense to the spiritual enjoyment of Himself: and yet that afterwards the same words should by consequence be appropriate to express the most august mystery of the Holy Supper, when that should be instituted. For He applied to the Holy Supper[151] the thing itself which is set forth in this discourse; and of so great moment is this sacrament, that it may readily be thought possible that Jesus, as He foretold the treachery of Judas at John 6:71, and His own death in this ver., so also foretold, one year before, the institution of the Holy Supper, concerning which He most surely thought within Himself whilst speaking these words: and with this object, in order that the disciples might afterwards remember His prediction. The whole of these words concerning His flesh and blood have in view the passion of Jesus Christ, and along with it the Holy Supper. Hence arises the separate mention of the flesh and of the blood so invariably: for in His passion the blood was drawn out of His body, and the Lamb was thus slain.

[150] However both the margin of both Editions, and the Germ. Vers. imply that the reading ἣ ἐγὼ δώσω is of doubtful origin.—E. B. BCDTabc Vulg. omit it. Rec. Text has it, with Orig. l,244de: but Orig. elsewhere omits it.—E. and T.

[151] “Contulit in S. Cænam;” He conferred on the Holy Supper in the case of the worthy receiver the actual partaking of Himself spiritually.—E. and T.

Verse 51. - I am (not only the "Bread of God," the "Bread of life," the life-giving Personality, but) the living Bread which came down out of heaven: if any man eat of this Bread, he will live forever. With this verse We see, instead of monotony, a threefold advance.

(1) In place of the life-giving Bread, he declares himself to be as Bread, yet a living Person, possessing therefore in himself the essential principle and energy of life.

(2) Instead of coming down, used characteristically or universally, he points to a definite, concrete, historic fact - "that has come down out of heaven."

(3) Instead of saying, "he may not die," we find the glorious assertion, "he will live forever." The kind of eating of which he speaks becomes clearer; the kind of food, the kind of death, the kind of life, all burst into light which points back to the first great word of this discourse, viz. "Labour tot that food which endureth unto eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you, for this one the Father, even God, hath scaled." "The miraculous feeding of yesterday was but the metaphor by which I was conveying this thought, that I was providing an inexhaustible supply for the eternal life of that humanity which I have assumed." In the last clause of the verse he made a yet further advance: Yea, and the bread which I shall give is my flesh (which I shall give) for the life of the world. The καὶ... δὲ of the commencement of the clause show a continuation of the thought with a new departure, coordination, and progress, "Yea, and the bread which I shall give is my flesh." Though the word "flesh" is often described by some of its frequent characteristics and qualities, and might be and has been regarded as the bodily and sensuous nature, and also as the seat of sin, it is, both by Paul and John, used for the nature of man as a creature - its totality regarded on its earthly side, the entire "humanity" which Christ assumed, the common antithesis to "spirit" viewed as the Divine supernatural gift to man. He was (1 Timothy 3:16) "manifest in the flesh," in "the likeness of sinful flesh" (Romans 8:3) - in a flesh free from all sin. He came "in the flesh" (1 John 2:16; 1 John 4:2). This humanity of his he gives, or rather, when he spake these words, he would give, to be eaten, to be assimilated by faith; and, having reached this point, he added (i.e. if we retain the questioned clause, which, with Meyer and Godet, we see no sufficient reason for discarding), which flesh,which humanity of his, he will further give to be slain and sacrificed for the sake of, or on behalf of, the world. This clause, which the Vatican Codex, etc., reject, proceeds clearly on the supposition that Christ advances here to the prediction and promise of his death. It is so worded as all the more to justify the emphasis he subsequently lays upon the death itself as essential to a full participation in himself. In this verse and closing utterance he prepares for further disclosures, and the flesh of Christ receives explanation from the rich and varied reference to it in the final words of the discourse, where the flesh is the great metaphor of his Divine humanity, and the blood is the expressive description of his awful sacrifice. He, the Life-giver, the Living One, the Bread of life, the living Bread, will give himself to what men call death, that they, apprehending fully, adequately accepting the greatness of the Divine gift, may, like himself, transform death (so called death) into the portal of eternal life. These words are the new starting point for this great disclosure. The very inner thought of Jesus seems to shape itself as we read. The Paschal sacrifice, eaten at that season as the sign that the theocratic nation had been chosen to covenant and eternal relation with Jehovah, must have been present to his mind. His own approaching death and sacrifice, by which he would bind those who receive him into an eternal covenant with himself, his relation to the whole world, the gift of the Father to him, the gift of himself to the world by the Father, - all are presented to him, and the movements of his great heart reveal themselves as he proceeds. John 6:51The living bread (ὁ ἄρτος ὁ ζῶν)

Literally, the bread the living (bread). Wyc., quick bread.

I will give

The ἐγω, I, is emphatic, in contrast with Moses (John 6:32).


See on John 1:14.

Which I will give

The best texts omit. Read, as Rev., my flesh for the life of the world.

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