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JOHN - Chapter 8

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John 8

Supplemental Commentary:

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

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

7, 53 -- 8, 11:   The Adulteress.  This section is absent from many of the chief Greek codices.  In some others it is found out of its present place, at the end of John, or after 7, 36, or after Luke 21, 38.  The Greek interpreters generally seem not to know it; so also many Latin and Syrian commentators.  Discussion of its origin should distinguish between canonicity and authorship.  The passage is firmly fixed in the Vulgate from the beginning, and hence is an integral part of the Bible.  However, the Council of Trent, in defining the canonical books, did not intend to decide their authorship, a question depending upon the available evidence.  As to this section of 13 verses, several Catholic authors are now inclined to deny that St. John wrote it.  Others think it derived from him, but that its present form is later.  Because of its position in the Vulgate, we retain it here, without going further into the matter of its origin.

7, 53 -- 8, 1.  During the feast our Lord spent the night on Mt. Olivet or at Bethany (cf. Luke 21, 37), returning each morning to the temple.  Mt. Olivet is east of Jerusalem, beyond the Cedron.    2.  At daybreak: the time of the morning sacrifice, at which many would be present.    3-5.  Stoning was prescribed for this crime in the case of an espoused girl: Deut. 22, 23 f.  For other women death was prescribed without the manner of execution: Lev. 20, 10; Deut. 22, 22; Ezech. 16, 38-40.    6.  To test him: if He said "No," He would seem to disregard the Mosaic Law; if "Yes," He might be accused to the Romans.  Jesus, probably seated on a cushion or mat, leaned forward to write on the ground.  Jerome records an opinion of his day, that Christ wrote the sins of the accusers before them; but more probably His act was a mere gesture of indifference (cf. Luke 12, 13 f).    7.  Cf. Deut. 13, 9 f; 17, 7.    9.  The scribes and Pharisees departed, not the people.    10 f.  Jesus manifests His mercy while refuting His adversaries.
The whole of 8, 12 -- 10, 42 is a series of encounters with the Jews, closely related, and probably all belonging to the period from the close of the Feast of Tabernacles to the Feast of the Dedication, in December.
8, 12-20:  The Light of the World.  Cf. 5, 31-47.  The place is the temple; the audience chiefly officials and Pharisees.  The crowd is not mentioned again until 11, 42.    12.  Light of the world: this might have been occasioned by the illumination of the temple on the Feast of Tabernacles; or some known features of the Messianic hope might have led to it: cf. Isa. 9, 1 (Matt. 4, 14 f); 42, 6; 49, 6 (Luke 2, 32); Baruch 5, 9.    13.  Our Lord had already answered this objection: 5, 31 ff.    14-18.  Because of His divine origin, already revealed to them, our Lord can bear this witness in His own favor.  They are hindered from accepting it by their own lack of spiritual knowledge.    15.  A double contrast: they judge, He does not; their judgment is false, His is true.  I judge no one: cf. 3, 17; 12, 47.  This in contrast to their temerity.    16.  But if He were to judge, His judgment would be true.  This insinuates that later He will come to judge them.  His judgment is true because it is divine.    17 f.  The required two witnesses are found in Himself and in the Father.  Cf. Deut. 17, 6; 19, 15; Matt. 18, 16; 2 Cor. 13, 1; Heb. 10, 28.    19.  Cf. 5, 38.  Our Lord again identifies Himself with the Father.  It is their fault that they do not appreciate the Father's witness.    20.  In the treasury: at or near the room adjoining the Court of the Women.  Cf. Mark 12, 41-44; Luke 21, 1 f.

8, 21-30:  The Son of God.  Cf. 7, 31-36.  The subject had been broached before, but the tone is now of more solemn warning: there is grave danger in not recognizing God's legate.  This occasion is not necessarily the same as in 12-20, though the place is the temple.    21.  To His former prediction our Lord adds in your sins you will die: cf. Deut. 24, 16.  They alone will be responsible for their failure to share in the Redemption.    22.  Cf. 7, 35.  Suicide was considered a great crime.    23 f.  Ignoring the interruption, our Lord assigns a reason for His statement: their refusal to accept Him as the Messias.  They have still time to believe.  I am: cf. 8, 28.58; 13, 19; 18, 5-8.    25.  The meaning is uncertain.  The Latin of the Clementine Vulgate is generally conceded to express the thought of Apoc. 1, 17; 2, 8.  The Greek text is slightly different, and has been variously interpreted, the most probable sense being, "even that which I tell you from the beginning;" or, Why do I speak to you at all?    V.26 repeats the threat in 24, but again modified.  The truthfulness of the Father is warrant for our Lord's message, therefore they ought to take His warnings seriously.    27.  The Evangelist's remark further reveals the disposition of the audience.  God is wanting in the Greek text.  In v.18 the allusion seemed to be understood; either the audience was now different, or in the distraction of the present subject they lost the import of our Lord's words.    28.  Cf. 3, 14; 12, 32 f; Luke 23, 48.    29.  Cf. 5, 19 ff.  The union of the Father and the Son should be clear to them from His miracles and the nature of His teaching.    30.  Many were convinced by this.

8, 31-47:  The Children of Abraham.    31.  If you abide in my word: i.e., persevere in observing it.  For firm adherence He promises them full discipleship, knowledge of the truth He came to reveal, and consequent freedom.    33.  The unfriendly reply seems little in keeping with the faith ascribed to them in 30.  Two explanations are offered: (a) that the speakers were "not they who believed, but they in the crowd not yet believing" (St. Augustine); (b) that their faith was yet too weak to tolerate an apparent slight to their national honor.  Both explanations may be true.  Cf. Matt. 3, 9.    34-38.  Jesus corrects them on two points.  (a) Sin induces spiritual slavery, from which only the Son of God can free them.  For v.35 cf. Gal. 4, 21-31; Heb. 3, 5 f.  (b) They are physical descendants of Abraham, but their actions show them conscious only of the carnal relationship.    39-41.  Further proof of the same: one's actions reveal one's nature.  Their conduct manifests that they are not true sons of Abraham.  On one side stands Abraham's hospitality to angels and reverence for God's word: Gen. 12, 4; 15, 6; 18, 2; 22, 2.  On the other is their wish to kill Him, who has proved His claim to be God's messenger.  Fornication: cf. Os. 1-2.  The term implies idolatry or attachment to another god.    42-45.  The argument carries to its proper conclusion their refusal to believe.  They cannot be sons of God, since they refuse to love His envoy.    43.  Again, because they cannot understand His meaning.    44.  But since their father is not God, he must be God's adversary, the devil; and two things prove this to be the case.  The devil was a murderer from the beginning; it was he who introduced death into the world: cf. Wisd. 2, 24; Rom. 5, 12 ff.  Again, he is by nature a deceiver: cf. Gen. 3.  These Jews resemble him in both features: their purpose is homicidal, and they are unable to recognize the truth.    46 f.  Cf. 18, 37 f; 1 John 2, 24.  The argument culminates in a further contrast: if I speak the truth, there must be some reason why you do not believe; that reason must be, that you are not of God.  In the whole argument we may read a plea on the part of Jesus to avert the heinous crime they are meditating, the murder of God's Son.

8, 48-59:  Christ and Abraham.  After humbling them and correcting their errors, Jesus seeks to favor them with fresh truths.  But they offer further resistance, and end by attempting to stone Him.    48.  The Jews show their spirit in obloquy.  Samaritan: (cf. 4, 9), a stranger and hostile to the chosen people.  Devil: (cf. 7, 20; Matt. 12, 24-32), one who is demented.    49.  That Jesus honors His Father is sufficient refutation of the first charge.  His direct denial of the second accusation serves to connect His preceding with His following words.    50 f.  Cf. v.15.  Their attitude is an evil so grave that the Father will avenge it (cf. Deut. 18, 19).  This divine judgment is synonymous with death, avoidable only by adherence to Christ; cf. 3, 16; 4, 13; 5, 24.    52 f.  To Christ they now seek to oppose Abraham and their traditions.  This is further evidence of their unwillingness to understand; they will not admit Him to the category of Abraham and the prophets.    54.  Cf. 5, 31.  The Father glorifies the Son; see 2, 11; 12, 27 f.    55.  Cf. 1 John 2, 4.  Know is here used in the Semitic sense of a practical knowledge manifest in conduct, almost equivalent to "love."    56.  Generally among earlier writers, it is believed that Abraham saw Christ's day in figure, in faith or in prophetic vision.  Cf. Heb. 11, 13.  The rabbis taught that God had revealed the future to Abraham.  A later opinion is that Abraham saw the actual advent of Christ from his place in Limbo.  My day: His life on earth; cf. Luke 10, 24.    57.  Again the Jews are captious.  Jesus' age cannot be estimated from this statement; fifty years stood for the start of old age in the common estimation: Num. 4, 3; 8, 24 f.    58.  I am: a deliberate assertion of Christ's continued existence, and contrasted with come to be.  The phrase was the more arresting because of its similarity to the divine name, "Yahweh," derived from a form of the Hebrew verb "to be."    59.  The Jews understood this allusion, or at least the implication of His words, and attempted to stone Him.

Confraternity Bible:

1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  2 And at daybreak he came again into the temple, and all the people came to him; and sitting down he began to teach them.

The Adulteress  3 Now the Scribes and Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and setting her in the midst, 4 said to him, "Master, this woman has just now been caught in adultery.  5 And in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such persons.  What, therefore, dost thou say?"  6 Now they were saying this to test him, in order that they might be able to accuse him.  But Jesus, stooping down, began to write with his finger on the ground.

7 But when they continued asking him, he raised himself and said to them, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her."  8 And again stooping down, he began to write on the ground.  9 But hearing this, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest.  And Jesus remained alone, with the woman standing in the midst.

10 And Jesus, raising himself, said to her, "Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned thee?"  11 She said, "No one, Lord."  Then Jesus said, "Neither will I condemn thee.  Go thy way, and from now on sin no more."

The Light of the World  12 Again, therefore, Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world.  He who follows me does not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life."  13 The Pharisees therefore said to him, "Thou bearest witness to thyself.  Thy witness is not true."

14 Jesus answered and said to them, "Even if I bear witness to myself, my witness is true, because I know where I came from and where I go.  But you do not know where I came from or where I go.  15 You judge according the flesh; I judge no one.  16 And even if I do judge, my judgment is true, because I am not alone, but with me is he who sent me, the Father.  17 And in your Law it is written that the witness of two persons is true.  18 It is I who bear witness to myself, and he who sent me, the Father, bears witness to me."

19 They therefore said to him, "Where is thy father?"  Jesus answered, "You know neither me nor my Father.  If you knew me, you would then know my Father also."

20 Jesus spoke these words in the treasury, while teaching in the temple.  And no one seized him, because his hour had not yet come

The Son of God  21 Again, therefore, Jesus said to them, "I go, and you will seek me, and in your sin you will die.  Where I go you cannot come."  22 The Jews therefore kept saying, "Will he kill himself, since he says, 'Where I go you cannot come'?"

23 And he said to them, "You are from below, I am from above.  You are of this world, I am not of this world.  24 Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am he, you will die in your sin."

25 They therefore said to him, "Who art thou?"  Jesus said to them, "Why do I speak to you at all!  26 I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you; but he who sent me is true, and the things that I heard from him, these I speak in the world."  27 And they did not understand that he was speaking to them about the Father.

28 Jesus therefore said to them, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that of myself I do nothing: but that I preach only what the Father has taught me.  29 And he who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, because I do always the things that are pleasing to him."  30 When he was speaking these things, many believed in him.

The Children of Abraham  31 Jesus therefore said to the Jews who had come to believe in him, "If you abide in my word, you shall be my disciples indeed, 32 and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."  33 They answered him, "We are the children of Abraham, and we have never yet been slaves to anyone.  How sayest thou, 'You shall be free'?"

34 Jesus answered them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.  35 But the slave does not abide in the house forever; the son abides there forever.  36 If therefore the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.  37 I know that you are the children of Abraham; but you seek to kill me because my word takes no hold among you.  38 I speak what I have seen with the Father; and you do what you have seen with your father."

39 They answered and said to him, "Abraham is our father."  Jesus said to them, "If you are the children of Abraham, do the works of Abraham.  40* But as it is, you are seeking to kill me, one who has spoken the truth to you which I have heard from God.  That is  not what Abraham did.  41 You are doing the works of your father."  They therefore said to him, "We have not been born of fornication; we have one Father, God."

42 Jesus therefore said to them, "If God were your Father, you would surely love me.  For from God I came forth and have come; for neither have I come of myself, but he sent me.  43 Why do you not understand my speech?  Because you cannot listen to my word.  44 The father from whom you are is the devil, and the desires of your father it is your will to do.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and has not stood in the truth because there is no truth in him.  When he tells a lie he speaks from his very nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.  45 But because I speak the truth you do not believe me.  46 Which of you can convict me of sin?  If I speak the truth, why do you not believe me?  47 He who is of God hears the words of God.  The reason why you do not hear is that you are not of God."

Christ and Abraham  48 The Jews therefore in answer said to him, "Are we not right in saying that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?"  49 Jesus answered, "I have not a devil, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me.  50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is one who seeks and who judges.  51 Amen, amen, I say to you, if anyone keep my word, he will never see death."

52 The Jews therefore said, "Now we now that thou hast a devil.  Abraham is dead, and the prophets, and thou sayest, 'If anyone keep my word he will never taste death.'  53 Art thou greater than our father Abraham, who is dead?  And the prophets are dead.  Whom dost thou make thyself?"

54 Jesus answered, "If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing.  It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say that he is your God.  55 And you do not know him, but I know him.  And if I say that I do not know him, I shall be like you, a liar.  But I know him, and I keep his word.  56* Abraham your father rejoiced that he was to see my day.  He saw it and was glad."  57 The Jews therefore said to him, "Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?"  58* Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I am."  59 They therefore took up stones to cast at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out from the temple.


40: Cf. Gen. 18.  Abraham listened with all respect to the angels who were sent to him.

56: Abraham can be said to have seen Christ's day, either in faith and prophetic vision, or from his place in limbo when Christ was born.

58: I am: the use of the present emphasizes His eternal existence.