John 8:41
Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.
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(41) Ye do the deeds of your father.—It is better to read works rather than “deeds,” as in John 8:39. They did not the works of Abraham. They did the works of that father, who is now more clearly pointed out, but still not named. Before, when he was referred to (John 8:38), they could answer that Abraham was their father; but their works prove that they are not the true children of Abraham (John 8:39-40). They see that a spiritual father is intended, and they will claim God as their Father.

We be not born of fornication.—The meaning of this is to be found in the fact that the word became in the Old Testament prophets a frequent symbol for idolatry. Comp. Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 3:8-9; Ezekiel 16; Hosea 1:2 (especially), 4:12, and 5:7.) They, as distinguished from the nations among whom they dwelt, had maintained a pure monotheism, and had never been idolaters, or children born of spiritual fornication.

We have one Father, even God.—“We” is strongly emphatic, expressing their pride in the theocracy, and their spiritual superiority to other nations. There may be in this pride also a touch of the scorn with which they asked “Will He go unto the dispersion of the Gentiles?” (John 7:35), or with which they call Him a Samaritan, as they do in this very discussion (John 8:48). “Howbeit every nation made gods of their own, and put them in the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in their cities wherein they dwelt.” This is the historian’s account of the spiritual paternity of the Samaritans, and these Jews may well have felt their superiority in contrast with their neighbours. (See the whole passage in 2Kings 17:26-41, especially John 8:30-31.)

John 8:41-43. Ye do the deeds of your father — By your deeds ye show whose children ye are. They said, We be not born of fornication — We are not bastard Jews, a mixed, spurious blood, descended from Gentile idolaters or apostate Israelites; nor are we ourselves worshippers of idols: but have one Father, even God — Whose true children we are, by virtue of our descent from his people, and our profession of his religion. It seems that they perceived, at length, that Jesus spake not so much of natural as of spiritual lineage; and that they alluded to the marriage-covenant, which, in Scripture, is said to have subsisted between God and the Jewish nation, and by which their obligation to reverence, love, and obey him, was represented as fidelity to their heavenly husband, and their violation of that obligation, as spiritual whoredom. Jesus said, If God were your Father — And you were his genuine children, as you profess to be; you would love me — And therefore would be far from forming designs to take away my life; for I proceeded forth and came from God — Greek, εξηλθον και ηκω, I proceeded, namely, originally, and do come from God, and appear among you as his messenger. Neither came I of myself — As the false prophets did, who had neither their mission nor message from God; but he sent me — As is evident from the many proofs of my mission, which I am daily giving you. Observe, reader, all that really have God for their Father, have a true love to the Lord Jesus, an esteem for his person, a grateful sense of his love, a sincere regard for his cause and interest, a complacency in the salvation effected by him, and in the method and terms of it, and a care to keep his commandments, which is the surest evidence of our love to him. We are here in a state of probation: and God is trying, so to speak, how we will conduct ourselves toward him; and we shall be treated accordingly in a state of retribution. God has taken various methods to prove mankind, and this was one: he sent his Son into the world with sufficient proofs both of his Sonship and mission, concluding that all, who called him Father, would kiss his Son, and bid him welcome, who was firstborn among many brethren. By this our adoption will be proved or disproved, namely, by our loving, or not loving Christ. Why do ye not understand my speech — What is the reason that you do not comprehend the true meaning of the things which I have spoken to you? Even because — Or, interrogatively, Is it not because ye cannot hear my word — Cannot give obedience thereto, it being contrary to your lusts? Not being desirous to do my will, you cannot understand my doctrine, chap. John 7:17. Or, as Dr. Campbell renders the clause, Ye cannot bear my doctrine. For, “the verb, ακουειν, denotes frequently in Scripture, and even in profane authors, not barely to hear, but to hear patiently; consequently, not to hear, often means not to bear. The English verb, to hear, has also sometimes the same meaning.”

8:41-47 Satan prompts men to excesses by which they murder themselves and others, while what he puts into the mind tends to ruin men's souls. He is the great promoter of falsehood of every kind. He is a liar, all his temptations are carried on by his calling evil good, and good evil, and promising freedom in sin. He is the author of all lies; whom liars resemble and obey, with whom all liars shall have their portion for ever. The special lusts of the devil are spiritual wickedness, the lusts of the mind, and corrupt reasonings, pride and envy, wrath and malice, enmity to good, and enticing others to evil. By the truth, here understand the revealed will of God as to the salvation of men by Jesus Christ, the truth Christ was now preaching, and which the Jews opposed.The deeds of your father - See John 8:38. Jesus repeats the charge, and yet repeats it as if unwilling to name Satan as their father. He chose that they should infer whom he meant, rather than bring a charge so direct and repelling. When the Saviour delivered an awful or an offensive truth, he always approached the mind so that the truth might make the deepest impression.

We be not born of fornication - The people still professed not to understand him; and since Jesus had denied that they were the children of Abraham, they affected to suppose that he meant they were a mixed, spurious race; that they had no right to the covenant privileges of the Jews; that they were not worshippers of the true God. Hence, they said, We are not thus descended. We have the evidence of our genealogy. We are worshippers of the true God, descended from those who acknowledged him, and we acknowledge no other God and Father than him. To be children of fornication is an expression denoting in the Scriptures idolatry, or the worship of other gods than the true God, Isaiah 1:21; Isaiah 57:3; Hebrews 1:2; Hebrews 2:4. This they denied. They affirmed that they acknowledged no God for their Father but the true God.

41. We be not born of fornication … we have one Father, God—meaning, as is generally allowed, that they were not an illegitimate race in point of religion, pretending only to be God's people, but were descended from His own chosen Abraham. Ye do the deeds of your father; you imitate him who is indeed your father; by whom our Saviour (as we shall hear more afterwards) meaneth the devil. This they fume at, and tell him they were not

born of fornication, which is, in our English dialect, as much as, We are no bastards; but it hath another sense in this place, as appeareth by the next words.

We have one Father, even God; that is, we own and worship one God, who is our Father; which makes very good interpreters think, that their meaning in those words, We are not born of fornication, is, We are no idolaters; idolatry in holy writ being very ordinarily compared to whoredom and fornication.

Ye do the deeds of your father,.... Not Abraham, but the devil.

Then said they unto him, we be not born of fornication: meaning either literally, that they were not a brood of bastards, children of whoredom, illegitimately begotten in unlawful copulation, or wedlock; or figuratively, that they were not the children of idolaters, idolatry being called fornication in Scripture; but that they were the holy seed of Israel, and children of the prophets, who had retained the pure word, and the true worship of God, though in all this they might have been contradicted and refuted; to which they add,

we have one Father, even God; Israel being called by God his Son, and firstborn to them belonged the adoption, in a national sense, and of this they boasted; though few of them were the children of God by special adoption, or God their Father by regenerating grace.

Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.
John 8:41. You do what your father is in the habit of doing,—result of John 8:39-40, though still without specifying who this father is. “Paulatim procedit castigatio” (Grotius).

As the Jews are not to look upon Abraham as their father, they imagine that some other human father must be meant. In this case, however, they would be bastards, born of fornication (the fornication of Sarah with another man); and they would have two fathers, an actual one (from whom they descend ἐκ πορνείας) and a putative one (Abraham). But inasmuch as their descent is not an adulterous one,[25] and notwithstanding that Abraham is not to be regarded as their father, there remains in opposition to the assertion of Jesus, so they think, only God as the one Father; to Him, therefore, they assign this position: “We be not born of fornication,” as thou seemest to assume, in that thou refusest to allow that Abraham is our father; one father only (not two, as is the case with such as are born of adultery) have we, and that God, if our descent from Abraham is not to be taken into consideration. For God was not merely the creator (Malachi 2:10) and theocratic Father of the people (Isaiah 63:16; Isaiah 64:8); but His Fatherhood was further and specially grounded in the power of His promise made at the conception of Isaac (Romans 4:19; Galatians 4:23). The supposition that they implicitly drew a contrast between themselves and Ishmael (Euth. Zigabenus, who thinks that there is an allusion to the birth of Jesus, Ruperti, Wetstein, Tittmann) is erroneous, inasmuch as Ishmael was not born ἐκ πορνείας. We must reject also the common explanation of the passage as a denial of the charge of idolatry (Hosea 1:2; Hosea 2:4; Ezekiel 20:30; Isaiah 57:3); “our filial relationship to God has not been polluted by idolatry” (De Wette; comp. Grotius, Lampe, Kuinoel, Lücke, Tholuck, Lange, Hengstenberg, Baeumlein, and several others). It is quite opposed to the context, however, for the starting-point is not the idea of a superhuman Father, nor are the Jews reproached at all with idolatry; but the charge is brought against them, that Abraham is not their father; hence also the supposition of an antithesis to a combined Jewish and heathen descent (Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theophylact, Godet), such as was the case with the Samaritans (Paulus), is inadmissible. Ewald also takes the same simple and correct view;[26] comp. Erasmus, Paraphr. Bengel, however, aptly characterizes the entire objection raised by the Jews as a “novus importunitatis Judaicae paroxysmus.”

ἡμεῖς] spoken with the emphasis of pride.

[25] Ἐκ πορνείας implies one mother, but several fathers. Who is the one mother, follows from the denial of the paternity of Abraham, consequently Sarah, the ancestress of the theocratic people. Hence the inadmissibility of Luthardt’s explanation based on the idea, “Israel is Jehovah’s spouse;” according to which the thought of the Jews would have been: they were not sprung from a marriage covenant of Israel with another, so that Jehovah would thus be merely nominally their father, in reality, however, another; and they would thus have several fathers. Moreover, a marriage covenant between Israel and another would be a contradiction, this other must needs also be conceived as a true God, consequently as a strange God, a notion which Luthardt justly rejects. It is surprising how B. Crusius could adduce Deuteronomy 23:2 for the purpose of representing the Jews as affirming their theocratic equality of birth.

[26] Although characterized by Ebrard as absurd. He regards ἐκ πορνείας οὐ γεγ. as merely a “caricatured form” of the accusation that they are not Abraham’s children, and in this way, of course, gets rid of the need of explaining the words. He then takes ἕνα πατέρα ἔχομεν in the sense of we and thou have one common Father, which is incompatible with the word ἡμεῖς, which also belongs to ἔχομεν, and is, besides, altogether opposed to the context; for the entire dialogue is constituted by the antithesis of we and thou, I and ye. Ebrard’s view is an unfortunate evasion of a desperate kind.

John 8:41. ὑμεῖςὑμῶν. You do not the works of Abraham: you do the works of your father. And yet (John 8:37) He had acknowledged them to be the children of Abraham. The only possible conclusion was that besides Abraham some other father had been concerned in producing them. This idea they repudiate with indignation: ἩμεῖςΘεόν. “We were not born of fornication: we have one father, God”; not “Abraham,” as might have been expected, but “God”: i.e., they claim to be the children of the promise, within the Theocracy, children of God’s house (John 8:35).

41. Ye do the deeds of your father] Better, Ye are doing the works of your father. The word here rendered ‘deeds’ is the same as that rendered ‘works’ in John 8:39. ‘Ye’ is emphatic, in contrast to Abraham. This shews them plainly that spiritual parentage is what He means. In John 8:39 they still cling to Abraham, although He has evidently assigned them some other father. Here they drop literal parentage and adopt His figurative language. ‘You are speaking of spiritual parentage. Well, our spiritual Father is God.’

We be not born of fornication] The meaning of this is very much disputed. The following are the chief explanations: (1) Thou hast denied that we are the children of Abraham, then we must be the children of some one sinning with Sarah: which is false.’ But this would be adultery, not fornication. (2) ‘We are the children of Sarah, not of Hagar.’ But this was lawful concubinage, not fornication. (3) ‘We are not a mongrel race, like the Samaritans; we are pure Jews.’ This is far-fetched, and does not suit the context. (4) ‘We were not born of fornication, as Thou art.’ But His miraculous birth was not yet commonly known, and this foul Jewish lie, perpetuated from the second century onwards (Origen, c. Celsum i. xxxii.), was not yet in existence. (5) ‘We were not born of spiritual fornication; our sonship has not been polluted with idolatry. If thou art speaking of spiritual parentage, ‘we have one Father, even God.’ This last seems the best. Idolatry is so constantly spoken of as whoredom and fornication throughout the whole of the O.T., that in a discussion about spiritual fatherhood this image would be perfectly natural in the mouth of a Jew. Exodus 34:15-16; Leviticus 17:7; Jdg 2:17; 2 Kings 9:22; Psalm 73:27; Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 3:1; Jeremiah 3:9; Ezekiel 16:15; &c. &c. See esp. Hosea 2:4. There is a proud emphasis on ‘we;’—‘we are not idolaters, like Thy friends the Gentiles’ (comp. John 7:35).

we have one Father] Or, one Father we have, with emphasis on the ‘one,’ in contrast to the many gods of the heathen.

John 8:41. Τοῦ πατρὸς ὑμῶν, of your father) His name is not yet expressed: but presently after, when the Jews presume to call God their father, he is expressly called the Devil: see foll. verses.—ἐκ πορνειας, from fornication) A new paroxysm of Jewish unreasonableness [unseasonable clamour]. They stoutly insist, that they are not illegitimate.

Verse 41. - Instead of doing the works of Abraham, you are doing the works of your father. That is, you have a father with whom you are, nevertheless, in living, ethical relation. If you persist in boasting of your father, who is neither "the Father" nor Abraham, I must soon tell you who that father is. Loud interruption followed. Abrupt and startling was the retort: We are [were] not born of fornication; we have one Father, God. Many expositors think that these Jews began to babble against the possibility of their being bastard children of Sarah, or to protest that they were not Ishmaelites or any collateral branch of the seed of Abraham, like the Idumaeans or the sons of Keturah. This is far away from the context, and unworthy of the controversy. The idea is sufficiently explained by the second clause. The covenant relation between Jehovah and Israel is so constantly referred to in the Old Testament (Hosea 1:2; Hosea 2:4; Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 2:20) under the image of marriage and the unfaithfulness of particular generations to Jehovah; and their false worship and idolatry are so often regarded as "fornication" and "adultery" from God, the Husband of the dedicated spouse, so that nothing is more probable, when Jesus charged them with doing the works of their father, that they should have exclaimed, "Surely we have no idolatrous sympathies. None but Jehovah is our God. Thou must not charge us with any compromise with the accursed thing." The wild rage which the Jews had shown to Pilate in the matter of the shields, their abhorrence of the defilement of idols in the matter of food, their avoidance even of the supreme court of Roman justice under fear of idolatrous contamination, explain the outflash of this indignant rejoinder. This view is, in the main, advocated by De Wette, Lampe, Lucke, Lange, and Hengstenberg; but opposed by Meyer, Westcott: "We do not owe our position to idolatrous desertion of Jehovah. We are the offspring of the union of God with his chosen people. Our spiritual descent is as pure as our historical descent." Godet modifies it: "We have no idolatrous blood in our veins; we are Hebrews of the Hebrews." They claim to be the children of God, as well as children of Abraham (Deuteronomy 32:6; Isaiah 63:16; Malachi 2:10). John 8:41Ye do

Or, are doing.

Fornication (πορνείας)

From πέρνημι, to sell.

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