John 8:48
Then answered the Jews, and said to him, Say we not well that you are a Samaritan, and have a devil?
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(48) Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?—The words imply that the saying was customary among the Pharisees. The knowledge of this, and the simple way in which the fact is told, is one of many instances of the writer’s minute acquaintance with what was said and done by the leaders of the Jerusalem party. There is no instance given of the term “Samaritan” being applied to our Lord, but the term itself is frequently used by the Rabbis as one of opprobrium. The history of the fourth chapter is at once suggested to our minds, and was probably not absent from theirs. (Comp. Note on John 7:35.) There may have been facts more immediately connected with this very Feast of Tabernacles present to their minds, which are unknown to us. The going up secretly of John 7:10, must almost certainly have been through Samaria. He had kept the last Passover in the despised Galilee (John 6:4). Had He kept Tabernacles in the hated Samaria? It is worth noting that the word Samaritan, in the singular, as applied to an individual, occurs but twice, except here and in John 4. One instance is in the parable spoken at no long interval after the present discourse (Luke 10:25-37). The other tells us that the only one of the ten lepers who turned back to glorify God “was a Samaritan” (Luke 17:16).

The rendering, “and hast a devil,” is one which, probably, cannot now be improved. Wiclif’s word here is “fiend,” which in this sense is obsolete. But every reader of the Greek must feel how little our English word can represent the two distinct ideas, represented by two distinct words here and in John 8:44. “Demon,” used originally for the lower divinities, and not unfrequently for the gods, passed in the Scriptures, which taught the knowledge of the true God, into the sense of an evil spirit. Thus the word which could represent the attendant genius of Socrates came to express what we speak of as demoniacal possession, and the supposed power of witchcraft and sorcery. Socrates is made to say, “For this reason, therefore, rather than for any other, he calls them demons, because they were prudent and knowing” (daēmones, Plato, Cratylus, xxiii.). The history of Simon Magus reminds us that the people of Samaria, from the least to the greatest, had been for a long time under the influence of his sorceries (Acts 8:9 et seq.), and it is probable that there is a special connection in the words here, “Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a demon.” (Comp. Excursus III. on Notes to St. Matthew’s Gospel, p. 185.)

John 8:48-53. Then answered the Jews, Say we not well — Have we not just cause to say; Thou art a Samaritan — An enemy to our church and nation; and hast a devil? — Art possessed by a proud and lying spirit? The Jews and Samaritans bearing a mortal hatred to one another on account of religion, it happened, that in common language, Couthi, or Samaritan, was used to signify, not merely a Samaritan by country, but one by principle and disposition; and so denoted oft-times an inveterate enemy to the Jewish nation and religion, and a man of wicked morals. Thus, in our own language, a Turk signifies one of a barbarous disposition; and a Jew, one who is covetous and rich. Jesus to this insolent charge answered with great meekness, I have not a devil — As the whole series of my discourses and actions shows; nor can any of you produce any thing, in all that I have said or done, which looks like lunacy or impiety: but, the truth is, I honour my Father — By bearing a steady and consistent testimony to the doctrine he hath sent me to reveal to the world: and because this doctrine is contrary to your corrupt prejudices and passions, you dishonour me — By these and such like opprobrious reflections, in hope of discrediting my message. But as to what personally relates to me, I am little affected with it; for I seek not my own glory: there is one, however, that seeketh — And will secure it; and who now judgeth — Of all that passes, and will at length evidently show the exact notice he has taken of it, to my honour and to your confusion. For God will not only finally glorify me, but will confer the highest honours and rewards on all my faithful servants: and therefore, Verily, I say unto you — I assert it as an indisputable truth; If a man — Εαν τις, if any one; keep my saying — Firmly believe, and steadily obey my word; he shall never see death — He shall never see spiritual and eternal death; and temporal death, the dissolution of his mortal nature, shall, with respect to him, hardly deserve the name of death; his soul, the real and true man, not dying at all, but passing into the paradise of God, and his body only falling asleep for a short season. Hereby our Lord proves that he was not a Samaritan, for the Samaritans, in general, were Sadducees. Then the Jews — Understanding him as asserting that his disciples should be exempted from the common lot of mortality; said, Now we know that thou hast a devil — Now we have full proof that thou art possessed by a demon, which hurries thee on to this madness and pride, otherwise thou couldest never talk at this extravagant rate. Abraham, the great friend of God, and the founder of our nation, is dead, and the prophets, holy and divinely inspired as they were, whom God raised up in succeeding ages, were so far from being able to bestow immortality on their followers, that even they themselves are long since dead; and thou sayest — In great presumption and pride; If a man, if any one, keep my saying, (see on John 8:51,) he shall never taste of death — Not only he shall not die eternally, (in which sense the Jews did not understand our Lord’s words,) but he shall not die at all. See on John 6:50. Art thou greater than our father Abraham, &c. — Art thou more in favour with God than Abraham and the prophets were? who, though strict observers of all the divine precepts, were not able to procure an immunity from death for themselves, far less for their followers. 8:48-53 Observe Christ's disregard of the applause of men. those who are dead to the praises of men can bear their contempt. God will seek the honour of all who do not seek their own. In these verses we have the doctrine of the everlasting happiness of believers. We have the character of a believer; he is one that keeps the sayings of the Lord Jesus. And the privilege of a believer; he shall by no means see death for ever. Though now they cannot avoid seeing death, and tasting it also, yet they shall shortly be where it will be no more forever, Ex 14:13.Say we not well - Say we not truly.

Thou art a Samaritan - This was a term of contempt and reproach. See the notes at John 4:9. It had the force of charging him with being a heretic or a schismatic, because the Samaritans were regarded as such.

And hast a devil - See John 7:20. This charge they brought against him because he had said that they were not of God or were not the friends of God. This they regarded as the same as taking sides with the Samaritans, for the question between the Jews and Samaritans was, which of them worshipped God aright, John 4:20. As Jesus affirmed that the Jews were not of God, and as he, contrary to all their views, had gone and preached to the Samaritans John 4, they regarded it as a proof that he was disposed to take part with them. They also regarded it as evidence that he had a devil. The devil was an accuser or calumniator and as Jesus charged them with being opposed to God, they considered it as proof that he was influenced by such an evil spirit.

devil - In the original, demon. Not the prince or chief of the devils, but an evil spirit.

48-51. Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?—What intense and virulent scorn! (See Heb 12:3). The "say we not well" refers to Joh 7:20. "A Samaritan" means more than "no Israelite at all"; it means one who pretended, but had no manner of claim to the title—retorting perhaps, this denial of their true descent from Abraham. A Samaritan signified to the Jews as much as an impostor, or seducer; for the Jews looked upon the Samaritans as a detestable sort of men, who had corrupted the worship of God with their horrible superstitions in Mount Gerizim.

And hast a devil; that is, art mad: See Poole on "John 7:20". Then answered the Jews, and said unto him,.... Being incensed to the last degree, that he should say they were of their father the devil, and not of God; and that he spoke the truth, and no one could convince him of sin:

say we not well, that thou art a Samaritan? it seems they had said so before, though it is not recorded; and now they thought themselves justified in it, since he treated them, the true sons of Abraham, in such a manner; and the rather, since he had been lately among the Samaritans, and had in a parable spoken in favour of a Samaritan: they meant by this expression, that he was an irreligious man, and one that had no regard to the law of Moses; or at least played fast and loose with religion and the law, and was for any thing, as times served: the Jews had a very ill opinion of the Samaritans, on these accounts and to call a man a Samaritan, was all one as to call him an heretic, an idolater, or an excommunicated person; for such were the Samaritans with the Jews; they charged them with corrupting the Scriptures, and with worshipping idols, which were hid in Mount Gerizim; and they give us a dreadful account of their being anathematized by Ezra, Zorobabel, and Joshua; who, they say (r),

"gathered the whole congregation into the temple, and brought in three hundred priests, and three hundred children, and three hundred trumpets, and three hundred books of the law, in their hands; they blew the trumpets, and the Levites sung, and they anathematized the Samaritans, by the inexplicable name of God, and by the writing on tables, and with the anathema of the house of judgment, above and below; (saying,) let not any Israelite for ever eat of the fruit, or of the least morsel of a Samaritan; hence they say, whoso eateth the flesh of a Samaritan, it is all one as if he ate swine's flesh; also let not a Samaritan be made a proselyte, nor have a part in the resurrection of the dead; as it is said, "You have nothing to do with to build an house unto our God", Ezra 4:3, neither in this world, nor in the world to come: moreover, also let him have no part in Jerusalem; as it is said, "But you have no portion, nor, right, nor memorial in Jerusalem", Nehemiah 2:20; and they sent this anathema to the Israelites that were in Babylon, and they added thereunto, curse upon curse moreover, king Cyrus added an everlasting anathema to it, as it is said, "And the God that hath caused his name to dwell there, destroy", &c. Ezra 6:12.''

And hence, because the Samaritans were had in such abhorrence by the Jews, they would not ask a blessing over food in company with them (s), nor say Amen after they had asked one (t); nor indeed, after the better sort of them had asked, unless the whole blessing was distinctly heard (u), that so they might be sure there was no heresy in it; by all which it appears, how opprobrious this name was, and what a sad character was fixed upon a man that bore it; see Gill on John 4:9; and as Christ was called by the Jews a Samaritan, they having no name more hateful and reproachful to call him by, so the Christians are still in their writings called Cuthites, or Samaritans; and it is indeed with them a general name for all Gentiles and idolaters, or whom they esteem such:

and hast a devil; familiarity and converse with one; by which means they imagined he knew their thoughts, and their actions, and by his assistance performed his miracles; or they took him for a lunatic, or a madman; whose lunacy and madness proceeded from the devil, with whom he was possessed: and this rather seems to be the sense, since in John 8:52 the Jews say they knew he had a devil, which they concluded from his saying, that such that observed his words, and kept them, should never die; which they considered as the words of a man out of his senses, seeing all men, even the best of men die, they not understanding his meaning; whereas they could not gather from hence, that he dealt with familiar spirits; and what still confirms this sense is, that these two are joined together in John 10:20, "he hath a devil, and is mad", and such as were demoniacs, men possessed with devils, were either mad, or lunatic, and melancholy; see Matthew 8:28, compared with Mark 9:17. To which may be added, that it was a prevailing notion with the Jews, that madness and melancholy were owing to evil spirits, which had the predominancy over men: and seeing Christ was thought to be besides himself by his friends and relations, Mark 3:21, it need not be wondered at, that his enemies should fix such a character on him; nor was this an unusual one to be given to good men; the prophets and spiritual men of the Old Testament were accounted madmen, 2 Kings 9:11. And since our Lord was used in this abusive manner, it need not seem strange, that his followers should be treated in the same way; as the Apostle Paul and his companions in the ministry were, Acts 26:24; see John 10:20.

(r) Pirke Eliezer, c. 38. (s) Bartenora in Misn. Beracot, c. 7. sect. 1.((t) Elias in Tishbi in voce (u) Misn. Beracot, c. 8. sect. 8. & Maimon. & Bartonera in ib.

{15} Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?

(15) The enemies of Christ act bravely for a while, but the Father will appear in his time to avenge the reproach that is done unto him in the person of his Son.

John 8:48-49. In John 8:42 ff. Jesus had denied that His opponents were sons of God, and had stamped them as children of the devil. This procedure they regard only as a confirmation of the accusation which they bring against Him (λέγομεν) of being a Samaritan, i.e. an heretical antagonist of the pure people of God (for in this light did they view that despised people of mixed race), and possessed with a devil (John 7:20). So paradoxical, not merely presumptuous (as Luthardt explains Σαμαρ.), and so crazed did the discourse of Jesus appear to them. No reference whatever was intended to John 4:5 ff. (Brückner, Ewald). On καλῶς, aptly, comp. John 4:17, John 12:13.

John 8:49. ἐγὼ δαιμόν. οὐκ ἔχω, etc.] The emphatic ἐγώ does not contain a retort by which the demoniacal element would be ascribed to His opponents (Cyril., Lücke),—a reference which would require to be indicated by arranging the words οὐκ ἐγὼ δαιμ. ἔχω,—but stands simply in opposition to the following καὶ ὑμεῖς. With quiet earnestness, leaving unnoticed the reproach of being a Samaritan, Jesus replies: I for my part am not possessed, but honour (by discourses which you consider demoniacal, but by which I in reality preserve and promote the glory of God) my Father; and you, on your part, what is it that you do? You dishonour me! Thus does He unveil to them the unrighteousness of their abusive language.48. Then answered the Jews] The best MSS. omit the particle, which if it were genuine should be rendered ‘therefore,’ not ‘then:’ The Jews answered. This denial of their national prerogative of being sons of God seems to them malicious frenzy. He must be an enemy of the peculiar people and be possessed.

Say we not well] i.e. rightly: comp. John 4:17, John 13:13, John 18:23. ‘We’ is emphatic; ‘we at any rate are right.’

that thou art a Samaritan] “Nowhere else do we find the designation ‘a Samaritan;’ yet it might naturally—we might say inevitably—be given to one who seemed to attack the exclusive privileges of the Jewish people.” S. pp. 159, 160. It is therefore a striking touch of reality, and another instance of the Evangelist’s complete familiarity with the ideas and expressions current in Palestine at this time. Possibly this term of reproach contains a sneer at His visit to Samaria in chap. 4, and at His having chosen the unusual route through Samaria, as He probably did (see on John 7:10), in coming up to the Feast of Tabernacles. The parable of the Good Samaritan was probably not yet spoken.

and hast a devil] It is unfortunate that we have not two words in our Bible to distinguish diabolos, ‘the Devil’ (John 8:44, John 13:2; Matthew 4:1; Luke 8:12; &c., &c.), from daimonion or daimôn, ‘a devil,’ or ‘unclean spirit.’ ‘Fiend,’ which Wiclif sometimes employs (Matthew 12:24; Matthew 12:28; Mark 1:34; Mark 1:39, &c.), might have been used, had Tyndale and Cranmer adopted it: demon would have been better still. But here Tyndale, Cranmer, and the Geneva Version make the confusion complete by rendering ‘and hast the devil,’ a mistake which they make also in John 7:20 and John 10:20. The charge here is more bitter than either John 7:20 or John 10:20, where it simply means that His conduct is so extraordinary that He must be demented. We have instances more similar to this in the Synoptists; Matthew 9:34; Matthew 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15.John 8:48. Ἀπεκρίθησαν, they answered) with a most unjust retort, in the forms of cavil which they had so frequently used.—οὐ καλῶς λέγομεν ἡμεῖς, do not we well say?) They utter this awful insult with some degree of fear as yet.—Σαμαρείτης, a Samaritan) an alien from the true God of the true Israel. Jesus replies at the close of the 54th verse and in the following verses, “It is My Father that honoureth Me, of whom ye say, that He is your God: Yet ye have not known Him, but I know Him.”—συ) thou, they say, no we.—δαιμόνιον, a demon) So they said, who supposed, that the words of Jesus flowed from a foolish pride and assumption. Thus is made clear the reference of those things which Jesus replies in John 8:49, etc., “I have not a devil, but I honour My Father,” etc., “and I seek not Mine own glory.”Verse 48. - But it brought from them a shout of derision and a burst of scornful mockery. The Jews answered and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a daemon? They imagine that the bare charge that they, the leaders of Israel, are "not of God," and that they reveal the fact by their inability to hear the words of God then sounding in their ears, was flat heresy, a gross lack of patriotism, and proved that, in his lofty self-assertion, he was no better than a Samaritan - the most hated of their neighbours. They return a harsh tu-quoque to our Lord's refusal to admit their Abrahamic descent, and his condemnation of their utter moral dissimilarity from their putative father. The sentence, "a Samaritan art thou!" is singularly insulting in its tone and form. We cannot measure the exact amount of insult they condensed into this word, whether it be of heresy, or alienation from Israel, or accusation of impure descent. It is remarkable that our Lord had shown special kindness to Samaritans (ch. 4.), and had made in his parable "the good Samaritan" the type of neighbourly love; but these very Jews had, in the height of this controversy, accused him of being a "Galilaean," and it is not probable that they used the term otherwise than as a soubriquet of scorn. Edersheim (loc. cit., 2:174, 175) would translate into Aramaic the language here cited, and finds in its form Shomroni the real interpretation of its meaning. Shomron is, according to him, used in rabbinical writing for Ashmedai, and in the cabbalists is used for Sammael or Satan. Arabian traditions are brought in to confirm this interpretation of the speech, which he regards as equivalent to "Thou art a child of the devil," thus retorting upon Jesus the charge that they were doing the works of their father, the devil. The one expression is thought by Edersheim equivalent to that which follows, thou hast a daemon; and his explanation is thought to cover our Lord's silence respecting it. In our opinion this is far-fetched and unnatural. Christ's silence is better justified by his refusal to regard such a term as conveying opprobrium, tic had risen above the distinction of race, and could afford to despise the taunt. In John 7:20 (see note) a similar charge had been made by the angry Jews. The Lord is accused of being mastered by some daemon, who is perverting his mind and confusing his speech. Some further force is added to the charge from the language of the Talmud, 'Jebamoth,' fol. 47, a: "R. Nachman, son of Isaac, said to a Samaritan, 'Thou art a Cuthite, and testimony from thy mouth has no validity.'" Say we not well

Indicating a current reproach. Well (καλῶς) is literally, finely, beautifully. Sometimes ironical, as Mark 7:6.

Thou art a Samaritan (Σαμαρείτης εἶ σὺ)

Literally, a Samaritan art thou: the σὺ, thou, terminating the sentence with a bitter emphasis: thou who professest such reverence for God and His law, art only a Samaritan, hostile to the true law and kingdom of God.

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