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12. The light of the world (to fwv tou kosmou). Not lucnov, a lamp, as John the Baptist (v. 35). Light is another of John's characteristic terms and ideas, playing a most important part in his writings, as related to the manifestation of Jesus and His work upon men. He comes from God, who is light (1 John i. 5). "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men" (i. 4). The Word was among men as light before the incarnation (i. 9; ix. 5), and light came with the incarnation (iii. 19-21; viii. 12; xii. 46). Christ is light through the illuminating energy of the Spirit (xiv. 21, 26; xvi. 13; 1 John ii. 20, 27), which is received through love (xiv. 22, 23). The object of Christ's work is to make men sons of light (xii. 36, 46), and to endow them with the light of life (viii. 12).
In ver. 20, we are told that Jesus spake these words in the Treasury. This was in the Court of the Women, the most public part of the temple. Four golden candelabra stood there, each with four golden bowls, each one filled from a pitcher of oil by a youth of priestly descent. These were lighted on the first night of the Feast of Tabernacles. It is not unlikely that they may have suggested our Lord's figure, but the figure itself was familiar both from prophecy and from tradition. According to tradition, Light was one of the names of the Messiah. See Isa. ix. 1; xlii. 6; xlix. 6; lx. 1-3; Malachi iv. 2; Luke ii. 32.
Shall have (exei). Not only shall see it, but shall possess it. Hence Christ's disciples are the light of the world (Matt. v. 14). Compare lights, or, properly, luminaries (fwsthrev) a name, applied to believers in Philip. ii. 15.
13. Thou barest record of thyself. Rev., witness. A technical objection, evading the real purport of Jesus' declaration. The Rabbinical writings declared that no man could give witness for himself.
14. Though (kan). Literally, even if.
I know (oida). With a clear inward consciousness. See on ii. 24.
Whence I came and whither I go. Two essential facts of testimony, viz., origin and destiny. "The question was one about His own personal consciousness, of which only Himself could bear witness" (Lange). "If the sun or the day could speak, and should say: 'I am the sun!' and it were replied, 'No, thou mayest be the night, for thou bearest witness of thyself!' how would that sound? Argue it away if thou canst" ("Berlenburg Bible," cited by Stier, "Words of the Lord Jesus").
And whither I go. The best texts read, h, or.
16. True (alhqhv). The best texts, however, read ajlhqinh, true to the perfect ideal of judgment.
It is written (gegraptai). The perfect tense: it has been written, and stands written. The common form of citation elsewhere, but used by John of the Old Testament scriptures only here. His usual form is gegrammenon ejstin, the participle with the finite verb, literally, it is having been written.
The Father - beareth witness of me. Thus there are two witnesses, and the letter of the law is fulfilled.
19. Where. The testimony of an unseen and unheard witness would not satisfy them.
20. The Treasury (gazofulakiw). From gaza, treasure, a Persian word, occurring only once in the New Testament (Acts viii. 27), and fulakh, guard. Used by John only here. The Treasury was in the Court of the Women, so called, not because it was appropriated to the worship of women exclusively, but because they were not allowed to proceed further, except for sacrificial purposes. The court covered a space upwards of two hundred feet square, and was surrounded by a colonnade, within which, and against the wall, were the thirteen trumpet-shaped chests, called "trumpets" from their shape, for charitable contributions. This court was the most public part of the temple.
And no man laid hands on Him (kai oudeiv epiasen auton). Notice the connection with the previous sentence by the simple and, where another writer would have said and yet: the sense being that though Jesus was teaching where He might easily have been apprehended, yet no one attempted to arrest Him. See on i. 10. Laid hands on is better rendered, as elsewhere, took (compare vii. 30). The inconsistency of the A.V. in the renderings of the same word, of which this is only one of many instances, is noteworthy here from the fact that in the only two passages in which John uses the phrase laid hands on (vii. 30; vii. 44), he employs the common formula, ejpiballein tav ceirav, or thn ceira, and in both these passages the word piasai is rendered take. The use of this latter word is confined almost exclusively to John, as it is found only three times elsewhere (Acts iii. 7; xii. 4; 2 Cor. xi. 32).
21. Then (oun). Properly, therefore, connecting the fact of Jesus' continuing to speak with His freedom from arrest.
Said Jesus. Omit Jesus, and read, He said therefore.
Go away (upagw). Withdraw myself from you; this sense being emphasized by the succeeding words, ye shall seek me. In expressing one's departure from men or from surrounding objects, we may emphasize merely the fact of removal, in which case ajpercomai, to go away, would be appropriate; or we may emphasize the removal as affecting some relation of the person to that from which he removes, as in vi. 67, where Jesus says to the disciples, "will ye also go away, or withdraw from me," in which case uJpagw is the proper word. 31 In your sin (en th amartia umwn). See on Matt. i. 21. Note the singular, sin, not sins. It is used collectively to express the whole condition of estrangement from God.
22. Will He kill Himself (mhti apoktenei eauton)? The mockery in these words is alike subtle and bitter. The interrogative particle, mhti, signifies surely He will not by any chance kill Himself; and the sense of the whole clause is, He will not surely go where we cannot reach Him, unless perchance He should kill Himself; and as that would insure His going to Gehenna, of course we could not go to Him there. The remark displays alike the scorn and the self-righteousness of the speakers.
23. Ye are from beneath (ek twn katw este). A phrase peculiar to John and to his Gospel. Jesus states the radical antagonism between His opposers and Himself, as based upon difference of origin and nature. They spring from the lower, sensual, earthly economy; He from the heavenly. Compare Jas. iii. 15 sqq.
Ye are of this world (ek tou kosmou toutou este). Peculiar to John, and occurring in the First Epistle. On kosmou, world, see on i. 9. Ye are of this earthly order or economy.
24. I am he (egw eimi). He is inserted in the versions and is not in the text. By retaining it, we read, I am the Messiah. But the words are rather the solemn expression of His absolute divine being, as in ver. lviii. "If ye believe not that I am." See Deut. xxxii. 39; Isa. xliii. 10; and compare vv. 28, 58 of this chapter, and xiii. 19.
25. Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning (thn archn o ti kai lalw umin). A very difficult passage, on which the commentators are almost hopelessly divided. There are two main classes of interpretations, according to one of which it is to be read interrogatively, and according to the other, affirmatively. The two principal representatives of the former class are Meyer, who renders "Do you ask that which all along (thn archn) I am even saying to you?" and Westcott, "How is it that I even speak to you at all (thn archn)"? So also Milligan and Moulton. This latter rendering requires the change of o ti, the relative, that which, into the conjunction oti, that.
The second class of interpreters, who construe the passage affirmatively, vary in their explanations of thn archn, which they render severally, altogether, essentially, first of all, in the beginning. There is also a third class, who take thn archn as a noun, and explain according to Revelation xxi. 6, "I am the beginning, that which I am even saying unto you." This view is represented mostly by the older commentators, Augustine, Bede, Lampe, and later by Wordsworth.
I adopt the view of Alford, who renders essentially, explaining by generally, or traced up to its principle (arch). Shading off from this are Godet, absolutely; Winer, throughout; Thayer, wholly or precisely. I render, I am essentially that which I even speak to you. If we accept the explanation of I am, in ver. 24, as a declaration of Jesus' absolute divine being, that thought prepares the way for this interpretation of His answer to the question, Who art thou? His words are the revelation of Himself. "He appeals to His own testimony as the adequate expression of His nature. They have only to fathom the series of statements He has made concerning Himself, and they will find therein a complete analysis of His mission and essence" (Godet). 32
26. I have many things, etc. The connection of thought seems to be as follows: "I being such as my words show me to be, I must declare the whole message of Him by virtue of my essential union with whom I speak. Many things I have to declare and judge, and you may turn a deaf ear to them; nevertheless, I must speak the whole truth, the things which I have heard from Him who sent me and who is true."
I speak to the world (legw eiv ton kosmon). The best texts read lalw, which emphasizes not what Christ says (which would be legw), but the fact that He speaks. See on Matt. xxviii. 18. The use of the preposition eijv here is peculiar. Literally, "I speak into the world;" so that my words may reach and spread through the world. See for a similar construction 1 Thessalonians ii. 9; iv. 8; Heb. ii. 3. So Sophocles, where Electra says, khrusse mj eijv apantav proclaim me to all: so that the report of me may reach all ears ("Electra," 606).
27. They understood (egnwsan). Perceived, as Rev. He spake. Imperfect. Was speaking would be much better.
28. Lifted up. See on iii. 14.
Ye shall know (gnwsesqe). Render, perceive, here as in ver. 27.
I am He. As in ver. 24, on which see note.
Of myself (ap emautou). Properly, from myself, as Rev., at vii. 17, but not here. See on vii. 17.
Hath taught (edidaxen). Rev., more correctly, taught. The aorist tense, regarding the teaching as a single act. Compare hkousa, I heard, iii. 32. I speak these things (pauta lalw). Not equivalent to so I speak (i.e., as the Father taught me), but an absolute declaration with reference to these present revelations.
29. The Father. The best texts omit.
Alone. See ver. 16.
Those things that please Him (ta aresta autw). Literally, as Rev., the things that are pleasing to Him. Always (pantote) closing the sentence, is emphatic. Jesus' holy activity is habitual and continuous. See iv. 34.
30. Believed on (episteukotav autw). See on i. 12, and compare believed Him, ver. 31.
If ye continue (ean umeiv meinhte). The emphasis is on the ye, addressed to those whose faith was rudimentary; who believed Him, but did not yet believe on Him. Rev., abide.
In my word (en tw logw tw emw). Literally, in the word which is mine: peculiarly mine, characteristic of me. The expression is intentionally stronger than my word. Compare my love (xv. 9).
Indeed (alhqwv). Literally, truly; as Rev. As those who believe on me, not as those who are moved by temporary excitement to admit my claims.
33. Were never in bondage (dedouleukamen pwpote). Rev., better, have never yet been in bondage; thus giving the force of the perfect tense, never up to this time, and of the pw, yet. In the light of the promises given to Abraham, Gen. xvii. 16; xxii. 17, 18, the Jews claimed not only freedom, but dominion over the nations. In their reply to Jesus they ignore alike the Egyptian, Babylonian, and Syrian bondage, through which the nation had successively passed, as well as their present subjection to Rome, treating these merely as bondage which, though a fact, was not bondage by right, or bondage to which they had ever willingly submitted, and, therefore, not bondage in any real sense. Beside the fact that their words were the utterance of strong passion, it is to be remembered that the Romans, from motives of policy, had left them the semblance of political independence. As in so many other cases, they overlook the higher significance of Jesus' words, and base their reply on a technicality. These are the very Jews who believed Him (ver. 31). Stier remarks: "These poor believers soon come to the end of their faith." The hint of the possible inconstancy of their faith, conveyed in the Lord's words if ye abide in my word, is thus justified.
34. Whosoever committeth (pav o poiwn). Rev., more correctly, every one that committeth.
Sin (thn amartian). The definite article, the sin, shows that Jesus does not mean merely a simple act, but a life of sin. Compare 1 John iii. 4-8, and doeth the truth (John iii. 21); doeth the righteousness (1 John ii. 29). The servant (doulov). Or, a servant. Properly, a bond-servant or slave. See on Matt. xx. 26.
Of sin. A few authorities omit, and read whosoever committeth sin is a bond-servant. Compare Rom. vi. 17, 20.
35. Abideth not in the house forever. A slave has no permanent place in the house. He may be sold, exchanged, or cast out. Compare Genesis xxi. 10; Gal. iv. 30. House. See Heb. iii. 6; John xiv. 2. The elder son in the parable of the prodigal (Luke xv. 29), denies his sonship by the words, "These many years do I serve thee (douleuw)."
36. Indeed (ontwv). Used by John only here. It means essentially.
37. Hath no place (ou cwrei). Rev., hath not free course, or maketh no way. This rendering is in harmony with vv. 30, 31, concerning those who believed, but did not believe on Him, and who showed by their angry answer, in ver. 33, that the word of Jesus had made no advance in them. The rendering of the A.V. is not supported by usage, though Field ("Otium Norvicense") cites an undoubted instance of that sense from the Epistles of Alciphron, a post-Christian writer, who relates the story of a parasite returning gorged from a banquet and applying to a physician, who administered an emetic. The parasite, describing the effect of the medicine, says that the doctor wondered where such a mess had place (ecwrhse). For the rendering of the Rev., compare Aristophanes: pwv oun ouj cwrei tourgon; "How is it that the work makes no progress?" ("Peace," 472). Plutarch, ejcwrei dia thv polewv oJ logov, "the word: (or report) spread (or advanced) through the city ("Caesar," 712).
38. Ye have seen. The best texts read hjkousate, ye heard.
39. Children (tekna). See on i. 12.
40. A man (anqrwpon). Used only here by the Lord of Himself. To this corresponds His calling the Devil a manslayer at ver. 44. Perhaps, too, as Westcott remarks, it may suggest the idea of the human sympathy which, as a man, He was entitled to claim from them.
This did not Abraham. In the oriental traditions Abraham is spoken of as "full of loving-kindness."
41. Ye do. Or, are doing.
Fornication (porneiav). From pernhmi, to sell.
42. I proceeded forth - from God (ek tou Qeou exhlqon). Rev., came forth. The phrase occurs only here and in xvi. 28. Exelqein is found in xiii. 3; xvi. 30, and emphasizes the idea of separation; a going from God to whom He was to return (and goeth unto God). Exelqein para (xvi. 27; xvii. 8), is going from beside, implying personal fellowship with God. Exelqein ejk, here, emphasizes the idea of essential, community of being:
"I came forth out of."
And am come (hkw). As much as to say, and here I am.
Of myself (ap emautou). Of my own self-determination, independently, but my being is divinely derived. See on vii. 17.
43. Speech - word (lalian - logon). The former word refers to the form, the latter to the substance of discourse. So Matt. xxvi. 73, of Peter, "thy speech (lalia) bewrayeth thee;" thy mode of speaking. If they had understood the substance, they would have understood the form.
Cannot. See on vii. 7.
The Devil. See on Matt. iv. 1. John uses Satan only once in the Gospel (xiii. 27), frequently in Revelation, and nowhere in the Epistles. A few critics have adopted the very singular rendering, which the Greek will bear, ye are of the father of the devil. This is explained by charging John with Gnosticism, and making him refer to the Demiurge, a mysterious and inferior being descended from God, by whom God, according to the Gnostics, created the universe, and who had rebelled against God, and was the father of Satan. It is only necessary to remark with Meyer that such a view is both unbiblical and un-Johannine.
Lusts (epiqumiav). See on Mark iv. 19.
Ye will do (qelete poiein). Wrong. Properly, ye will to do. Rev., it is your will to do. See on vii. 17.
Murderer (anqrwpoktonov). Only here and 1 John iii. 15. Literally, a manslayer; from anqrwpov, man, and kteinw, to kill. The epithet is applied to Satan, not with reference to the murder of Abel, but to the fact of his being the author of death to the race. Compare Rom. vii. 8, 11; Heb. ii. 14.
From the beginning. Of the human race.
Stood not (ouk esthken). This may be explained in two ways. The verb may be taken as the perfect tense of isthmi, which is the form for the English present tense, I stand. In that case it would describe Satan's present standing in the element of falsehood: he standeth not in the truth. Or it may be taken as the imperfect tense of sthkw, I keep my standing, or simply, I stand, in which case the form will be esthken, and it will mean that even before his fall he was not true, or that he did not remain true to God, but fell. Meyer, who takes it in the former sense, observes: "Truth is the domain in which he has not his footing; to him it is a foreign, heterogeneous sphere of life.... The lie is the sphere in which he holds his place." So Mephistopheles in Goethe's "Faust":
"I am the spirit that denies! And justly so; for all things from the void Called forth, deserve to be destroyed; 'Twere better, then, were naught created. Thus, all which you as sin have rated, - Destruction, - aught with evil blent, - That is my proper element."
When he speaketh a lie (otan lalh to yeudov). More strictly, whenever - the lie, as opposed to the truth, regarded as a whole. Two interpretations are given. According to one, the Devil is the subject of speaketh: according to the other, the subject is indefinite; "when one speaketh;" stating a general proposition.
Of his own (ek twn idiwn). Literally, out of the things which are his own. "That which is most peculiarly his ethical nature" (Meyer).
For he is a liar, and the father of it (oti yeusthv esti kai o pathr autou). Three interpretations are given.
1. That of the A.V. and Rev. "He is a liar, and the father of the lie."
2. "He is a liar, and the father of the liar (since of it may also be rendered of him)."
3.Making oJ pathr aujtou, his father, the subject of the sentence, and referring his to one, the indefinite subject of speaketh ("when one speaketh a lie"). Thus the rendering will be, Because his father is a liar.As to Jesus' course of thought - if we accept either of the first two renderings, it turns on the character of Satan.
After stating that the Jews are children of the Devil, He goes on to describe the Devil as a murderer and a liar, and enlarges on the latter characteristic by saying that falsehood is his natural and peculiar element. Whenever he lies he speaks out of his own false nature, for he is a liar, and the father of the lie or of the liar. If we accept the third rendering, the thought turns rather on the character of the Jews as children of Satan. He utters first, the general charge, ye are the children of the Devil, and as such will do his works. Hence you will be both murderers and liars. He was a murderer, and ye are seeking to kill me. He stood not in the truth, neither do ye; for, when one speaketh a lie, he speaketh out of his own false nature, by a birthright of falsehood, since his father also is a liar. 33
45. And because I (egw de oti). Render but, instead of and. You would believe falsehood if I should speak it, but because I tell you the truth, you do not believe. The I is emphatic. I, because I tell you, etc.
46. Convinceth (elegcei). See on iii. 20. Rev., convicteth.
Sin (amartiav). Not fault or error, but sin in general, as everywhere in the New Testament.
The truth (alhqeian). Without the article, and therefore not the whole truth, but that which is true as to any part of divine revelation.
47. He that is of (o wn ek). The familiar construction. See on i. 46.
48. Say we not well. Indicating a current reproach. Well (kalwv) is literally, finely, beautifully. Sometimes ironical, as Mark vii. 6.
Thou art a Samaritan (Samareithv ei su). Literally, a Samaritan art thou: the su, 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.
49. I have not a devil. He ignores the charge of being a Samaritan, refusing to recognize the national distinction. For devil read demon.
50. There is one that seeketh. That seeks my honor and judges between me and my opposers.
Saying (logon). Better, word, as Rev. See on ver. 43.
He shall not see death (qanaton ou mh qewrhsh). The phrase qewrein qanaton, to see death, occurs only here in the New Testament. The double negative signifies in nowise, by no means. Qewrhsh see, denoting steady, protracted vision, is purposely used, because the promise contemplates the entire course of the believer's life in Christ. It is not, shall not die forever, but shall live eternally. Upon this life, which is essentially the negation and contradiction of death, the believer enters from the moment of his union with Christ, and moves along its entire course, in time no less than in eternity, seeing only life, and with his back turned on death. The reverse of this truth, in connection with the same verb, is painfully suggestive. The question is pertinent why the Revisers have retained see, and have not substituted behold, as in so many instances.
Is dead (apeqane). Better, died: referring to the historical fact.
Taste of death. They change the form of Jesus' statement. The Lord himself tasted of death. See Heb. ii. 9. The phrase taste of death does not occur in the Old Testament, but is common in Rabbinic writings. "The angel of death," say the Rabbis, "holdeth his sword in his hand at the bed's head, having on the end thereof three drops of gall. The sick man, spying this deadly angel, openeth his mouth with fear; and then those drops fall in, of which one killeth him, the second maketh him pale, the third rotteth."
Which is dead (ostiv). The compound pronoun ostiv, which, is used explicatively, according to a familiar New Testament usage, instead of the simple relative. The sense is, seeing that he is dead. The compound relative properly indicates the class or kind to which an object belongs. Art thou greater than Abraham, who is himself one of the dead? So Col. iii. 5. "Mortify covetousness, seeing it is (htiv estin) idolatry." See on Matt. xiii. 52; xxi. 41; Mark xii. 18; Luke xii. 1; Acts vii. 53; x. 41; 1 Peter ii. 11.
55. Saying (logon). Properly, word, as ver. 51. So Rev. 56. Rejoiced (hgalliasato). With exultant joy. See on 1 Pet. i. 6. To see (ina idh). The Greek construction is peculiar. Literally, that he should see; i.e., in the knowledge or anticipation that he should see. My day. The exact meaning of the expression is altogether uncertain.
58. Was, I am (genesqai, ejgw eijmi). It is important to observe the distinction between the two verbs. Abraham's life was under the conditions of time, and therefore had a temporal beginning. Hence, Abraham came into being, or was born (genesqai). Jesus' life was from and to eternity. Hence the formula for absolute, timeless existence, I am (egw eimi). See on i. 3; vii. 34.
59. Going through the midst of them, and so passed by. The best texts omit.