Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 1 September 2014; Revised 6 May 2017
Scripture Text: The Scripture text of John used in this commentary is prepared by Blaine Robison and based on the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. See my web article The Jewish New Testament.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Besekh (New Testament), Torah (Law), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ). I use the title "The Testimony of John" because that is how John describes his book (John 21:24). See the article Witnesses of the Good News for background information on this book.
Methodology: For an explanation of abbreviations, acronyms, terminology, spelling conventions, and other information on organization of the commentary see my Commentary Writing Philosophy.
Primary Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited may be found at the end of the chapter commentary. Unless otherwise indicated the following primary sources are used:
• Different Bible versions may be cited for Scripture quotations. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Messianic Jewish versions are CJB, DHE, GNC, HNV, MW, OJB, & TLV.
• The Septuagint (LXX) is the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, which was in use among Jews by the mid-2nd century BC. The LXX with English translation may be found here.
• Citations for Josephus, the first century Jewish historian (Yosef ben Matityahu), are from The Works of Flavius Josephus (c. 75-99 A.D.) trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
• The meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009). See the Greek Guide for the meaning of grammar abbreviations. Definitions of Hebrew words are from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), given as "BDB." The numbering system of the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible is identified with "SH" (Strong's Hebrew number) and "SG" (Strong's Greek number). Strong's Online.
• Dates are from Risto Santala, The Messiah in the New Testament in the Light of Rabbinical Writings (1992). Online.
The Third Sign - Healing at Bethesda, 5:1-17
Midrash of Yeshua: Judgment and Resurrection, 5:18-30
Midrash of Yeshua: Witnesses of the Truth, 5:31-47
Early A.D. 28
The Third Sign - Healing at Bethesda
1 After these things, there was a festival of the Judeans, and Yeshua went up to Jerusalem.
After these things: This is an expression of indefinite time alluding to the events of chapter four. there was a festival: Grk. heortē, a public religious festival and in the Besekh always of a joyous gathering of the Jewish people for celebrations of the calendar prescribed in the Torah, generally with a focus on sacrifices and communal eating. Paul also uses the term generally of festivals observed by the Jewish people (Col 2:16). In the LXX heortē renders Heb. chag, SH-2282, feast, festival-gathering, pilgrim feast or festival sacrifice of Israel (BDB 290), about 52 times, and Heb mo'ed, SH-4150, appointed time, place or meeting, especially of sacred seasons and festivals (BDB 417), about 29 times (DNTT 1:626).
Unlike other passages where heortē is used of Pesach (Passover, John 2:23) and Sukkot (Booths, John 7:2), the festival is not identified here. Even so, some commentators assume this feast is one of the three pilgrim feasts (e.g. Clarke, Gill, Reinhartz, Tenney), such as Pesach (Passover) Shavuot (Pentecost) or Sukkot (Booths). The rationale generally cited is that (1) only the three feasts were obligatory on all Jewish males, (2) the Greek word heortē is used primarily to refer to the pilgrim feasts, and (3) the events of chapter six where Passover is mentioned seem to fit better before the events of this chapter. Morris suggests a major feast because a theme of judgment is prominent in this chapter and the Mishnah declares that divine judgment is passed on Israel at four important feasts for actions committed in the preceding year: Pesach, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot (Rosh Hashanah 1:2).
However, John writes with intelligence and integrity. There is no sufficient reason to believe that chronology of events was unimportant to John. Any rearrangement by scholarly interpreters is purely subjective. If John had intended one of the pilgrim feasts then he would have said so, as he does in other passages. The people of God are under the constant scrutiny of God (cf. Job 7:18), so the comment of the Mishnah is interesting but not relevant. Yeshua was an observant Jew and would have attended minor feasts as well as major feasts. Santala suggests the unnamed festival was perhaps Tu Bi-Shevat ('the planting of trees,' 15 Sh'vat, Jan-Feb) or Purim (14 Adar, Feb-Mar) (112). In addition, there are points in John's narrative below that favor a minor feast as will be brought out in the commentary.
of the Judeans: Grk. Ioudaiōn, pl. of Ioudaios, Judean, Jew, Jewish or Jewess (BAG), although the term in biblical contexts does not mean the opposite of "Christian" as in common use today. The noun, occurring 194 times in the Besekh, is used to identify biological descendants of Jacob and adherents of the Judean religion. For more discussion on the background of Ioudaios and John's usage of it see my comment on John 1:19. Many versions render Ioudaiōn as a singular adjective and so have "Jewish festival" (AMP, CEB, CEV, GNC, GW, HCSB, HNV, MW, NET, NIRV, NIV, NLT, and TLV). After all, Torah-prescribed festivals were for all Jews.
Stern justifies his translation of "Judean festival" in the CJB by saying the focus here is not on the Jewishness of these festivals but on the fact that the Torah required all Jewish men to come to "the place Adonai your God shall choose" (Deut 16:16), which proved to be Jerusalem in Judea. The genitive case of Ioudaioi most likely is a subjective genitive indicating that the festival was conducted according to the dictates of the Judeans, namely the Sanhedrin. However, as an objective genitive the noun would indicate that the participants were primarily Judean Jews, whether from the local area, Samaria, Galilee or the Diaspora.
The fact that John identifies the festival as being one observed by the Judeans may seem unnecessary in a treatise written for Jews, but the detail is important for a Gentile audience. Greeks and Romans had their festivals, which were probably observed in all the Roman provinces at pagan temples, but Yeshua never attended anything of a pagan nature. Yeshua was a regular participant in synagogue services on the Sabbath and went to the temple in Jerusalem, the place of God's Name, in obedience of festival laws. Our Lord faithfully observed God's calendar as set forth in the Torah, the calendar that Christianity later rejected. (See my web article God's Appointed Times.)
and: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The first use applies here. Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect. There are over 50 conjunctions in biblical Greek, but kai is by far the most common in the Besekh, occurring over 9,000 times (BibleHub). The excessive use of conjunctions and beginning verses with a conjunction, as in verse 9 below, is evidence of either an original Hebrew text or Jewish Greek. In contrast to most Bible versions I translate all the instances of kai (and all the other conjunctions) as a reminder of John's Hebraic writing style.
Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous, a transliteration of the Hebrew name Yeshua ("Jesus" in Christian Bibles). Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y’hoshua ("Joshua"), which means "YHVH [the LORD] is salvation" (BDB 221). The meaning of his name is explained to Joseph by an angel of the Lord, "You shall call his name Yeshua, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matt 1:21). The English rendering of "Jesus" originated with the Mace New Testament in 1729. By virtue of His incarnation and Jewish mother, Yeshua must still be a Jew. For more information on the meaning our Lord's name, his identity, and the history of translation of the name see my web article Who is Yeshua?
went up: Grk. anabainō, aor., to proceed in a direction that is up, go up. Apparently Yeshua traveled alone to the feast, since no mention is made of his disciples in this chapter, and this omission argues against the festival being a pilgrim feast. to Jerusalem: Grk. Hierosoluma, a rough transliteration of the Heb. Yerushalayim, which means "possession" or "foundation of peace" (BDB 436). What a precious name is Jerusalem! The city is situated some 2500 feet above sea level and eighteen miles west of the northern end of the Dead Sea, is renowned as the capitol of all Israel, afterwards of the Kingdom of Judah and the seat of central worship in the temple.
The name of God’s holy city occurs 13 times in this book. At the time of the Exodus the city was inhabited by the Jebusites (Josh 15:8), but then captured by the tribe of Judah (Jdg 1:8). The city was first named in connection with David (1Sam 17:54). Later the city was taken possession of by David as King (2Sam 5:6) and became known as the City of David. By the end of David's reign the city had expanded to cover seven mountains: Mount Zion, Mount Ophel, Mount Moriah, Mount Bezetha, Mount Acra, Mount Gareb, and Mount Goath (Neil 289). Jeremias estimated the resident population of the city in the time of Yochanan the Immerser at about twenty-five to thirty thousand (252).
For the faithful Jew the city of Jerusalem represented all that was dear in the covenant relationship with God. David spoke of Jerusalem "as a city that is bound firmly together, to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord" (Ps 122:3-4 ESV). Another psalmist expressed his affection thus, "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget her skill, may my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy" (Ps 137:5-6).
2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate, a pool, being called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porches.
Now: Grk. de, conj., used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement or thought, "but;" (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter, "now, then;" or (3) a connecting particle to continue a thought, "and, also" (BAG). Here the second usage applies. there is: Grk. eimi, a function word used in a wide variety of grammatical constructions, primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past ('was, were'), present ('are, is') or future ('will be'), often to unite a subject and predicate. The verb may also denote (1) temporal existence; live; (2) a sojourn; stay, reside; (3) phenomena, events; take place, occur; and (4) time references (BAG).
The verb here indicates a combination of place and time and the present tense supports dating the book of John prior to A.D. 70 when Jerusalem was destroyed. Scholars who advocate a late date for the book of John do not have an adequate explanation for why John does not say "there was," other than Robertson's claim that the present tense verb represents a vivid memory. John's memory was vivid all right, especially aided by the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14:26), and he is an accurate historian. Noteworthy is that the other two verbs in this verse are also present tense. (See the Composition section of my web article Witnesses of the Good News for more discussion on the dating of the book of John.)
in Jerusalem: See the previous verse. by the sheep gate: Grk. probatikos, pertaining to sheep, a sheep gate. This gate was located on the north-east corner of the north wall of the city. The gate was first constructed by the high priest Eliashib and his brothers as part of rebuilding the city after the exile (Neh 3:1). The sheep was one of twelve gates at that time, although not all the gates survived to Yeshua's time. As implied by the name it was a gate through which sheep were brought to be sacrificed in the Temple. a pool: Grk. kolumbēthra, a relatively small area of water suitable for bathing, pool. being called: Grk. epilegō, pres. pass. part., to call or give a name to.
in Hebrew: Grk. Hebraisti, adv., 'in Hebrew,' is used by Jews and translated into Greek for a Gentile audience, such as Bethesda (here), Gabbatha (John 19:13), Golgotha (John 19:17), Rabboni (John 20:16), Abaddon (Rev 9:11), and Har-Magedon (Rev 16:16). Hebraisti is derived from Grk. Hebrais ("Hebrew"), which itself is the fem. adj. form of Grk. Hebraios ("Hebrew") a transliteration of Heb. Ibri (SH-5680; pl. Ibriyim). Heb. Ibri occurs 31 times in the Tanakh of people descended from Eber, the name of one of Shem’s sons (Gen 10:21; 11:14, 16). Abraham is identified as a descendant of Shem, of Eber’s line (Gen 11:26) and became the first one to be identified as a Hebrew (Gen 14:13).
While Ibri may have been used by non-Israelites to refer to "one from beyond" or "from beyond the Euphrates" (which applied originally to Abraham and his family), Ibri, generally translated in the LXX by Grk. Hebraios, became the name by which the covenant people would be distinguished from the Amorites, Egyptians, Philistines and other nations (Gen 39–Ex 10; 1Sam 4-29) and the name given to the land of Canaan from the time of Jacob (Gen 40:15). Six times in Exodus YHVH is identified as the "God of the Hebrews" (Ex 3:18; 5:3; 7:16; 9:1, 13; 10:13). The prophet Jonah proudly identified himself as a "Hebrew" (Jon 1:9). (See BDB 720; DNTT 2:305; TWOT 2:643).
Danker defines Hebraisti as "in Hebrew/Aramaic," and BAG defines the word as "in Hebrew or Aramaic." Thayer and Mounce concur with BAG. So, the lexicons seem to reflect a choice of the two languages. Some versions translate Hebraisti as "Aramaic" (CEB, CJB, ERV, ESV, NET, NIRV, NIV, OJB and TLV), but the overwhelming majority of versions translate the word as "Hebrew." Hebrew and Aramaic have many common features, but they are clearly different languages. Suggesting that the Hebraios word-group could mean "Aramaic" reflects an old bias among Christian scholars that Hebrew was not widely spoken outside of rabbinic circles. It is unfortunate that a few Messianic versions have uncritically translated Hebraisti with "Aramaic." (See my web article The Jewish New Testament, which rebuts this theory.)
Generally ignored by scholars is that the LXX uses Suristi (Syrian) to mean "Aramaic" (2Kgs 18:26, 28; Ezra 4:7; Isa 36:11; Dan 2:4). Hebraisti does not occur at all in the canonical books of the LXX, but it does occur in the preface of the Apocryphal work Sirach. However, the LXX uses Grk. Ioudaisti to refer to the language spoken by the people of Judea (2Kgs 18:26, 28; para. 2Chron 32:18; Isa 36:11, 13; also Neh 13:24). That Ioudaisti equates to Hebraisti is confirmed by Josephus in his recounting of the scene in 2 Kings 18:26-28 (para. 2Chron 32:18) and uses Hebraisti as a synonym for Ioudaisti (Ant. X, 1:2). Douglas Hamp (2005) argues persuasively based on etymology, grammar, Tanakh and the Mishnah, that words in the Besekh commonly thought to be Aramaic are in fact Hebrew. The Greek word for Aramaic, Suristi, does not occur in the Besekh at all. If John had intended to say "Aramaic" he would have used Suristi, not Hebraisti. It's as simple as that.
Bethesda: Grk. Bēthesda, a transliteration of Heb. Beit-Chasda, "house of mercy" or "house of grace." Chasda is derived from Heb. chesed (favor, kindness, BDB 338). See the textual note on the name below. having: Grk. echō, pres. part., to have, hold or possess with a wide range of application: (1) to possess with the implication of the object being under one's control or at one's disposal; (2) to bear on one's person; (3) be in a position to do something; (4) view something in a particular way; and (5) experience a condition or situation. The last meaning applies here describing proximity. five: Grk. pente, adj., the number five. porches: pl. of Grk. stoa, a roofed colonnaded area, portico. The stoa was a standard feature in Greco-Roman cities and popular place for social, political and economic activity. Morris suggests that "colonnades" would be a better translation.
Archaeologists have discovered two pools in this vicinity, 16½ and 19½ meters (55 and 65 feet) long respectively. The shorter pool had five arches over it with a porch beneath each arch, corresponding to the description here (NIBD 151). Concerning this pool the Encyclopedia Judaica notes that "excavations of the site have revealed that a health rite took place there during the Roman period" (9:1539; cited in Stern). Today this pool is identified with the double pool found near the church of St. Anne (Morris). No date has been assigned to the pool of Bethesda, but it could have predated the reconstruction of the Temple that began in 20 BC.
There is no evidence that the pool of Bethesda was counted as one of the many baths (Heb. mikvaoth) in and around the Temple used for ritual cleansing before engaging in religious ceremonies. Even so the pool would have satisfied the requirements of the Mishnah Tractate Mikvaoth for clean bodies of water.
3 In these lay a multitude of the ailing, blind, lame, and withered.
In these: Apparently people were in and around the pools. lay: Grk. katakeimai, impf. mid., be in a reclining posture, to be abed, to lie from sickness. a multitude: Grk. plēthos, a relatively large number of persons, multitude, crowd. John divides those at the pool into four categories. of the ailing: Grk. astheneō, pres. part., may mean (1) experience weakness in body, be sick; or (2) lack capacity for something, be weak, be deficient; or (3) lack necessities, be in need. Mounce adds "to be infirm." The verb is plural, so Marshall has "the ailing ones." blind: pl. of Grk. tuphlos, adj., having the inability to see, blind. What cannot be determined is whether the blindness is total or partial. lame: pl. of Grk. chōlos, adj., crippled, perhaps from a missing limb (cf. Mat 18:8). and withered: pl. of Grk. xēros, adj., having a condition that lacks moisture, dry. Here the term refers to a body part that is not functioning; withered, paralyzed.
[3b waiting for the moving of the water; 4 for an angel went down at a certain time into the pool, and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. NKJV]
The MS evidence makes it certain that verses 3b-4 are not part of John's original writing, but form a very ancient explanation which has somehow crept into the text. The true text says nothing as to why people with physical problems came to the pool (Morris). Many versions omit the text but include an explanatory footnote (CEV, CJB, ERV, ESV, GW, LEB, MRINT, MW, MSG, NET, NIRV, NIV, NLT, NOG, NRSV, RSV, TEV, and TLV). Some versions include the text in brackets with an explanatory footnote (Darby, GNC, HCSB, NASB, NCV, NLV, OJB, and Voice). The omitted text is included in the ASV, HNV, KJV, NKJV, and WEB without comment. The text is included here in brackets for the sake of completeness.
3b waiting for: Grk. ekdechomai, pres. mid., to wait for someone or some thing. the moving: Grk. kinēsis, motion, moving. of the water: Grk. hudōr, water as the physical element, here located in the pool.
4 for an angel: Grk. angelos means one sent, a messenger, whether human or heavenly (BAG). In the LXX angelos renders Heb. malak, which means messenger, representative, courier or angel (DNTT 1:101f). The decision to translate malak or angelos as "angel" or "messenger" (of a human) relies primarily on the context. About half of the occurrences in the Tanakh refer to humans, such as to denote a prophet (Eccl 5:6; Isa 42:19; Mal 2:7) and a priest (Hag 1:13; Mal 3:1). In the Besekh angelos occurs 175 times, and is used of men only 13 times (Matt 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:24, 27; 9:52; Jas 2:25; Rev 1:20; 2:1, 8, 12; 3:1, 7, 14). The action of the "messenger" suggests miraculous powers.
went down: Grk. katabainō, impf., to go in a direction that is down. at: Grk. kata, prep., lit. "according to." a certain time: Grk. kairos may refer to (1) an appropriate or set temporal segment of time; or (2) a period, definite or approximate, in which an event tales place; time, period. Lightfoot suggests the time or season would be a Jewish feast (3:293). Tertullian (d. 225 AD) suggested the time was on the Sabbath since the present story occurs on the Sabbath (Gill). Kairos could also mean a God-appointed time, which could make the occurrence completely unpredictable (e.g., Matt 8:29; Mark 1:15; Luke 21:24; John 7:8; Acts 1:7; 7:20; Rom 5:6; Eph 1:10; 2Th 2:6; 1Tim 2:6; 6:15; Rev 1:3; 11:18; 12:14; 22:10).
into the pool: Grk. kolumbēthra. See verse 2 above. and stirred up: Grk. tarassō, impf., caused to be in a disturbed state, agitate; here to make water turbulent. the water: Grk. hudōr. then whoever stepped in: Grk. embainō, aor. part., to go in, get in or step in. first: Grk. prōtos, having primary position in sequence, first, earlier, earliest. after the stirring: Grk. tarachē, disturbance. of the water: Grk. hudōr. was made: Grk. ginomai, impf. pass., to become. well: Grk. hugiēs, sound, whole, healthy. of whatever disease: Grk. nosēma, sickness, illness. he had: Grk. katechō, impf. pass., to hold fast, to hold down.
While acknowledging the superiority of the text that omits the angel story, Stern says that verse 7 seems to require some such explanation. The story is apparently ancient since a Crusader church built over the pool has a mural depicting an angel arising out of the pool (Morris 301).
The clause of 3b, "waiting for the moving of the water" might be a reasonable addition to the text considering verse 7, but the cause of the moving provided in verse 4 is the really doubtful element. If someone had been healed after getting into the pool and the water being agitated, then others might conclude they could be healed in the same manner. Word would spread and more people would come, thus treating the pool as kind of a magical remedy. An original healing in this manner should not be discounted since Naaman the Syrian was healed of his skin disorder by dipping seven times in the Jordan River (2Kgs 5:14). However, such assumption by others seeking healing would be erroneous, for as Yeshua pointed out, there were other people with skin disorders in the time of Naaman and they were not healed (Luke 4:27).
Ancient Jews had a simple explanation for the inexplicable when there was no revelation from God: if it was good then an angel caused it; if it was bad a demon caused it. People might have believed that healing at the pool was facilitated by an angel, but there is no record anywhere in Scripture of an angel being God's agent for healing a person and no historical evidence exists to support the description of verse 4. Indeed, the manner of healing at an unpredictable time as described would be tantamount to healing by lottery or by luck and Scripture does not support such an approach to divine healing. On the contrary Scripture records angels inflicting physical problems (Gen 32:25; 2Sam 24:16-17; Job 2:7) and killing people (2Kgs 19:35).
5 And a certain man was there, who had been thirty-eight years in his weakness.
And: Grk. de, conj. See verse 2 above. a certain: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun, a certain one, someone, anyone, anything. man: Grk. anthrōpos, human being, man, here used of an adult male. In the LXX anthrōpos renders three Hebrew words: (1) adam, SH-444, used for a human male or generically for man and woman and as a contrast to animals (e.g., Gen 1:26, 27; 2:5; 1Sam 15:29); (2) ish, SH-376, adult male or husband (Gen 2:23, 24; Job 1:1) and (3) enosh, SH-582, man or mankind, often signifying the aspect of weakness and mortality (Job 5:17; Ps 8:4-5) (DNTT 2:564). was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 2 above. there: Grk. ekei, adv., in that place. who had been: Grk. echō, pres. part. See verse 2 above; lit. "having" (Marshall).
thirty: Grk. triakonta, adj., the number 30. eight: Grk. oktō, adj., the number eight. years: pl. of Grk. etos, a year. in his weakness: Grk. astheneia may mean (1) weak in body, sick, sickly; or (2) lacking capacity for something, weak. The term may refer to a condition of debilitating illness, sickness, disease, or disability. John reports that the man had been an invalid for a lengthy time. The narrative is ambiguous as to the man's actual physical condition. It is also not clear how often the man may have been at the pool during the 38 years, but the important thing is his presence on this occasion.
6 Yeshua, seeing him lying and knowing he had already much time in that condition, says to him, "Do you wish to become well?”
There are a number of notable elements in this story. On this occasion Yeshua began the conversation, whereas other times people approached Yeshua with requests for help. Yeshua: See verse 1 above. seeing: Grk. horaō, aor. part., to perceive with the physical eyes or to experience extraordinary mental or inward perception. The verb could be taken either literally or metaphorically, perhaps both. him lying: Grk. katakeimai, pres. mid. part., to be in a reclining posture, here because of his physical limitation. The middle voice of the verb emphasizes that the man was responsible for his lying where Yeshua found him.
and knowing: Grk. ginōskō, aor. part., may mean (1) to be in receipt of information with a focus on awareness, know; (2) to form a judgment or draw a conclusion; think, understand, comprehend; (3) to have a personal relationship involving recognition of another's identity or value, or (4) to be sexually intimate. The first and second meanings apply here with the implication of certainty. Yeshua's knowledge of the man's condition need not be supernatural, as it may have been commonly known. he had: Grk. echō, lit. "has." See verse 2 above. already: Grk. ēdē, adv., with focus on temporal culmination, now, already. much: Grk. polus, adj. of an indefinite number. time: Grk. chronos may mean (1) a span or period of time, or (2) a point or definite moment in time. Some versions as the NASB add "in that condition." The time reference relates to the period of disability.
says: Grk. legō, to make a statement or utterance, whether oral or in written form. In the LXX legō renders Heb. amar (SH-559), to utter, say, shew, command or think. The Greek verb "say" functions as quotation marks for the text following since ancient writings did not contain punctuation. Do you wish: Grk. thelō, to have a desire for something or have a purpose for something; will, wish, desire. to become: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. inf., may mean (1) come into being by birth or natural process; (2) to exist through application of will or effort by someone or (3) undergo a state of existence, change or development. The third meaning applies here. well: Grk. hugiēs, a state of well-being, here with the focus on physical condition. This is the first of three different words John uses in this chapter to describe the healing.
Jeremias suggests that the conversation between Yeshua and the invalid may have been occasioned by a request for alms (cf. Acts 3:2-4). He says, "Since this pool --it remained a place of healing after A.D. 70, as is provided by votive offerings found there -- must have been much sought after as a place of miracles, the sick had ample opportunity for begging" (118). The Torah contains no enactment concerning beggars or begging, since it makes ample provision for the relief and care of "the poor in the land." Begging, however, came to be known to the Jews in the course of time with the development of the larger cities (ISBE). Although almsgiving for the poor is strongly advocated in the Tanakh, as well as other Jewish literature, begging for money was not approved.
The first clear criticism of begging in Jewish literature is found in Sirach 40:28, "My son, do not lead the life of a beggar; it is better to die than to beg." This attitude is reflected in the remark of the unjust steward, "I am ashamed to beg" (Luke 16:3). Professional beggars were a despised class among the Hebrews; and the Jewish communities were forbidden to support them from the general charity fund (Baba Bathra 9a). However, it was likewise forbidden to drive a beggar away without any alms (B.B. 10a). This prevalence of begging may be attributed to an inadequate system of ministering relief, the lack of remedies for serious diseases or maladies, and the impoverishment of the land under the excessive taxation of the Roman government.
Yeshua's approach is very important to helping people. For example, when helping someone who is seeking either help from God or a salvation experience, it's good to start with the question, "what do you want God to do for you." The worker or counselor should never presume to know what the seeker wants or needs, nor assume that the seeker should want or need what the counselor wants. The counselor must begin with where the seeker is.
7 The ailing one answered him, "Sir, I have no man that might put me into the pool when the water is disturbed, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.”
The ailing one: Grk. astheneō, pres. part., to be weak. See verse 3 above; lit. "the ailing one" (Marshall). Most versions render the verb with "sick man," but astheneō is a participle, not a regular noun. answered: Grk. apokrinomai, aor., to answer or reply to someone, whether to a question, request, exhortation, command, etc. (BAG). In the LXX apokrinomai renders Heb. anah (SH-6030), to answer or respond to something said in conversation; to respond to an occasion and speak in view of circumstances or to testify or respond as a witness in a legal proceeding (BDB 772). John likely uses the verb in the Hebraic sense of advancing the narrative.
Sir: Grk. kurios, voc. case., may mean either (1) 'one in control through possession,' and therefore owner or master; or (2) 'one esteemed for authority or high status,' thus lord or master. In personal address kurios may be translated as "sir" to express recognition of or submission to superior rank. In the LXX kurios occurs over 9,000 times, principally to translate Heb. words for God, especially the sacred name YHVH. In contrast to its use for deity kurios also renders Heb. adon (owner, master) 310 times, 190 of which refer to men in general recognition of superior rank (DNTT 2:511). Kurios is the principal title by which disciples and members of the public addressed Yeshua during his earthly ministry, over twice as many times as any other title (e.g., Rabbi, Teacher, Master). The frequent use of kurios to address Yeshua in the flesh would not have considered deity. Unbelieving Jews would have called him kurios out of respect.
I have: Grk. echō. See verse 2 above. no man: Grk. anthrōpos. See verse 5 above. Most likely an adult male is intended. to put: Grk. ballō, aor. subj., to cause movement through vigorous action, which may be forceful and mean "throw, cast or hurl," or more subdued and mean to "put, place or lay." In this context the verb has the sense of picking up the disabled man and carrying him to the desired location. me: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. into: Grk. eis, prep., focus on entrance, frequently in relation to a direction toward a goal or place and consequent arrival; into, to, toward. the pool: Grk. kolumbēthra. See verse 2 above. when: Grk. hotan, conj., temporal marker; when, whenever. the water: Grk. hudōr, water as the physical element, here water in the pool.
is stirred up: Grk. tarassō, aor. pass. subj., may mean (1) lit. 'shake together, stir up' in reference to water (cf. LXX Hosea 6:8; Isa 24:14; Ezek 32:2, 13); or (2) fig. stir up, disturb, unsettle, throw into confusion (BAG). The passive voice indicates that something causes the water to be agitated. Morris and Robertson suggest the verb may indicate the intermittent bubbling up of a natural spring. Morris also quotes a scholar, R.D. Potter, who argued from fragments of stone piping that water was piped in from the Temple area or elsewhere (302). By Potter's thesis the "moving" (Grk. kinēsis) of the water in verse 3b above and the "stirring" in verse 4 and in this verse would be the necessary renewals. The weakness of Potter's argument is similar to building a dinosaur model from a few bone fragments. The verb here describes a movement of water much more vigorous than water flowing in from a pipe and with such intensity that people attributed curative powers to it.
but: Grk. de, conj. See verse 2 above. Here the conjunction a offers contrast to a preceding statement or thought. while I: Grk. egō. am coming: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid., to come or arrive with focus on a position from which action or movement takes place or to go with the focus on the goal for movement. another: Grk. allos, adj., 'other or another' in reference here to another person. steps down: Grk. katabainō, to go in a direction that is down. before: Grk. pro, prep., with the genitive noun following indicating precedence, either spatially, 'ahead, before,' or temporally, 'earlier than, before.' me: Grk. egō. This is the third occurrence of the pronoun in this verse. The man might mean the 'another' gets to the water before he can get there or even the 'another' steps in front of him.
The man's answer contains at least two problems. First, his answer is contradictory. He requires help to get to the pool and initially says he has no one to help him. The conventional interpretation is that by "no one" the man claimed to be friendless, helpless and hopeless. If he had "no one" how did he manage to come to the pool area? Then he says "while" he is coming or getting to the pool. He might imply that he is crawling to the pool, but if he is an invalid it's not clear how he would manage it.
Little considered by commentators is the practical effect of such a long-term disability. Muscles will eventually atrophy due to lack of use. This was a man who was totally dependent on others, probably family members, but perhaps also friends. He could not work, so someone had to provide for him, wash him, feed him, clothe him, house him and transport him. We can only wonder how his toilet was managed. Such dependency can itself become a sick relationship, with the helpers resenting the constant demands for attention and the expectation of the disabled that he should be the center of attention.
Second, Yeshua's question calls for a "yes" or "no" answer, but the invalid does not declare any wish to be healed (cf. Matt 20:30-33). Instead, his answer sounds more like whining. We could say he answers a question that Yeshua did not ask, but perhaps one he had been asked before. "What's the matter with you, why haven't you gotten into the pool?" The man's answer, considering his dependent state (see the comment on verse 5 above) could be considered a bald-face lie.
8 Yeshua said to him, "Arise, pick up your mat, and walk.”
Yeshua offers no pity or sympathetic response to the man's situation, but instead issues three simple, but sharp commands. Arise: Grk. egeirō, pres. imp., to rise from a recumbent or lower position. Egeirō appears frequently in the Besekh in reference to resurrection. We might say that in a fig. sense Yeshua commands the man to take hold of resurrection power, since his healing would make a new life possible. pick up: Grk. airō, aor. imp., may mean (1) to cause to move upward; raise up, lift; or (2) move by lifting or taking from one position to another; take away, remove, carry off. The first meaning applies here.
your mat: Grk. krabattos, a humble pad for sleeping or resting, frequently used by the infirm. Rienecker adds that the mat was used by the poor as bedding. The word does not occur in the LXX at all. BAG says krabattos is a loanword of uncertain origin but found in late rabbinic literature. Danker suggests the word is of Latin origin whereas Morris suggests its origin is Macedonian (303). In the rabbinic context a loanword would be from Aramaic, not Latin, although Greek is a possibility. In my view the Greek word is more likely derived from an Aramaic root, krah, 'bolster, mattress' (e.g., Kellim 26:5) (Jastrow 663) or krubeta, 'blanket' (Jastrow 664).
and walk: Grk. peripateō, pres. imp., to engage in pedestrian activity; go about; walk about, walk around, walk. In the LXX peripateō is found in only 33 passages and renders Heb. halak (SH-1980) to go, come or walk (DNTT 3:943). Both Greek and Hebrew verbs are used fig. of how one conducts oneself in life (Deut 30:16; 1Kgs 11:38; Ps 1:1; 15:2).
9 And immediately, the man became well, and picked up his mat and walked. Now it was a sabbath on that day.
And: Grk. kai, conj. See verse 1 above. immediately: Grk. eutheōs, adv., immediately, forthwith, right away. the man: Grk. anthrōpos. See verse 5 above. became: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 6 above. well: Grk. hugiēs. See verse 6 above. There is no doubt that healing comes from God (Ps 103:3) and on this occasion healing was instantaneous. Like other times this healing was accomplished with just a word (cf. Ps 107:20; Matt 8:16; Luke 7:7). and picked up: Grk. airō, aor. See the previous verse. his mat: Grk. krabattos. See the previous verse. and walked: Grk. peripateō, impf. See the previous verse. The imperfect tense indicates continuous activity in past time.
There are a number of elements that make this healing different from other healings Yeshua performed. First, Yeshua does not predict healing nor does he tell the man he would be healed (cf. Mark 5:34). Second, Yeshua did not touch the man as he did others (cf. Matt 8:3; 9:29; 17:7; 20:34; John 9:6). Third, the narrative makes no mention of faith on the part of the invalid nor is it expected by Yeshua (cf. Mark 2:5, "their faith"). This story illustrates that while faith is usually a prerequisite to healing, it is not absolutely necessary. Fourth, the simple obedience of the lame man belies his disappointment. Contrary to the joy expressed at other healings (Matt 15:31; Luke 13:17; Acts 1:8), this man does not leap or rejoice. A prophecy concerning the Messianic age is that lame men would leap (Isa 35:6). In essence Yeshua healed the man against his will. Now, he would be forced to fend for himself instead of being dependent on others.
Now: Grk. de, conj. used to transition into a new thought. it was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 2 above. a sabbath: Grk. sabbaton, a transliteration of Heb. shabbath (DNTT 3:405), which is derived from the verb shabath ("cease, desist, rest" BDB 991). Sabbaton occurs 68 times in the Besekh, generally of the seventh day Sabbath. We should remember that all the appointed times on the Hebrew calendar, including the first and last days of week-long festivals, were considered sabbaths (Lev 23), because ordinary work was prohibited on those days. The principal Torah instruction for the Sabbath may be found in the following passages: Gen 2:2-3; Ex 20:8-11; 31:13-16; Lev 19:3; 23:3; Num 15:32; Deut 5:12-15. (See my web article Remember the Sabbath.) The lack of the definite article with the noun here would suggest that this sabbath was of the festival mentioned in verse 1 above.
on that: Grk. ekeinos, demonstrative pronoun, signifying the more remote 'that person or thing' as opposed to houtos, 'this over here.' day: Grk. hēmera may refer to (1) the daylight hours from sunrise to sunset, (2) the civil or legal day that included the night, (3) an appointed day for a special purpose or (4) a longer or imprecise period, such as a timeframe for accomplishing something or a time of life or activity (BAG). The first meaning applies here. The added phrase "on that day" reinforces the fact that this day was not the seventh day of the week. Passages that mention the weekday Sabbath do not need to add extra words for understanding (e.g., Matt 12:5, 8; Mark 2:27, 28; 16:1; Luke 4:16; 6:5; 13:14, 15, 16; 14:3, 5; John 5:18; 9:16; 19:31).
The healing reported here is the first of five healings that Yeshua performed on a sabbath: (1) a man with a withered hand (Matt 12:9-14; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11); (2) a woman bent double (Luke 13:10-17); (3) a man with dropsy (Luke 14:1-6); and (4) a man born blind (John 9:1-7). On each of these occasions Yeshua faced criticism by legalists for violating the Sabbath and Yeshua responded with a strong argument as to why there was no violation, but in fact healing served as a fulfillment of the purpose of sabbath.
10 So the Judean authorities said to him who had been healed, "It is a sabbath and it is not permitted for you to take up the mat.”
So: Grk. oun, conj. used to denote the result of or an inference from what precedes, "so, therefore, consequently, accordingly, then" (BAG). the Judean authorities: pl. of Grk. Ioudaios. See verse 1 above. John could be using the name here as shorthand for members of the Sanhedrin, such as the Sadducean chief priests, but more likely the Levitical Temple Guard, which had police powers under supervision of the Deputy High Priest. (See Jeremias 33, 71, 180, 210.) said: Grk. legō, impf. ind., lit. "were saying." See verse 6 above. to him who had been healed: Grk. therapeuō, perf. pass. part., may mean (1) to offer helpful service, help out, serve; or (2) the specific service of restoring a person to health; lit. "the one having been healed" (Marshall). This is the second word of three in this chapter to describe the healing.
It is: Grk. eimi. See verse 2 above. a sabbath: Grk. sabbaton without the definite article. See the previous verse. The police remind the man that this was a day of rest, even though it was a minor festival. and it is not: Grk. ou, adv. that strongly negates. permitted: Grk. exesti, it is allowable, it is permitted, or it is proper; lit. "it is out or open." The use of this particular verb may indicate a mild rebuke, because for a major violation of Torah they would have accused him of breaking the fourth commandment as they will later accuse Yeshua. for you to take up: Grk. airō, aor. inf. See the verse 8 above. Some versions translate as "carry" to reflect the purpose or result of "taking up."
the mat: Grk. krabattos. See verse 8 above. Another notable element of this story is the failure of the Temple police to recognize or comment on the healing. For such a long-standing disability and frequent appearance at the pool of Bethesda the Temple police could not have been ignorant of the man. Instead they inform him that he is in violation of a rule prohibiting carrying on the Sabbath. The fact that the police warned the man rather than arresting him supports the supposition that this sabbath was of a minor festival day and not the weekly Sabbath.
For Jews the requirement to rest on all sabbaths was sacrosanct. The issue in this story was not over whether it was permitted to carry a mat, but whether it could be done on a Sabbath day. Reinhartz says that the issue was violating a law that prohibited carrying any object outside the domain of one's household and cites Jeremiah 17:21-22 (168).
'Thus says the LORD, "Take heed for yourselves, and do not carry any load on the sabbath day or bring anything in through the gates of Jerusalem. "You shall not bring a load out of your houses on the sabbath day nor do any work, but keep the sabbath day holy, as I commanded your forefathers." (Jer 17:21-22)
However, Jeremiah appeals to the fourth commandment which is concerned with rest from the work of the six days that provided the family's livelihood. The context of Jeremiah's rebuke is the work of business and commerce similar to the problem addressed by Nehemiah (Neh 13:15-22). This clarification implies that the man executed for gathering wood on the Sabbath during the wilderness years had a motive other than personal need (Num 15:32-36).
The Mishnah identifies thirty-nine categories of work prohibited on the Sabbath (Shabbath 7:2). Carrying the mat would be included in the 39th category of work, "carrying out from one domain to another." The background of the rule is that there were four domains considered for any Sabbath: private ground, public ground, karmelith, and a place of non-liability (Shabbath 6a). A karmelith is part of a public domain which is but little frequented, therefore regarded as neither public nor private ground (fn 7, Shabbath 3b). An interesting regulation provides that if a man took out a "living man on a couch he is not culpable by reason of the couch, since the couch is secondary (Shabbath 10:5). This clearly implies that the carrying of the couch by itself is culpable (Morris 306).
The Levitical police, most likely Sadducees, would have based the Sabbath standard on the commandment of Exodus 16:29, "Remain every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day." The interpretative question is, what does the word "place" [Heb. maqom] mean? Stern points out that in a walled city like Jerusalem a special legal arrangement called an erub, an agreement to combine areas on Shabbat, made it legal to carry objects on Shabbat (Shabbath 6a). Erub (lit., 'mixture') refers to a quantity of food, enough for two meals, placed (a) 2000 cubits from the town boundary, so as to extend the Sabbath limit by that distance; or (b) in a room or in a court-yard to enable all the residents to carry to and from in the court-yard on Sabbath (Talmud Glossary). The agreement of erub made an area a place of non-liability. All the rules governing the practice of erub may be found in the Talmud Tractate Erubin.
Lightfoot concurs saying, "it was lawful, within places of private propriety, such as were the porches, entries, and courts, where various families dwelling together might be joined; it was lawful for them to remove and bear from one place to another; but not all things, nor indeed any thing, unless upon very urgent necessity (3:296). The practice of erub was especially applicable to Jerusalem, because the city could be regarded as a single house. Such a practice would have been based on the principle that the residents did not really own the city of Jerusalem, but it belonged to all the tribes (Yoma 12a; Meg. 26a; cf. Ps 122:3). Stern goes on to say,
"Perhaps the man had his home outside the walls of Jerusalem, beyond the range of the erub; or he may have been homeless and slept on his mat each night outside the city. Another possibility: he had not yet left Jerusalem and was still in the Temple area, but the Judeans perceived that he was about to leave and were warning him not to violate Shabbat by carrying his mat through the gates."
In contrast to the minute restrictions of the Mishnah and rabbinic interpretations, the Torah simply does not prohibit picking up an object and carrying it on the Sabbath. Also, the command of Exodus 16:29 likely was intended only for that time in relation to gathering manna, which was perishable and could not be stored. Once the manna ceased (Josh 5:12), there was no further need for the rule and it's never repeated in the Tanakh. Participating in all the festivals on days of rest listed in Leviticus 23 requires going out of "one's place." As a device to get around a supposed restriction of the Sabbath the erub, then, is a silly and unnecessary convention. While the practice of erub is interesting from a historical point of view, it does not seem to be relevant to this passage. The carrying of a mat had nothing to do with positioning or sharing food and neither the healed man nor Yeshua even hint that erub might be a defense against the charge of violating the Sabbath commandment.
Given these circumstances, both the man's lack of enthusiasm over being healed and the legalistic enforcement by the temple police, Adam Clarke asks an important question, "why did our Lord command this man to carry his bed on the sabbath, as the law prohibited the carrying of burdens on that day?" Clarke suggests four possible reasons: (1) the man was a poor man, and if he had left his bed he might have lost it; and he could not have conveniently watched it till the next morning; (2) Yeshua showed by this that he was Lord of the Sabbath (cf. Matt 12:8); (3) this was not contrary to the spirit of the Torah: the Sabbath was made to honor God in, and this was a public monument of God's power and goodness; and (4) it was consistent with the wisdom of Yeshua to do his miracles so that they might be seen and known by a multitude of people, and especially in Jerusalem, the capitol of the country and the center of Jewish religion.
Against Clarke's reasons is that, first, there is no evidence in the narrative that the man was poor. Second, Yeshua's instruction did not violate the letter of the Torah, nor certainly the spirit of the Torah. Third, the saying about the "son of man being lord of the Sabbath" really applies to individual members of the covenant community. (See my commentary on Mark 2:27-28.) Fourth, in general Yeshua did not perform miracles "to be seen and known," because sometimes Yeshua directed people to keep quiet about the source of healing (cf. Mark 1:34, 44; 3:12; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26, 30; 9:9). Yeshua healed because of need, not out of a desire for notoriety. In this instance Yeshua did not reveal his identity immediately to the healed man and sought no attention from anyone for the healing.
Another way to approach the reason for Yeshua's actions would be to consider the outcome, namely Yeshua's personal confrontation of the healed man in verse 14 below and Yeshua's midrash on judgment in verses 22-30 below. Instructing the man to carry the mat was a rebuke of current legalism just as Yeshua confronted other Jewish leaders for their hypocritical regulations and traditions (Matt 6:2, 5, 16; 12:11-13; 15:3, 6-7; 23:13-29; Mark 7:8; Luke 13:15). The entire story of the healing of the ungrateful invalid man is an acted out parable. The man represents Israel, but more specifically Israel's leadership who opposed Yeshua. The message from Yeshua is that spiritual healing is available if they will stop sinning by opposing the plan of God. Failure to repent will result in judgment.
11 He answered them, "He who made me well, that one told me, ‘Take up your mat, and walk.’”
He who made: Grk. poieō, aor. part., a verb of physical action that may refer to (1) producing something material; make, construct, produce, create; or (2) to be active in bringing about a state of condition, such as carrying out an obligation or responsibility; do, act, perform, work. me well: Grk. hugiēs. See verse 6 above. The choice of the verb "made" is interesting, because the healed man implies that he shouldn't be blamed because Yeshua was "working" on the Sabbath. The man then repeats what Yeshua had said to him that resulted in his healing. Absent from the man's response is "Hallelujah, praise the Lord, I'm healed."
12 They asked him, "Who is the man telling you, ‘Take up your mat, and walk’?”
The Temple police then inquire as to the identity of the healer and in so doing summarize Yeshua's instructions to the man. This is the third time Yeshua's words for the healing are given, and in this instance the word "mat" is omitted as is the command to "arise." The fact that the police question the man indicates that they did not witness the healing.
13 But he who was healed did not know who it was, for Yeshua had withdrawn, a crowd being in the place.
But: Grk. de, conj., used here for contrast. he who was healed: Grk. iaomai, aor. pass. part., to effect a physical cure. This is the third of three different words John uses in this chapter to describe the healing. did not know: Grk. oida, plperf. (the perf. tense of Grk. eidon, to see), to have seen or perceived, hence to know (NASBEC). The pluperfect tense refers to action in the past that is complete and the results of the action in existence at some point in past time as indicated by the context. The verb is used for various kinds of knowledge: (1) to know someone or about someone; (2) to be intimately acquainted with or stand in a close relation to someone; (3) to know or understand how to do something, be able; (4) understand, recognize, or come to know by experience; and (5) to remember (BAG).
In the LXX oida occurs frequently to render Heb. yada (SH-3045; e.g., Num 11:16; Deut 1:39; Josh 2:4; 2Sam 19:6), which has a wide range of meaning, but in most occasions refers to a personal knowledge, whether of knowing persons or knowing by experience, as well as knowing by learning (DNTT 2:395). To the Hebrew mind "knowing" is not philosophical or theoretical, but based in reality. who it was: Grk. eimi, pres., lit. "it is." See verse 2 above. for Yeshua: See verse 1 above. had withdrawn: Grk. ekneuō, aor., to deviate from a position, 'turn the head out of its normal position,' then 'move away from,' move out of sight. a crowd: Grk. ochlos, an aggregate of people with the context indicating type, interest or relative number, crowd. being in the place: Grk. topos, a spatial area, place. The word alludes to the area outside the temple.
14 Afterward Yeshua found him in the temple, and said to him, "Behold, you have become well. Sin no more, lest something worse happens to you.”
Afterward: lit. "after these things." Yeshua: See verse 1 above. found: Grk. heuriskō, to come upon by seeking; find, locate or by something happening; find, come across, discover. found: Grk. heuriskō, aor., to come upon by seeking; find, locate or by something happening; find, come across, discover. in the temple: Grk. hieron, sanctuary, temple (subst. neut. of the adj. hieros, 'sacred, holy'). When used of the temple in Jerusalem hieron applies to the entire temple complex with all its courts in contrast to naos, which refers to the sanctuary proper where priests offered sacrifices. For a description of the construction and characteristics of the temple see my comment on Mark 11:11.
Behold: Grk. ide, aor. imp. of eidon, to see, but functions as an attention-getter without regard to number of persons addressed, in general (you) see! you have become: Grk. ginomai, perf. See verse 6 above. well: Grk. hugiēs. See verse 6 above. Sin: Grk. hamartanō, pres. imp., cause to be alongside instead of on target, to miss and in a moral sense to do wrong. The verb is used of offenses against the moral law of God as defined in the Torah. BAG defines as to transgress or sin against divinity, custom or law. no more: Grk. mēketi, lit. 'no longer.' Perhaps the best translation is "stop sinning" (CJB, ERV, NCV, NIRV, NIV, NLT, TEV, TLV).
Other people in Scripture were also cautioned to "sin no more," such as the woman caught in adultery (John 8:11), and the congregation at Corinth (1Cor 15:34). The fact that a disciple may be instructed to cease sinning or to avoid sinning (cf. Eph 4:26; 1Tim 5:20) contradicts the assumption by some Christians that they must sin in thought, word and deed every day. Followers of Yeshua should take note of the fact that he did not satisfy tabloid curiosity and describe the man's sinful conduct. The man's sin certainly was not carrying his mat on a sabbath. Yeshua would never command anyone to sin. Unclear is whether the sin to be stopped was something that may have resulted in the physical malady or the sin in which he had just been engaged. The healed man had not given glory to God for his healing (cf. Ps 103:1-3; Luke 17:18; Acts 3:8) and he had not defended Yeshua's actions to the authorities (cf. 2Tim 2:12) as the man healed of blindness does in John 9.
lest: Grk. hina mē, lit. 'in order not.' something worse: Grk. cheirōn, a comparative word meaning 'worse,' in contrast to a condition noted in the context. happens: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. subj. to you: Yeshua implies that illness and disease may be a punishment for sin. The something worse might be reverting to an invalid state for the rest of his life or fig. of eternity in contrast to the 38 years. The story of Job illustrates that not all physical maladies are the result of sin. God promised in general that if Israel kept the covenant with Him they would not suffer the diseases of Egypt (Ex 15:26), but disobedience would bring on those diseases (Deut 28:60).
Particular cases in the Bible serve as serious warnings that God will afflict people for sinning. God punished the household Pharaoh with plagues for taking Sarah away from Abraham (Gen 12:17) and the household of King Abimelech for the same lecherous conduct (Gen 20:17)). An angel struck men of Sodom with blindness for their intended plan to rape Lot's guests (Gen 19:11). God struck Israel in the wilderness with a severe plague for grumbling and rebellion (Num 11:33). Miriam, the sister of Moses, was struck with a skin disorder for her opposition of Moses taking another non-Israelite wife (Num 12:1-10).
Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, was punished with the skin disorder of Naaman because of greed (2Kgs 5:20-27). King Uzziah of Judah was judged with a skin disorder for burning incense which only priests had the right to burn (2Chron 26:16-21). King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was afflicted with a monomania called boanthropy in which he lived as an animal for seven years because he boasted of his accumulation of wealth and achievement in constructing magnificent buildings without giving glory to God as the source of all he possessed (Dan 4:29-34). (See my commentary on Daniel 4.)
Many more are the cases of death divinely inflicted because of sinful conduct.
First, God ordered the execution of specific persons, including the golden calf idolatry offenders (Ex 32:27), a man who broke the Sabbath (Num 15:32-36), idolatrous Israelites at Peor (Num 25:4), the seven tribes indigenous to Canaan (Ex 33:1-3; Deut 7:1-2), Achan (Josh 7:10-15, 24-26), and the house of Ahab (2Kgs 9:6-9).
Second, God Himself put certain persons to death for their violent or rebellious sins. Some of the named individuals include Er and Onan (Gen 38:7-10), Korah and his followers (Num 16:31-49), Ahaziah (2Kgs 1:16-17), and Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:5-10). But even more significant than these individuals were the unnamed millions put to death. God destroyed the entire world of Noah for their violence (Gen 6:11-13), which may have been as many as 4 billion people. God killed the firstborn of Egypt for Pharaoh's rebellion (Ex 11), perhaps to avenge the murder of Hebrew children by Pharaoh.
Third, God employed angels in destroying the ungodly and the enemies of Israel. Most significant was the total destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness (Gen 18:20; 19:24-25). An angel killed many Israelites for their disobedience during the reign of King David (2Sam 24:16). An angel of the Lord killed 185,000 of the Assyrian army that was threatening Jerusalem (2Kgs 19:35). An angel struck down King Herod for blasphemy (Acts 12:23).
Fourth, God responded with death to those that mocked His servants and disobeyed the Word of the Lord. Elisha called down fire to consume soldiers of the king of Samaria (2Kgs 1:10-14). Elisha also cursed some young men that called him "old bald head" and two bears came out of the woods and devoured the men (2Kgs 2:24).
All of the above cases are cited to demonstrate that God is not a doting grandfather figure who will tolerate bad behavior. While some Christians believe they are free of accountability by virtue of "eternal security" Scripture warns that the continuance of sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth will result in the efficacy of atonement being removed and judgment following (Heb 10:26-30). Those who believe they can sin every day with impunity are self-deceived (Ezek 18:24).
15 The man went away, and told the Judean authorities that Yeshua was the one who made him well.
The man: Grk. anthrōpos. See verse 5 above. went away: Grk. aperchomai, aor., to be in movement from a position with or without mention of a destination, to go away, depart or leave. and told: Grk. anangellō, aor., may mean (1) report or relay, of persons returning from a place; or (2) provide information, disclose, announce, proclaim, teach (BAG). the Judean authorities: pl. of Grk. Ioudaios. See verse 10 above. that Yeshua: See verse 1 above. was: Grk. eimi, pres., lit. "is." See verse 2 above. the one who made: Grk. poieō, aor. part. See verse 11 above. him well: Grk. hugiēs. See verse 6 above. Incredulous as it may seem the man's actions reveal him to be an adversary of Yeshua.
16 And for this cause the Jewish authorities persecuted Yeshua, because he did these things on a sabbath.
Missing from this narrative is an interview with Yeshua. The authorities had the report of the healed man that he was cured on a sabbath and normal legal procedure would require a follow-up inquiry to determine whether the law had been broken. They should have looked for other witnesses. They should have interviewed Yeshua. Instead it appears that the authorities simply took the word of a disgruntled man and determined Yeshua was guilty without a trial.
And: Grk. kai. See verse 1 above. for this cause: Grk. dia touto, lit. "through this." The prepositional phrase indicates that what follows was a contrived excuse. the Jewish authorities: See verse 10 above. persecuted: Grk. diōkō, impf., to put to flight, to pursue, to persecute (cf. Matt 5:10). The verb represents a zealous interest in attaining something. Yeshua: See verse 1 above. because he did: Grk. poieō, aor. See verse 11 above. these things: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. on a sabbath: Grk. sabbaton without the definite article. See verse 9 above.
According to Pharisaic interpretation and later rabbinic law, the healing of an acute, life-threatening illness or condition was permitted, even mandated, on the Sabbath, but the healing of a chronic illness was not, on the grounds that treatment could just as easily take place before or after the Sabbath (Yoma 8:5; 84b). However, the greater offense was telling the healed man to carry his mat on a sabbath. To the legalist mind Yeshua violated the rule of the Mishnah (Shabbath 1:1) that prohibits a master from causing any object to pass into another man's hand on the Sabbath. In reality the elevation of rule keeping over healing a person is itself a sick pathology.
17 But Yeshua answered them, "My Father is now working, and I am working.”
Ironically Yeshua does not immediately rebut the accusation of violating the Sabbath. In the Synoptic Narratives Yeshua responds to challenges of working on the Sabbath with such statements as "the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27), and "it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath" (Matt 12:12). In the book of John Yeshua does not address the appropriateness of healing on the Sabbath until chapter seven (7:23).
But Yeshua: See the textual note below. answered them: The opening clause indicates that the persecution began as a verbal assault. Verse 16 implies the nature of the charge and Yeshua here responds to that criticism. My Father: Grk. patēr, normally of a male biological parent or ancestor, but frequently in reference to God, which emphasizes His activity as creator, ruler and sustainer (BAG). In the LXX patēr renders ab ("av"), which occurs about 1180 times, generally in the human sense, but also of God as father (DNTT 1:616f).
In the Tanakh God's identity as a parent is first mentioned in reference to His covenantal relationship with Israel (Deut 1:31; 8:5; 32:6; Ps 103:13; Isa 43:6; 63:16; 64:8; Jer 3:19; 31:9; Hos 1:10: Mal 1:6). Israel is specifically identified as God's son (Ex 4:22; Hos 11:1). The God of Israel is also father of the king as the embodiment of Israel (2Sam 7:14; Ps 89:27). Only in late Jewish apocryphal writings is God called the Father of the pious Jew as an individual (Sir 23:1, 4; Tob 13:4; Wsd 2:16; 14:3; 3Macc 5:7).
While Jews recognized the God of Israel as the "father" of mankind in the sense of creator (Acts 17:28; Josephus, Ant. IV, 8:24), the capitalized "Father" in the Besekh continues the meaning found in the Tanakh. Unfortunately the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed removed the association with Israel and presented the Father as only the "Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth." Yeshua acknowledged this covenantal relationship when he taught his Jewish disciples to pray "our Father" (Matt 6:9). Yeshua also spoke to his Jewish disciples of "your Father" (Matt 5:45, 48; 6:14, 26, 32; Mark 7:11; Luke 6:36). Thus, for the Body of Messiah the God of Israel becomes "our Father" (Rom 1:7; Gal 1:3; Eph 1:2; Php 1:2; Col 1:2).
Even though God prophesied through Jeremiah that Israel would call God "My Father" (Jer 3:19), Yeshua is the only individual in Scripture to do so. There are 44 verses in the apostolic narratives in which Yeshua refers to the God of Israel as "My Father," more than half of which are in John. Yet, Yeshua's use of "Father" in this personal sense was predicted. God informed David,
"When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me." (2Sam 7:12-14 NASB)
In a Messianic psalm Ethan the Ezrahite prophesied that the son of David would declare, "You are my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation" (Ps 89:26). Yeshua's usage of My Father, then, is perfectly in accord with prophecy.
is now: Grk. arti, adv. expressing concurrence of event with time viewed as present, (just) now. working: Grk. ergazomai, pres. mid., to work, be at work, do, carry out, either with the focus on effort itself in the course of activity or the result of effort. The verb here emphasizes the nature of the Father's activity. Yeshua uses a Rabbinic argument called Binyan ab mi-katub ecḥad: ("A standard from a passage of Scripture"). In effect Yeshua alludes to Torah passages that speak of the God of Israel working behalf of His people (Ex 15:11; 34:10). The Father may have rested on the seventh day after creation (Gen 2:2), but He has been working every day since then to sustain His creation (Ps 19:1-6; Rom 1:20; Heb 1:3). God also was working every day to extend His covenantal love, mercy and protection toward His people (Ex 29:38-46; Ps 101:8; Lam 3:22-23; Zeph 3:5).
and I: Grk. kagō, conj., formed from combining kai and egō and serves to link in parallel a personal affirmation by way of addition to or confirmation of a preceding statement. am working: Grk. ergazomai, pres. mid. Yeshua does not say, but implies that the healing the invalid on a sabbath was a good work. In another sabbath healing he was more explicit. Yeshua labeled the healing of a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath as a good work (Matt 12:12; para. Mark 3:4; Luke 6:9). In that story he applied the Rabbinic argument called kal v'chomer, an a fortiori argument that if one condition is true "how much more" is another condition true. "If it's good to help a sheep on the Sabbath, how much more good is it to heal a man." Stern interprets Yeshua's words to mean that since Yeshua's Father has been working on Shabbat since the beginning of time, it's only natural that he would work on Shabbat.
Stern also offers an alternative understanding. Yeshua could be hinting that since there is a Shabbat coming in which no man can work (cf. John 9:4; Heb 4:9), now is the time to do God's work. In an historical perspective the age to come, is an age of Shabbat, making the present age of history the equivalent of "weekdays.” This concept is related to the Jewish belief that the age to come will not occur until six thousand years of earth history had been completed. This assumption is reflected in 2 Peter 3:8, "But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” This explanation of history and the age to come may be found in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 97a-b), which makes the same argument as Peter. However, for the apostle the event that will introduce the Messianic age is the Second Coming of Yeshua.
Midrash of Yeshua - Judgment and Resurrection
18 So for this reason the Jewish authorities sought all the more to kill him, because he not only annulled Shabbat, but also called God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
So for this reason: lit. "so, because of this." the Jewish authorities: See verse 10 above. sought: Grk. zēteō, impf., may mean (1) be on the search for in order to find someone or something one has difficulty in locating; seek, look for; (2) search for ways to satisfy an interest; deliberate, discuss; (3) have an interest in; desire, seek; or (4) press for; expect, demand. All of these meanings could have some application here. all the more: Grk. mallon, adv., used of increase or additive in some aspect of activity, all the more, still more. The original interest in Yeshua's harm likely began with Yeshua's action to interfere in the Temple financial operations in chapter two. (See my commentary on 2:17.)
to kill him: Grk. apokteinō, aor. inf., put an end by force to existence of someone, kill. John offers an historical perspective by declaring that the animus of Annas directed at annihilating Yeshua dated from the early part of his ministry, no doubt because Yeshua had interfered with the extortion racket at the temple (2:13-16). Yeshua would not personally make known this conspiracy to his disciples until the last year of his ministry (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34). The chief priests would not be above preempting the Supreme Court's jurisdiction. The Talmud records an incident in which a priest who had performed his duties while unclean was taken out of the temple court by young priests who broke his skull with clubs instead of taking him before a Beth Din (Sanhedrin 82b).
because: John then summarily describes two reasons for the murderous plot. he not only annulled: Grk. luō, impf., has a range of meaning from (1) loose or untie bonds; (2) set free, loose, untie a person or animal; (3) break up into its component parts, destroy, tear down; to (4) destroy, bring to an end, abolish, do away with. When used of commandments, laws or statements luō has the meaning of repeal, annul or abolish (BAG 485). In the LXX luō is used to translate 7 different Heb. verbs with various nuances of the Greek meanings (DNTT 3:177). Delitzsch chose to translate luō with Heb. chalal (SH-2490), to pollute, defile, profane (BDB 320). Gesenius has three different meanings of chalal that can apply here: (1) to loose, to dissolve, to break a covenant (Ps 55:21; 89:34); (2) to lay open, to give access to and thus to profane, including the Sabbath (Ex 31:14); or (3) to cast down, to destroy (Isa 23:9).
Shabbat: Grk. sabbaton with the definite article. See verse 9 above. Commentators generally assume the term is used here of the seventh day Sabbath. However, since the usage of sabbaton without the definite article in verses 9, 10 and 16 above were of a festival day, the use of tò sabbaton ("the Sabbath") in this verse probably refers to the theological concept of Sabbath and the Pharisaic interpretation of it. Thus, I have chosen to translate tò sabbaton with the Hebrew Shabbat (as in the CJB, DHE, MW and TLV) to emphasize this point.
Almost all versions translate the verbal phrase as "broke," "had broken" or "was breaking" the Sabbath. Some readers might interpret "broke" to mean disobey, but "broke" should be taken in the sense of physical breaking that renders an object unusable. Yeshua's adversaries use a rabbinic reasoning called Kelal u-Peraṭ and Peraṭ u-kelal: ("General and particular, particular and general"), which means definition of the general by the particular, and of the particular by the general. In other words, since Yeshua violated the rules for a sabbath day of a minor feast he in effect revoked the covenantal expectation to keep all the sabbaths (Lev 23:3). Yeshua was not accused of disobeying the Sabbath commandment, but of doing away with the observance of the Sabbath and attacking the very authority of the Torah. Thus, I chose to translate the verb with "annulled."
In reality Yeshua frequently asserted the authority of the Torah. (See Matt 5:1-48; 7:12; 15:3; 16:19; 19:1-9, 17; 22:36, 38, 40; 23:23; Luke 10:28; 16:17; John 14:15, 21; 15:10-12). He also lived by the Torah and even his enemies had to admit that he taught the truth (Matt 22:16). Yeshua's question to the rich young ruler is relevant here: "What is written in the Torah? How does it read to you?" (Luke 10:26) The written Scriptures are inspired by God, man-made traditions are not.
but also called: Grk. legō, impf. The verb normally means to say or tell, but here means to give a name to. God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. In secular Greek writings a number of deities, always represented in anthropomorphic form, were called theos. In ancient polytheistic culture theos was not one omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, Creator and ruler of the universe and certainly not spirit as described in Scripture (John 4:24). In the LXX theos renders the generic designations of God, El (which occurs over 200 times, including combinations such as El Bethel, El Elyon, and El Shaddai) and Elohim (which occurs over 2300 times), as well as the tetragrammaton YHVH, over 300 times (DNTT 2:67-70). As with many other Greek words the LXX infused new meaning into theos.
The only God in existence is the God who chose Israel out of all the nations on the earth (Isa 44:6; 45:5-6, 14, 18, 21; 46:9), making Him the "God of Israel" an expression that occurs frequently in Scripture. The God of the Bible is not a philosophical belief in monotheism or a generic term for the deities worshipped by all people. All the other deities worshipped by religions in the world are the product of Satan-inspired imagination. Parallel to this formula is "God of Jacob,” which appears 21 times in Scripture, 13 of which include the longer formula, "the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." Every nation had their deity, but only to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and then Moses did the true God reveal His name, His character and His commandments. This God may be the God of the Gentiles (Rom 3:29), but only if they accept the revelation that He is the God of Israel and join themselves to Israel. Only the God of Israel saves (Jer 16:19-20).
his own: Grk. idios, adj., belonging to oneself, one's own. Idios particularly emphasizes the nature of a relationship, that is, belonging to an individual in contrast to what is public property or belongs to another. Father: In making this charge Yeshua's adversaries did not interpret Yeshua to mean he was the second person of the triune Godhead as in Christian theology. They may have taken his words as a claim to biological paternity, which may be reflected in their later statement expressing incredulity, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?" (John 6:42). making: Grk. poieō, pres. part. See verse 11 above. himself equal: Grk. isos, adj., equal of amount, size or status; corresponding to.
In the LXX isos renders for the most part the Heb. comparative particle che, "as, like," occurring 12 times in Job (e.g. Job 5:14; 10:10) and in Isaiah 51:23. Isos also translates Heb. ta'am, to be double, a term of dimension (Ex 26:24; 30:34); echad in comparative descriptions of dimensions (Ezek 40:5-9); melo, fullness, that which fills (Ezek 41:8); and various Heb. comparative constructs: "one as another" (Lev 7:10), "be as one" (Num 12:12), "as your own soul" (Deut 13:6). Delitzsch translated the phrase "making himself equal" with Heb. demah, "compare," the Piel of Heb. damah, "to resemble, to be like."
with God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. Temple authorities could feel they had solid Scripture support in their disdain of the idea of Yeshua being equal to God:
"There is no one like the LORD our God." (Ex 8:10 NASB)
"Who is like Me?" (Isa 44:7 NASB)
"There is none like you, O LORD" (Jer 10:6 NASB)
"No mortal should think that he is equal to God" (2Macc. 9:12 RSV).
The Temple authorities do not go so far as their later charge that Yeshua "makes himself God" (John 10:33). To be "equal with God" does not mean to be the same as God or divine, but to wield his royal authority. This power equality is similar to the description of Joseph by his brother Judah, "you are equal to Pharaoh" (Gen 44:18). Yeshua does claim to be the rightful heir to David's throne destined to serve as God's regent to rule the earth and thus entitled to be called "Son of God." (See verse 25 below.) For the Jewish rulers no ordinary human being had the right to claim such royal power and certainly not a peasant rabbi from Galilee, thus justifying a charge of blasphemy and a sentence of death (Lev 24:16).
In his humility Yeshua never said he was "equal" with God (cf. Php 2:6). However, his equality with the Father was manifested in the harmony of their working (verse 17 above and verses 19-20 below). The equality of Yeshua with God may be expressed as "equality of dignity, will and nature" (DNTT 2:500). Yeshua answers their misunderstanding and unbelief with the following midrash.
19 So Yeshua answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of himself, except something he might see the Father doing. For whatever things He would do, these things the Son also does likewise.
Truly: Grk. amēn ("ah–mayn") reflects a strong affirmation, meaning "so let it be" or "truly." In the LXX amēn transliterates the Heb. ’amen (ah–mayn, SH–543), which means "it is true, so be it, or may it become true." The Heb. root aman means "to confirm or support." The word amēn reflects an Hebraic conviction that God’s words were to be reverently received. In typical Jewish usage the singular amēn points to something previously said (Stern 26). For example, in the Torah people responded with "amen" for each of the curses as they were pronounced (Deut 27:15 +11t) and on other occasions "amen" was a congregational response to a public blessing of God (1Chr 16:36; Neh 5:13; Ps 106:48). In the Synoptic narratives amēn occurs 57 times in declarative statements of Yeshua, of which 34 are unique.
According to standard versions amēn is used to introduce axiomatic statements in Kingdom instruction, parables and prophecies. Stern contends, though, that many of those occurrences follow Jewish practice and rather than introducing statements the "amen" actually affirms the sentence spoken immediately before. (Examine the context of Matt 5:18, 26; 6:2, 5, 16; 10:15, 42; 13:17; 18:18; 23:36; 24:34, 47; and 26:13). Christian interpreters may have assumed "amen" begins statements because of the arbitrary verse divisions imposed on the Greek text in the mid-16th century by Robert Stephanus (aka Robert Estienne). However, Yeshua sometimes uses "amen" to introduce a declaration (e.g., Matt 8:10; 11:11; 16:28; 17:20; 19:23; 21:21; 24:2; 25:12, 45; 26:21). Similar usage does occur in the Tanakh (1Kgs 1:36; Jer 28:6). However, Yeshua employs amēn in a different manner here.
truly: Grk. amēn is repeated. In the Besekh the double use of amēn occurs only in the Book of John (25 times). The double "amen" does occur in the Tanakh as a response to a priestly declaration (Num 5:22; Neh 8:6), as well as in the construction "amen and amen" as the appropriate affirmation of a blessing (Ps 41:13; 72:19; 89:52). However, Yeshua uses "amēn amēn" as a prefix to the statement that follows, which is without parallel in Jewish literature (Morris 169). There is no good reason not to accept the grammar as authentic and Yeshua was quite capable of being innovative. The double use of amēn reinforces the complete reliability and truthfulness of Yeshua's prophetic teaching. Moreover, the double "amen," spoken in the presence of God, asserts the character of the Messiah who is the Truth (John 14:6) and implies God's endorsement.
I say to you: Sometimes the "truly, truly" expression is directed to his disciples, sometimes to a crowd, and sometimes to individuals, but here the plural noun refers to his adversaries. the Son: Grk. huios, a male offspring or descendant, whether by direct birth or by more remote ancestry. In the LXX huios renders Heb. ben (“son,” "son of”), which is used in three distinctive ways: (1) to identify direct paternity, as the son of his father (Gen 5). (2) to mean not the actual father but a more distant ancestor (e.g., Gen 32:32), as Yeshua is referred to as the son of David and Abraham (Matt 1:1); or (3) to mean in a broader sense of having the characteristics of (e.g., Ps 89:22; Dan 3:25; cf. 2Th 2:3), and this too applies here.
Yeshua here speaks of himself in the third person simply as "the Son," a self-reference that occurs on only two occasions in the Synoptic Narratives, both involving revelation (Matt 11:27; para. Luke 10:22; Matt 24:36; para. Mark 13:32). In John the self-reference occurs on six occasions (John 3:16-17; 5:19-23, 26; 6:40; 8:36; 14:13; and 17:1). The singular noun, "the Son," without further qualification could mean either "Son of God" (verse 25 below) or "Son of Man" (verse 27 below), but would probably encompass both roles. As mentioned previously "Son of God" is the title of David's descendant who will rule over the earth as God's regent and "Son of Man" is Daniel's divine deliverer who comes in glory with the holy ones of heaven. In other words, "the Son" is the Messiah.
can: Grk. dunamai, pres. mid., to be capable for doing or achieving something as qualified in the context. do: Grk. poieō, pres. inf. See verse 11 above. nothing: Grk. oudeis, adj., a marker indicating negation of a person or thing as actually existing at a given place or moment; nothing, not a thing. of himself: lit. "from himself." Many versions translate with "can do nothing on his own" or words to that effect (e.g., CJB, HCSB, NET, NIV, NRSV, RSV), which may imply impotence or at least a lack of initiative. The issue is not initiative or capability but submission. Yeshua is describing his relationship on the earth with the Father as master and servant. Isaiah 42:1 (quoted in Matt 12:18) says, "Behold my servant," which the Targum interprets as "Behold my servant the Messiah" (Lightfoot 3:298). Paul picks up this theme when he says that Yeshua took on the "form of a bond-servant" (Php 2:7).
In addition, the phrase "can do nothing of himself" expresses unity. In the previous chapter Yeshua said that his very food was to do the will of the Father (John 4:34) and he will later tell Philip, "He who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). Yeshua and the Father were so "in sync," so unified (remember echad, Deut 6:4?) that his initiative was always pleasing to the Father. except: Grk. ean mē, lit. "if not." something: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. he might see: Grk. blepō, pres. subj., may mean (1) possess the capacity to see; (2) use one's eyes to take note of an object; (3) be looking in a certain direction; or (4) to have inward or mental sight. Yeshua's sight is both physical and spiritual. the Father: Grk. patēr. See verse 17 above. "Father" is the God of Israel, not a Christian trinitarian personality. doing: Grk. poieō, pres. part. The use of the participle points to the God of Israel as a "doing" sort of God. There is no such thing as a passive disengaged God.
For: Grk. gar, conj., is generally accepted as a contraction of ge ("yet") and ara ("then"), and in a broad sense means "certainly it follows that." Gar often functions to connect statements in narratives with preceding statements and is normally translated "for." whatever things: Grk. hos, n. pl., relative pronoun. He: Grk. ekeinos, lit. "that one," i.e., the Father. would: Grk. an, a particle that nuances verbs with an aspect of contingency or generalization; would, ever, might. do: Grk. poieō, pres. subj. The present tense emphasizes the repeated nature of the works. Subjunctive is the mood of mild contingency or probability; looks toward what is conceivable or potential. these things: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. the Son: shorthand for "Son of the Father" or "Son of God." also: Grk. kai, conj. does: Grk. poieō, pres. act. ind. likewise: Grk. homoiōs, adv., likewise, in similar manner, similarly. Yeshua makes the point that his work is coincidental with the Father's work, but even more that his work is the Father's work. Yeshua was given divine authority to act in God's stead as illustrated below in the following verses.
20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows him all things that He does; and greater works than these He will show him, that you may marvel.
For the Father: See verse 17 above. loves: Grk. phileō, to manifest some act of kindness or affection toward someone, to love or regard with affection, to kiss, to like or be fond of, or to cherish inordinately. The verb, which occurs only 25 times in the Besekh, conveys an emotional content. In the LXX phileō translates Heb. aheb some 30 times, but aheb is a far more comprehensive word than phileō (DNTT 2:547). There are four words in Greek for love. Besides phileō there is agapaō, devotion to a person or object; eros, desire or longing between a man and woman; and storgē, family affection. Aheb is like the English word "love" which is used to mean all these things. In the Besekh the verb phileō sometimes has a negative application (e.g., Matt 6:5; 23:6; Rev 22:15), but on a personal level the verb is used of Yeshua's feelings toward Lazarus (John 11:3) and John the apostle (John 20:2).
the Son: See the previous verse; i.e., Yeshua. In John 3:16 God has agapaō for the world, but He has phileō for the Son and disciples of Yeshua (John 16:27; Rev 3:19). and shows: Grk. deiknumi may mean to show (1) so as to be observed by another, point out, make known; or (2) or so as to be understood by another, explain, demonstrate. him: Yeshua. all things: pl. of Grk. pas, adj., all or every. that He: Grk. autos, pronoun of the first person; i.e., the Father. does: Grk. poieō. See verse 11 above. John reveals the close, intimate relationship between the Father and Yeshua and that this divine love motivates the sharing of His work with the Son.
and greater: pl. of Grk. megas, adj., exceeding a standard and therefore impressive, greater. works: pl. of Grk. ergon generally means a tangible deed, action or accomplishment that may be observed. In John's narrative "works" is a major theme with the word occurring 25 times, often on the lips of Yeshua, and referring either to evil actions of men, good actions of men or the missional actions of God and Yeshua in the form of revelation, miracles, signs, and sacrifice, the ultimate good works. than these: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun, this. Yeshua alludes to the healing of the man. "These" might refer to the combination of getting up, taking up the mat and walking. The expression "greater works" is defined in the next verse. Yeshua will later promise the disciples that they would perform greater works than him (John 14:12).
He: the Father. will show: Grk. deiknumi, fut. him: Yeshua. that you: pl. of Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. The plural pronoun identifies the crowd listening to the midrash. may marvel: Grk. thaumazō, pres. subj., be extraordinarily impressed; to wonder, be amazed, astonished, or impressed. Mounce adds "to reverence or adore" to the definition and BAG adds "to admire." MW translates the verb as "honor" and finds a comparable use in the LXX, "that you may give honor" as in Lev 19:15 and Sirach 7:29 (MW-Notes 150). The point of these divine works was to motivate the Jewish people and especially their leaders to honor Yeshua as the Son of God.
21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also the Son gives life to whom he desires.
For: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 19 above. just as: Grk. hōsper, adv. of manner relating events and conditions, just as. the Father: Grk. patēr. See verse 17 above. raises: Grk. egeirō. See verse 8 above. the dead: pl. of Grk. nekros, without life in the physical sense; dead. and gives life: Grk. zōopoieō, cause to be alive, make alive, give life to, generally with a focus on existence transcending the merely physical. Marshall translates as "quickens." so: Grk. houtōs, adv. used to introduce the manner or way in which something has been done or to be done; thus, in this manner, way or fashion, so. also the Son: Grk. huios. See verse 19 above. gives life: Grk. zōopoieō. to whom he desires: Grk. thelō. See verse 6 above.
The teaching of this verse will be further elucidated in the verses below on the resurrection (25-29). What should be noted is that all four verbs are present tense, which may indicate action in progress, habitual practice, or action at successive intervals. Thus, the verbs could be taken to mean that the actions are another example of the contemporary shared working of Father and Son (cf. Eph 1:3). However, sometimes the present tense is used to indicate a past event with vividness, an anticipated future event or an action purposed. Since Yeshua states the work of the Father first then the verbs "raises" and "gives life" could be taken as historical presents and refer to God's activities during previous ages (Heb 11:35).
At least three physical resurrections from the dead occurred: (1) Elijah raising the widow's son (1Kgs 17:22), Elisha raising the Shunammite's son (2Kgs 4:33-36), and the raising of a man at the tomb of Elisha (2Kgs 13:21). Parallel to resurrection from death was the preservation from death of Jonah in the great fish (Jon 1:17; 2:10; Matt 12:39-40), and the three Hebrew men thrown into the fiery furnace of Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 3:20-26). Then there were figurative resurrections of people gaining a new life by virtue of healing. First, God healed barrenness: Sarah (Gen 21:1-2; Heb 11:11-12), Rebekah (Gen 25:21; Rom 9:8-10), Rachel (Gen 30:22), and Hannah (1Sam 1:15-20; 2:6). Second, God healed leprosy: Miriam (Num 12:10-15) and Naaman the Syrian (2Kgs 5:14). Finally, there were a two other miracles that prevented death: Elisha's healing of "death" in the waters (2Kgs 2:19-22) and "death" in the pot (2Kgs 4:40-41).
The second use of the present tense verb "gives life" asserts that the Son continues the Father's work to an even greater degree, both during his earthly ministry and into the future by virtue of his atoning sacrifice and resurrection. This verse does not represent any sort of selective predestination to salvation. Indeed, God wants everyone to be saved (2Pet 3:9). The life that is given is two-fold. Every person is "in death" (Eph 2:5) and so spiritual life can only come from God. Rabbi Yechezkiel Levinstein defines this life as "a particle of God from above, with its sources from the living God" (Shapira 57). The second level of meaning is that even though there may be physical death, the life of the person continues after death as an act of God as illustrated in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:22-23; cf. Job 19:26).
22 For the Father judges no one, but He has given all judgment to the Son,
Complementary to verse 21 Yeshua reminds his listeners that not only does the Father and Son give life, but they also give death. For the Father judges: Grk. krinō has a wide variety of applications: (1) distinguish, select, prefer, consider, look upon (Acts 13:46; Rom 14:5); (2) decide, propose, intend (Acts 3:13); (3) as a legal term to judge, decide, hale before a court, condemn, also hand over for judicial punishment (Acts 13:27; 23:3; Rev 6:10); (5) of the judgment which people customarily pass upon the lives and actions of their fellowmen and express an opinion about, especially in an unfavorable sense, to find fault, to criticize (Rom 2:1; 1Cor 10:29) (BAG). A continuum of judgment may be defined: observe, distinguish, evaluate, analyze, and decide, with the result being positive or negative.
In the LXX krinō is used mainly to translate three different Heb. words: din, rib and shaphat (DNTT 2:363). Din means not only to judge (in a legal sense, usually by tribal elders, e.g., Ruth 4:1-3), but also to punish, wrangle, vindicate and obtain justice for someone (Gen 15:14; 30:6; Deut 32:36; 2Sam 19:9; Ps 54:3; Jer 5:28). Rib means to quarrel, to litigate, to carry on a lawsuit (Gen 26:21; Jdg 8:1; 21:22; 1Sam 24:16). Shaphat, which occurs the most frequently and means to judge in a legal sense or to govern. In ancient Israel there was no separation of Executive, Legislative and Judicial functions of government. Thus, a judge could also be one who brings salvation, peace and deliverance to the oppressed (Ex 2:14; Deut 10:18; Jdg 3:9, 15; 1Sam 8:20; 2Sam 15:4, 6).
no one: Grk. oudeis, adj. used for negation of a person or thing as actually existing at a given place or moment. but He has given: Grk. didōmi, perf., to give, often with the focus on generosity. In the LXX didōmi generally renders Heb. natan, SH-5414, to give, used in one of three settings (1) by men one to another; (2) by men to God; and (3) by God to men (DNTT 2:41). all: pl. of Grk. pas. "All" does not leave any out. judgment: Grk. krisis, judgment. The term has four possible applications: (1) of scrutiny of conduct; (2) of a local court responsible for administration of justice; (3) of saving help; (4) of responsible or right decision. to the Son: Grk. huios. See verse 19 above. This statement on judgment is another way in which John portrays the unity of the Father and Son.
The Tanakh presents God as a very present judge of all humanity (Gen 6:5-7; 15:14; 18:25; Ps 7:8; 58:11; 82:8). Scripture also points to a future judgment of all nations by the God of Israel (e.g., Ps 9:8; 96:10, 13; 98:9; 110:6; Isa 2:4; 10:7; 51:5; Jer 1:10). However, the concept of delegating judgment to the Son was not new. God warns the nations in Psalm 2:12, "Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled" (cf. Ps 110:4-6). Nevertheless, Yeshua's statement here presents something of a conundrum. Was Yeshua speaking of a judgment coincidental with his earthly ministry or one to come?
John 3:17 says that Yeshua did not come "into the world to judge the world." Yet, Yeshua will later say in John 9:39, "For judgment I came into this world." John's point in chapter three was likely that during Yeshua's earthly ministry he would not sit as a judge in the legal sense. On at least two occasions he refused to act as a court judge (Luke 12:13-15; John 8:3-11). Yet, Yeshua's ministry did judge Israel. Yeshua took on the role of teacher-judge, a Levitical function (cf. Lev 10:8-11; Deut 17:9-11). He upheld God's expectations in the Torah, and explained the deeper meaning of Torah (Matt 5−7). He also pointed out bad attitudes and wrong behavior and called for repentance, warning people of the final judgment to come (Matt 10:15; 11:22; 12:36, 41-42).
Stern suggests that if it is the Father who entrusts judgment to the Son, then the Father does, after all, have a role in judgment as the delegator. Such an assignment does not mean that the Father is uninvolved. Paul informed the Athenians that God "will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed" (Acts 17:31). The Son's judgment is the Father's judgment. Being given "all judgment" certainly points to the future, which will occur on three different occasions. Every person is judged immediately after death and will go either to Paradise or to the Pit (Luke 16:23; 23:43; 2Cor 5:8; Heb 9:27; Rev 2:7). There is no Purgatory. Then there are two eschatological judgments - the judgment of the Messiah at his Second Coming (Matt 25:31-32) and the final judgment after the millennium (Rev 20:11-15).
There may be a sense in which the judgment of the Father is distinct from that of the Son. Yeshua will be the judge of his people, both the nation of Israel and those aligned with his kingdom. The Son's judgment is portrayed in the harvest parables (Matt 3:11-12; 13:24-50), the three parables of Matthew 25 and the declaration of Paul that "we all" (those belonging to Messiah) must stand before the judgment seat of the Messiah at his Second Coming (2Cor 5:10; cf. verse 27 below). In the Revelation description of the post-millennial judgment there is no mention of the Son, but only "the One who sat on the throne" who is God (Rev 4:2; 20:11). In that final judgment all who have ever died will be judged by what is written in the books of life and works. Paul probably refers to this final judgment when he uses the phrase "the judgment of God" (Rom 2:2-3; 14:10).
23 that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. The one honoring not the Son honors not the Father having sent him.
that all may honor: Grk. timaō, pres. subj., to have special regard for, to show respect to. The corresponding Hebrew verb kabad means to honor or to glorify (BDB 457). The present tense of timaō indicates that honoring should be an ongoing activity. the Son: Grk. huios. See the note on verse 19 above. Yeshua again speaks of himself in the third person. He did not cower before his adversaries. He informed them without qualification that they owed him honor. even as: Grk. kathōs, conj. emphasizing similarity, conformity, proportion or manner; as, just as.
they honor: Grk. timaō, pres. subj. the Father: Grk. patēr. See verse 17 above. One could say that honoring the God of Israel was woven into the fabric of religious devotion of the scribes, Pharisees and priests. For some the honor had substance, such as Zachariah, Simeon and Nicodemus. However, for many more the honor was a matter of form (cf. 2Tim 3:5), e.g., keeping the rules, avoidance of saying the Name, fasting on prescribed days, maintaining cleanliness, etc. Yeshua implied that he did not even receive the form of honor from the religious leaders.
The one honoring: Grk. timaō, pres. part. not: Grk. mē, a particle of qualified negation, not. It differs from the other standard negative particle, oú, in that oú is objective, dealing only with facts, while mē is subjective, involving will and thought. With mē the negation concerns a supposition. the Son honors: Grk. timaō, pres. not: Grk. ou, a strong negation of fact. the Father having sent: Grk. pempō, aor. part., to dispatch someone as an agent, usually to convey a message or accomplish a task; send. The verb occurs 31 times in John and of those 25 depict God as the sending agent. "Sending" is a key activity of the Father, and in the past His emissaries included angels (Gen 19:13; 2Chr 32:21), Joseph (Gen 45:5), Moses and Aaron (Ex 3:15; 1Sam 12:8), and all the prophets (1Sam 15:1; 2Sam 12:1; 2Kgs 2:2; Isa 6:8; 48:6; Jer 26:5, 12; 35:15; Ezek 2:3).
him: Yeshua presents a straightforward logical argument. "If in your mind you have no thoughts of honor for me, then you cannot possibly be honoring the Father as He wishes." Or, as Stern puts it, this verse teaches "against the idea that one can honor, worship and believe in God without believing in Yeshua the Messiah, the Son of God."
24 "Truly, truly, I say to you, the one hearing my word, and believing the One having sent me, has eternal life, and comes not into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.
Truly, truly: See the note on verse 19 above. I say to you: As in verse 19 the "you" is plural to reflect his audience. the one hearing: Grk. akouō, pres. part., the sensory act of hearing with the ears, metaphorically of paying attention, but also probably with the sense of comprehension or understanding. In the LXX akouō consistently stands for Heb. shama, which not only means to apprehend, but also to accept and to act upon what has been apprehended (DNTT 2:173). my word: Grk. logos, vocalized expression, word, discourse, statement, message or speech. In Greek philosophical writings logos took on the meaning of a common universal law or truth and that which gives order in the universe. In the LXX logos stands principally for Heb. dabar, which has a range of meaning "speech, word, report, command, advice, counsel, thing, matter" (Gen 29:13; BDB 182) (DNTT 3:1087).
and believing: Grk. pisteuō, pres. part., in general Greek usage means to have confidence or faith in the reliability or trustworthiness of some thing or someone. In the LXX pisteuō renders the Heb. 'aman, which means to confirm or support, as well as to be true, reliable or faithful, and to stand firm or trust (BDB 52). In the Hebrew concept believing, trusting and being faithful are inseparable (cf. Matt 7:21; Heb 11:6). the One: Grk. ho, definite article used as a demonstrative pron. Among Israelites "The One" was a circumlocution for God (cf. Ps 3:3; 37:24; Isa 40:26; 44:24; 45:7; 49:7; Hos 11:7; Amos 9:5-6; John 1:33; 6:46; 7:18; 11:27; 12:45; Acts 10:42; Rom 5:17; 2Cor 4:6; Jas 5:20) and echoed the Shema, "Hear O Israel YHVH Eloheinu YHVH one" (Deut 6:4). having sent: Grk. pempō, aor. part. See the previous verse. me: Grk. egō. Yeshua emphasizes again that he was not merely born, but sent from heaven, a recurring theme in John. has: Grk. echō, pres. See verse 2 above.
eternal: Grk. aiōnios, adj., can mean (1) relating to a period of time extending far into the past; long ages ago; (2) relating to time without boundaries or interruption; eternal; or (3) relating to a period of unending duration; permanent, lasting. In the LXX aiōnios renders Heb. olam, "a long duration, antiquity or futurity" (BDB 761), which is also used as an adverb meaning "for ever, for all time" (DNTT 3:827). In the Tanakh olam is used for ancient time (Gen 49:26), and indefinite futurity, which may equate to a man's lifetime (Deut 15:17), but more often to the everlasting nature of God (Gen 21:33), His laws (Ps 119:89), His promises (Isa 40:8) and His covenant (Gen 9:16; 17:7; Ex 31:16; 2Sam 23:5). Lastly, olam encompasses existence after death and eternity (Ps 90:2; Isa 45:17; Dan 12:2-3).
life: Grk. zōē, alive in contrast with being dead. "Eternal life" is the ultimate prize and the quality of life manifested in glory, honor and immortality. Both the Pharisees and Essenes embraced the doctrine of the immortality of the soul and resurrection (Josephus, Wars II, 8:11, 14). Reward and punishment would begin after death and the souls of the righteous would enter heavenly blessedness, while the souls of the ungodly are punished in Hadēs in the depths of the earth. This separation is clearly presented in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:22-26). Eternal life, however, is not just eternal existence, but sharing in the life of God. For that reason Yeshua taught that the abundant life, the best kind of life possible, begins now (Matt 10:39; John 6:35, 63; 10:10). It doesn't wait until after one dies.
and comes: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid. See verse 7 above. not: Grk. ou, strong negation of fact. into: Grk. eis, prep. See verse 7 above. judgment: Grk. krisis. See verse 22 above. but has passed: Grk. metabainō, perf., to go or pass over, of movement of persons or things from one place to another (BAG). The perfect tense would make the point of transfer coincidental with the act of believing. out of: Grk. ek, prep., to denote separation; from, out of, away from (BAG). death: Grk. thanatos, death in the natural physical sense, but also fig. of existence outside a relationship with God. into life: Grk. zōē, i.e., having a relationship with God.
25 Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour comes, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and the ones hearing will live.
Truly, truly: See verse 19 above. I say to you: As in verse 19 the "you" is plural to reflect his audience. an hour: Grk. hōra, a period of time in the day; hour, time, here used fig. of a future time. comes: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid. See verse 7 above. The present tense is used for an anticipated future event or an action purposed. and now: Grk. nun, adv., marker of time in the present; now or just now. In other words the promised action is already occurring. is: Grk. eimi, pres. ind., to be. Yeshua emphasizes that from God's point of view the prophecy is already fulfilled, because His sovereignty has decreed it. when the dead: pl. of Grk. nekros, adj., without physical life. The term can also mean "dead" in a spiritual sense (Matt 8:22; 10:8; Luke 15:24; Rom 6:13; Eph 2:1, 5; 5:14).
will hear: Grk. akouō, fut. See the previous verse. the voice: Grk. phōnē can mean (1) an auditory impression, sound, noise defined in the context; (2) the faculty of producing speech, voice; or (3) a system of communication, language, 1Cor 14:10; 2Pet 2:16). The word often is used in the Besekh of articulated sound from a human mouth, which may be weeping (Matt 2:18), prophetic proclamation (Matt 3:3), quarreling (Matt 12:19), greeting (Luke 1:44), earnest pleading (Luke 17:13) or rejoicing (Luke 17:15; Rev 19:5-6). Phōnē is used in an eschatological context only here and 1 Thessalonians 4:16 where Paul says, "the Lord will descend with a cry of command and the voice [phōnē] of an archangel."
In the LXX phōnē generally renders Heb. qôl (sound, voice, BDB 876), the first usage of which is God's voice (Gen 3:8), and second the human voice (Gen 3:17), and these usages occur frequently in the Tanakh with various kinds of expression. Qôl also denotes any audible sound such as the clap of thunder (Ex 19:16), the sound of musical instruments (Ex 19:16), the twittering of birds (Ps 104:12), the whirring of wings (Ezek 1:24), the clatter of chariots (Ezek 3:13), or the noise of a millstone (Ezek 18:22), but not the organ of speech itself (DNTT 3:113). By the first century the rabbis had a developed view of the bat qôl (lit. "daughter of a voice"), an echo of a heavenly voice that was audible on earth and proclaimed some divine message (e.g. Matt 3:17; 17:5; John 12:28; 2Pet 1:17).
of the Son: Grk. huios. See verse 19 above. of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 18 above. The title "Son of God" occurs 43 times in the Besekh, 9 of which are in the book of John, and all but one refer to Yeshua. "Son of the Father" appears in 2John 1:3 and eight times Yeshua is referred to as the only Son of the Father. Indeed, he is the "unique one of God" (John 1:18). Yeshua constantly referred to God as his Father. There is no equivocation in Paul's writings that Yeshua is the image of the invisible God (2Cor 4:4; Php 2:5-7; Col 2:9; Heb 1:2-3). Therefore, Christianity has traditionally restricted the meaning of the title "Son of God" to deity, the second person of the triune Godhead.
Unbelieving Jews typically object to the concept of God having a divine son and can rightly claim that before the advent of Christianity "Son of God' had a very human meaning. Adam was the first son of God (Luke 3:38). Then God declared that the nation of Israel was His son (Ex 4:22; Isa 63:16; 64:8; Jer 31:9; Hos 11:1; 18:13) and by extension applied to all righteous Israelites (Ps 82:6; Sir. 4:10; Wsd. 2:13; Pss. Sol. 13:9; Jub. 1:24-25; Rom 9:4; 2Cor 6:18). The disciples of Yeshua would later be described as "sons of God" (Matt 5:9, 45; Rom 8:14-15, 19, 23; 9:26; Gal 3:26; 4:6-7; Eph 1:5; Heb 12:7-8). Yet, there are verses in the Tanakh that mention God having a unique Son in a very personal sense:
"I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me." (2Sam 7:12-14 NASB)
"But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain." 7 "I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, `You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. … 11 Worship the LORD with reverence And rejoice with trembling. 12 Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!" (Ps 2:6-7, 11-12 NASB)
"He will cry to Me, 'You are my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation.' 27 I also shall make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth. 28 My lovingkindness I will keep for him forever, and My covenant shall be confirmed to him. 29 So I will establish his descendants forever and his throne as the days of heaven." (Ps 89:26-30 NASB)
"Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name or His son's name? Surely you know!" (Prov 30:4 NASB)
"For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace." (Isa 9:6 NASB)
For Jews during this time "Son of God" was used as a title for a human descendant of King David, the Messiah, who would establish the promised Kingdom (Luke 1:32), and confirmed by the religious leaders at Yeshua's trial (Matt 26:63; Mark 14:61; Luke 22:67, 70). "Son of God" was a title of the Davidic king inasmuch as the king functioned as God's regent on earth and was vested with God's authority (Leman 95). Robert Alter in his commentary The Book of Psalms (W.W. Norton & Co., 2007) says that it was commonplace in the ancient Near East to consider the king as God's son (6). The angel announced to Miriam,
"And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High [Heb. Ben-Elyon]; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end." (Luke 1:31-33 NASB), which was echoed by Zechariah:
"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, 69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant." (Luke 1:68-69 NASB)
So, "Son of God" is the old title for the King of Israel of the House of David and Messiah of Israel, just as Yochanan the Immerser (John 1:34), Nathanael (John 1:49) and Martha (John 11:27) intended when they called Yeshua "Son of God."
and the ones hearing: Grk. akouō, aor. part. See the previous verse. Yeshua likely intends the action of hearing the voice of the Son of God as both a present and future experience. To "hear" is to be open to the message of God and willing to respond in obedience. Peter would experience the bat qôl in Joppa (Acts 10:13, 17) and as a result new life would come to Cornelius and his household (Acts 11:18). Paul heard the voice or bat qôl of Yeshua on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:4) and his life was transformed with spiritual life (Acts 9:17; Gal 2:20; 1Tim 1:16).
will live: Grk. zaō, fut. ind., be in the state of being alive. In the LXX zaō renders the Heb. adjective chay (SH-2416), alive, living, used for animal and human life (Gen 1:20; 3:20); the verb chayay (SH-2425), live, revive, save life (Gen 3:22; Ex 33:20); and the verb chayah (SH-2421), live, which appears often in texts describing how long someone lived (Gen 5:21) and in other passages as a reward of God for righteousness (Prov 4:4). Zaō is used here most likely in a dual sense. First, the ones hearing Yeshua and accepting his message would gain spiritual life. Second, there is the hint of future life after dead by resurrection (See verse 29 below). This resurrection life is first spiritual and means to know God (John 17:3; 1Jn 5:20) and to enjoy the life of God in the present age (Rom 6:4; Eph 2:6; Col 2:12; 3:1). The resurrection life is secondly physical in the quality of immortal life with an imperishable body beginning with the age to come (Mark 10:30; Jude 1:21).
26 For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to the Son to have life in himself.
For: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 19 above. "It's logical that." just as: Grk. hōsper, conj. See verse 21 above. the Father: Grk. patēr. See verse 17 above. "Father" is a euphemism for the God of Israel. has: Grk. echō. See verse 2 above. The present tense verb speaks of continuing possession. life: Grk. zōē. See verse 24 above. God is not dead. in: Grk. en, prep., lit. "within, in, inside." himself: Grk. heautou, reflexive pronoun in any of the three persons, frequently combined with a preposition as here, especially "self" or "selves." This clause asserts the awesome eternal nature of the God of Israel. The phrase "life in himself" means that God is self-existent, as reflected in His name "I am" (Ex 3:13-14). God was not created, nor did He evolve.
In contrast to the false gods of other religions Scripture declares the God of Israel to be the "living God" at least 28 times (e.g., Deut 5:6; Josh 3:10; Ps 42:2; Matt 16:16; Rom 9:26; Heb 12:22; Rev 7:2). Because God has life in himself He can and did create life (Gen 2:7; Acts 14:15). With Him is the "fountain of life" (Ps 36:9). Being self-existent means that God has always been from eternity past (Isa 43:13). The God of Israel is the "everlasting God" (Gen 21:33; Isa 40:28).
so: Grk. houtōs, adv. See verse 21 above. also: Grk. kai, conj. See verse 1 above. he gave: Grk. didōmi, aor. See verse 22 above. to the Son: Grk. huios. See verse 19 above. to have: Grk. echō, pres. inf. The infinitive is a verbal noun, which means it has the voice and tense of a verb, but also the case relations of a noun. As a verb it may express purpose (the most common usage), result, time (as a temporal expression), cause or command. Here the verb emphasizes both purpose and result. life: Grk. zōē. in: Grk. en, prep. himself: Grk. heautou.
Yeshua engages in a word play on "life." Since the self-existent Father (who is spirit, John 4:24) gives life, Yeshua declares that the Father was responsible for the incarnation of the Son into physical human life. John began his testimony with the declaration that the Word (Yeshua, the Son) was begotten from the Father (John 1:14). Later Yeshua will say more specifically "I came forth from the Father" (John 16:27-28). Miriam, the mother of Yeshua, was informed by the angel that the Holy Spirit would accomplish the impregnation (Luke 1:35). The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father (John 15:26), so there is no contradiction. Yeshua is certainly not saying, as some pseudo-Christian religions claim, that God created the Son. Such heresy flies in the face of John's teaching in chapter one. The Son of God, Yeshua, was in the beginning with God and he was (and is) God (John 1:1, 14).
27 And He gave him authority to execute judgment, because he is Son of Man.
And He: the Father. gave: Grk. didōmi, aor., to give. See verse 22 above. him: the Son, i.e., Yeshua. authority: Grk. exousia, authority, absolute power, jurisdiction, especially the ruling or official power as exercised by kings and officials (BAG). The basic idea is having the right to speak or act in a situation without looking or waiting for approval. Yeshua has all earthly power under his control. to execute: Grk. poieō, pres. inf., to do. See verse 11 above. The infinitive is a verbal noun, which means it has the voice and tense of a verb, but also the case relations of a noun. As a verb it may express purpose (the most common usage), result, time (as a temporal expression), cause or command. Here the infinitive emphasizes the purpose of being given authority. judgment: Grk. krisis, the decision of a judge. See verse 22 above.
The Father can grant authority to carry out judgment because He is the Judge of all the earth (Gen 18:25; Ps 94:2; 1Pet 1:17). The first delegation of authority for judgment was extended to man in the Noahic covenant when God directed that the principle of justice would be life for life (Gen 9:5-6). The requirement for equity in justice presupposes the development of a system of justice to hear and adjudicate cases of wrongdoing. Paul alluded to this Noahic expectation when he said that governmental authority was established to bring judgment on the wicked (Rom 13:1-4). At Mt. Sinai God decreed principles of jurisprudence, including specific laws that define behaviors deserving punishment, as well as the punishments for those wrong behaviors, the qualification of judges, and the principles of due process. The judicial authority of the Father is also shared with the Son.
Rabbi Shapira says that Yeshua saw himself as the Ba'al Samchut (owner of authority) to speak on the behalf of God at the very least, and he repeatedly referred to himself as the one holding the keys to the kingdom of heaven (cf. Matt 5:20; Luke 1:32; John 3:5; Rev 1:18). Shapira goes on to say,
"Over the course of Jewish history, there have been many who spoke on behalf of God; some were prophets, some were emissaries and some were kings. One can object that Yeshua speaks on behalf of God just like the prophets of the Tanakh and therefore we can't conclude that he is divine in nature. Anti-missionaries often like to point out that Yeshua never considered himself divine in nature. These types of statements represent a partial truth, as he spoke with the authority of his Father. But in many cases he spoke as the one who holds full authority in the heavens above and earth below." (57)
because: Grk. hoti, conj., indicating causality with an inferential aspect; for, because, inasmuch as. he is: Grk. eimi. See verse 2 above. The verb asserts the present reality. Son: Grk. huios. See verse 19 above. Most versions have "the Son" but the Greek text does not have the definite article. of Man: Grk. anthrōpos. See verse 5 above. A few versions have "a son of man" (ASV, WEB), "a Son of man" (AMP) or "a son of Adam" (MW), as if the title is used to stress Yeshua's humanity, "very man." However, the definite article "the" in Greek and Hebrew only adds emphasis to a noun; it does not change the meaning of the noun.
The idiom "Son of Man" is thoroughly Hebraic and has no counterpart in Greek culture. Christian interpreters typically treat "Son of Man" in the context of Yeshua's ministry as representative of his identification with humanity, whereas "Son of God" pertains to his deity. In Hebraic thought these expressions mean just the opposite. "Son of Man" is a Messianic title that refers primarily to the eschatological supra-natural figure from heaven who establishes a kingdom on the earth (Dan 7:13-14, 27). However, Yeshua added the unexpected element of suffering in order to bring salvation from sin. For a full discussion on this important title See John 1:51.
Marvel: Grk. thaumazō, pres. imp., to be amazed. See verse 20 above. not: Grk. ou, a strong negation of fact, and in this case the verb preceding. at this: the message being delivered. for: Grk. hoti, conj. See the previous verse. an hour: Grk. hōra. See verse 25 above. comes: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid. See verse 7 above. The present tense is used for an anticipated future event or an action purposed. in which all: pl. of Grk. pas. "All" does not leave any out, but inclusiveness is determined by clear identification of the event and the persons involved. those: pl. of Grk. ho, pronoun; i.e., the dead.
in: Grk. en, prep., in, within, among, inside. the graves: pl. of Grk. mnēmeion, a place for depositing remains of a deceased person held in memory, burial place, grave or tomb. BAG adds that the word can also mean memorial or monument. It stresses the remembrance of the dead, which is why we still use grave markers. Some versions render the term as "tombs" (ESV, KJV, NASB, NET, RSV). In the first century rock tombs were common, sometimes containing chambers and sometimes a single room provided with a bench or shelf on which the body was placed, the entrance being closed by a large flat stone rolled or pushed into position. In Bible times corpses were typically placed in natural caves (Gen 23:19; 49:30-31), other above-ground tombs (Jdg 8:32; Matt 27:60; John 11:17; Acts 2:29) or in the ground (Gen 35:8, 19). Burying at sea also accomplishes the same purpose (Rev 20:13).
While burial was practiced from ancient times (Gen 23:4), the only generalized command in Scripture to bury someone has to do with an execution (Deut 21:23). The burial was to take place the same day. The Jewish Sages deduced that the Torah commandment pertained to all deaths and that burial should take place as soon as possible after death (Sanhedrin 46a-b). A number of biblical anecdotes mention the prompt action to bury after death (Luke 7:11-12; Acts 5:6-10; 8:2). However, there could be special reasons, including the wishes of the parents, for a delay in burial (Matt 9:23; Acts 9:37-39). In Hebrew culture burial of the dead was as urgent a duty as visitation of the sick. After all, God visited the sick (Gen 18:1) and buried the dead (Deut 34:6), leaving an example for His people to follow (Sotah 14a).
Yeshua is very specific in using the phrase "those in the tombs." He could have simply said "those who are dead." will hear: Grk. akouō, fut. See verse 24 above. his voice: Grk. phōnē. See verse 25 above. The fact of hearing affirms life after death. Man was created with an immortal soul that continues even though dispossessed of the bodily shell. This verse reminds us of the fact that the physical ears do not hear. It is the mind (or soul) that interprets the sound vibrations captured by the ears.
29 and will come forth; those having done the good to a resurrection of life; and those having done the bad, to a resurrection of judgment.
and: Grk. kai, conj. See verse 1 above. will come forth: Grk. ekporeuomai, fut. mid., to go out or to come out (BAG). The verb has both literal and figurative usages. The verb is usually associated with coming out of a place and sometimes with a goal indicated as here. those having done: Grk. poieō, aor. part. See verse 11 above. The verb is plural in number. the good: pl. of Grk. agathos, adj., achieving a high standard of excellence in meeting a need or interest, beneficial, useful, helpful or good. The adjective is used as a substantive to refer to a class of actions or works. "The good" are those works defined by Torah as expressions of loving one's neighbor and doing righteousness or justice (cf. Matt 5:16; Eph 2:10; 1Tim 6:18). The first good work to be done is believing in Yeshua, God's Messiah (John 6:29).
to a resurrection: Grk. anastasis may mean either (1) rise, which may be bringing to a higher position in a physical sense or a higher status in a relational sense; or (2) resurrection from the condition of being dead (BAG). Anastasis is the principal Greek word in the Besekh for resurrection, with references divided between the resurrection of Yeshua and the resurrection at the end of the age. The noun is derived from the verb anistēmi, which means to rise, stand up or get up and in its ordinary use refers to one who is sitting or lying down. The noun anastasis occurs only three times in the LXX: (1) in Psalm 66:1, the psalm title, "a psalm of rising up," without Heb. equivalent; (2) in Lamentations 3:63, for Heb. qimah, rising up (derived from qum), where it contrasts with sitting; and (3) in Zephaniah 3:8 for Heb. qum, to arise, stand up, stand, BDB 877), which could be a Messianic prophecy of Yeshua's resurrection.
In the first century the subject of life after death was a matter of much discussion and debate. Pharisees and Sadducees were sharply divided over the issue of physical life after death with the Sadducees denying the possibility (Josephus, Wars II, 8:14). (See my commentary on Yeshua's rebuttal of the Sadducees, Mark 12:18-27.) Rabbinic authorities, rooted in Pharisaic theology, believed that the Scriptures pointed to resurrection (Sanhedrin 90a-b, 91b). The Pharisees went so far as to declare that anyone who says the resurrection of the dead is not intimated in the Torah has no part in the world to come (Sanhedrin 11:1).
of life: Grk. zōē. See verse 24 above. Given the contrast that follows a resurrection of life is not simply reanimating a corpse. The blessed hope for the saints is to receive immortal and incorruptible bodies like that of the Lord (Rom 8:29; 1Cor 15:42-54; Php 3:20; 1Jn 3:2). "Life" is also the quality of God's life, so a resurrection of life would be to enjoy life with God. According to Yeshua's own words the resurrection of life will occur on the last day of the present age (John 6:39-40, 44, 54; 11:24; 12:48). Yeshua and the apostles speak of two specific ages – the present age (Matt 28:20; Mark 10:30; Tit 2:12) and the age to come (Matt 12:32; Mark 10:30; Heb 6:5). The resurrection occurs on the last day of this present age because the next day will be the first day of the age to come. The last day wouldn’t be last if there were three and a half or seven years of the tribulation following it.
and those having done: Grk. prassō, aor. part., to engage in activity with focus on productivity; do, perform, engage in, carry out. Sometimes the verb prassō is associated with works that might be either good or bad (Rom 9:11; 2Cor 5:10), but most often this verb is associated in other passages with evil conduct, particularly actions worthy of death (Luke 23:41; John 3:20; Acts 3:17; 15:29; 16:28; 19:19, 36; 25:11, 25; 26:9, 31; Rom 1:32; 2:1-3; 7:15, 19; 13:4; 2Cor 12:21; Gal 5:21). the bad: pl. of Grk. phaulos, displaying insensitivity about what is right and proper; bad, low-grade. BAG adds worthless, evil and base. As with agathos, the adjective phaulos is used as a substantive to refer to a class of actions or works (cf. John 3:20; Jas 3:16).
to a resurrection: Grk. anastasis. of judgment: Grk. krisis. See verse 22 above. A resurrection of judgment would be to suffer separation from God, the second death (Rev 20:12-15). Yeshua and the apostolic writings assert that there will be not one resurrection but two, which was first declared in Daniel 12:2, "Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt." Paul was just as emphatic when he said, "there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked" (Acts 24:15). In Yeshua's revelation to John two resurrections occur, the first before the millennial reign of the Messiah and the second after the millennium (Rev 20:4-6). This later revelation to John demonstrates that when Yeshua spoke of two groups being resurrected he did not mean the two resurrections occurred simultaneously.
Taken together verses 28 and 29 appear to support the assumption that resurrection is a bottom to top event. That is, the dead are buried on the earth and they will rise out of their graves to meet Yeshua in the air. Therein lies a logical conundrum, because this interpretation creates a conflict with other end time passages. Four practical realities must be considered.
First, every dead body decays and the only people that would still have a body in a grave or tomb would be someone who had just recently died before the resurrection event described in the next verse. Second, not everyone who has ever died has been buried in a marked grave or tomb. To take it literalistically would limit those who participate in the resurrection. Third, the global seismic cataclysm of the seventh judgment bowl (Rev 16:18-21), which levels all mountains, devastates cities and destroys the earth’s remaining population, would likely destroy earth’s graveyards and any corpses therein. Fourth, Scripture is clear that when people die they go somewhere.
In the parable of the rich man and poor man Lazarus, the rich man awoke from death in Hades and Lazarus was carried by angels to the bosom of Abraham (Luke 16:23), no doubt the heavenly city that he sought (Heb 11:10). Yeshua promised the thief on the cross that he would be in Paradise that very day (Luke 23:43). Paul said that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2Cor 5:8) and affirmed that the Lord would bring with Him those who had died in the faith (1Th 4:14; cf. Mark 13:27). In Revelation before any of the judgments begin the saints are described as having hands and being clothed (Rev 6:11; 7:9). According to 1 Corinthians 15:52 the metamorphosis of resurrection will take place at the sound of the trumpet.
Here is the dilemma. How can the dead in Messiah be coming out of the tombs (or graves) if they are coming with him from heaven (1Thess. 4:14)? One could argue that Yeshua does not have to come back to raise the dead, for they are already with him. So, Yeshua may simply mean that everyone who has ever died will face him in the judgment. The follow-on dilemma is this: If the word "tombs" is intended to be taken in a figurative sense, what about the word "resurrection?"
Option 1: Yeshua might be prophesying about the resurrection that occurred immediately after His own resurrection and people actually came out of the tombs (Matt 27:52-53). The parallel idioms "his hour,” "my hour" and "this hour" are used to refer to Yeshua’s anticipated crucifixion (John 2:4; 7:30; 8:20; 12:27; 13:1). Against this option is that there is no explicit statement of any unbelievers being resurrected and the post-crucifixion resurrection of the saints was limited to "many,” not all. Moreover, the idiom "an hour is coming" is used only once in reference to the crucifixion (John 16:32) and six times in relation to other prophesied events (John 4:21, 23; 5:25, 28; 16:2, 25).
Option 2: Yeshua could have been speaking metaphorically of His earthly ministry and His power to give life (cf. John 5:21, 25; 10:10). This option is strengthened by Yeshua’s statement that the dead who "hear" will live, implying that those who don’t hear won’t live. He may have been referring to those spiritually "dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph 2:1). He will later liken the hypocrites to "whitewashed tombs" (Matt 23:27). In this case the idiom "an hour is coming" could refer to Pentecost and the great harvest of souls.
Option 3. Since Yeshua speaks of a dual resurrection then he must be hinting at the revelation of two resurrections a thousand years apart that he will later give to John. The word "tombs" is simply a word picture of being dead. According to Yeshua, both resurrection groups face a judgment based on their deeds with some receiving life and others receiving death. While we may assume that no one obtains heaven out of the white throne judgment it is possible that many persons from the antediluvian population and those who lived prior to Yeshua will be given life because of their righteousness.
Option 4. Yeshua often speaks with double meaning and here the "tombs" and "resurrection" likely has both a spiritual and literal meaning. Paul speaks of resurrection as spiritual in the present, being buried in immersion and raised to newness of life (Rom 6:4; cf. Eph 2:6; Php 3:10). Paul also describes resurrection the future physical metamorphosis into an imperishable body (1Cor 15:42-52).
30 I can do nothing from myself. Just as I hear, I judge, and my judgment is righteous; because I seek not my will, but the will of the One having sent me.
Yeshua repeats and amplifies what he said in verse 19 above. I: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. can: Grk. dunamai, pres. mid. See verse 19 above. do: Grk. poieō, pres. inf. See verse 11 above. nothing: Grk. oudeis, adj. indicating negation of something as actually existing at a given place or moment. from: Grk. apo, prep. denoting separation, from. The root meaning is 'away from.' myself: Grk. emautou, reflexive personal pronoun, myself. Yeshua is not saying that he lacks power for initiative or personal decision-making. He is saying that his power is not solitary. God is not divided. He is one.
Just as I hear: Grk. akouō, pres. See verse 24 above. I judge: Grk. krinō, pres. See verse 22 above. "Hearing" and "judging" are the principal functions of the one conducting a court case (Deut 1:16; John 7:51). The combined action of the two verbs is distinguished from the outcome, because they involve observing, distinguishing, evaluating, analyzing, and deciding. Solomon makes the spiritual connection between "hearing" and "judging" in his prayer at the dedication of the Temple:
"If a man sins against his neighbor and is made to take an oath, and he comes and takes an oath before Your altar in this house, 32 then hear in heaven and act and judge Your servants, condemning the wicked by bringing his way on his own head and justifying the righteous by giving him according to his righteousness." (1Kgs 8:31-32)
and my judgment: Grk. krisis. See verse 22 above. After hearing and judging Yeshua renders a verdict. is righteous: Grk. dikaios, adj., being in accord with God's covenantal standards expressed in Torah for acceptable behavior, upright or just. In the LXX dikaios renders Heb. tsaddiq ('just or righteous' BDB 843). In Scripture a just man is one who is blameless or innocent of wrongdoing, one who follows the ethical and moral demands of Torah. Some versions (CEV, EXB, NCV, NIRV, TLB, VOICE) translate the word as "fair," but in contemporary culture "fair" means getting what one wants, regardless of God's standard of justice. When bad things happen many people are quick to say that God is not "fair." All those who will be sent to hell will certainly protest that their punishment is not fair, but it is just.
Yeshua's statement is built on the prophecy given concerning the "Branch of Jesse."
"There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. 2 And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, 4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. 5 Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins." (Isa 11:1-5 ESV)
Of interest is that the prophecy says that the Branch will not judge by what his ears hear. However, there is no contradiction to Yeshua's statement here. The prophecy emphasizes that the Branch "has the ability to distinguish between appearance and reality, a knowledge going beyond the evidence of what he sees or hears" (J. Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah, Intervarsity, 1993, p. 123). Yeshua, being the son of David, has the wisdom attributed to David, "But my lord is wise, like the wisdom of the angel of God, to know all that is in the earth." (2Sam 14:20).
because I seek: Grk. zēteō, pres. See verse 18 above. not my will: Grk. thelēma may mean (1) that which is to be carried out according to wish or purpose, will; or (2) the act of willing, will or desire. Yeshua will have an occasion to reaffirm this commitment in the Garden before his arrest (Luke 22:42). but the will: Grk. thelēma. of the One having sent me: Grk. pempō, aor. part., to send. See verse 24 above for this phrase. The will of the Father is expressed in the commandments and instructions given to Israel through Moses, as well as the applications of Torah given through Yeshua and the apostles. So, Yeshua will not judge by what human beings say to him, but by what the Father says, what the Spirit says (cf. Heb 3:7; Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:1, 6, 13, 22; 14:13), what the books in heaven say (Rev 20:12, 15; 21:27) and what the Torah says.
Midrash of Yeshua: Witnesses of the Truth, 5:31-47
31 "If I testify about myself, my witness is not valid.
If: Grk. ean, conj., conditional particle that produces an aspect of tentativeness by introducing a possible circumstance that determines the realization of some other circumstance along the lines of "if x happens, then y will follow." I: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. The functional meaning of the pronoun would be "I alone." testify: Grk. martureō, pres. subj., to attest to a fact or truth, often in a legal context; testify, attest. The verb points not to relating opinion or hearsay, but what is objective truth. about myself: Grk. emautou, reflexive pronoun, as pertaining to myself.
my witness: Grk. marturia, attestation of a fact or truth; testimony, witness, especially in a legal context. Often in John's Gospel the term is used of attestation as appraisal or approval. is not valid: Grk. alēthēs, unconcealed, and so 'true.' The adjective could be translated as real, genuine, trustworthy, straightforward or honest. There is a saying in the Talmud that "the seal of the Holy One, Blessed Be He, is truth" (Yoma 69b). Yeshua does not contradict his own claim to be "the truth." His words could be taken in the sense of the reality of how other people judge. If he "tooted his own horn," people might simply treat it as boasting or bragging. No one would present a résumé to a prospective employer with no references. Reputation is established by the witness of others.
Another consideration is that the Torah established that in a court two or three witnesses are required to establish the fact of any wrongdoing (Deut 19:15; cf. Matt 18:16; 2Cor 13:1; 1Tim 5:19), especially a charge leading to capital punishment (Num 35:30; Deut 17:6; Heb 10:28). This rule is echoed in the Mishnah, "no one is believed as to himself" and "no one may testify concerning himself" (Keth. 2:9; 2:10). However, casting himself in the role as judge Yeshua might also be alluding to the Jewish court of three and that court could not act on the opinion of one judge (Sanh. 3b, 6a). Yeshua is not a lone crusader. He is one with the Father. After discounting his own solitary testimony Yeshua names five witnesses who validate his testimony: Yochanan the Immerser (verses 32–35), Yeshua’s own works (verse 36), the Father (verses 37–38), the Tanakh (v. 39) and Moses (verses 45–47).
32 There is another who testifies about me and I know that the testimony which he testifies about me is true.
There is: Grk. eimi. See verse 2 above. another: Grk. allos, adj. that distinguishes one, the other of two. See verse 7 above. The "another" is identified in the next verse as Yochanan the Immerser. who testifies: Grk. martureō, pres. part. See verse 31 above. about me: Yochanan offered testimony of Yeshua on two separate occasions. The first time Yochanan described Yeshua as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, that Yeshua was a higher rank than him, that Yeshua was anointed by the Holy Spirit and will immerse others in the Holy Spirit, and that Yeshua is the Son of God (John 1:29-34). The second time Yochanan described Yeshua as the Messiah and the Bridegroom (John 3:26-30).
and I know: Grk. oida, perf. See verse 13 above. The perfect tense emphasizes completed action in past time with continuing results to the present. Yeshua knows Yochanan on a very personal level. that the testimony: Grk. marturia. See the previous verse. which he testifies: Grk. martureō. about me is true: Grk. alēthēs. See the previous verse. Everything Yochanan said about Yeshua was the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The three present tense verbs imply that Yochanan is still alive, though imprisoned at this point.
33 You have sent to Yochanan, and he has testified to the truth.
You have sent: Grk. apostellō, perf., to cause to move from one position to another, but often to send as an authoritative personal representative. Originally in Greek culture apostellō was used of sending an envoy to represent a king or a personal representative with legal powers. In the LXX apostellō translated Heb. shalach ("to stretch out or to send," SH-7971), often in contexts of commissioning and empowering a messenger (DNTT 1:128). First century Judaism institutionalized the office of shaliach (Grk. apostolos), who acted as an official messenger or a proxy for and with the full authority of the sender, as the Mishnah says, "the agent is as the one who sends him" (Ber. 5:5). The shaliach’s mission was "limited in scope and duration by definite commission and terminating on its completion" (DNTT 1:128).
to Yochanan: Grk. Iōannēs attempts to transliterate the Heb. Yōchanan ("John" in Christian Bibles) and means "the Lord is gracious,” an apt description of the one who would prepare the way of the Messiah (Stern 15). Because of his immersing ministry Yochanan is given the title "the Immerser" ("the Baptist" in Christian Bibles), occurring 15 times in the Synoptic Narratives, but never in John. For background information on Yochanan See 1:6. and he has testified: Grk. martureō, perf. See verse 31 above. to the truth: Grk. alēthēs. See verse 31 above. Yeshua reminds his critics that the Pharisees had sent priests and Levites, to interview Yochanan (John 1:19-28) and he had told the truth about himself and about Yeshua.
Yochanan affirmed that he was not the expected Messiah (Dan 9:25-26), Elijah (Mal 4:5) or the Prophet (Deut 18:15), but rather the voice prophesied by Isaiah (40:3). The next day Yochanan affirmed the truth about Yeshua. It is a reasonable assumption that these agents of the Sanhedrin had heard that testimony, too.
34 Now I receive not the testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved.
Now I receive: Grk. lambanō. The verb marks the transit of something from a position to another person who is the agent with the latter being also the receptor; to take or receive. not the testimony: Grk. marturia. See verse 31 above. The term probably has the sense of "approval" in this verse. from man: Grk. anthrōpos. See verse 5 above. Since the noun is singular and without a definite article, Yeshua could mean "a man," meaning an individual with authority, such as a contemporary religious leader or he could mean the noun in a collective sense of "mankind."
However, Yeshua most likely alludes to a group of men that conducted the rite of ordination (Heb. s’mikhah, "leaning" or "laying”) for a judge, elder or rabbi. Ordination required a ceremony of laying on of hands by a board of three elders, and an ordained rabbi was granted authority to determine points of halakhah or application of Torah (Stern 64). Yeshua did not have the credential of human ordination, but the authority of divine commission (John 3:2). Thus, Yeshua taught as one possessing independent authority unlike the scribes who were ordained (Mark 1:22).
but I say: Grk. legō. See verse 6 above. these things: an allusion to all that Yeshua has said previous to this verse. that you may be saved: Grk. sōzō, aor. pass. subj. (from saos, 'free from harm'), to deliver, or rescue from a hazardous condition, often in the sense of bodily harm (Matt 14:30), as well from spiritual peril (Matt 24:13). The subjunctive mood looks toward what is conceivable, not actual. In the LXX sōzō translates no less than 15 different Hebrew verbs, but the most important yasha, used in the Hiphil meaning to deliver and save (e.g., 1Sam 23:5), and malat, used in the Piel meaning to escape, deliver, save (e.g., 1Kgs 1:12).
The Hebrew verbs are used in relation to various external threats and bodily peril, especially enemies (DNTT 3:206). Two important principles may be noted in the Tanakh. First, deliverance may come about through men, even though possessing significant limitations (e.g., Gideon, Jdg 7:2). Second, the pious Israelite was aware of the fact that deliverance comes ultimately from God himself (Ps 18:2; 44:3). It is by His power and name that foes are vanquished and evil defeated. In the Besekh sōzō frequently refers to rescue from spiritual peril, including deliverance from God's wrath on the Day of the Lord. Yeshua had the future welfare of his critics in mind, even though they failed to understand his mission.
35 That man was the burning and shining lamp, and for a time you wanted to rejoice in his light.
That man: lit. "that one;" Yochanan the Immerser. was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 2 above. The imperfect tense refers to continuous action in past time. the burning: Grk. kaiō, pres. pass. part., cause to be on fire, used fig. of providing spiritual illumination. and shining: Grk. phainō, pres. pass. part., to function in a manner that makes observation possible, with focus on provision for a lighted condition; shine. lamp: Grk. luchnos, lamp, a vessel used for providing light. In the first century the lamp was normally a small oil and wick lamp that sat on lampstands (Grk. luchnia). and for a time: Grk. hōra, lit. "hour." See verse 25 above. Yeshua emphasizes that Yochanan's ministry was active and powerful while he was free, but now the impact is muted because of his imprisonment.
you: The plural pronoun is directed to his critics. wanted: Grk. thelō, aor. See verse 6 above. to rejoice: Grk. agalliaō, aor. pass. inf., be exuberantly joyful; rejoice, exult. in his light: Grk. phōs (for Heb. or), that which serves as a revealing or disclosing medium; light. Not only is Yeshua the Light of the world, but individuals may be considered "lights." Both the Essenes and Pharisees used the term "children of light" to refer to God’s elect (cf. Luke 16:8). However, Yeshua called his disciples to become the true "sons of light" (Matt 5:14; John 12:36; cf. Eph 5:8; Php 2:15; 1Th 5:5). Yochanan had set the example of an individual light for God. Through him the truth of God shone brightly.
Yeshua implies there was something defective about the attitude of his critics, the Jewish leaders, toward Yochanan. The text does not say they rejoiced, but rather they wanted to rejoice. In other words, the legalistic leadership hoped that Yochanan would support their desire to see the common people brought into conformity with their philosophy of keeping Torah. He appeared to do so when he called people to repentance. Yet, when some of the Jewish leaders (Pharisees and Sadducees) went out to him, they were greeted with rebuke instead of favor,
"You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; 9 and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham." (Matt 3:7-9)
Yochanan had anticipated the very claim the Pharisees will later make to Yeshua (John 8:33, 39).
36 But I have the greater testimony than that of Yochanan, for the works which the Father has given me in order that I might complete them, these works which I do, testify about me, that the Father has sent me.
But: Grk. de, conj. that contrasts with the preceding statement. I have: Grk. echō, to possess, to have under one's control. the greater: Grk. megas, adj., large, great. testimony: Grk. marturia. See verse 32 above. than that of Yochanan: See verse 33 above. for the works: pl. of Grk. ergon, deed, action, work or accomplishment. See verse 20 above. which the Father: circumlocution for the God of Israel. has given me: the verb is Grk. didōmi, perf. See verse 22 above. in order that: Grk. hina, conj. used to add an idea that completes an intention expressed.
I might complete them: the verb is Grk. teleioō, aor. subj., bring to a point at which nothing is missing, here of carrying out a task or responsibility; complete. these works: pl. of Grk. ergon. which I do: Grk. poieō, a verb of physical action to bring about a state or condition; do, act or perform. testify: Grk. martureō. See verse 31 above. about me, that the Father has sent me: the verb is apostellō, perf. See verse 33 above. The Son is the preeminent Shaliach of the Father. The perfect tense points to the beginning when the great plan of God originated with the creation of the world (cf. Rev 13:8 NIV).
Yeshua presents a straightforward argument. As great and important was the public testimony of Yochanan the Immerser about Yeshua, actions always speak louder than words. To this point Yeshua has performed three creation miracles and he had fulfilled Malachi's prophecy of cleansing the temple. In addition, he had succeeded in gaining disciples in Judea, Samaria and Galilee.
37 And the Father himself, having sent me, has testified about me. You have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his form.
And the Father himself: circumlocution for the God of Israel. having sent me: the verb is Grk. pempō, aor. part. See verse 23 above. This verb focuses on the task to be accomplished, whereas apostellō in the previous verse emphasizes the authority of an agent. has testified: Grk. martureō, perf. See verse 31 above. about me: The Father in the form of a bat qol, a voice out of heaven, testified at Yeshua's immersion, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" (Matt 3:17). The parallel passages read "in You I am well pleased (Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22). The Father will repeat this affirmation later at the transfiguration (Matt 17:15).
You have neither: Grk. oute, conj. functioning as a negative particle, dismissing an activity or thing that follows the particle and often coupled formulaically with another oute, "neither…nor." heard: Grk. akouō, perf. See verse 24 above. his voice: Grk. phōnē. See verse 25 above. at any time: Grk. pōpote, adv. referring to an indefinite point in time past; at any time, ever. Beginning with the first couple in the Garden the Tanakh is replete with accounts of God speaking directly to men and women, sometimes with instruction, sometimes with prophetic announcement, sometimes with rebuke and sometimes with encouragement and assurance. God may have used various means (Heb 1:1), but there was no doubt as to the divine source of the communication. Yeshua points out that his religious critics, for all their religious knowledge, had never heard God speak to them. Yet, God speaks to those willing to listen.
nor: Grk. oute, conj. seen: Grk. horaō, perf., to perceive with the physical eyes or to experience extraordinary mental or inward perception. The verb could be taken either literally or metaphorically, perhaps both. his form: Grk. eidos, that which makes an optical impression; external form, aspect, appearance. The fact that God is spirit (John 4:24), does not preclude Him having a form. John was given a special revelation of the Father seated on His throne in heaven, a glorious vision beyond imagination (Rev 4:2-3). However, John was not the first to see God. Moses reported that he and the elders of Israel "saw God" and ate and drank in His presence at Mt. Sinai (Ex 24:9-11). The next vision of God would not occur for six centuries.
The prophet Micaiah in the time of King Ahab of Israel gave this eyewitness account, "Therefore, hear the word of the Lord. I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left" (1Kgs 22:19). A century later Isaiah reported, "In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple" (Isa 6:1). Amos, the prophet to the Kingdom of Israel, similarly declared "I saw the Lord standing beside the altar" (Amos 9:1). Ezekiel (1:1) and Daniel (7:13) both had incredible visions of the heavenly throne and the One seated there. In all these instances the prophets were very circumspect in telling what they actually saw. Too much detail could tempt people to violate the second commandment. Yeshua implies without saying it that he has seen the form of the Father (cf. John 8:38; 17:5).
38 and you have not His word remaining in you; because you believe not the one He sent.
and you have: Grk. echō. See verse 2 above. not: Grk. ou, particle that strongly negates the verb. Yeshua's critics have neither knowledge or experience of God. His word: Grk. logos. See verse 24 above. Yeshua's use of logos, as confirmed by the next verse, alludes to Scripture (cf. John 10:35; 12:38; Heb 4:12), which was first spoken by God before it was written down. remaining: Grk. menō, pres. part., to be in a situation for a length of time, to remain or stay. In the LXX menō translates 15 different Hebrew words, the most common being amad (SH-5975, 'stand, remain') and qum (SH-6966, stand, arise). The verb is particularly used of God to emphasize His constancy (DNTT 3:224). Instead, traditions had replaced God's Word in their hearts.
in you: lit. "within you." The pronoun is plural so Yeshua means "in any of you." because you believe: Grk. pisteuō, pres. See verse 24 above. not: Grk. ou. If the word of God does not remain then there is no foundation for belief. the one He sent: Grk. apostellō, aor. See verse 33 above. It's important to remember that to "believe" in Hebraic thought does not simply mean to accept something as fact, but to have confidence in the reliability or trustworthiness of the One who is the object of belief, coupled with an attitude of faithfulness or obedience to that One. As Stern says, Yeshua's critics did not believe because of hard hearts. A person with love for God would receive Yeshua.
39 "You search the Scriptures, because in them you think to have life eternal; and these are the ones testifying about me.
You search: Grk. eraunaō, to search or probe. It is noteworthy that Yeshua does not use the imperative mood. He does not command them to search, but rather speaks of the fact of their diligent investigation. The Talmud is replete with examples of the rabbinic preoccupation with studying Torah. Lightfoot suggests that this verb denotes something more than a narrow search into the Scriptures, something approaching cabalism (2:301). Rabbis were fond of mystical or allegorical expositions and finding secret meanings in the numerical values of letters and words (called Heb sod).
the Scriptures: pl. of Grk. graphē, writing, and in the Jewish context meaning the sacred Hebrew Bible (24 books) referred to as the Tanakh, corresponding to the Protestant Old Testament (39 books) and its translation into Greek, the Septuagint. The term "Scripture," which occurs over 50 times in the Besekh, summarizes the body of literature containing God's inspired, infallible, inerrant words penned by over 25 writers, from Moses to Malachi. because in them: the plural pronoun emphasizes the fact that the Tanakh is a collection of books. you think: Grk. dokeō, the basic idea of receptivity and hence attractiveness to the intellect appears throughout the verb's usage, which may mean to entertain an idea or form an opinion about something on the basis of what appears to support a specific conclusion; think, opine, regard.
to have: Grk. echō, pres. inf. See verse 2 above. life eternal: See verse 24 above. These religious leaders viewed eternal life as a possession, rather than a relationship. Hillel, president of the Sanhedrin when Yeshua was a child, was reputed to have said, "the more study of the Torah the more life … one who has acquired unto himself words of Torah has acquired for himself the life of the world to come" (Avot 2:7). Yeshua would appear to agree with the point of view when he exhorted the rich young ruler who sought eternal life to keep the commandments (Matt 19:17; cf. John 12:50). Moses said as much when he spoke of God's instruction, "it is your life" (Deut 32:47). Yet, life is only in God and His words are intended to bring men to Him.
and these are the ones testifying: Grk. martureō, pres. part. See verse 31 above. about me: All of the Scriptures speak of the Messiah, as Yeshua will later explain to his disciples (Luke 24:44). Shapira points out the important assessment of Talmudic authorities, "All the Prophets prophesied [the good things] only for the days of the Messiah" (Sanhedrin 99a; Berachot 34b). He then comments on this verse,
"Only one person in 2,000 years of Jewish history followed this exact paradigm and presented this challenge to the Jewish community. … The question of the identity and the portrait of the Messiah is, according to Yeshua, a question of life and death! In Yeshua's shocking statement, he rebukes those who refuse to receive him as the Messiah of Israel, as he proclaims that life will only come to those who accept him as the Messiah of Israel. The chayei olam, or eternal life, of which Yeshua speaks can be achieved only by accepting the God of Israel. He does not speak of blessings, but rather true eternal life in Gan Eden." (56)
40 And you will not come to me that you may have life.
And you will: Grk. thelō. See verse 6 above. The verb indicates a deliberate choice. not: Grk. ou, negative particle. come: Grk. erchomai, aor. inf. See verse 7 above. The verb is not just expressing physical motion but seeking, submitting and following. to me that you may have: Grk. echō, pres. subj. See verse 2 above. life: Grk. zōē. See verse 24 above. Yeshua's statement reflects a great tragedy. Only in Yeshua can one have eternal life. "There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). As a result of obstinate refusal to accept Yeshua as Messiah, his prophetic word would come true, "Behold your house is left to you desolate" (Luke 13:35; cf. Luke 19:41-44; 21:20-24).
41 I receive not glory from men.
I receive: Grk. lambanō, pres. See verse 34 above. not glory: Grk. doxa has four categories of meaning: (1) splendor or radiance in the sense of brightness, (2) magnificence in the sense of what catches the eye, (3) fame, renown, honor or approval, and (4) glorious as in the angelic beings and majesties. In the LXX doxa translates Heb. kabod, which refers to the luminous manifestation of God’s person, his glorious revelation of Himself. Characteristically, kabod is linked with verbs of seeing and appearing and stresses the impact that the manifestation of a person or God makes on others. In the apostolic writings doxa is a continuation of the underlying Hebrew concept (DNTT 2:45). The third meaning seems most appropriate here.
from men: pl. of Grk. anthrōpos. See verse 5 above. While Yeshua could be referring to mankind in general it's more likely that "men" refers to the male Jewish leaders who criticized and opposed Yeshua.
42 But I have known that you have not the love of God in yourselves.
But: Grk. alla, conj. with a strong and emphatic adversative meaning, but. I have known: Grk. ginōskō, perf. The perfect tense points back at least to the beginning of his public ministry, perhaps further. that you: The personal pronoun is plural. have: Grk. echō, pres. See verse 2 above. not the love: Grk. agapē, a relatively high level of interest in the well-being of another, affection, esteem, love. The noun is one of the four Greek words for "love" and the one that occurs most frequently in the Besekh. In the LXX agapē renders Heb. ahavah (SH-160, BDB 12), which is used of both human and divine love. Ahavah is used of the love of husband toward wife (Gen 29:20; SS 2:4-5; 5:8; 8:6-7), and God's love for His people Israel (Deut 7:8; 2Chr 2:11; Isa 63:9; Jer 31:3; Hos 11:4; Zeph 3:17).
Ahava occurs frequently In the wisdom literature in a more abstract form, such as "love covers all sins (Prov 10:12). The Jewish translators of the LXX apparently coined the noun agapē, since there is no Greek literature earlier than the LXX that uses the noun (DNTT 2:539). Agapē, unlike the verb agapaō, is never used in a negative sense (cf. Luke 6:32). God's nature and actions are the epitome of agapē (John 3:16; 1Jn 4:8) and the preeminent virtue (1Cor 13:1-13). The essential factor in every passage employing the agapē is the willingness to sacrifice for an object, which sets it apart from the affection of phileō, the family loyalty of storgē and the passion of eros.
of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 18 above. The word "God" is in the genitive case, which qualifies the meaning of a preceding noun ("love") and is typically translated with "of.” The genitive case may be subjective or objective. Rendered as a subjective genitive, it would mean that God manifests the love. Rendered as an objective genitive, God receives the love. in yourselves: Yeshua could mean that these men fail to live out the first great commandment to love God or that God's love does not reside in the hearts of these men. Probably both meanings fit Yeshua's description.
43 I have come in the name of my Father, and you receive me not. If another should come in his own name, you will receive that one.
I have come: Grk. erchomai, perf. See verse 7 above. The perfect tense more likely points to the beginning of his public ministry rather than his birth. in the name: Grk. onoma is used in its central sense of identifying someone. In Hebrew literature it also carries the idiomatic sense of qualities, attributes, reputation, powers or authority. Here Yeshua identifies the authority behind his actions. of my Father: See verse 17 above. The Father's "name" as the authority for something is mentioned a total of seven times in the book (10:25; 12:13; 17:6, 11, 12, 26). and you receive: Grk. lambanō. See verse 34 above. The verb "receive" could be used idiomatically of giving a hospitable welcome, showing respect, or granting acceptance. me not: Yeshua received none of the aforementioned treatment. In a later incident Yeshua will chastise a Pharisee who invited Yeshua to a meal and yet failed to extend the common courtesies one would give to an honored guest (Luke 7:44-46).
If: Grk. ean, conj. See verse 31 above. The conditional nature of the particle does not reduce the reality of the proposed scenario. another: Grk. allos, adj., 'other or another' in reference here to another person. should come: Grk. erchomai, aor. subj. The subjunctive mood emphasizes mild contingency or probability; it looks toward what is conceivable or potential. in his own name: Grk. onoma, in his own authority. you will receive: Grk. lambanō, fut. mid. that one: Grk. ekeinos, demonstrative pronoun, signifying the more remote 'that person or thing' as opposed to houtos, 'this over here.'
Scholars are divided over whether Yeshua intended someone in particular or was simply making a general reference. Jewish leaders did accept those who came "in their own name," such as the contemporary leaders Hillel and Shammai. Yeshua could have pointed prophetically to the practice of the Talmud which constantly quotes the legal decisions of many Sages as valid on their own authority. As Daniel Gruber says, "The Rabbis do claim, however, that they have the authority to forbid what the Torah permits, and to permit what the Torah forbids" (Rabbi Akiba's Messiah: The Origins of Rabbinic Authority, Elijah Publishing, 1999).
Another consideration is that ekeinos could point to Messianic claimants. Many Jewish imposters have indeed claimed the title or been heralded by Jewish groups as the Messiah. (See the Wikipedia article Jewish Messiah Claimants.) There have been more than fifty messianic pretenders in the last 2000 years of Jewish history, starting with Theudas and Judas of Galilee in the first century, Acts 5:36-37 (Stern 5). Early in the next century Rabbi Akiba, renowned as the father of Rabbinic Judaism, recognized Simon bar Kosiba (d. 135 A.D.) as the Messiah by changing his name to Bar-Kochva (“son of a star”).
44 How can you believe, receiving glory from one another, and you seek not the glory from the Only One of God?
How: Grk. pōs, adv. introducing a query concerning manner, way, or reason in respect to a matter; how? in what manner/way? can: Grk. dunamai, pres. mid. See verse 19 above. you believe: Grk. pisteuō, aor. inf. See verse 24 above. receiving: Grk. lambanō, pres. part. See verse 34 above and the previous verse. glory: Grk. doxa, used here in the sense of approval or status. See verse 41 above. from one another: i.e., from priestly colleagues. and you seek: Grk. zēteō. See verse 18 above. not the glory from the Only One: Grk. monos, adj. signifying the exclusion of any other entity; alone, only. Here the adjective is used as a substantive and a circumlocution for the Son. of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 18 above.
"Seeking the glory of the Only One" is an idiomatic expression of serving the Master with humility and devotion so that on the great day of judgment one may hear the approval of God, "well done, good and faithful servant" (Matt 25:21, 23). Yeshua accuses his critics of being more concerned about the opinions of their peers than God. Their striving for social acceptance and status (cf. Matt 23:5-7) blinded them to their spiritual poverty. Stern summarizes Yeshua's argument to this point: (1) you do not have God’s love in you; (2) instead, you seek honor from men and from each other; (3) you refuse to come to me (Yeshua) to have life because you prefer honor from each other and because you want to honor those who come in their own name, not in God’s name.
45 Think not that I will accuse you to the Father; there is one accusing you, Moses, in whom you have hoped.
Think: Grk. dokeō, pres. imp. See verse 39 above. not: Grk. mē. See verse 23 above. that I will accuse: Grk. katēgoreō, fut., a technical legal term meaning to charge with an offense; accuse. you to the Father: Grk. patēr, the God of Israel. See verse 17 above. Yeshua alludes to the court of heaven. there is one accusing you: Grk. katēgoreō, pres. part. Moses: Grk. Mōusēs transliterates Heb. Mosheh, the great Hebrew leader, prophet and lawgiver of Israel born about 1525 BC. The name Moses is most likely derived from Egyptian mes meaning "child" or "son" (BDB 602), since the daughter of Pharaoh named him (Ex 2:10). She explained the chosen name by saying, "Because I drew [Heb. mashah, "to draw"] him out of the water."
The story of Moses is found in the extensive narratives from Exodus 1:1 through Deuteronomy 34:1. His life can be easily divided into three 40-year periods, the first being his birth and early life in Egypt, the second his years in Midian, and the third the wilderness period after the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt. Moses was born into the house of Levi, the son of Amram and his wife Jochebed, who was Amram's aunt (Ex 6:20). God would later forbid a man to marry his aunt (Lev 18:12-14). The only siblings mentioned as born into the household were a brother, Aaron, and a sister, Miriam (Num 26:59).
Moses had two wives, both non-Israelites, Zipporah, a Midianite (Ex 2:15-16, 21; 4:25; 18:2) and a Cushite woman (Num 12:1). Zipporah bore him two sons, Gershom and Eliezer (Ex 18:3-4), but no children of the Cushite wife are named. Moses was the leader of the Israelites in their deliverance from Egyptian slavery and oppression and their journey through the wilderness. At Mount Sinai Moses served as God's spokesman to facilitate the beginning of the covenant relationship between God and Israel.
Forty years later on the plains of Moab Moses renewed the covenant with Israel and made preparations for their entry into the promised land. He was a heroic leader of the people and a devout man of God. Yet, due to an tragic incident of disobedience to God's instructions Moses was not permitted to enter the land of Canaan with the nation (Num 20:8-12). At the end God allowed Moses to view the land from the top of Mt. Pisgah before his death and there he died at the age of 120. God buried him in the land of Moab (Deut 34:1-7).
However, Moses' death was not the end of his importance or influence, because Scripture asserts strongly that Moses compiled, wrote and/or edited the five books attributed to his name (Josh 1:7-8; 8:34-35; Matt 22:24; Mark 12:19; Luke 16:29; 24:27, 44). Moses left Israel and the Body of Messiah with the rich legacy of God's Word. Moses was a giant of a man. Yeshua is not saying that Moses will personally accuse the Jewish leaders, but rather the writings of Moses provide the basis for accusation. in whom you have hoped: Grk. elpizō, perf., to look for; hope, expect. The verb is not used to express mere wishful thinking. Yeshua does not mean that Jewish hope of eternal life was in the man Moses, but in his writings as expressed in verse 39 above.
46 For if you believed Moses, you would have believed me; for he wrote about me.
For if you believed: Grk. pisteuō, impf. See verse 24 above. The imperfect tense conveys continuous action in past time, so the verb could be translated "had been believing." Moses: See the previous verse. The name is used as a circumlocution for the writings he authored (cf. Luke 16:29; 24:27; 2Cor 3:15). you would have believed: Grk. pisteuō, impf. me; for he wrote: Grk. graphō, aor., to write or inscribe as a physical act, usually in reference to documents. This is yet another affirmation of Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. As the saying goes, "God spoke and Moses wrote."
about me: The Torah is full of promise of the Messiah, which Yeshua will explain later to his disciples (Luke 24:44). Messianic passages in the Torah speak of the Seed of the Woman (Gen 3:15), the Seed of Abraham (Gen 12:3), the Seed of Isaac (Gen 17:19), the Seed of Jacob (Gen 28:14), the Shiloh from the tribe of Judah (Gen 49:10), the Star out of Jacob (Num 24:17) and the Prophet like Moses (Deut 18:15-18). The Targums also connect the Messiah with the Logos-Memra that created the universe and the Light as narrated in Genesis 1 (see my commentary on John 1:1, 4). Besides these prophetic passages Yeshua hints that the life of Moses foreshadows and parallels his own.
Indeed, Shapira describes Yeshua's statement as a rabbinic form of argument called kal v'chomer (from light to heavy) and offers this comment:
"Yeshua's point is clear; the life of the last redeemer must parallel the life of the first redeemer, as you can't have one without the other. It is not a coincidence that so many Jewish people around the time of Yeshua saw this deep connection and parallel between Yeshua and Moses as the first and last redeemers. The Messiah has been identified as the second Moses, as Moses himself spoke of a prophet that God will raise." (196)
Two Midrashim convey the same idea. Mid. Ruth 5:6 says, "R. Berekiah said in the name of R. Levi: 'The last Redeemer [Messiah] will be like the first Redeemer [Moses]. Just as the first Redeemer revealed himself and later was hidden from them … so the last Redeemer will be revealed to them, and then be hidden from them." Speaking about Isaiah 11:1, Mid. Psalm 21:1 says, "this is Messiah, the Son of David, who is hidden until the time of the end" (quoted in MW-Notes 151f). For other points of comparison between Moses and Yeshua see my web article Moses and Yeshua.
47 But if you believe not the writings of that one, how will you believe my words?”
But: Grk. de, conj. that offers a contrast to the preceding statement. if: Grk. ei, conj., a contingency marker used here to introduce a premise. you believe: Grk. pisteuō, pres. See verse 24 above. not: Grk. ou, a strong negation of fact. the writings: pl. of Grk. gramma may mean (1) that which is written, usually of a letter of the alphabet; or (2) a set of characters or letters forming a document, whether of correspondence, a long document or even written Scripture as here. of that one: Grk. ekeinos, personal pronoun; i.e., Moses. Contrary to many Christian scholars who think the Pentateuch was written by anonymous scribes, Scripture affirms strongly that Moses compiled, wrote and/or edited the five books attributed to his name (Ex 17:14; 24:4; 34:28; Deut 28:58, 61; 31:9, 22; Josh 1:7-8; 8:34-35; Matt 22:24; Mark 12:19; Luke 16:29; 24:27, 44; Acts 15:21; Rom 10:5; 2Cor 10:14-15). Moses left Israel and the Body of Messiah with the rich legacy of God's Word.
Yeshua laments that in spite of all their searching the Scriptures his critics did not really believe Moses. how: Grk. pōs, adv. See verse 44 above. will you believe: Grk. pisteuō, fut. Yeshua implies that future belief in him is contingent on believing Moses. my words: pl. of Grk. rhēma, a communication consisting of words, often with the implication of importance or special significance. In secular Greek works rhēma referred to a statement, discourse or explanation. In the LXX rhēma occurs predominately in the Pentateuch and prophetic writings for the Heb. dabar, which means "word" or "thing." Thus, rhēma, standing for dabar, can mean both (a) a word or utterance as well as (b) a matter, event, or case in the sense of the result of things said or done. In the Tanakh rhēma is often synonymous with Grk. logos, which means a vocalized expressed of the mind, ranging broadly in extent of content and variety of form (DNTT 3:1119f).
The mention of Yeshua's oral instruction contrasts with the written instruction of Moses. Yeshua patently puts his teaching on the same inspired authoritative level as the written Torah. The disciples will later characterize the teaching of Yeshua as the "words of life" (John 6:68; cf. verse 24 above).
Ant.: Flavius Josephus (c. 37-100 A.D.), Antiquities of the Jews. Online.
BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981. Online.
Clarke: Adam Clarke (1762-1832), Commentary on the Holy Bible. 6 vols. Online.
DM: H.E. Dana & Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. The Macmillan Co., 1955.
Danker: F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, University of Chicago Press, 2009.
Delitzsch: Franz Delitzsch (1813-1890), Hebrew New Testament. Leipzig, 1877. Online. (Translation into biblical Hebrew.)
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology. 3 Vols., ed. Colin Brown. Zondervan Publishing House, 1975.
Fisher: Anthony J. Fisher, Greek New Testament. The University of York, 2000. [NA26]
Flusser: Daniel Flusser, The Sage from Galilee. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2007.
Gill: John Gill (1697-1771), Exposition of the Entire Bible. Online.
GNT: The Greek New Testament, eds. Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Bruce M. Metzger, & Allen Wiegren. American Bible Society, 1966. [NA25]
Hamp: Douglas Hamp, Discovering the Language of Jesus. Calvary Chapel Publishing, 2005.
ISBE: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Edited by James Orr. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1939. Online, 2011.
Jeremias: Joichim Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. Fortress Press, 1975.
Leman: Derek Leman, A New Look at the Old Testament. Mt. Olive Press, 2006.
Lightfoot: John Lightfoot (1602-1675), A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica (1859 ed.), 4 Vols. Hendrickson Pub., 1989. Online.
Marshall: Alfred Marshall, NASB-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English. Zondervan Pub. House, 1986.
Metzger: Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd ed. German Bible Society, 1994.
Morris: Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1971. (New International Commentary on the New Testament)
Mounce: William D. Mounce, Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. 2011. Online.
MW-Notes: Daniel Gruber, The Messianic Writings. Elijah Publishing, 2011. Annotations by the author.
NASBEC: New American Standard Bible Exhaustive Concordance, Updated Edition. Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998.
Neil: James Neil, Palestine Explored. James Nisbet & Co., 1882.
NIBD: Nelson's Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible. ed. Herbert Lockyer. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986.
Rashi: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaqi (1040-1105), Commentary on the Tanakh. Online.
Reinhartz: Adele Reinhartz, Annotations on "John," Jewish Annotated New Testament, eds. Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Brettler. Oxford University Press, 2011.
Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Vol. 1. Zondervan Pub. House, 1976.
Robertson: Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 6 Vols. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1933. (Parsons CD-ROM Version 2.0, 1997) Online.
Santala: Risto Santala, The Messiah in the New Testament in the Light of Rabbinical Writings. Trans. William Kinnaird. Keren Ahvah Meshihit, 1992. Online.
Shapira: Rabbi Itzhak Shapira, The Return of the Kosher Pig: The Divine Messiah in Jewish Thought. Lederer Books, 2013.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
Tenney: Merrill C. Tenney, John, Expositor's Bible Commentary, Software version 2.6. Zondervan Corp, 1989-1999.
Thayer: Joseph Henry Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Harper Brothers, 1889.
TLV-Notes: Messianic Jewish Family Bible: Tree of Life Version. Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society, 2014. Annotations by editorial staff.
TWOT: Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 2 Vols. ed. R. Laird Harris. Moody Bible Institute, 1980.
Wars: Flavius Josephus (c. 37-100 A.D.), Wars of the Jews. Online.
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