Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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JOHN - Chapter 7

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John 7

Supplemental Commentary:

I.  THE PUBLIC MINISTRY OF JESUS  1, 19 -- 12, 50 (continued)

3.  Conflicts with the Jews  7, 1 -- 12, 50

This aspect of the development of the public ministry is in perfect accord with the Synoptic narrative (cf. Mark 10, 1-52).  But John confines his attention to Jerusalem, and particularly to the officials there.  All that he reports in this section can be dated from September to the following April, the time of the Passion.  It comprises our Lord's final efforts to convince the Jews of His mission, and the gradual progress of their opposition to its culmination in the sentence of His death.

7, 1-15:  Jesus Goes Secretly to the Feast.    1.  After these things is indefinite.  Judea was now practically closed to Christ, a fact that reveals the attitude of the officials of Judaism.    2.  The Feast of Tabernacles, from the 15th to the 22nd Tishri (September-October), commemorated the desert wanderings after the Exodus.  It was very popular, and not seldom an occasion of national uprisings.    3-5.  This may have suggested to our Lord's brethren (near relatives) the idea of a Messianic demonstration.  Their words reveal a misconception of His mission which was probably shared by many Galileans, and which, as John points out, was due to want of faith.    6 f.  My time: the time of His Passion.  Your time: as involving no critical issue in opposition to worldly aims.  The world here refers especially to the officials of Judaism (1).  Cf. Matt. 5, 20; Mark 3, 29; 7, 6; etc.    8.  I do not go up: i.e., not with you; or, not as in solemn pilgrimage; or, not openly; or (with the Greek), "not yet."    9.  Jesus remained for the time in Galilee, but went later, perhaps with some of His disciples.  Some believe Luke 9, 51-56 a record of this journey.    11-13.  The Jews, the officials who sought to  apprehend Him.  The people, undecided, discussed Him secretly among themselves.    14.  This is the first notice of our Lord's formally teaching in the temple.  The scribes or rabbis who taught there had the sanction of the Sanhedrin.    15.  His mastery of the expository methods of the rabbis, and His acquaintance with the text of the Law astonished them in one who was known not to have studied under any of the great rabbis.  (Cf. Paul and Gamaliel, Acts 22, 3.)

7, 16-24:  The Source of Christ's Teaching.  Cf. 5, 16-18.    16.  His answer meets the implied criticism of His teaching (cf. 5, 30): you cannot reject my teaching without rejecting that of the Father.  Cf. 12, 44-49.    17.  Cf. Num. 16, 28-31.  God's will is expressed in the Law and the Prophets; cf. Matt. 22, 40; Gal. 5, 14; Jas. 2, 8.  The observance of God's will enables one to recognize His teachings, as sin blinds one to the understanding of divine truths: cf. 1 Cor. 2, 5 ff; 3, 1 f; Heb. 5, 11.  This implies criticism of their conduct.    18.  Another test of the divine origin of His teachings: He seeks neither popular recognition nor applause but only the glory of the Father.  Cf. 5, 41; 6, 38.  No injustice: since His doctrine is not of His own invention, as theirs often is (Matt. 15, 3 f; Mark 7, 7-13), He violates the rights neither of the Sender nor of those to whom He is sent.    19.  Cf. Matt. 23, 15; Rom. 2, 23.  Our Lord's aim is to anticipate by this statement the objection based on His violation of the Sabbath.  Another aim would be the argument: you who do not keep the Law of Moses can hardly invoke it against me.  The Greek text reads, "Did not Moses give you the Law?"  This more directly accuses them of its violation.  Cf. Matt. 12, 34.    20.  Cf. 5, 18; 7, 1.  The crowd, ignorant of the officials' purpose, imagined that an evil spirit had prompted what seemed to them a foolish speech; cf. 10, 21; Matt. 11, 18; Luke 7, 33.  Jesus had been thus accused before, e.g., Matt. 9, 34; 12, 24; Mark 3, 22; Luke 11, 15.    21.  He does not at once reply directly to the charge, but continues His defense.  One work, the healing of the man at the pool (see on 5, 8 f).  You all wonder, and that with displeasure; the charge includes the people with the officials.    22.  For this reason: because it is from the fathers.  Many other explain: for this reason (given in 21) you wonder.  Better, perhaps: Moses' reason for giving you the law of circumcision is also my motive in healing on the Sabbath.  Circumcision was from Abraham (Gen. 17, 10 ff), though the laws regulating it came from Moses (Lev. 12, 3).  Except in the case of non-Jews, all things necessary to circumcision were lawful on the Sabbath.    23.  The law of the Sabbath yields to that of circumcision; much more to the general precept of charity; cf. Mark 3, 4.  A whole man: whereas circumcision might be regarded as the healing of one member.    24.  By appearances: largely the case in Pharisaic practice.  A just judgment must be in accord with God's will.

7, 25-52:  Christ's Origin.  Belonging perhaps to a later occasion.  Taking advantage of a better disposition, He teaches the people the true origin of the Messias.    25 f.  The people of Jerusalem itself would be more aware of the official attitude.  Rulers: here the sanhedrists, the leaders of Judaism.  The Christ: these citizens recognize His claim, and it governs their present attitude; they seem to be in doubt.    27.  Where this man is from: His place of origin and His family.  In the case of the Messias, both were known; He was to be born in Bethlehem, of the house of David.  Cf. Matt. 2, 4-6; John 7, 42.  His advent, however, was to be sudden and from an unknown place: this opinion could find plausible support in Ps. 71, 6; Isa. 53, 8; Mich. 5, 2; Mal. 3, 2.    28.  He answers the objection in the course of His teaching in the temple: they fail to recognize Him as Messias because they do not know the One who sent Him.  I have not come of myself: like a pretender such as Judas the Galilean (Acts 5, 37).  He is true: having the right to send; perhaps also with reference to the authorization of rabbis.  Whom you do not know: cf. 5, 37 f; 6, 45.    29.  I am from him is much better supported than the reading "with him."  I keeping with the context, our Lord is from Him by generation, in which aspect His origin is really unknown to the people.

Vv.30-36 specify two effects of this teaching: the officials were the more disturbed, and tried to apprehend Christ, whereas many of the people, moved by His miracles, accepted Him as the Messias.    31.  This question implies some previous discussion, perhaps with the officials trying to dissuade them.    32.  Whispering: still in fear of the officials (cf. 13).  Rulers: the Greek text reads "chief priests and Pharisees."  Cf. 7, 45; 11, 47; 18, 3.  Not all the Pharisees were members of the Sanhedrin.  Attendants: servants whose office was to preserve order in the temple.    33 f.  Cf. 8, 21; 13, 33.  Our Lord assures them they can do nothing until the time set by the Father; then they will seek Him with another motive, but will not be able to reach Him.  The words convey a threat.    35 f.  Will He go to the Jews scattered among the Gentiles, and to the Gentiles themselves?  Cf. Isa. 11, 11 f; 49, 1.6.    37-39.  On the last day occurred all that remains to this chapter.  If anyone thirst: the symbol of living water, somewhat differently applied than in 4, 10 ff may have been suggested by the libation of water on each day of the feast.  But abundance of water was one of the blessings expected of the Messias; Ezech. 47, 6-12; Joel 3, 18; Zach. 13, 1; 14, 8.

37 f.  According to punctuation, either Christ is the source of the rivers of living water, or the one who drinks is the source.  With the balance of patristic authority, we understand it in the latter way.  The quotation in 38 has not been identified; various texts have been suggested, as Ecclus. 24, 28-32; Isa. 44, 3; 48, 21; 55, 1; 58, 11; etc.  Cyprian quotes 1 Cor. 10, 4, and refers it to Isa. 48, 21.    39.  The water libation was a symbol of the Holy Spirit.  Cf. Isa. 44, 3; 55, 1 ff; Ezech. 36, 25; and John 16, 7.

40-52:  Diverse effects upon the hearers.    40-44:  The people.    42.  Cf. 7, 27:  they did not know of His birth in Bethlehem.  The discussion was heated; some of the people sided with the officials in seeking an arrest, but were prevented by either awe or indecision.    45-49:  The attendants.  These had been listening while awaiting opportunity to carry out their orders, and had meanwhile been affected by His teachings.  The Pharisees' angry reply again reveals the cleavage between the official and the popular attitude.    49.  Is accursed: the unlearned in the Law were despised as belonging to Israel only in part.  Ignorance was thought to induce violation, and violation to incur uncleanness, which must fall under the malediction of the Law.    50-52:  The Pharisees.  The intervention of Nicodemus, although justified and cautious, elicits only an intemperate reply.  At night: the Greek text reads "lately."  One of them: a sanhedrist; cf. Luke 23, 50.  Nicodemus as a doctor of the Law, objects that it is against them.  Cf. Ex. 23, 1 f; Lev. 19, 15; Deut. 1, 16 f.  Art thou a Galilean?: a compatriot of Jesus might be expected to defend Him, but Nicodemus was a Judean.  Arises no prophet: Scripture names no great prophet whose place of origin was or was to be Galilee.  But cf. 4 Kings 14, 25 on Jonas.

[7, 53 -- 8, 11.  Commentary on this section begins at the beginning of the next chapter.]

Confraternity Bible:

Jesus Goes Secretly to the Feast of Tabernacles  1 Now after these things Jesus went about in Galilee, for he did not wish to go about in Judea because the Jews were seeking to put him to death.  2 Now the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was at hand.  3 His brethren therefore said to him, "Leave here and go into Judea that thy disciples also may see the works that thou dost; 4 for no one does a thing in secret if he wants to be publicly known.  If thou dost these things, manifest thyself to the world."  5 For not even his brethren believed in him.

6 Jesus therefore said to them, "My time has not yet come, by your time is always at hand.  7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I bear witness concerning it, that its works are evil.  8 As for you, go up to the feast, but I do not go up to this feast, for my time is not yet fulfilled."

9 When he had said these things he stayed on in Galilee.  10 But as soon as his brethren had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly, but as it were privately.

11 The Jews therefore were looking for him at the feast, and were saying, "Where is he?"  12 And there was much whispered comment among the crowd concerning him.  For some were saying, "He is a good man."  But others were saying, "No, rather he seduces the crowd."  13 Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him.

14* When, however, the feast was already half over, Jesus went up into the temple and began to teach.  15* And the Jews marvelled, saying, "How does this man come by learning, since he has not studied?"

The Source of Christ's Teachings  16 Jesus answered them and said, "My teaching is not my own, but his who sent me.  17 If anyone desires to do his will, he will know of the teaching whether it is from God, or whether I speak on my own authority.  18 He who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory.  But he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is truthful, and their is no injustice in him.  19 Did not Moses give you the Law, and none of you observes the Law?  20 Why do you seek to put me to death?"  The crowd answered and said, "Thou hast a devil.  Who seeks to put thee to death?"

21* Jesus answered and said to them, "One work I did and you all wonder.  22 For this reason Moses gave you the circumcision"---not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers---"and on a Sabbath you circumcise a man.  23 If a man receives circumcision on a Sabbath, that the Law of Moses may not be broken, are you indignant with me because I made a whole man well on a Sabbath?  24 Judge not by appearances by give just judgment."

Christ's Origin  25 Some therefore of the people of Jerusalem were saying, "Is not this the man they seek to kill?  26 And behold, he speaks openly and they say nothing to him.  Can it be that the rulers have really come to know that this is the Christ?  27 Yet we know where this man is from; but when the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from."

28* Jesus therefore, while teaching in the temple, cried out and said, "You both know me, and know where I am from.  Yet I have not come of myself, but he is true who has sent me, whom you do not know.  29 I know him because I am from him, and he has sent me."

30 They wanted therefore to seize him, but no one laid hands on him because his hour had not yet come.  31 Many of the people, however, believed in him, and they kept saying, "When the Christ comes will he work more signs than this man works?"  32 The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering these things about him, and the rulers and Pharisees sent attendants to seize him.

33 Jesus then said, "Yet a little while I am with you, and then I go to him who sent me.  34 You will seek me and will not find me; and where I am you cannot come."  35 The Jews therefore said among themselves, "Where is he going that we shall not find him?  Will he go to those dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles?  36 What is this statement that he has made, 'You will seek me and will not find me, and where I am you cannot come'?"

37 Now on the last, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink.  38 He who believes in me, as the Scripture says,
'From within him there shall flow rivers of living water.'"* 
39 He said this, however, of the Spirit whom they who believed in him were to receive; for the Spirit had not yet been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

40 Some of the crowd, therefore, when they heard these words, said, "This is truly the Prophet."  41 Others said, "This is the Christ."  Some, however, said, "Can the Christ come from Galilee?  42 Does not the Scripture say that it is of the offspring of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David lived, that the Christ is to come?"  43 So there arose a division among the crowd because of him.  44 And some of them wanted to seize him, but no one laid hands on him.

45 The attendants therefore came to the chief priests and Pharisees; and these said to them, "Why have you not brought him?"  46 The attendants answered, "Never has man spoken as this man."  47 The Pharisees then answered them, "Have you also been led astray?  48 Has any one of the rulers believed in him, or any of the Pharisees?  49 But this crowd, which does not know the Law, is accursed."

50 Nicodemus, he who had come to him at night, who was one of them, said to them, 51 "Does our Law judge a man unless it first give him a hearing, and know what he does?"  52 They answered and said to him, "Art thou also a Galilean?  Search the Scriptures and see that out of Galilee arises no prophet."

53 And they returned each one to his own house.


14: The feast of Tabernacles lasted eight days.  This appearance of Christ in the temple would then be on the fourth or fifth day.

15: They knew that Jesus had not been enrolled as a disciple of one of the great rabbis, and they could not imagine where else He could attain such knowledge as was manifest in His preaching.

21: One work: curing the sick man at the pool of Bethsaida.

28: You both know me: the Jews knew Christ as Jesus from Nazareth.  His real character and mission they did not as yet know.