The Discourse Continued: Incapacity of the Jews to Understand the Testimony of God as Given in the Scriptures. (John, V. , 37-47. )
It was precisely through the works, Christ told them, that the Father had testified to him. "But," continued he, in effect, " it is no wonder that you ask another testimony of me, seeing that you are destitute of the spiritual capacity which is necessary to perceive this one. It can not be perceived with the senses; [383] you have never heard with your ears the voice of the Father, nor seen with your eyes his form. God does not reveal himself to the fleshly sense; and in you no other sense is developed. And for this reason, too, you cannot understand the testimony of the Scriptures. The word of God, which you ought to have received within you from the Scriptures, dwells not in you; it has remained for you simply outward. Hence your searching of the Scriptures' is a lifeless thing. Thinking that, in the letter of the word, you have eternal life, you will not come unto Him who alone imparts that life, and to whom the Scriptures were only intended to lead; your dispositions and mine are directly contrary. I am concerned only for the honour of God; you for your own. With such a disposition, you cannot possibly believe in me. If another should come, in feeling like yourselves, and seek, in his own name, to lord it among you, him you will receive. [384] Moses himself, for whose honour you are zealous, but whose law you violate whenever it clashes with your selfish interests, will appear as your accuser. Did you truly believe Moses -- not according to the letter merely, but also to the spirit -- you would also believe in me." [385]

Had the Pharisees been truly sincere in observing the law, the law would have been to them a paidagogos eis Christon (a schoolmaster to lead to Christ), and they would have discovered the element of prophecy even in the Pentateuch itself. Their adherence to the letter made them blind to the Messiah; but their carnal mind caused their adherence to the letter. Justly, then, could Christ say to them, "Ye strive for the honour of Moses, yet, in fact, you seek your own honour more than his, and, therefore, do not believe him; how, then, can you believe my words, which must appear altogether strange and new?"

From this time the ruling Pharisaic party persecuted Christ as a most dangerous enemy, who exposed their sentiments with a power of truth not to be controverted. "Sabbath-breaking and blasphemy" were the pretexts on which they sought his condemnation.


[383] We may remember how the Jews were inclined to look for Theophanies (visible appearances of the Deity).

[384] Cf. the predictions, in the synoptical Gospels, of false prophets that should deceive the people.

[385] For Moses' highest calling was to prepare the way for Messiah. Both by the whole stage which he occupied in the developement of the Divine kingdom, and by individual prophetic intimations (like Deut., xviii., 15; Gen., iii., 15, in their spiritual meaning), he had pointed out the Messiah.

[377] John, v., 1. The chronology of the life of Christ depends a good deal upon the question whether the feast mentioned John, v., 1, was or was not the Passover. The indefiniteness of the word "feast" in this passage, and the mention of the Passover itself in John, vi., 4, might lead us to infer that the feast of Purim was meant, which occurred a few weeks before the Passover; but every thing else is against this inference. The Purim feast did not require of the pious Jew anabainein eis Hierosoluma; had this feast, therefore, been in question, we might expect in John, v., 1, a statement of Christ's reason for going up to it, instead of waiting for the Passover. The most ancient interpretation favours the Passover (Iren., ii., 22), which feast was attended by most of the foreign Jews, and required the anabainein. The omission of the definite article in the text is not so important as some suppose. The text says en heorte--"it was feast"--further defined by anebe, showing that the chief feast is intended. Even in German

[or English] we might say, loosely, "it was feast," omitting the article, as in the Greek. It is unlikely, too, that Christ, who had already roused the prejudices of the Pharisees against him, should have gone to the Purim feast, where he would have had to contend with them alone in Jerusalem, instead of continuing his labours undisturbed in Galilee until Passover. John's omission to say more of Christ's ministry up to the time of the next Passover (vi., 4) may be accounted for on the ground that it was not his purpose to recount his labours in Galilee, which were preserved in the circle of the ordinary traditions. The two first verses of chap. v. show how summary his account is. Only in chap. vii., 1, is an occasion offered for assigning the reason for Christ's stay in Galilee; we can the more readily account for the surprise of the brothers (vii., 3, seq.) if he spent the whole year and a half in Galilee.

section 146 the discourse continued
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