Then said the Jews to him, You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Thou art not yet fifty years old.—There is no reason to doubt that we have the correct reading here, though some, from Chrysostom downward, have sought to avoid what seemed to them a difficulty, by substituting “forty” for “fifty.” Others, and among them were the “Elders who in Asia conferred with John, the Lord’s disciple,” have held that our Lord was between forty and fifty years of age at the time of his public ministry. We know this from the testimony of Irenaeus, who appears to have this very passage in his mind, for he says, “As the gospel and all the Elders witness” (Lib. 2 chap. 22 § 5; Oxford Translation, p. 160). But “fifty years” was the period of full manhood (Numbers 4:3; Numbers 4:39; Numbers 8:24). This is expressed in round numbers, and there is no care to be more exact in comparison with the two thousand years which had passed since the close of Abraham’s earthly life. The thought is, “Thou art still a young man, and hast thou seen Abraham who died twenty centuries ago?”
Hast thou seen Abraham? - It is remarkable, also, that they perverted his words. His affirmation was not that he had seen Abraham, but that Abraham had seen his day. The design of Jesus was to show that he was greater than Abraham, John 8:53. To do this, he says that Abraham, great as he was, earnestly desired to see his time, thus acknowledging his inferiority to the Messiah. The Jews perverted this, and affirmed that it was impossible that he and Abraham should have seen each other.
and hast thou seen Abraham?—He had said Abraham saw Him, as being his peculiar privilege. They give the opposite turn to it—"Hast Thou seen Abraham?" as an honor too great for Him to pretend to.
and hast thou seen Abraham? if he had not, Abraham had seen him, in the sense before given, and in which Christ asserted it, and it is to be understood.
(a) Pirke Abot, c. 5. sect. 21. (b) T. Bab. Chagiga, fol. 14. 1. Juchasin, fol. 44. 2.((c) T. Hieros. Biccurim, fol. 64. 3. T. Bab. Moed Katon, fol. 28. 1. Macsecheth Semachot, c. 3. sect. 9. Kimchi in Isaiah 38.10.Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)John 8:57. The Jews, referring κ. εἶδε κ. ἐχάρη to the earthly life of Abraham, imagine the assertion of Jesus to imply that He had lived in the days of the patriarch, and professed to have been personally acquainted with him! How absurd is this!
πεντήκοντα] Placed first to indicate emphasis, corresponding to the position afterwards assigned to the word Ἀβρ. Fifty years are specified as the period when a man attains his full growth (comp. Numbers 4:3; Numbers 4:39; Numbers 8:24 f.; Lightfoot, p. 1046 f.): thou hast not yet passed the full age of manhood! Consequently, neither the reading τεσσαράκοντα is to be preferred (Ebrard), nor need we conclude either that Jesus was above forty years of age (the Presbyters of Asia Minor in Iren. II. 22. 5); or that He was taken to be so old διὰ τὴν πολυπειρίαν αὐτοῦ (Euth. Zigabenus); or that He looked so old (Lampe, Heumann, Paulus); or that they confounded “the intensity of the devotion of His soul” as it showed itself in His person, with the traces of age (Lange, Life of Jesus). In the act of instituting a comparison with the two thousand years that had elapsed since Abraham’s day, they could not well care about determining very precisely the age of Christ. In answer to E. v. Bunsen (The Hidden Wisdom of Christ, etc., Lond. 1865, II. p. 461 ff.), who seeks to establish the correctness of the statement in Irenaeus, see Rösch in Die Jahrb. für deutsche Theol. 1866, p. 4 f. Without the slightest reason, Bunsen finds in the forty-six years of chap. John 4:2, the age of Christ. But even Keim is not opposed to the idea of Christ being forty years of age (Gesch. Jes. I. p. 469; comp. his Geschichtl. Chr. p. 235).John 8:57. This, however, the Jews completely misunderstand. They think that by asserting that Abraham saw His day, Jesus means to say that His day and the life of Abraham on earth were contemporaneous.—Πεντήκοντα … ἑώρακας; “Fifty years” may be used as a round number, sufficiently exact for their purpose and with no intention to determine the age of Jesus. But Lightfoot (Hor. Heb., 1046) thinks the saying is ruled by the age when Levites retired, see Numbers 4:3; Numbers 4:39 : “Tu non adhuc pervenisti ad vulgarem annum superannuationis, et tune vidisti Abrahamum?” Irenaeus (ii. 22, 5) records that the Gospel (presumably this passage) and the Presbyters of Asia Minor who had known John, testified that Jesus taught till He was forty or fifty. This idea is upheld by E. v. Bunsen (Hidden Wisdom of Christ), and even Keim is of opinion that Jesus may have lived to His fortieth year.57. Then said the Jews] Better. Therefore said the Jews.
Thou art not yet fifty years old] The reading, ‘forty years,’ which Chrysostom and a few authorities give, is no doubt incorrect. It has arisen from a wish to make the number less wide of the mark; for our Lord was probably not yet thirty-five, although Irenaeus preserves a tradition that He taught at a much later age. He says (ii. xxii. 5), a quadrigesimo autem et quinquagesimo anno declinat jam in aetatem seniorem, quam habens Dominus noster docebat, sicut evangelium et omnes seniores testantur qui in Asia apud Joannem discipulum Domini convenerunt. By ‘evangelium’ he probably means this passage. But ‘fifty years’ is a round number, the Jewish traditional age of full manhood (Numbers 4:3; Numbers 4:39; Numbers 8:24-25). There is no reason to suppose that Jesus was nearly fifty, or looked nearly fifty. In comparing His age with the 2000 years since Abraham the Jews would not care to be precise so long as they were within the mark.John 8:57. Πεντήκοντα, fifty) For contention’s sake they exaggerate the number. But, had they not been altogether forgetful of His nativity at Bethlehem, they would have said, Thirty years old, and not much more. As it is, they imply this by their words, Thou hast not yet reached a half century, in other words, the year of superannuation; Numbers 4:3, The term of the Levite service, “From thirty years old and upward, even until fifty years old,” as Lightfoot observes; whence it seems, the expression is not unlike an adage. It is not likely, that Jesus by reason of sorrows had contracted a premature appearance of old age. Hebrews 1:9, “God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above they fellows:” Matthew 9:15, “Can the children of the bride-chamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them?” ch. John 11:19, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking.”—Ἀβραάμ, Abraham) He had died 1850 years before this colloquy.—ἑώρακας, hast thou seen) They speak (and rightly so, indeed; comp. ch. John 16:16; John 16:22, “A little while, and ye shall not see Me, and again, a little while and ye shall see Me,” etc.: “Ye now have sorrow, but I will see you again,”) by the force of correlatives. Since Abraham saw Thy day; Thou hast seen Abraham.Verse 57. - The Jews, therefore, said unto him - once more misinterpreting his words, and giving a materialistic tone to his Divine hint - Thou hast not yet fifty years - "Thou art not fifty years old" - and hast thou seen Abraham? Christ did not say that be had seen Abraham, but that Abraham had seen and rejoiced in his day. The Jews chose to regard the language of Jesus as adding another immense improbability, if not falsehood, to his previous claims, viz. that he had actually lived to twice the age of Methuselah already. The "fifty years old" may have been simply used in round numbers for the age of man's prime and completed life (Numbers 4:3, 39; Numbers 8:24). There may have been, even if our Lord was only thirty-three years of age at the time of his Passion, that which apparently added to his years. A tradition is mentioned (Irenaeus, 100, 2, 22. 5) of the more advanced age of Jesus which the Ephesian presbyters preserved, and which Irenaeus regards as between the forty-fifth and fiftieth years. Ernest de Bunsen vainly finds a reference to Christ's age (John 2:20) in the forty-six years of the temple; but it is strange that, with the exception of the statement in Luke 3:23, there is nothing in the extraneous chronological data, e.g. the death of Herod and recall of Pontius Pilate, which need positively compress our Lord's life within fifty years (Westcott). And Keim has made the suggestion that our Lord did carry on his ministry for a much longer period than is commonly supposed. It is far more probable, however, that the Jews were using an expression for the term of a completed life, and were supplying no chronological data whatever.
Literally, thou hast not yet fifty years. The age of completed manhood.
Hast thou seen
Again misquoting the Lord's words.
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