Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 28 April 2015; Revised 20 May 2018
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.
Yeshua at the Festival of Booths (Sukkot), 8:1-2
Yeshua, the Merciful Judge, 8:3-11
Yeshua, the Light of the World, 8:12-30
Yeshua, the Truth that Frees, 8:31-47
Yeshua, the I AM, 8:48-59
Autumn (Tishri) A.D. 29
Yeshua at the Festival of Booths (Sukkot), 8:1-2
The beginning of Chapter 8 continues the narrative of Chapter Seven to a natural conclusion. Modern Bible versions add a marginal note or footnote that John 7:53 through 8:11 is not found in the earliest authorities. In my view there is no reason not to accept the passage as an authentic part of the book of John. For a discussion of the textual issue see my analysis: Textual Note: John 7:53-8:11.
1 but Yeshua went to the Mount of Olives.
but: 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, so" (BAG). This verse continues the thought of 7:53, which occurs on the last day of Sukkot, Tishri 21, so the conjunction serves as a contrast.
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: Grk. poreuomai, aor. pass., to move from one area to another, to go or to make one's way. to the Mount: Grk. oros means "mountain," "hill," or "hill-country." The corresponding Heb. word, har, is given in Scripture to a comparatively large ridge, a collection of small hills and to many hogbacks in Israel. Modern science distinguishes hills from mountains by classifying a hill as being less than 1,000 feet above its surroundings, but the distinction may depend upon local interpretation. Although oros is rendered here as "Mount," English Bible versions reflect the arbitrary standard of modern science in many passages, rather than recognizing that a single Hebrew and Greek word was used to refer to any natural topographical feature that rose above a valley, plain or other surroundings regardless of height.
of Olives: pl. of Grk. Elaia, "olive tree." The Hebrew name for the mountain (also called Mount Olivet, Luke 19:29; 21:37; Acts 1:12) is Har HaZeitim, given for the olive groves that once covered its slopes. The Mount of Olives is located across the Kidron Valley, part of the two and a half mile-long mountain ridge that towers over the eastern side of Jerusalem, or more precisely, the middle of the three peaks forming the ridge. The ridge juts out in a north-south direction (like a spur) from the range of mountains running down the center of the region. The Mount of Olives rises 2,676 feet above sea level, but only about 175 feet higher than Jerusalem (NIBD 554, 731). In the days of the Israelite monarchy it provided a lookout base and signaling point for armies defending Jerusalem. The geographical reference appears only here in the book of John.
Yeshua did not immediately return to Galilee. Stern suggests that Yeshua may have stayed at the home of Lazarus in Bethany, a city located near the Mount of Olives (Mark 11:1) on the road to Jericho about two miles southeast of Jerusalem (15 stadion, John 11:18). Six months after Sukkot on the night of his Triumphal Entry Yeshua lodged there (Matt 21:17). He also dined with Simon the Leper in Bethany at that time (Mark 14:3). However, as attractive as this suggestion might be, it does not fit the context. The reason is that pilgrims were expected to remain in Jerusalem for the night following the festival of Sukkot (Rosh HaShana 5a). The rabbis adduced that what applied in the case of the Passover (Deut 16:7) applied to all festivals.
Anyone at the festival could only have gone as far as prescribed for a Sabbath day's journey, reckoned at 2,000 cubits or about 1,000 yards (Ex 16:29; Num 35:5; Josh 3:4; cf. Acts 1:12). So, it is more likely that Yeshua camped on the mountain as the verse here says. In Luke's narrative of the week before Yeshua's last Passover we read, "Now during the day He was teaching in the temple, but at evening He would go out and spend the night on the mount that is called Olivet" (Luke 21:37). Perhaps he went to the Garden of Gethsemane given its later significance for Yeshua's night of prayer (Matt 26:36; Mark 14:32).
2 Now at dawn he came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to him, and sitting, he was teaching them.
And: Grk. de. See the previous verse. at dawn: Grk. orthros, dawn, early morning. The time is auspicious since it coincides with the morning sacrifice (Ex 29:38-42) in the Court of Priests and the prayer service in the Court of Israel. (For a detailed description of this service see Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, Chapter 8.) Stern mistakenly refers to this new day as part of Hoshana Rabbah, which is actually the seventh day. The new day mentioned in this verse, following the "last, great day of the festival" (7:37), would be the eighth day, Tishri 22. In A.D. 29 (Heb. Cal. 3790) this day was Tuesday, October 18 on the Roman calendar. The eighth day was called Shemini Atzeret ("Assembly of the Eighth Day"), and it was a Sabbath (Lev 23:39; Num 29:35).
The eighth day of Sukkot is treated by the rabbis as a separate festival. (See Sukkot, Encyclopedia Judaica, 2nd ed., XIX, 292-302.) The eighth day had four things in common with the preceding seven days:
"The Eighth Day is a separate festival, for, just as the seven days of the Festival must have [their own] sacrifices, psalm, benediction and staying overnight, so the Eighth Day must have its own sacrifices, psalm, benediction and staying overnight." (Sukkah 47a)
While there were special sacrifices on the eighth day they were greatly reduced in number from the preceding days (Num 29:35-38). Like the preceding days the eighth day had its special Psalm sung by the Levites, Psalm 6, which is fitting to this narrative. The benediction said on the first day of a festival was recited, "Blessed be He who has kept us alive and preserved us and brought us to this season" (Ber. 9:1). In addition, the public worship featured reciting the Hallel and sacrificing peace offerings (Sukk. 4:3). Some practices were not repeated on the eighth day: dwelling in the sukkah, waving the lulab (palm branches) in public services and conducting the water drawing ceremony (Sukkah 47a).
he came: Grk. paraginomai, aor. mid., to make one's way so as to be present; come, arrive, be present. again: Grk. palin, adv., with focus on a repetitive occurrence; once more, again. into 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 full description of the temple see my comment on Mark 11:11. After the prayer service Yeshua may have gone to the terrace area called "Chel" that ran along the north and south sides of the temple, 10 cubits broad, with 12 steps leading up to it (Midd. 1:5, 2:3). See the illustrations here and here. The Sanhedrin would also meet in some part of the Chel to conduct discussions on application of Torah (Sanh. 88b).
and all the people: Grk. laos, a group of humans, understood geographically or ethnically and in Scripture often viewed in contrast with the ruling class. The term corresponds to the Heb. am-ha'aretz, "people of the land," i.e., the people of Israel. were coming: Grk. erchomai, impf. 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. The imperfect tense suggests a crowd that slowly developed and steadily increased in number. to him and sitting: Grk. kathizō, aor. part., to sit, to take one's seat. It was customary for a Jewish teacher to instruct while sitting. Yeshua arrived first and could have sat down on the top step and people gathered around.
he was teaching them: The verb is Grk. didaskō, impf., to teach or instruct, a verb used frequently of Yeshua. In the LXX didaskō occurs about 100 times and is used primarily to render three Hebrew verbs: (1) lamad, "exercise in, learn, teach" (BDB 540), e.g., Deut 4:1; Psalm 94:10; 119:99; 144:1; (2) the Hiphal form of yada, "cause to know, teach" (BDB 393), e.g., Job 13:23; Prov 1:23; (3) yarah, "to throw, shoot, point out, direct, instruct" (BDB 434), e.g., Prov 4:4; 5:13; Isa 9:15; as well as six other Hebrew verbs (DNTT 3:760). In contrast with Greek education Jewish teaching since the time of Moses has been more concerned with communicating God's ethical demands than imparting information (DNTT 3:766).
Those receiving Yeshua's teaching were the people attending public services at the temple. God's original design for communicating the faith was that the Levites would teach the adults (Deut 5:31; 17:9; 24:8) and parents would teach their children (Deut 6:7). Sukkot was a particular time for the people to be reminded of the instruction God gave to Israel through Moses (Deut 31:10-13). The ruling authorities deemed the common people accursed because they didn't know and live by Torah, or at least their interpretation of it (John 7:49), but this ignorance owes in part to the failure of the religious leaders to teach them. Yeshua filled the vacuum for a people eager to learn.
3 And the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman having been caught in adultery and set her in the midst.
And: Grk. de. See verse 1 above. the scribes: pl. of Grk. grammateus, refers to a specialist in Mosaic legal matters. In Israelite culture a scribe was a legal scholar and a teacher of the Torah. In the LXX grammateus renders two Hebrew words, shotêr and more frequently sophêr (DNTT 3:477f). The word shotêr (SH-7860, official, officer; BDB 1009) is used of men chosen to be part of the seventy elders (Num 11:16), administrative officers in the army (Deut 20:5) and judicial officials (1Chr 23:4; Ezra 4:8). The word sophêr (SH-5608, secretary, scribe; BDB 708) was used for the secretary to a king or government official (2Sam 8:17; Ezra 4:8), the military scribe who kept the muster rolls (Jer 37:15), an amanuensis to a prophet (Jer 36:4, 18, 32) and in the later books, one skilled in the law of Moses (Ezra 7:6, 12, 21; Neh 8:1).
In the Besekh the term always has its Jewish meaning of one learned in Torah, a rabbi or ordained theologian. Scribes were clearly influential. They were secretaries, teachers, lawyers, judges, and priests. Josephus mentions Sadducees who were magistrates (Ant. XVIII, 1:4) and scribes were always preferred for appointment as judges due to their knowledge of the Law (Jeremias 237). For more information on the scribes see my commentary on Mark 1:22. Some, as here, were members of the Sanhedrin (Matt 16:21). Some scribes belonged to the party of the Pharisees (Matt 22:34-35; Mark 2:16; Acts 5:34; 23:9) and some were "of the people" (Matt 2:4), suggesting no party affiliation. The mention of "scribes" occurs 58 times in the Synoptic Narratives, but only here in the book of John. In addition, the terms "scribes" and "Pharisees" are paired together 18 times in the Synoptic Narratives. The pairing suggests the majority of the scribes were Sadducees or belonged to no party.
and the Pharisees: pl. of Grk. Pharisaios, a transliteration of the Heb. P'rushim, meaning "separatists." The title was born of the fact that they separated themselves from the common people of the land for religious devotion. The Pharisees traced their roots to the Hasidim ("pious ones") organized in the time of Ezra, but are known as an organized group from the 2nd c. BC (Jeremias 247). The first mention of the group is in the books of Maccabees where they are described as "a company of Hasideans, mighty warriors of Israel, every one who offered himself willingly for the law" (1Macc 2:42; cf. 1Macc 7:13; 2Macc 14:6). Josephus estimated that there were at least six thousand Pharisees in the Land (Ant. XVII, 2:4). There were several Pharisaic communities in Jerusalem (Jeremias 252).
The book of John uses the term (occurring 20 times and only in the plural) to substitute for the term "elders" found in the Synoptic Narratives, a faction of the Sanhedrin (cf. John 1:24; 3:1; 12:42). Membership in the Sanhedrin consisted of chief priests, elders and scribes (Matt 16:21; 26:57; 27:41; Mark 15:1; Luke 20:1). Yeshua described the scribes and Pharisees as having "seated themselves in the chair of Moses" (Matt 23:2), probably an allusion to the fact that members of the Sanhedrin sat on chairs. John couples the Pharisees five times with the chief priests to emphasize their association on the Sanhedrin (John 7:32, 45; 11:47, 57; 18:3). For more information on the Pharisees see my comment on John 3:1.
brought: Grk. agō, to cause movement by taking the lead; lead, bring, carry, take. a woman: Grk. gunē, an adult female person, without respect to age, marital or social status except as defined in the context. In the LXX gunē renders the Heb. ishshah ("woman"). The first usage of ishshah is of the woman given to Adam as a wife (Gen 2:22). having been caught: Grk. katalambanō, perf. pass. part., to take over; grasp, whether in a hostile sense of 'seize' or in the sense of surprise, 'catch, come upon,' which is most likely the sense here. in adultery: Grk. moicheia, a violation of the seventh commandment, although adultery was an offense long before Moses (Gen 20:3; 26:10).
From the beginning adultery was understood to be sexual relations between a married woman and a man not her husband (Lev 20:10; Deut 22:22-24; Prov 6:32; Jer 29:23; Hos 2:2; Rom 7:3). Adultery could also be spiritual. God accused Israel of adultery because of idolatry (Jer 3:9; Ezek 23:37) and Yeshua likened covetousness of a married woman to adultery (Matt 5:28). The accusation means that the woman was married. and set: Grk. histēmi, aor. part., may mean (1) to cause to be in a place or position; set, place or (2) be in an upright position; stand, used of bodily posture. The first meaning applies here. her in the midst: Grk. mesos, adj., at a point near the center, midst, middle, in the midst of, among. The location is obviously near to where Yeshua was sitting with all the people looking on.
4 they said to him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of committing adultery.
they said: Grk. legō, to make a statement or utterance, whether oral or in written form; say, tell, declare. 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. Teacher: Grk. didaskalos, voc. case, teacher or instructor who regularly engaged in the imparting of knowledge or skills, a vocation of special status among the Israelites. In the LXX didaskalos only occurs in 2 Maccabees 1:10 to denote Aristobulus, the head of the Egyptian Jewish community, who, having dedicated an exposition of the Pentateuch to King Ptolemy Philometor, is called a teacher clearly for this reason.
Scholars speculate that the reason didaskalos does not occur in the Greek text of the Tanakh is that in Greek education teaching was concerned with imparting knowledge or technical skills, but Hebrew education is more concerned with ethical instruction and obedience. In the Qumran texts moreh, "teacher," occurs more frequently, often with a qualifying phrase like "the righteous one," probably in reference to the founder of the sect (DNTT 3:767). Moreh is derived from the verb yarah, to throw or shoot and thus "one who throws out," "points out," or "instructs," (Prov 5:13; Isa 9:15).
Elsewhere didaskalos is used interchangeably with rhabbi (Matt 23:8; John 1:38; 3:2). Since the conversation would have been in Hebrew, then the actual form of address should be considered. When people other than Yeshua's disciples addressed him as didaskalos (as given in the Greek text, e.g., Matt 8:19; 12:38; 19:16; 22:16; 22:24, 36; Mark 4:38; 9:17; 10:35), they most likely said moreh or possibly rabbi. In fact, a few versions translate didaskalos here with "Rabbi" (CJB, HNV, OJB). Addressing Yeshua as "Teacher" is no doubt an attempt to feign respect by appearing to give him equal status with the scribes, who were teachers.
this woman: Grk. gunē. See the previous verse. has been caught: Grk. katalambanō, perf. pass. See the previous verse. in the act: Grk. autophōros, adj., 'in the act,' used in relation to the commission of crime. The word, appearing only here in the Besekh, is derived from Grk. phōr, 'thief' and originally referred to someone caught stealing. The term would be equivalent to the English idiom of being "caught red-handed." Gill comments that adultery is a theft; it is an unlawful use of another's property. of committing adultery: Grk. moicheuō, pres. pass. part., to engage in unlawful sexual relations between a married woman and a man not her husband in violation of the seventh commandment.
The action of the accusers is bizarre. Where is the guilty man? It takes two to commit adultery. How did it happen that the adulteress and adulterer were caught in flagrante delicto, while the act is occurring? When did this offense take place? Where did the offense take place? How did the scribes and Pharisees, a group from the Sanhedrin, know about the offense? Could it have taken place in the Temple as in the case of Eli's sons seducing women who served in the Tabernacle (1Sam 2:22)? Why did these men bring the woman to Yeshua and not to her husband? Where is the husband? Should these accusers even be believed? Just because Yeshua will later tell the woman to "sin no more" does not mean that the accusers had incontrovertible proof of her guilt. They might have assumed guilt because she was caught behaving in a shameless manner.
Since adultery was so difficult to prove (Job 24:15), the innocent husband could subject his wife to a jealousy test (Num 5:11-28). Joseph, the step-father of Yeshua, chose not to do the jealousy test and planned to divorce Miriam for assumed adultery (Matt 1:18-19). His decision reflects the diminished status of the test in the first century, because adultery was so common (cf. Hos 4:14; Matt 5:32; 12:39; 16:4; 19:9; Mark 8:38; Sotah 5:1; 9:4). Indeed, Johanan ben Zakkai, president of the Sanhedrin during the last days of the commonwealth, abolished the ordeal entirely for this very reason (Sot. 9:4). As far as the accusers were concerned the guilt of the woman was assumed, so the jealousy test was not even considered.
5 Now in the Torah given to us, Moses instructed us to stone such women. What then do you say?"
Now in the Torah: Grk. nomos may mean either (1) a principle or standard relating to behavior or (2) codified legislation, i.e. law. The usage of nomos in the Besekh has a much deeper meaning. In the LXX nomos occurs about 430 times, about 200 which are without Hebrew equivalent (DNTT 2:439). Nomos primarily translates Heb. torah (SH-8451) but torah does not mean simply "law" or "laws" as the English word conveys. Torah means "direction," "teaching" or "instruction" and comes from the root yarah, which means to throw, to shoot (as in arrows), or to cast (as in lots) (BDB 435f). In the Tanakh torah not only refers to commandments, statutes and ordinances decreed by God and given to Moses, but also instruction given by a mother or father or by priests and judges (Deut 24:8). Torah sets forth the way a person is meant to live in an ethical and moral way in order to enjoy life to the full and to please God.
In normal Jewish usage in the first century the term Torah could mean the commandments given to Israel at Sinai and Moab (Matt 12:5; John 8:5) or the entire Pentateuch, especially when used in combination with "the Prophets" (Matt 22:40; John 1:45). Yeshua used the term as a synonym for Scripture generally (Matt 5:18; John 10:34; 12:34; 15:25). Yeshua and his apostles constantly emphasized the continuing authority of the Torah and all of the Tanakh for life (Rom 15:4; 2Tim 3:16-17). Here the speakers use Torah to mean the instruction given at Sinai and Moab. given to us: pl. of Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. The dative case is used to emphasize a personal interest particularized to the point of ownership. There is a slight emphasis given the pronoun by the speakers raising the question of whether Yeshua recognizes the authority of the Torah.
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 (Num 26:59). 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.
Moses 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 that Moses compiled, wrote and/or edited the five books attributed to his name (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. See my article Moses and Yeshua.
instructed: Grk. entellō, aor. mid., to give instruction with magisterial claim; instruct, command, order. It's noteworthy that the verb does not appear in the imperative mood. Actually, God gave the instruction. Moses merely passed it on. The instruction of Moses was carried out at Mt. Sinai (Exodus and Leviticus), then at various places during the forty years of wilderness wandering (recorded in the book of Numbers) and then finally at Moab (recorded in the book of Deuteronomy) before Israel crossed over into Canaan.
us to stone: Grk. lithazō, pres. inf., to inflict harm or punishment by hitting with stones. The first mention of stoning is in reference to the Egyptians (Ex 8:26). Moses worried that the Israelites would stone him in their discontent (Ex 17:4), but the first stoning among the Israelites was of a man who violated the Sabbath (Num 15:32-36). In the Torah the preferred means of execution was stoning (Ex 21:28; Lev 20:27; 24:14, 16, 23; Num 15:35; Deut 13:10; 17:5; 21:21; 22:21, 24), but in some cases God also prescribed shooting with arrows (Ex 19:13), burning (Lev 20:14) and hanging (Deut 21:22). The Mishnah specified four modes of capital punishment: stoning, burning, slaying with the sword and strangulation (Sanh. 7:1).
such women: Grk. toioutos, pronoun, fem., such, such as. The feminine pronoun obviously intends women as the subject of the discussion. Everyone knew the seriousness of adultery since the Torah prescribed death for the offenders (Lev 20:10) and any children born of an adulterous union were considered mamzer or illegitimate (cf. Deut 23:2; Isa 57:3). A betrothed maiden and her lover were to be stoned (Deut 22:22), but the means of capital punishment for fully married woman and her lover is not actually stated, though presumed to be stoning. For adultery the Mishnah specified strangulation as the penalty (Sanh. 10:1), but stoning for one who commits adultery with a betrothed maiden (Sanh. 7:5). The guilty maiden would also be stoned (Sanh. 71b; Keth. 45a). The Torah makes no such distinction in the penalty for adultery. Morris cites evidence that strangulation was not a Jewish penal procedure prior to the 2nd cent. A.D. (886). There is no evidence in the Bible or other Jewish literature that anyone was ever stoned in Israel for adultery.
What then do you say? The question mocks Yeshua's mode of teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, "you have heard it said, but I say" (Matt 5:22, 28, 32, 34, 39, 44). In other words, "Do you agree with Moses, nor not?"
6 But this they said testing him, that they might have cause to accuse him. But Yeshua stooped down, and wrote on the ground with his finger.
But this they said: Grk. legō, impf. See verse 4 above. testing: Grk. peirazō, pres. part., may mean (1) make an effort to do something in the face of uncertainty about the outcome; try, attempt; or (2) make a trial of the quality or state of someone's character or claims as an inducement for producing some kind of action, whether positive or negative; tempt, test. him, that they might have: Grk. echō, pres. subj., to have, hold or possess with a wide range of application. The adversaries thought their clever question gave them leverage. cause to accuse him: The verb is Grk. katēgoreō, pres. inf., a technical legal term meaning to charge with an offense; accuse.
The adversaries attempt a logical horns of a dilemma. If Yeshua said, "stone her" he could face a charge of counseling an action contrary to Roman law. First, under Roman law adultery was not a capital crime. Second, the Romans denied to Jewish courts the right to enforce a death sentence (cf. John 18:31). The Roman governor held the power of life and death (Josephus, Ant. XX, 9:1; Wars, II, 8:1). There is a Jewish tradition that the right of executing the death penalty was taken from the Jews forty years before the destruction of the Temple (Morris 787). The Jewish authorities had no aversion to stoning the woman. They would in fact later attempt to stone Yeshua (verse 59 below; 10:31) and eventually stone Stephen to death (Acts 7:58-59).
If Yeshua said, "don't stone her," he would be charged with counseling disobedience of the Torah commandment. The accusers know that capital punishment required the testimony of two or three eyewitnesses (Deut 19:15), so acting as the prescribed witnesses they have asked Yeshua to render the verdict on punishment. The accusers had essentially co-opted the husband's rights in the matter. If Yeshua made either decision he would be acting as a judge which he had no legal right to do. Only the Court of Twenty-Three or the full Sanhedrin could impose the death penalty.
But Yeshua stooped: Grk. kuptō, aor. part., to bend forward, stooping, bend over or down. down: Grk. katō, adv., of a position that is relatively lower in position or perceived as such, down, downward, or below. and wrote: Grk. katagraphō, impf., to write. Mounce adds 'to trace and to draw in outline.' The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. on the ground: Grk. gē can mean soil (as in receiving seed), the ground, land as contrasted with the sea, and the earth in contrast to heaven. The use of the word indicates that the area below the steps was dusty earth without any stone covering. with his finger: Grk. daktulos, finger as a part of the hand.
Commentators and Bible interpreters speculate on why Yeshua stooped down and what he must have written. As for the posture Gill suggests that Yeshua "on purpose put himself into this posture, as if he was busy about something else, and did not attend to what they said; and hereby cast some contempt upon them, as if they and their question were unworthy of his notice." As for the writing Yeshua may have engaged in an acted out parable of the original provision of the Ten Commandments that were written by the "finger of God" on stone tablets (Ex 31:18; Deut 9:10). Perhaps considering his appeal in the next verse he wrote the "Ten Words" (Ex 20:1) given to Moses.
7 But as they continued asking him, he stood up and said to them, "He who is without sin among you let him throw the first stone at her."
But as they continued: Grk. epimenō, impf., may mean (1) persist in a local position; remain, stay; or (2) continue a state or activity; continued, persist. The second meaning applies here. asking him: The verb is Grk. erōtaō, pres. part., to ask with the focus on querying for information. The accusers were probably irritated that Yeshua had not answered and so continued to demand his response. he stood up: Grk. anakuptō, aor., to lift oneself up physically; stand erect, straighten oneself. Yeshua did not cower but faced them squarely. and said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 4 above. The tone of his words no doubt conveyed firm conviction and challenge. They wanted him to play judge, so he would judge them.
He who is without sin: Grk. anamartētos, adj., in a moral sense without fault, without sin, guiltless, not having sinned. The word does not specifically mean absent a sin nature, but conduct that could be designated as sinful, as Noah (Gen 6:9), Job (Job 1:1, 8; 2:3), Jacob (Gen 25:27) and Daniel (Ezek 14:14) were all considered blameless. The term occurs only here in the Besekh. In contrast the apostles described Yeshua as sinless, both in nature and conduct (Acts 3:14; 2Cor 5:21; Heb 4:15; 1Pet 2:22; 1Jn 3:5). among you: lit. "of you," the pronoun being plural. These words would be the equivalent of a slap in the face.
let him throw: Grk. ballō, aor. imp., may be used of a vigorous action and be translated as "cast, throw or hurl," or of a more subdued action and be translated as "put, place, lay or bring" (BAG). The first meaning applies here. the first: Grk. prōtos, adj., having primary position in sequence; first, earlier, earliest. stone: Grk. lithos was a generic word for stone of various types, whether construction materials, millstones, grave stones, precious stones, tablets or small rocks. at her: lit. "upon her." Yeshua's response reveals the false dichotomy in the choices he was given and turns the tables on his adversaries.
Yeshua alludes to the legal principle that righteousness is the chief qualification of being a judge, so that those presiding over a trial at the very least cannot be guilty of the same offense being considered by the court (Deut 1:16; 16:18-20). In other words a lawbreaker is not fit to judge a lawbreaker. In the same vein Paul challenges his fictive opponent in his Roman letter, "You who say not to commit adultery, do you commit adultery?" (Rom 2:22). Yeshua had described the religious elite of his day as an adulterous generation (Matt 12:39; 16:4) and he probably didn't mean that just in a figurative sense, especially considering that he labeled lust as adultery (Matt 5:28; cf. Eph 3:2). In his letters Paul the Pharisee testifies that before he met Yeshua he struggled with lust (Rom 7:7-8; Eph 2:3; Titus 3:3).
8 And again stooping down he wrote on the ground.
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). Beginning verses with a conjunction, as well as the excessive use of conjunctions, 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.
again: Grk. palin. See verse 2 above. stooping down: Grk. katakuptō, aor part., to bend down. The verb appears only here in the Besekh. he wrote: Grk. graphō, impf., to write or inscribe as a physical act, generally in reference to a document. on the ground: Grk. gē. See verse 6 above. Yeshua repeated the action described in verse 6, wrote on the ground with his finger, probably something different than the first time. He patiently waited for his adversaries to respond. He was not going to allow them to dictate his actions.
Gill and Reinhartz (174) suggest Yeshua's writing action may allude to Jeremiah 17:13, "LORD, You are the hope of Israel, all who forsake You will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust, because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water" (NIV). The Jeremiah passage certainly fits the context of Yeshua's teaching on the last day of Sukkot (John 7:37-38). The idiom of being "written in the dust" (also in the CJB, CEV, EXB, GW, JUB, NCV, NLT, NOG, and TEV) implies receiving the judgment of God. Thus, the NRSV renders the phrase as "recorded in the underworld." Applying this passage might suggest that Yeshua wrote the names of the accusers in the dirt, as a way of saying that their names would not be written in heaven (cf. Luke 10:20; Php 4:3; Heb 12:23).
9 And having heard it, they left one by one, beginning from the elders, and he was left alone and the woman being in the midst.
And having heard it: Grk. akouō, aor. part., may mean (1) to hear, with the focus on willingness to listen or to heed the substance of what is said; (2) hear with comprehension, understand; (3) receive information aurally, hear, hear about; or (4) a legal term of hearing a case. The first two meanings have application here. 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). The Textus Receptus inserts at this point the clause "being convicted by their conscience" (KJV, NKJV), but it lacks sufficient MS support. they left: Grk. exerchomai, impf. mid., to move away from a place or position, to go or come out.
one by one: The accusers came as a united group, but Yeshua's convicting actions made deep individual impressions and so they left separately. The TR inserts the phrase "reproved by their conscience." Metzger comments that this is one of several glosses added by copyists to give additional information about the story (190). beginning: Grk. archō, aor. mid. part., may mean (1) to rule or (2) to begin or commence something, which applies here. from the elders: pl. of Grk. presbuteros, is related to presbus, which means "an old man," and thus means someone ranked as superior in age. As a plural noun the term has a variety of applications: (1) ancestors, those associated with remembrance of a venerable past and therefore respected; (2) elders, those having ruling authority, or official responsibility.
Prior to A.D. 70 the term was used for officers in a synagogue, for members of local councils in individual cities, and for members of a group in the Sanhedrin (BAG). In the LXX presbuteros renders Heb. zaqen (old, aged; and in the plural "elders," BDB 278). Presbuteroi first occurs in Exodus 19:7 to identify the leaders of Israel. It was from this group that the seventy elders were chosen to assist Moses (Num 11:24). These elders are referred to as "elders of the people" (Ex 19:7), "elders of Israel" (Num 11:16; Josh 7:23; 24:1; 2Sam 3:17; 17:15; 1Kgs 8:1; 2Chron 5:2; Ezek 20:3) and the "elders of the sons of Israel" (Deut 31:9), all of which emphasize that the national leaders were not of the tribe of Levi.
Elders are identified in the Tanakh as having authority over clans, tribes, cities, regions in the Land and over the nation itself. Most versions treat the noun as referring to the age of Yeshua's adversaries, but a few versions translate the word as "elders" (CEB, EXB, NABRE, NRSV, YLT). Most likely John intended the constituent group of the Sanhedrin called "elders" equivalent to "Pharisees" in verse 3 above as distinguished from the scribes and chief priests (cf. Matt 16:21; 26:57; 27:41; Mark 8:31; 11:27; 14:53). The plural form of presbuteros ("elders") used for ruling authorities occurs 22 times in the Synoptic Narratives and only here in the book of John. The point of mentioning the elders is that they left first followed by the scribes.
and he was left: Grk. kataleipō, aor. pass., to leave behind. alone: Grk. monos, adj., signifying the exclusion of any other entity; alone, only. and the woman: Grk. gunē. See verse 3 above. being: Grk. eimi, pres. act. part., to be. in the midst: Grk. mesos, adj. See verse 3 above. The description might mean that the crowd who heard Yeshua's teaching also left, perhaps to spread word of what had happened. An alternative interpretation is that Yeshua was "alone" with the woman in the sense that they were face-to-face, but people were still a short distance away.
There is a certain irony in this story considering the psalm of the day, Psalm 6, that was sung by the Levites (fn35, Sukk. 47a). In the psalm Adonai (Heb. YHVH), which occurs eight times, is Yeshua. The petitioner is the woman and the enemies are the woman's accusers.
"ADONAI, do not rebuke me in Your anger! Do not discipline me in Your wrath. Be gracious to me, ADONAI, for I am weak. Heal me, ADONAI, for my bones are shuddering with fear, as is my soul, and You, ADONAI, how long? Turn toward me, ADONAI, deliver my soul! Save me, because of Your mercy. For there is no memory of You in death; in Sheol who will praise You? 6 I am worn out with my groaning. Every night I make my bed swim, drenching my pillow with my tears. My eyes are weakened with grief; they age because of my enemies. Away from me, all you evildoers! For ADONAI has heard the sound of my weeping. ADONAI has heard my cry for mercy. ADONAI accepts my prayer. May all my enemies be ashamed, and stricken with terror. May they turn back in sudden disgrace." (TLV)
10 And having stood up, Yeshua said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"
And having stood up: Grk. anakuptō, aor. part. See verse 7 above. Yeshua said to her: Late MSS insert the unnecessary gloss, "He saw her" to emphasize Yeshua looking at the woman (Metzger 190). Woman: Grk. gunē, voc. case. See verse 3 above. Addressing the woman in this manner is not as cold or rude as it sounds in English. Rather, "Woman" in Jewish culture was treated as title of respect, because "Woman" is the name Adam gave the female that God had created from his own body (Gen 2:23). Some versions minimize the supposed negative effect by failing to translate the word (CEV, CJB, ERV, GW, TEV, TLB) and some have "said to the woman," removing the word as direct address (LEB, NLT). The vocative case of "Woman" is found in other passages, and generally introduces a revelation to a woman (Reinhartz 161):
● Yeshua to his mother in Cana (John 2:4),
● Yeshua to the Syrophoenician woman whose daughter he healed (Matt 15:28),
● Yeshua to an unnamed woman he healed on the Sabbath (Luke 13:12),
● Simon to his female inquisitor (Luke 22:57),
● Yeshua to the woman of Samaria (John 4:21),
● Yeshua to his mother at the crucifixion (John 19:26),
● two angels to Miriam of Magdala after the resurrection of Yeshua (John 20:13), and
● Yeshua to Miriam of Magdala after his resurrection (John 20:15).
where: Grk. pou, interrogative adv. expressing interest in the position of someone or some thing; where. are they: Grk. eimi, to be., 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 temporal existence, a sojourn, occurrence of phenomena or events, and time references (BAG). Has no one: Grk. oudeis, adj., a noun marker used to indicate negation of a person or thing as actually existing at a given place or moment; no one, nobody.
condemned you: The verb is Grk. katakrinō, aor., declare worthy of punishment, pronounce a judicial verdict or condemn. Underlying Yeshua's question is that to pronounce a verdict would require a judicial hearing, which would have been illegal on this day (Sanh. 4:1; 35a). In the Sanhedrin a vote of condemnation had to have a majority of two (Sanh. 4:1). The verb, common to the Synoptic Narratives, appears only in this story in the book of John. The Textus Receptus, following late MSS adds "those accusers of yours," which is included in some versions (JUB, HNV, KJV, LEB, NKJV, NLT).
11 And she said, "No one, sir." So Yeshua said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on sin no more."
Perhaps the woman looked around her and then responded to Yeshua's question. No one: Grk. oudeis. See the previous verse. sir: Grk. kurios 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. The woman uses the title as a greeting of respect as was customary in Jewish culture. Whether she knew of Yeshua's name is not clear, but she wouldn't have used it even if she had known it. No woman addressed Yeshua by his given name. This woman's example demonstrates the kind of respect for spiritual leaders that ought to characterize the modern community of faith.
Yeshua then uttered words that the woman would never forget. Neither: Grk. oude, particle that links a negative statement to a preceding negative statement in terms of consequence; neither, nor. do I condemn you: The verb is katakrinō. See the previous verse. Readers should take note of the fact that Yeshua did not satisfy tabloid curiosity and ask the woman of lurid details of her sinful conduct. He does not question the fact of the sin, but instead emphasizes the immediate availability of the mercy of God, as in the story of the woman who anointed Yeshua's feet at the home of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50). Yeshua's pronouncement illustrates that the focus of the story is not really on the woman but on Yeshua as a merciful judge.
Go: Grk. poreuomai, pres. mid. imp. See verse 1 above. and from now on: Grk. nun, adv. of time in the present; now or just now. 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, adv., lit. 'no longer.' Other people in Scripture were also cautioned to "sin no more," such as the man Yeshua healed at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:14), 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.
The conclusion of the this story produced a strange reaction among church fathers. Augustine (d. 430 A.D.) offered an explanation of why many MSS omit the narrative: "Certain persons of little faith, or rather enemies of the true faith, fearing, I suppose, lest their wives should be given impunity in sinning, removed from their manuscripts the Lord's act of forgiveness toward the adulteress, as if he who had said, 'Sin no more,' had granted permission to sin" (Willker 10). Supporting Augustine's explanation is the fact that some earlier church fathers, as Tertullian (c. 200-220), did not believe that adultery could be forgiven (Willker 13-14). If adultery were an unforgivable sin then the story is repulsive. Yet, we know that Yeshua as the merciful judge offered redemption to other women (Luke 7:37-38, 47; 8:1-2).
Yeshua, the Light of the World, 8:12-30
12 Then Yeshua again spoke to them, saying, "I am the Light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life."
Then: Grk. oun, an inferential conj., which may (1) indicate a conclusion connected with data immediately preceding - so, therefore, consequently, then; (2) indicate that one takes account of something in the narrative immediately preceding, then; or (3) simply indicate a stage in the narrative -so, then. The second application fits here. Yeshua again: Grk. palin, adv. See verse 2 above. The word shifts the narrative to another occasion, whether the same day or another day is not made clear, but most likely the latter. spoke: Grk. laleō, aor., is used in the Besekh primarily to mean making an oral statement and to exercise the faculty of speech; assert, proclaim, report, say, speak, talk about, utter.
to them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun; he, she, it. No specific audience is identified, but given the location mentioned in verse 20 below there would be a variety of people coming and going, including priests, Levites, and members of the public. Some versions translate the pronoun as "people" (CEB, CEV, ERV, EXB, NCV, NIRV, NIV, NLV, NLT, TLB). saying: Grk. legō, pres. part. See verse 4 above. The verbal doublet "spoke … saying" is a typical Hebraic construction, first declaring that speech occurred and second the content of that speech.
I am: Grk. egō eimi. The expression occurs 47 times in the Besekh, 34 times on the lips of Yeshua, often as a way of identifying himself to his disciples and others (Matt 14:27; Mark 6:50; John 6:20; 8:24, 28, 58; 18:5, 6, 8; Acts 9:5; 22:8; 26:15). However, in John's writings Yeshua couples egō eimi with a descriptive metaphor, known as the "Seven I Am Sayings" (John 6:35, 48, 51; 8:12; 9:15; 10:7, 9, 11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1, 5). Such statements indicate that Yeshua had a firm grasp of his own identity. Stern suggests that the metaphoric expressions imply a claim even greater than being the Messiah (168). They are too similar to the God of Israel's self-revelation in the Tanakh to be accidental.
In the LXX egō eimi is used to translate the personal pronoun ani (SH-589) or anoki (SH-595), meaning "I" and occurring in occasional self-references by men, e.g., Abraham (Gen 18:27; 23:4); Solomon (Songs 5:8), Isaiah (Isa 6:8) and Jeremiah (Jer 1:6). Predominately the pronoun-verb combination is spoken by the God of Israel in reference to Himself, first without qualification, such as "I am who I am" (Ex 3:14; also in Isa 41:4; 43:10, 25; 46:4; 47:8, 10; 48:12; 51:12; 52:6). More commonly God says egō eimi kurios, for Heb. ani YHVH, "I am YHVH" 48 times (Ex 7:5; 8:22; 16:12; 20:2, 5; 29:46; Lev 11:44, 45; 26:1, 13, 44; Deut 5:6; 32:39; Isa 45:8, 18, 19; 61:8; Jer 24:7; Ezek 7:9; 28:22, 23, 24, 26; 29:6, 9, 16, 21; 30:8, 19, 25, 26; 32:15; 33:29; 34:27, 30; 35:4, 9, 12, 15; 36:11, 23; 37:6, 13, 28; 39:6, 7, 22, 28).
the Light: Grk. phōs (Heb. or), that which serves as a revealing or disclosing medium; light. Light as a physical illumination was the first created thing (Gen 1:3) and that verse contains the first recorded words of God, "Let there be light." In God's creation sequence light was created on the first day, whereas the interstellar lights (stars, sun, etc.) were not created until the fourth day. Light is the most basic of all forms of energy and includes not only visible light but all forms of radiant energy. All the forms of light move in waves at a tremendous rate of speed known as the velocity of light. Yeshua's declaration may allude to the prophetic promise, "No longer will you have the sun for light by day, nor for brightness will the moon give you light; but you will have the Lord for an everlasting light, and your God for your glory" (Isa 60:19). The comparison to the sun is apt because from 93,000,000 miles away the sun can provide complete light over the surface of the earth and God imposes no utility bill on man for the service.
of the world: Grk. kosmos usually translated "world," has a variety of uses in the apostolic writings, including (1) the entire cosmic universe including the earth; (2) the planet upon which mankind lives; (3) the inhabitants of the earth; (4) everything in the world that opposes God and is ruined and depraved of character (BAG). The LXX of the Tanakh uses kosmos some ten times for words meaning ornaments, jewelry or decorations and five times for Heb. tsaba, the "hosts of heaven and earth," i.e., the stars (Gen 2:1; Deut 4:19). The meaning of kosmos as "world" is only found in later Greek writings of the LXX (Wis., 2nd Macc., 4th Macc.). The Tanakh has no word for the "world" corresponding to the Greek kosmos.
The Tanakh mainly calls the universe "heaven and earth," but some writings use Heb. hakkol, lit. meaning "the all," (Ps 103:19); also without the article, kol (Ps 8:7). The Tanakh presents the universe as consisting of three areas: above the earth (the heavens, which are also three), the earth, and under the earth, the underworld (Hades, Sheol). Under the influence of Hellenistic Judaism the original temporal understanding of the Heb. olam ("age, a long duration, antiquity or futurity," BDB 761)") acquired the spatial meaning of kosmos in the sense of "world, universe, the world of men. The DSS preserved the original meaning of olam, but the spatial meaning of "world" is found frequently in Rabbinic usage.
The change of meaning especially impacted Jewish apocalyptic writings. "This world," like "this age," is described in Rabbinic literature as being under the domination of Satan, sin and death (DNTT 1:522-524). A number of passages in the Besekh use "world" to refer to the nations outside Israel (Luke 12:30; John 14:22), but more generally to recipients of the good news of salvation and objects of reconciling grace (Matt 26:13; Mark 16:15; John 3:17; Rom 11:12, 15; 2Cor 5:19). However, defining the "world" must consider Yeshua's mission. The term is used in a few passages of Jews (John 6:33; 12:19; 14:19; 17:6), and since his mission was to bring redemption to Israel (Matt 15:24; Luke 1:68), then the "world" could be the Jewish world. While the good news was intended for Jews first the Gentiles were also intended recipients (Luke 2:32; Rom 1:16) making Yeshua the savior of the entire world (John 4:42; 1Jn 4:14).
Stern, confusing this day with Hoshana Rabbah, the seventh day, sees an allusion to the lighting ceremony at the conclusion of the first day of the festival (Sukkah 5:2). In the Court of the Women there were four columns 50 cubits high (75 ft.) with four golden bowls on the top of each of them containing about 15 liters of oil. When the lamps were kindled there was not a courtyard in Jerusalem that was not illumined by the light, but there is no conclusive information concerning how long the lamps burned. Yeshua's declaration might suggest a contrast that whereas the lamps illumined the city of Jerusalem his light illumined the entire world. However, there's no evidence that the lamps were burning on the eighth day.
Moreover, Yeshua as "the Light" is a major theme in other contexts beside Sukkot (John 1:4, 5, 7, 8, 9; 3:19-21; 9:5; 12:35-36, 46; and 1Jn 2:8-10; cf. Matt 4:16; Luke 2:32). Ancient Jewish writings connect the idea of Light with the Messiah in its discussions of various passages in the Tanakh, such as Genesis 1:3, Psalm 36:10, Isaiah 49:6 and 60:1 and Daniel 2:22. Santala comments that,
"The rabbinic Sages treated the references to the first light and the two great lights created on the fourth day as allusions to the Messiah. The Rabbis considered the Aramaic word Nehora, "light," to be one of the secret names of the Messiah. So, when Yeshua identified himself as the Light of the World, people understood that he was using a metaphor of Messianic identity." (36)
Here are quotes from such works:
"R. Berekiah said: "Israel said before the Holy One, blessed be He: Master of the Universe, because You bring light into the world, Your Name is made great in the world.' And what is the light? Redemption." (Midrash on Shir HaShirim 1:22; MW-Notes 142).
"R. Abba of Serungayya said: 'And the light dwells in him - this is the King Messiah, as it says [Isa 60:1], Arise, shine because your light has come" (Midrash Genesis Rabbah 1:6; MW-Notes 156)
"R. Hanin said [about the priests], ' By the merit of causing a lamp to continually go up [Lev 24:2], you are worthy to welcome the lamp of King Messiah" (Midrash Leviticus Rabbah 31:11; MW-Notes 156)
"R. Biba Sangorius saith, 'Light is the name of the Messiah. As it is written 'Light dwells with him' [Dan 2:22]" (Echah Rabbathi, 68.4; Lightfoot 3:330).
Another consideration is that the Rabbinic Sages and the Temple were considered the "light of the world" (Baba Bathra 4a; Erubin 13b). Israel was intended to be a light to the nations to share the knowledge of God (Isa 42:6; 49:6), but they failed. So, God promised that He would accomplish what Israel failed to do, "Pay attention to Me, O My people, and give ear to Me, O My nation; for a law will go forth from Me, and I will set My justice for a light of the peoples" (Isa 51:4). God also prophesied through Malachi, "But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings" (Mal 4:2). Thus, Yeshua announced that he is the fulfillment of God's promises. The literal "light of the world" is the sun, so that by analogy the "sun of righteousness" is the Son of God.
He who follows: Grk. akolutheō, pres. part., (from keleuthos, road or path), to be in motion in sequence behind someone, to follow. Mounce adds "to follow as a disciple; to imitate." The verb is used literally both of the crowds following Yeshua out of curiosity (John 6:2) and the disciples following out of commitment (John 1:38-40). Yeshua intends the second meaning here. me will not walk: Grk. peripateō, aor. subj., to engage in pedestrian activity; go about; walk about, walk around, walk; fig. to engage in a course of behavior. In the LXX peripateō is found in only 33 passages, of which more than half come from Wisdom literature, and renders Heb. halak (to go, come or walk), which is used fig. of how one conducts oneself in life (cf. Deut 30:16; 1Kgs 11:38; Ps 1:1; 15:2) (DNTT 3:943).
in the darkness: Grk. skotia may mean (1) condition prevailing when it is night; darkness; or (2) an inward state or condition amounting to ignorance or benightedness in moral or spiritual matters; darkness. The second meaning applies here. but will have: Grk. echō, fut. See verse 6 above. the light: Grk. phōs, used here in a figurative and spiritual sense. of life: Grk. zōē, the state of being alive in contrast with being dead. The Besekh not only uses zōē in its normal meaning of physical existence on planet earth in the presence age, but over forty times for life that continues into the next age and eternity, half of which are in the writings of John. In the LXX zōē renders Heb. chay (SH-2416, alive, living) with both literal and figurative uses. Yeshua's promise may well allude to the promise of Isaiah 9:2, "The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them."
13 Therefore the Pharisees said to him, "You testify about yourself. Your testimony is not true."
Therefore the Pharisees: pl. of Grk. Pharisaios. See verse 3 above. said to him, You testify: Grk. martureō, 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 yourself: Grk. seautou, reflexive pronoun, relating to yourself. Your testimony: 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 true: 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). The accusation is tantamount to calling Yeshua a liar.
A 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), yet the Mishnah goes on to cite exceptions to this rule (Keth. 2:11). Perhaps these Pharisees did not remember or had not heard Yeshua's claim of four supporting witnesses (John 5:31-47). In any event the statement of the Pharisees ignores the reality that in a trial the testimony of one has weight unless it can be rebutted with evidence.
Another consideration suggested by Lightfoot is that the rulers allude to the requirement of witnesses for the New Moon (3:331). Since Jewish life was governed by the lunar calendar the day of the New Moon had to be determined by the Sanhedrin each month. The sighting of the New Moon had to be testified by two witnesses known to the Sanhedrin or appointed by local magistrates known to the Sanhedrin (R.H. 1:3; 21b).
14 Yeshua answered and said to them, "Even if I testify about myself, my testimony is true, for I know from where I came, and where I am going; but you know not from where I come, or where I go.
Yeshua answered: Grk. apokrinomai, aor. pass. to answer or reply to someone, whether to a question, request, exhortation, command, etc. (BAG). In the LXX apokrinomai renders Heb. anah, 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). and said to them: The verb is Grk. legō, aor. See verse 4 above. The use of "answered and said" is typical Hebraic way of advancing the narrative of dialog (e.g., Gen 27:39; 40:18; Josh 24:16; Jdg 20:4; 1Sam 1:17). The verb "answered" emphasizes that a verbal response was made and "said" introduces the quotation.
Even if: Grk. kan, adv., a contingency particle setting the stage for consideration of additional possibility; and if, also if, even if. I testify: Grk. martureō, pres. subj. See the previous verse. about myself, my testimony: Grk. marturia. See the previous verse. is true: Grk. alēthēs. See the previous verse. Yeshua does not react in a negative way to slander, but simply reaffirms that what comes out of his mouth is the truth. The Pharisees have no legal right to arbitrarily declare Yeshua a liar.
for I know: Grk. oida, perf. to have seen or perceived, hence to know. The perfect tense refers to action completed in the past with continuing results in the present. 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.
from where I came: Grk. erchomai, aor. See verse 2 above. Yeshua had the personal knowledge that he came from heaven. When he gained this knowledge as a human is never revealed, but he clearly knew of the heavenly connection when he was twelve (Luke 2:49). and where I am going: Grk. hupagō, to proceed from a position, here with the focus on an objective destination; go, go away, leave. The present tense has a futuristic emphasis. Yeshua knew that he would be leaving Jerusalem in the immediate future for other ministry, he knew that he would eventually go the cross, and that he would return to heaven. He knew his itinerary because of the Father's sovereign plan.
but you know: Grk. oida, perf. not: Grk. ouk, the inflected form of ou, a particle used in denial or negation; not. This particle differs from the other standard negative particle, mē, in that mē is subjective and conditional for a supposition, whereas ou is objective and unqualified, a denial of an alleged fact (DM 264f). from where I come: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid. The verb is present tense but has an aoristic emphasis. Yeshua's critics did not know he was born in Bethlehem and did not accept that he had come from heaven. or where I am going: Grk. hupagō. The verb could well have a double meaning, both in the immediate sense of where Yeshua would go when he left Jerusalem and in the future sense of returning to heaven.
15 You judge according to the flesh. I judge no one.
You judge: 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); (4) 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. During the centuries of confederation and monarchy 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).
according to the flesh: Grk. sarx, "flesh," has a variety of literal and figurative uses in Scripture: (1) the tissue that covers the skeleton of a human or animal; (2) the whole body viewed as a substance; (3) man of flesh and blood in contrast to God and supernatural beings; (4) human or mortal nature, with its limitations; (5) corporeality, physical limitations, life here on earth; (6) the external or outward side of life; (7) theologically the willing instrument of sin that stands in opposition to the Spirit; and (8) the genitals without any suggestion of sinfulness connected with it (BAG). In the LXX sarx stands for Heb. basar, with much the same applications as sarx (DNTT 1:672). The sixth and seventh meanings are pertinent in this context.
To judge according to the flesh meant the Pharisees applied their own standards, even prejudices, instead of God's will as revealed in the Sermon on the Mount. After all, they were quite ready to have the adulterous woman stoned without a proper trial instead of leaving the matter with her husband as was proper. I judge: Grk. krinō. no one: Grk. oudeis. See verse 10 above. Of the three kinds of judging Yeshua means to judge in a legal sense. During his earthly ministry Yeshua refused to act in a judicial capacity, such as in the case of the adulterous woman, but also in a case of a man who asked Yeshua to make his brother share his inheritance (Luke 12:13-14).
16 But even if I judge, my judgment is true, for I am not alone, but I and the Father who sent me.
But even if I judge: Grk. krinō. See the previous verse. my 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. Yeshua's usage would not include the second meaning. is true: Grk. alēthēs. See verse 13 above. Yeshua did judge people on a number of occasions in the sense of examining and evaluating conduct in light of Torah standards. And, his assessment was always the truth (verse 14 above). for I am not alone: Grk. monos. See verse 9 above.
but I and the 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 Hebrew vernacular Yeshua and the apostles would have used the word abba, as occurs in (Mark 14:36; Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6). 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).
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).
who sent me: The verb is pempō, aor. part., to dispatch someone for a variety of purposes; send. Yeshua reminds his hearers again that a key activity of the Father is "sending," and in the past His emissaries included angels (Gen 19:13; 2Chron 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). Yeshua had an acute sense of the divine call on his life. In fact, the words of Yeshua, "sent me," occur frequently in the Book of John (33 times), five times in this chapter. Consequently his judgment is a joint sharing with the Father.
17 And even in your Torah it has been written that the testimony of two men is valid.
And even in your Torah: Grk. nomos. See verse 5 above. Stern suggests that Yeshua does not mean to distinguish himself from the Pharisees by saying "your" Torah. Rather, since the Torah is theirs, as they themselves have already claimed (verse 5), then they should heed it. However, "your Torah" does have a specific meaning in Yeshua's qualification of the term "testimony" that follows. it has been written: Grk. graphō, perf. pass. See verse 8 above. The perfect tense points back to the original writing of the Torah by Moses. that the testimony: Grk. marturia. See verse 13 above. of two: Grk. duo, the cardinal number two.
men: Grk. anthrōpos, human being, man, or mankind. 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). In legal proceedings evidence was based on the corroboration of two or three witnesses (Deut 17:6; 19:15). Yeshua no doubt means the Sanhedrin rule of "testimony of two men," since women were generally disqualified as witnesses, such as being related to an accused person and parties in a lawsuit could object to witnesses offered by the other side (Sanh. 3:1).
Another Mishnah rule states that "the law about an oath of witness applies to men but not to women" (Shebu. 4:1). Josephus reports the Jewish law as enunciated by the scribes, attributed to Moses, as saying "But let not a single witness be credited, but three, or two at the least, and those such whose testimony is confirmed by their good lives. But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex" (Ant. IV, 8:15). The Torah knows of no such limitation on who can give testimony in a legal proceeding so the Sanhedrin rule was "their Torah." is valid: Grk. alēthēs, lit. "truth." See verse 13 above. Since Yeshua says in the previous verse that his judgment involves the Father then the Torah requirement of two or three witnesses is satisfied.
18 I am one who testifies about myself, and the Father who sent me testifies about me."
I am: Grk. egō eimi. See verse 12 above. The pronoun-verb combination is intended here in the ordinary grammatical sense. one who testifies: Grk. martureō, pres. part. with the definite article. See verse 13 above. about myself: While Yeshua often speaks indirectly about himself, but not this time. "Of course, I'm testifying on my own behalf!" and the Father: Grk. patēr. See verse 16 above. who sent me: The verb is Grk. pempō, aor. part. See verse 16 above. testifies about me: The verb is Grk. martureō. The verb could be aoristic, pointing back to the Father's announcement at Yeshua's immersion (Matt 3:17) and that the Father's affirmation of Yeshua is a continuing reality. Since they are distinct from each other then they meet the requirement of two witnesses.
19 Therefore they said to him, "Where is your father?" Yeshua answered, "You know neither me, nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also."
Where is your father: Grk. patēr. See verse 16 above. Some versions render the Greek word with the capitalized "Father" (ASV, CEB, ESV, HCSB, MSG, MW, NASB, NKJV, NRSV, RSV, TLV), which is entirely inappropriate. The capitalized "Father" is only used in Scripture of God the Father, but the wording of the question means that Yeshua's adversaries most certainly did not mean God. Other versions appropriately use the lower case "father." These Judean Pharisees may have asked the question in order to call Yeshua's presumed father, Joseph, as a witness as they do later of the parents of the blind man Yeshua healed (John 9:18), not knowing that Joseph was dead (see the note on 6:42). However, if they knew Joseph was dead then they may have intended the question as a taunt and therefore he could not be a witness for Yeshua.
You know: Grk. oida, perf. See the note on verse 14 above. Yeshua uses the verb in the sense of relational knowledge, not simply informational knowledge. neither me: Yeshua reminds his opponents that they cannot presume knowledge about him. nor my Father: 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). 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. Yeshua never used the term "Father" of Joseph and his use of "Father" in this verse is likely a double entendre. Yeshua points out that his adversaries do not really know him, his family or his history. Whether these Pharisees knew Joseph, they did not know the heavenly Father. To know Yeshua is to know the Father.
20 Yeshua spoke these words in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; and no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.
Yeshua spoke: Grk. laleō, aor. See verse 12 above. these words: pl. of 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 vocalized utterance as well as (b) a matter, event, or case in the sense of the result of things said or done (DNTT 3:1119f). The reference to "these words" is to the teaching contained above in verses 12-19.
in the treasury: Grk. gazophulakion, treasure room or treasury; also contribution box or receptacle (BAG). The term can refer to the provision for receiving gifts and offerings as well as those who supervised the collection and accounting of monetary gifts. The term occurs only five times in the Besekh (Mark 12:41, 43; Luke 21:1), the other times in connection with the story of the generous widow. In 2 Maccabees 3:6 the treasury was the depository of large sums of money. The treasury consisted of receptacles located in the Court of the Women of the temple. Description of the treasury and rules for accountability of offerings received may be found in the Tractate Shekalim.
There were thirteen trumpet-like chests (Heb. Shopharoth) placed at intervals around the walls in the Court of the Women of the temple (Shek. 6:1, 5-6). The chests were made of brass and because of the shofar-like shape were called trumpets. The trumpet-chests were shaped wide at the bottom and narrow at the top to prevent dishonest people from taking out coins while pretending to cast them in. The specific purpose of each chest was marked on it (Shek. 6:5). Nine were for the receipt of required offerings; the other four for strictly voluntary gifts. All the trumpet-chests were for gifts to God and the Temple, not gifts to the poor. (For the specific financial designation of each chest see Edersheim-Temple 25).
as he taught: Grk. didaskō, pres. part. See verse 2 above. in the temple: Grk. hieros. See verse 2 above. and no one arrested him: the verb is Grk. piazō, aor., which may mean (1) take firm hold of; grasp; or (2) take under control; seize, arrest. The second meaning applies here. because his hour: Grk. hōra may mean (1) a short space of time, the twelfth part of a day; hour; (2) fig. for a period of time in the day; "the hour was already late;" or (3) a point of time as occasion for action or for an event; time. The third meaning fits best here. had not yet: Grk. oupō, adv., a negative particle indicating than an activity, circumstance, or condition is in abeyance or suspension; not yet. come: Grk. erchomai, plperf. See verse 2 above. That time would come the following Spring.
21 Then he again said to them, "I am going, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come."
Then he again: Grk. palin. See verse 2 above. The adverb shifts the narrative to yet another occasion, whether the same day or another day is not made clear, probably the latter. The location in the Temple complex is not given. Verses 12-19 occurred in the Treasury (Court of the Women). "Then he again" might intend in the same place, but he may have gone to the Chel, the terrace where the Sanhedrin met for discussions on the Torah. See verse 2 above. I: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. am going: Grk. hupagō. See verse 14 above. In light of the previous verse emphasis on "his time" the mention of "going" is futuristic pointing to his return to heaven.
you will seek: Grk. zēteō, fut. 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. The first and second meanings apply here. Their interest as stated in verse 37 below is to kill him. John points out that Yeshua repeated the message given in 7:33-34 (see the comment there), but substitutes the next phrase for "you will not find me." you will die: Grk. apothnēskō, fut. mid., to die, generally used of physical death. in your sin: Grk. hamartia may refer to (1) a behavioral action, a misdeed that creates liability, every departure from the way of righteousness; (2) the result of sinning or the condition of being sinful; or (3) an invasive evil power.
In Greek culture hamartia meant to fail and could mean anything from stupidity to law-breaking, anything that does not conform to the dominant social and community ethic (DNTT 3:577). In the LXX hamartia translates a range of Hebrew words for guilt and sin, particularly Heb. chata (miss, go wrong, lapse, sin; Gen 20:6; 39:9) and avon (iniquity, guilt, punishment for iniquity; Gen 15:16). In the Tanakh a sin is disobedience or violation of God's commandments. Hamartia is not displaying the imperfections that separate humanity from divinity ("falling short of the glory," Rom 3:23), but violating the clear instructions of God.
Hamartia is the dominant word for sin in the Besekh. The degree of intentionality is not a factor in defining sinful behavior, only whether the express requirements or prohibitions of Torah commandments have been violated. Intentional sins and capital crimes, such as adultery, blasphemy, idolatry and murder, were tantamount to rejecting God’s covenant and therefore could not be atoned. However, under the New Covenant, Yeshua's blood atones even intentional sin. Religious people may erect their own codes, rules or traditions for determining prohibited behavior, but God's judgment is based strictly on His commandments recorded in Scripture.
What is the meaning of "die in your sin?" The word "sin" is singular not plural as in some versions, so it could mean the status of being a sinner, but "your sin" may allude more specifically to the corruption of the temple authorities and the willingness to violate the laws of justice to execute an innocent man (cf. Acts 2:23; 3:14, 28; 7:52).
Where I go: Grk. hupagō. you cannot: Grk. dunamai, pres. mid., having ability to perform something. come: Grk. erchomai, aor. inf. See verse 2 above. Yeshua is speaking prophetically, but there are two possible interpretations, perhaps both at the same time. First, Yeshua could intend a predictive prophecy that those who will plan and carry out his execution would never receive the benefit of his atoning sacrifice and as a result face the judgment of God after they die (Heb 9:27). In fact, his adversaries will utter the fateful words "His blood shall be on us and on our children" (Matt 27:25; cf. Acts 5:28). Yeshua will return to heaven, but tragically his enemies will wake up in Hades as the rich man did (Luke 16:23).
Second, Yeshua may intend an unspoken "if." God's character is such that He will grant mercy if sinners repent of their sin (Jon 4:2; Ezek 18:21; Acts 3:19; Rom 10:9; 1Jn 1:9). After Pentecost many priests did accept Yeshua as Messiah (Acts 6:7), but whether they included any chief priests is highly doubtful. The same Sanhedrin that convicted Yeshua persecuted his apostles. As far as is known only two members of the Sanhedrin sided with Yeshua, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. Nevertheless, God does not desire the eternal death of anyone (Ezek 18:31; 2Pet 3:9), but will respond in grace toward the heart of humility. There is no salvation after death, so individuals must prepare while there is still life in order to be ready to meet God.
22 Therefore the Judean authorities asked, "Will he kill himself, because he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?"
Therefore the Judean authorities: pl. of Grk. Ioudaios, Judean, Jew, Jewish or Jewess (BAG). The noun, occurring 194 times in the Besekh and 66 times in the Book of John, is used as a shorthand term to identify a particular group within the biological descendants of Jacob and adherents to the Judean religion. In this verse John uses the term as he does frequently in the Book for those in positions of power in Judea who enforced legalistic traditions and opposed Yeshua, often Sadducean chief priests or other leading members of the Sanhedrin, thus my translation of "Judean authorities." For more discussion on the background of Ioudaios and John's usage of it see my comment on John 1:19. asked: Grk. legō, impf. See verse 4 above.
Will he kill himself: The verb is Grk. apokteinō, fut., put an end by force to existence of someone, kill. Relevant to the verb choice is that both Greek and Hebrew have two words for taking a human life. The word for intentional murder or assassination in Hebrew is ratzach (BDB 953) and in Greek phoneuō. For accidental killing, manslaughter, killing in war or court-ordered execution the Hebrew word is harag (BDB 246) and the Greek word is apokteinō. Here the verb is used in the sense of committing suicide, the only such use in the Besekh.
The question seems an odd response since in chapter seven when Yeshua spoke of "going" the adversaries assumed he meant somewhere out of the country (7:35). However, the rhetorical question, inane and stupid as it is, probably makes a connection between "die" and "go" in Yeshua's pronouncement. In one sense the question could be viewed as an enticement as Satan tempted Yeshua to jump off the temple tower (Matt 4:5-6). These ruthless enemies would be more than happy if Yeshua would save them the trouble of a "kangaroo" court and legalized execution.
23 And he said to them, "You are from below. I am from above. You are of this world. I am not of this world.
You are from below: Grk. katō, adv. See verse 6 above, where the term has a literal meaning in contrast to standing. Here the term means "below" and could have a spatial meaning as well as a figurative meaning. I am from above: Grk. anō, adv., above. Like the word "below" the word can have both a spatial and figurative meaning. Considering spatial relationships the contrast of "below" and "above" may allude to the tripartite view of the earth in Scripture. There are three realms: "above the earth" (the heavens, Deut 11:21; Ps 103:11), "on the earth" (the dwelling place of mankind, Gen 1:26; 2Chron 6:18) and "under the earth" (the realm of the dead, Ezek 26:20; Rom 10:7; Eph 4:9). All three realms are listed in a few passages (Php 2:10; Rev 5:3, 13).
By telling his adversaries that they are "from below" Yeshua means they are spiritually dead (cf. Matt 8:22; 10:8; Luke 15:24, 32; John 5:25; Rom 4:17; 6:13; Eph 2:1, 5; 5:14; Col 2:13). Yeshua then drives his point home with a parallelism. You are of this world: Grk. kosmos. See verse 12 above. In other words, "You are part of this world dominated by Satan, sin and death." Yeshua uses the term in the sense of the world as opposed to the will of God. I am not of this world: Yeshua is not of this world first because he is God in flesh and second because heaven is the location of his throne. Yeshua is from a place that is not affected by Satan, sin and death, but represents the opposite of those three things.
24 Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you believe not that I AM, you will die in your sins."
Therefore: Yeshua introduces a conclusion to what he said in the previous verse. I said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 4 above. The past tense verb alludes to the message having already been spoken in verse 21 above. to you: The plural pronoun refers to the adversaries of Yeshua, not all Jews of that time and especially not all Jews in the future as Christianity will later claim. that you will die: Grk. apothnēskō, fut. mid. See verse 22 above. Yeshua speaks not just of physical death, but of eternal death. in your sins: pl. of Grk. hamartia. See verse 22 above. Here uses the plural form of the noun and "sins" could be taken in a very broad sense.
for if: Grk. ean, conj. that serves as a conditional particle and produces an aspect of tentativeness by introducing a possible circumstance that determines the realization of some other circumstance. you believe: Grk. pisteuō, aor. subj., in general Greek usage means to have confidence or faith in the reliability or trustworthiness of some thing or someone. The aorist tense stresses a completed act. 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). 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 (DM 265). Some versions smooth out the Greek text with "unless you believe" (ESV, NASB, NET, NLT, NRSV, RSV), but such phrasing unfortunately softens an otherwise stern message.
that I AM: Grk. egō eimi. See verse 12 above. While Yeshua used the pronoun-verb combination in an ordinary grammatical sense in verses 12 and 18 above, this time he adds a different nuance of meaning. Yeshua's declaration likely intends an allusion to Exodus 3:14 in which God addresses Moses, "I Am Who I Am." Then He said, 'You are to say to Bnei-Yisrael, 'I AM' has sent me to you'" (TLV). "I Am" is the verb eheyeh , the Qal imperfect of hayah (Owens 1:247), indicating continuing existence. The personal name of YHVH is derived from haya, "be, become" (TWOT 1:210). Thus, YHVH is a shortened version of the longer name God gave to Moses. Some versions render Yeshua's statement as "I am he" even though there is no "he" in the Greek text and no explanation for what "he" would mean. Capitalizing "I AM' clearly expresses Yeshua's intention.
you will die: Grk. apothnēskō, fut. mid. They will die physically in the present age and then eternally. in your sins: pl. of Grk. hamartia. To die in one's sins is to die unrepentant and therefore unprepared to meet God. Yeshua repeats the warning a third time. Such repetition conforms to rabbinic use of the "two or three witness" rule as Paul will later remind the Corinthian congregation of his thrice repeated warning to bring discipline for their sin (2Cor 13:1-2).
25 So they said to him, "Who are you?" Yeshua said to them, "Who? What indeed I have spoken to you! The Beginning!"
Who are you? The question has the emphasis of "Who do you think your are that you have the right to make judgments about us? Yeshua said to them: This phrase introduces the quotation. Who? Grk. hos, relative pronoun used as an introduction to specification through identification, function or significance of data that precedes; who, which, what, that. The pronoun can also have an interrogative use (BAG 588), which applies here. Yeshua repeats their question, perhaps with an incredulous tone. What: Grk. tis, interrogative marker indicating interest in establishing something definite; who, what, which, why, how. The word can also function as a relative pronoun. indeed: Grk. kai, conj. See verse 8 above. The conjunction has an emphatic use here. I have spoken: Grk. laleō. See verse 12 above. The verb is present tense, but implies an emphasis on the past as well as the present.
to you: The pronoun is second person plural, and it may have a broader application that the immediate audience. from: Many versions insert the preposition "from" at this point to create the phrase "from the beginning," even though there is no "from" in the Greek text. It is simply assumed in order to translate the following expression as a time reference. The Beginning: Grk. archē (with the definite article) is a multi-purpose word with the basic meaning of priority with these applications: (1) The point of derivation or originating moment; beginning, start; (2) one who enjoys preeminence in earthly or supra-terrestrial realm, often plural; ruler, authority; (3) an assigned position or sphere of activity; position, domain or jurisdiction. All three meanings can have application here.
In the LXX archē translates several Hebrew words, some pertaining to time and others pertaining to authority (DNTT 1:164). The time-related words are: (a) reshith, beginning, chief, Gen 1:1; (b) olam, distant time, Josh 24:2; Isa 63:16; (c) qedem, antiquity, of old, Hab 1:12; Mic 5:2. The authority-related words are: (a) memshalah, rule, dominion, realm, Gen 1:16, Jer 34:1; Mic 4:8; (b) rosh, head, Jdg 7:16; (c) misrah, rule, dominion, Isa 9:6 and sholtan, dominion, Dan 7:14. The last two passages are Messianic prophecies.
Yeshua is identified in several other Besekh passages as archē, which emphasize his status and authority (Col 1:18; Heb 7:3; 1Jn 1:1; 2:14; Rev 3:14; 21:6; 22:13). In the Greek text tēn archēn are the next words after "Yeshua said to them." Not considered by interpreters is that Yeshua could have used archē to mean "preeminent in heaven and earth," which does relate to the use of archē in Isaiah 9:6 and Daniel 7:14, as well as Yeshua's "I am" statements in Revelation 21:6 and 22:13.
Danker interprets archē in this verse as equivalent to holōs, "at all," and Mounce in his lexicon finds an adverbial meaning of "wholly" or "altogether" but actually translates the word in his New Testament version as "beginning." Archē appears 55 times in the Besekh and this is the only verse these two lexicons (and the NRSV) attribute this strange adverbial meaning. The resulting sentence with "at all" makes Yeshua's answer very rude (see the textual note below). The lexicons of BAG, DNTT and Thayer know of no such interpretation of archē. Most all versions regard archē here as a time reference.
If Yeshua intended archē as a time reference (and archē can mean the first time something is spoken of or an action performed as confirmed by BAG, Mounce and Thayer), then to what occasion was he referring? It must have been a situation in which he spoke about his Father in a public setting. When I asked my Sunday School class this question there were two immediate responses. First, when Yeshua was twelve years old he said to his mother in the presence of the Temple authorities, "Didn't you know that I must be about the things of My Father?" (Luke 2:49 TLV). Second, on the first occasion of Yeshua cleansing the Temple he said to the chief priests, "Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!" (John 2:16 TLV). Commentators do not consider these possible events as reference points, but they cannot be excluded.
Gill summarizes interpretive alternatives for treating archē as a time reference: (1) of his teaching on this occasion, or perhaps during Sukkot, that he was the source of living water and the light of the world; or (2) of the time he began asserting his divine sonship and God as his Father before the Jewish authorities (John 5:17-23); or (3) of the start of his ministry, when by miracles, as well as teaching, he demonstrated that he was the expected one, the true Messiah; or (4) of the beginning of the covenant with Israel when he revealed to Moses His name, saying, "I am that I am;" or (5) from the beginning of creation when he was the first cause of all things, established the plan of God in the stars and gave the promise of a saving Seed to the Woman. Considering that Yeshua is YHVH, the last option has great appeal, but Gill does not express a preference among his five alternatives.
Lightfoot argues for the second option as a likely occasion (3:332). Since Yeshua specifically says "I have spoken," then Lightfoot assumes he must be referring to a time after the beginning of his public ministry when he announced to the ruling authorities that God was his Father. That occasion would be following the healing of the man by the pool of Bethesda. Lightfoot goes on to offer an alternate interpretation based on the position of tēn archēn in the Greek text. Jewish scholars of the time used the terminology of "the beginning" and "the end," in reference to matters under discussion. The expression "the beginning" referred to the thing chiefly and primarily to be discussed, the primary question or principle. "The end" referred to the secondary question or principle.
Lightfoot illustrates this practice from several Jewish writings. Thus, considering this mode of speaking Yeshua could be saying, "You ask who I am? The Beginning! That is the chief thing to be inquired into, which I now say, that I am the Light of the world, the Messiah, the Son of God. but what works I do, what doctrines I teach, and by what authority, this is an inquiry of the second place, in comparison to that first and chief question, who I am" (3:332f). Lightfoot's suggestion fits with the second lexicon meaning of archē given above. Indeed, "The Beginning" is treated as a title of Yeshua by Paul (Col 1:18) and twice in Revelation Yeshua announces that he is "The Beginning and The End" (Rev 21:6; 22:13).
26 I have many things to speak and to judge about you, but the One having sent me is true; and the things I heard from Him, these I speak to the world."
I have: Grk. echō, pres. See the note on verse 6 above. With the message that follows the present tense emphasizes purpose. many things: pl. of Grk. polus, extensive in scope, here as an adj. indicating a high degree in amount or quality; great, much, many. to speak: Grk. laleō, pres. inf. See the note on verse 13 above. Oh yes, there is much more he has to say. and to judge: Grk. krinō, pres. inf. See the note on verse 15 above. The verb could indicate making observations and conclusions about character as well as performing actions that will provide deliverance as the judges did in the time of the confederation. about you: the ruling authorities or the Sanhedrin. Yeshua may be speaking prophetically of the judgments on the ruling authorities that he will proclaim when he comes to Jerusalem for his final week and recorded in Matthew 23.
but 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 verse 16 above. me is true: Grk. alēthēs. See the note on verse 13 above. Yeshua implies that to impugn him is to impugn the Father. and the things I heard: Grk. akouō, aor. See the note on verse 9 above. from Him: the Father. Yeshua could mean a recent occasion in a temporal sense or he could mean things spoken by the Father before creation, since the great plan of atonement was conceived before creation (1 Pet 1:20; Rev 13:8).
these I speak: Grk. laleō. to the world: Grk. kosmos. See the note on verse 12 above. Gruber quotes a relevant rabbinic saying, "Whatever he [Messiah] decrees, his words are established" (Mid. on Psalms 21:3; MW-Notes 157). In the proximate sense Yeshua means speaking openly or publicly. In an extended meaning Yeshua will later speak through his apostles and he still speaks to the entire world because he is the Light of the world.
27 They did not understand that he spoke to them about the Father.
They did not understand: Grk. ginōskō, aor., to know, but has a variety of meanings, including (1) to be in receipt of information; know, learn, find out; (2) form a judgment or draw a conclusion; think, understand, comprehend, perceive, notice, realize, conclude; or (3) have a personal relationship involving recognition of another's identity or value; make acquaintance, recognize. All of these meanings have application here. In the LXX ginōskō renders Heb. yada, which has a similar 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). Yeshua meant that these men with so much religious knowledge did not comprehend what he taught.
that he spoke: Grk. legō, impf. See verse 4 above. to them about the Father: Grk. patēr. See verse 16 above. The leaders of Israel understood many things about the God of Israel, but they did not grasp or could not accept the personal relationship between Yeshua and the Father.
28 Yeshua then said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will understand that I AM, and I do nothing of myself, but as my Father taught me, I speak these things.
When: Grk. hotan, conj., a temporal marker indicating 'when' or 'whenever,' sometimes specifically of a time at which an event is anticipated as here. you have lifted up: Grk. hupsoō, aor. subj., to cause to move from a position to one that is higher. Yeshua predicts the manner of his execution, that it will not be by stoning, strangling or burning, but by being impaled on a Roman cross. The verb is second person plural and alludes to the Sanhedrin who voted in favor of death and sending Yeshua to Pilate. Yeshua's declaration does not blame all Jews for his death as Christianity would later do. He states a simple legal fact as the apostles will later repeat (Acts 2:36; 4:10; 7:52).
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.
of Man: Grk. anthrōpos. See verse 17 above. The title "Son of Man" translates the Heb. ben adam. "Son of man," or "son of the first man, namely Adam." 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 the note on John 1:51.
then: Grk. tote, adv., a temporal marker of a time that is later, here of an anticipated event. you will understand: Grk. ginōskō, fut. mid. See the previous verse. The verb is second person plural and considering Yeshua uttered these words in a very public setting with crowds listening he likely intended a wider application than his adversaries. One can easily imagine Yeshua looking around him and perhaps even pointing. that I AM: Grk. egō eimi. See verse 12 and 24 above. Yeshua again identifies himself as YHVH. The adverbial time reference "when…then" does not mean a time coincidental with the verb "lifted up." Rather, the crucifixion, followed by resurrection, is absolutely necessary to understand and accept Yeshua as Messiah, so no one will understand until after that event. Yeshua predicts that some of his hearers will make that leap of faith.
I do nothing of myself: Yeshua then repeats what he said when he first announced that God was his Father (5:19, 30). my Father taught me … I speak: Yeshua goes on to repeat essentially what he said in verse 26, substituting "taught" (Grk. didaskō, aor.; see verse 2 above) for "heard." Speaking in Hebrew he may have used the Hiphil form of lamad, "caused to learn." The fact of Yeshua being taught by his heavenly Father does not denote any inferiority in the Son, but he alludes to the fact that his incarnation brought a totally new experience of learning. Yeshua may be engaging in a bit of word play remembering his being taught as a child by his step-father and mother. As a youth Joseph had a stewardship responsibility on behalf of the Father.
"Then He went down with them to Natzeret and was obedient to them. But His mother treasured all these words in her heart. And Yeshua kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." (Luke 2:51-52 TLV).
Yeshua's learning continued as an adult, especially in the wilderness testing, and then the rejection by neighbors and family in Nazareth. Paul will later write, "Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered" (Heb 5:8). Yeshua's point is that he and the Father are one in presenting the truth. They do not proclaim contrary doctrines.
29 The One having sent me is with me. He did not leave me alone, for I always do the things pleasing to Him."
Yeshua conflates things he has already said in other verses. The One having sent me: See verse 16 above. This is the fourth time in time in this chapter for Yeshua to emphasize his being sent. is with me: The preposition "with" (Grk. meta) signifies lit. "in the midst of," and by extension "one who holds with," therefore a partner (DM 107). He did not leave: Grk. aphiēmi, aor., let remain behind; leave, leave behind, give up, abandon. me alone: Yeshua affirmed in verse 16 above that he was not alone, but here engages in a what's called a synthetic parallelism in Hebrew poetry, offering a contrast of "with me" and "not alone" that is essentially synonymous.
Given his sense of unique identity and mission it would be easy for Yeshua the human to feel very alone at times. Yet, he felt the comforting, guiding hand of his Father. In the wilderness the Father sent angels to minister to him (Matt 4:11).Other times it probably occurred when Yeshua spent time alone with the Father (Matt 14:23; Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12; John 6:15). for I always do the things pleasing to Him: The Father had already declared that He was pleased with Yeshua on the occasion of his immersion (Luke 3:22). But, Yeshua knew from his constant fellowship with the Father that his actions and words met with satisfaction in heaven.
30 As he spoke these things, many believed in him.
In a contrast to an earlier occasion when "many" withdrew from him (6:66), now many believe he is the Messiah, although not likely any among the chief priests and temple authorities. Yeshua's teaching on this day apparently had a profound impact on his audience. Yet, believing and following are very different things as he will point out in the next verse. Yeshua knew the fickleness of his hearers, since he knew what was in man (John 2:25). This believing is not the same thing as post-Pentecost believing that means trusting in the mercy of God on the ground of Yeshua's atoning sacrifice.
Yeshua, the Truth that Frees, 8:31-47
31 Therefore Yeshua said to the Judean Jews having believed him, "If you remain in my word, you are truly my disciples.
Therefore Yeshua said to the Judean Jews: pl. of Ioudaios. See verse 22 above. Messianic Jewish versions differ on their translation of Ioudaios. The CJB and TLV have "Judeans," even though the context does not imply that the audience only consisted of people from Judea. GNC has "Jews," but MW has "sectarian Jews," which seems an unnecessary qualification. DHE and OJB have "Yehudim," which leaves the matter vague. John meant "Judean Jews" as a description of their religion, not their birthplace or place of residence. The label is never used of Hellenistic Jews or Samaritan Jews. Judean Jews generally lived by the traditions of the Pharisees (Mark 7:23) who were concentrated in Judea. having believed him: The verb, Grk. pisteuō, is a perf. part., so it implies a genuine opinion being held.
If you remain: Grk. menō, aor. subj., 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 ('stand, remain') and qum (stand, arise). The verb is particularly used of God to emphasize His constancy (DNTT 3:224). in my word: Grk. logos, vocalized expression, word, discourse, statement, message or speech. In the LXX logos stands principally for Heb. dabar, which has a range of meaning: speech, word, report, command, advice, counsel, thing, or matter (Gen 29:13; BDB 182) (DNTT 3:1087). To "remain in my word," would be equivalent to continuing to learn from Yeshua and live by his teaching. you are truly: Grk. alēthōs, adv., corresponding to what is really so; truly, really, actually.
my: Grk. egō, pron. of the first pers. The pronoun has a nuance of possessiveness and personal relationship. disciples: pl. of Grk. mathētēs (from manthanō, to learn), one who learns through instruction from a teacher. In the Besekh the noun occurs only in the apostolic narratives and corresponds to the Heb. talmid (SH-8527, scholar or pupil). See the note on John 1:35. The apostolic narratives do not record when all of Yeshua's disciples began following him, and the first occurrence of their names is their inclusion in the list of twelve named as apostles (Matt 10:1-4; Mark 3:14-19; Luke 6:13-15). The creation of the apostolate did not occur until after the calling of Matthew (Mark 2:14) at which time Matthew invites Yeshua and his disciples to a meal. John does not mention "the twelve" until the feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:67).
Being a disciple of Yeshua required four particular qualities. First, to be a disciple required sacrifice. Traveling the country meant leaving behind family, security and living under austere conditions. This was not a life of luxury. Simon Peter alluded to his sacrifice when he spoke of leaving everything to follow Yeshua (Matt 19:27). The rich young ruler was not willing to pay this price to be a disciple (Matt 19:21-22). Second, to be a disciple required commitment. Devotion to the rabbi came before all other obligations (Luke 9:57-61; 14:26). Once the commitment was made turning back would have been equivalent to rebellion against God (Luke 9:62). The disciple left behind his ordinary life and embraced an extraordinary life with his rabbi.
Third, to be a disciple required humility. A disciple came to the rabbi with an inquiring mind, a desire to know. He did not have answers, but he sought answers about God and spiritual things. He knew the rabbi had the answers (John 6:68). This humility is illustrated by the rabbinic saying "Let your home be a meeting-house for the sages, and cover yourself in the dust of their feet, and drink in their words thirstily" (Avot 1:4; translation by Bivin 12). Miriam, sister of Martha, demonstrated this humility when she sat at the feet of Yeshua (Luke 10:39). Fourth, to be a disciple required obedience (Matt 28:19). The rabbi's will became the disciple’s will. The rabbi directed, the disciple obeyed. The only authority greater in the disciple's life would be God.
32 And you will know the truth, and the Truth will free you."
And you will know: Grk. ginōskō, fut. mid. See verse 27 above. Yeshua probably intends this verb in both the sense of understanding as well as having a relationship with. the truth: Grk. alētheia may mean (1) truthfulness, dependability, uprightness in thought and deed, (2) truth as opposed to what is false, or (3) reality as opposed to mere appearance (BAG). Danker has "that which is really so." In the LXX alētheia regularly translates the Heb. emet (SH-571), "firmness, faithfulness, truth" (BDB 54); also "permanency, durability" (HELB 19), although Christian Bibles sometimes render it as "truth" and sometimes as "faithfulness" (DNTT 3:877). Emet is often used for truthfulness in God and piety in man. The Rabbis explain rather pedantically that emet contains the first, middle and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and that truth ought to be trustworthy through and through (Santala 72).
and the Truth: Grk. alētheia. Yeshua likely engages in a play on words with three semantic possibilities for the word "truth." First, he might have meant "truth" (both instances lower case) in relation to knowledge. Second, he might have meant "Truth" (both instances capitalized) using the term as a personification of himself as he will later say of himself "I AM the truth" (John 14:6). He makes the application more direct in verse 36 below, which Paul affirms in Galatians 5:1. Yeshua will also tell Pontius Pilate, "Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice" (John 18:37 NASB). Third, he might have meant one of the instances to be of knowledge and the other a personification. Or, he could have meant all of these at the same time. In Hebrew thought to know the truth is to live in that truth, to obey that truth and to be faithful to God.
The truth that Yeshua presses for acceptance is that he is the Messiah, the Son of God (John 20:31) as validated by Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh. After his resurrection Yeshua explained to his disciples everything written in the Torah, Prophets and Psalms concerning him (Luke 24:44). will free: Grk. eleutheroō, fut., to liberate, to set free; from eluetheros, enjoying freedom from constraint, esp. freedom from slavery. you: The pronoun is plural as appropriate for his audience. David spoke of the Torah as a code of freedom, "So I may always keep your Torah, forever and ever, and walk about in freedom. For I have sought Your precepts" (Psalm 119:44-45 TLV). In Scripture freedom is defined by the boundaries of God's commandments.
One could argue that except for a few members the Sanhedrin Yeshua faced never understood nor accepted the truth. However, considering that many Israelites were present for this teaching the plural pronoun "you" could stand for the nation. Then Yeshua's prophecy likely points to the Messianic revival to come. Over the next twenty years tens of thousands of Jews would come to accept Yeshua as Messiah and Savior (Acts 21:20). Perhaps, though, he has an even longer view in mind, considering that all Israel will be saved (Rom 11:26). A prophecy of Isaiah seems relevant,
"Therefore, thus says ADONAI, Redeemer of Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob: "Jacob will no longer be ashamed, no longer will his face grow pale; 23 for when he sees his children, the work of My hands in his midst, they will sanctify My Name; they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob and stand in awe of the God of Israel. 24 And those who go astray in spirit will come to understanding, and those who murmur will learn instruction." (Isa 29:22-24 TLV)
Isaiah 29 is an eschatological prophecy that starts out an apparent Babylonian invasion and destruction that occurred in 586 B.C., but the description applies equally well to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Then the prophecy transitions into a great battle more akin to the end time confrontation between the God of Israel and the nations and deliverance accomplished by the Messiah as described in Zechariah 12-14. In the Olivet Discourse Yeshua prophesies that the day will come when all the tribes of the Land will mourn for their rejection of the Messiah and turn to him. They will know the Truth and they will be free.
33 They answered against him, "We are seed of Abraham, and have never been enslaved to anyone. How do you say, ‘You will become free’?"
They answered: Grk. apokrinomai, aor. pass. See verse 14 above. to him: The preposition "to" is Grk. pros, the root meaning of which is near or facing. The resultant meaning with the pronoun "him" in the accusative case may be either (1) to, toward, indicating direction, or (2) "against," indicating relation (DM 110). The preposition implies a strong emotional reaction and someone may literally have "gotten in his face." We are: first person pl. of Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 10 above. seed: Grk. sperma may refer either to the source (e.g. seed, semen) or the product of propagation (e.g., posterity, descendant).
The singular noun is used here in a corporate sense and could be rendered as "offspring" (AMP, ESV, HNV, Mace, WESLEY), but most versions opt for the plural form of either "children" (CEB, CEV, EXB, TLV) or "descendants" (GNC, HCSB, NASB, NIV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV, RSV, TEV). However, "seed" (ASV, CJB, DRA, KJV, MW) points back to not only the covenantal promises given to Abraham (Gen 12:7; 17:7; 22:17-18), but also the fertility and fruitfulness of Abraham's descendants (Gen 13:15-16; 15:5; Ex 1:7).
of Abraham: Grk. Abraam, which transliterates the Heb. Avraham. The name appears in John only in this chapter and 9 times. The first Hebrew patriarch, Abraham became the prime example of trusting faithfulness. He was the son of Terah, a descendant of Noah's son, Shem (Gen 11:27). He grew up in Ur of the Chaldees, a prominent Sumerian city. He was known at the beginning as Abram ("father is exalted"), but his name was changed subsequently to Abraham ("father of a multitude") (Gen 17:5). Abraham was living in Haran when God called him to migrate to Canaan, and during his sojourn there God spoke to him and established a covenant with him (Gen 12:1-3; 15:1-21; 17:1-22). It is an interesting detail that Abraham's name is invoked instead of Jacob. Yochanan the Immerser was aware of this attitude among certain Pharisees and Sadducees who came to be immersed (Matt 3:9). For more information on the great patriarch see my web article The Story of Abraham.
As a people Jews could rightly take pride in their descent from Abraham. He was the greatest of the patriarchs, perhaps the greatest in all the history of Israel. The Torah may have been given to Moses, but all the covenantal promises were given to Abraham. Several passages in the Tanakh declare God's love and loyalty to the descendants of Abraham.
"O seed of Abraham, His servant, O children of Jacob, His chosen ones. 7He is Adonai our God. His judgments are in all the earth. 8 He remembers His covenant forever— the word He commanded for a thousand generations—9 which He made with Abraham, and swore to Isaac, 10 and confirmed to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant.'" (Ps 105:6-9 TLV)
"But you, Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, descendant of Abraham, My friend—9 I took hold of you from the ends of the earth, and called from its uttermost parts, and said to you, ‘You are My servant— I have chosen you, not rejected you." (Isa 41:8-9 TLV)
"Listen to Me, you who pursue justice, you who seek Adonai. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. 2 Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you. For when I called him, he was but one, then I blessed him and multiplied him." (Isa 51:1-2 TLV)
"Thus says Adonai: 'If I have not made My covenant of day and night firm, and the fixed patterns ordering the heavens and earth, 26 only then would I reject the offspring of Jacob, and of My servant David so that I would not take from his offspring rulers over the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will restore them from their exile, and have compassion on them.'" (Jer 33:25-26 TLV)
"You will perform truth to Jacob and covenant loyalty to Abraham as you swore to our forefathers from of the days of old." (Mic 7:20 Biblos Interlinear)
and have never: Grk. oudeis, adj., lit. "to no one." See verse 10 above. been enslaved: Grk. douleuō, perf., to be in slavery to, to function in total obedience to a master as a slave or bond-servant. to anyone: Grk. pōpote, adv., always used with a negative, 'to an indefinite point in time past;' at any time, ever. As Stern points out this claim might have been true for the speakers, but not for the nation which had been delivered from Egyptian slavery. In the Deuteronomic code the Israelite slavery in Egypt was an important point of contrast for God's instruction in covenantal life (Deut 5:15; 6:21; 15:15; 16:12; 24:18, 22). The Passover ritual provides a constant reminder of this history by reciting the passage which begins Avadim hayinu, "We were slaves" (Deut 6:21).
The Israelites were also placed in bondage under the tyranny of Assyria, Babylon, Persia and Greece (2Kgs 15:29; 24:14; Ezra 9:9; Neh 5:5; 9:36; Esth 2:6; 7:4; Jer 25:14). At this time with the Roman empire dominating the world Israel was certainly not free in terms of existing as a independent sovereign state. Yet Jews were permitted to live according to their own laws as long as they did not rebel against Rome. Stern suggests that the speakers are avoiding Yeshua’s challenge by invoking extreme literalism.
How: Grk. pōs, adv. introducing a query concerning manner, way, or reason in respect to a matter; how? in what manner/way? do you say: Grk. legō. See verse 4 above. Yeshua's statement is then repeated. You will become: Grk. ginomai, fut. mid., to transfer from one state or condition to another, which may be expressed in one of three ways: (1) come into being by birth or natural process; be born or produced; (2) exist through application of will or effort by a person; be made, be performed; or (3) undergo a state of change or development; come to be, become, take place, happen. free: Grk. eleutheros, enjoying freedom from constraint, free or independent, non-slave status. The noun was also applied to freed slaves, who then became clients of their former masters.
34 Yeshua answered them, "Truly, truly I tell you, everyone who keeps on committing the sin is a slave of that sin.
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 tell you: The verb is Grk. legō. See verse 4 above. The present tense verb has the emotional impact of "I'm telling your right now and you best pay attention." everyone: Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope; all, every. Yeshua does not restrict the following principle to just those who heard these words. who keeps on committing: Grk. poieō, pres. part., with the definite article, a verb of physical action that here means to be active in bringing about a state of condition, such as carrying out an obligation or responsibility; do, act, perform, work. The present tense indicates recurrent behavior, thus my translation. Many versions translate the verb with the simple "commits" (ASV, DHE, DRA, GNC, HCSB, HNV, JUB, KJV, LEB, MW, NAB, NASB, NKJV, NRSV, RSV), and a few versions capture the sense with "practices" (AMP, CJB, DARBY, ESV, NET, OJB).
the sin: Grk. hamartia, singular noun with the definite article. See verse 24 above. We should note that in Greek the definite article not only draws attention to a noun, but emphasizes individual identity (DM 137). Some versions render hamartia as a verb, omitting the verb poieō that precedes it with "everyone [or anyone] who sins" (CEB, CEV, ERV, NIRV, NIV, NLV, NLT, TEV, TLV). This translation seems to fog Yeshua's meaning when the consequence of the behavior is considered. "Everyone who sins" might be taken as a broad generalization that could refer to committing the occasional sin. In other words, "Anytime you commit a sin the logical outcome applies." However, the present tense of poieō argues against an occasional lapse (Tenney).
"Everyone who sins" might also indicate pursuing a sinful lifestyle. This interpretation is more specifically expressed in the EXB with "lives in sin," in the GW with "lives a sinful life," in the MSG with "chooses a life of sin" and in the NCV with "lives in sin." While many Christian commentaries offer little substantive exegesis of this verse, the sinful lifestyle interpretation is favored by some Christian interpreters, citing Paul's treatment of the subject in Romans 6. Thomas Coke wrote "There are no greater slaves than those who give themselves up to a vicious kind of life, and to the gratification of their sinful appetites." Consider John Gill's summary,
"But this is to be understood of such whose bias and bent of their minds are to sin; who give up themselves unto it, and sell themselves to work wickedness; who make sin their trade, business, and employment, and are properly workers of it, and take delight and pleasure in it."
The problem with the sinful lifestyle interpretation is that it does not easily fit the audience, and before we can make a universal axiom we must consider how it applied to Yeshua's adversaries on the Sanhedrin. The Pharisees lived by a much more exacting moral code than most Christians do today. Consider Paul's self description as a Pharisee who had trained under Gamaliel (Acts 5:34) and had a formal association with the Sanhedrin during this time period (Acts 8:1; 9:1-2; 26:10): "as for Torah righteousness, found blameless" (Php 3:6 TLV).
I think the use of hamartia with the definite article is more particular than most versions allow. In other words, pick a sin, any sin. What might we conclude or expect to happen if someone keeps on committing a particular sin? So, in this context what sin was Yeshua imputing to his adversaries? Probably unbelief and the resulting unwillingness to bow to God's Messiah, a violation of the first commandment.
is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 10 above. The consequence is concurrent with the continuing act. a slave: Grk. doulos, generally used of a male slave, who is viewed as owned property totally and unquestioningly at the behest of the owner. The economies of ancient empires were based on slave labor and slavery typically occurred as a result of being captured in war and then sold. Legally a slave had no rights. In the LXX doulos translates the Heb. ebed, which did include the meaning of doulos but with a much broader application. In the Tanakh ebed is especially used of household servants, those who worked for the King and those who served God, especially service in the temple (DNTT 3:593). Hebrew culture was different from pagan nations in that while there were some occasions when defeated enemies were enslaved (Num 31:7-9; Deut 20:10-12), slavery was most often a form of indentured servitude.
Hebrew slaves were either purchased outright (Ex 12:44; 21:2, 7; Lev 19:20; 22:11; 25:44) or acquired as a result of having to pay a debt (Ex 21:7; Lev 25:39, 47; Matt 5:25-26). All slaves were considered property, but Hebrew slaves were treated more as trusted employees (Lev 25:40). The Torah specifically required Israelites to remember how they were treated as slaves in Egypt (Deut 5:15; 15:15) and treat their slaves justly (Deut 5:14; Lev 25:43). Yeshua spoke of slaves in some of his teaching as employees with significant stewardship responsibility (Matt 10:24; 13:27; 18:23; 20:27; 21:34; 22:3; 24:45; 25:14). Paul, writing to congregations in the Diaspora where Roman laws of slavery prevailed gave instructions to slaves for their service (Eph 6:5-8; Col 3:22-25) and to masters for their treatment of slaves (Eph 6:9; Col 4:1). He did advise disciples who were slaves to seek freedom if possible (1Cor 7:21; cf. Deut 23:15-16).
What separates a slave from a free person is independence. To the average person the right to manage one's own life as one chooses is the essence of freedom. Slavery is the abrogation of one's autonomy and the subordination to the will of another. This reality led the apostles to use doulos figuratively of discipleship (Rom 1:1; 6:19; 1Cor 7:22; Gal 1:10; Eph 6:6; Php 1:1; Col 4:12; Titus 1:1; Jas 1:1; 1Pet 2:16; 2Pet 1:1; Jude 1:1; Rev 1:1). The disciple is bound to a lifetime of service to God and His Messiah, to which Yeshua alluded in verse 31 above.
of that sin: Grk. hamartia, singular with the definite article. Most versions convey the message as "the one who sins is a slave of sin." Yeshua's statement does not reflect a hypothetical scenario, but rather a real consequence to a real offense. The question arises of whether the second mention of the word hamartia pertains to an "act of sin" or a "sin principle." There is no evidence in the context that Yeshua is setting forth a theology of original sin and inherited depravity as Christianity later adopted. Considering the term as an act offers a certain irony, because the statement as typically translated completely contradicts the popular belief of many Evangelicals that a disciple of Yeshua sins every day in thought, word, and deed. Indeed, he cannot help doing so.
Paul criticizes this folly by asking "shall we continue in sin?" (Rom 6:1). But some professing Christians are too much in love with their sinning lifestyle, thus creating the need for the equally false belief of eternal security to provide an escape from the "wages of sin" (Rom 6:23). Conversely, Solomon also presented an axiom that has a bearing here. He said, "There is not a righteous person on earth who continually does good and never sins" (Eccl 7:20 NASB). John will later write, "But if anyone does sin we have an intercessor with the Father" (1Jn 2:1 TLV). Yeshua's axiom, then, could be taken in two ways.
First, consider that both occurrences of hamartia are singular with the definite article. Yeshua may be saying as my translation indicates that continual practice of a particular sin will result in being a slave to that sin. Such a description is comparable to the modern concept of addiction. The "sin every day" theology essentially justifies an addiction to sinning. A person who believes this theology only needs to ask, "What sins have I committed today?" and "What Scriptures does the behavior violate?" Yeshua's axiom offers no support for a laissez-faire attitude toward sinning. Otherwise he would have no basis for telling the healed man in Chapter Five and the forgiven woman at the beginning of this chapter to "stop sinning."
Second, the second mention of sin may be treated as a personification. A personification is the attribution of human characteristics to a thing or abstraction. Personifications are common in Hebraic-Jewish literature. For example:
"Raba observed, First he [i.e., evil inclination] is called a passer-by, then he is called a guest, and finally he is called a man [i.e., occupier of the house]." (Sukk. 52b)
In Paul's letter to the congregation in Rome he frequently personifies hamartia as an oppressive entity ("Sin" capitalized), and sometimes as an authority over one's life as a Roman military commander (Rom 3:9; 5:12; 6:2, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 20, 22; 7:11, 17, 25; 8:2, 10). Indeed, the first personification in Scripture is of sin when God says to Cain, "Sin [chata, a feminine noun] is crouching at the door; and its [her] desire is for you, but you must master it" (Gen 4:7). "Sin" is a beguiling temptress who seeks to lure the unsuspecting into a trap that will result in death (cf. Prov 5:3-5). Finally, knowing Yeshua's penchant for speaking in multiple layers he could well have intended both meanings.
35 But the slave does not remain in the house forever. The son remains forever.
Yeshua then illustrates his axiom with a simple parable. Now: Grk. de, conj., used here to indicate a transition in presentation of subject matter, "now, then." See verse 1 above. the slave: Grk. doulos with the definite article. See the previous verse. does not remain: Grk. menō. See verse 31 above. in the house: Grk. oikia may mean either (1) a habitable structure, house; or (2) fig. a group within a house, household or family. Both meanings could have application here. forever: Grk aiōn may mean (1) a long period of time and in reference to the future a period with no apparent end; eternity; or (2) a segment of extended time determined by qualifiers as present or future; age. The word "forever" translates a prepositional phrase that lit. means "into the age."
The parabolic scenario is premised on the Torah requirement to automatically release Hebrew slaves after six years of employment without requiring the slaves to pay for their freedom (Ex 21:2; Deut 15:12). Indeed, slaves were to be freed with generous severance pay (Lev 25:41; Deut 15:14). From a spiritual point of view "slaves of sinning" will not remain in the "house of God," symbolically the body of Messiah (1Tim 3:15; Heb 10:21; 1Pet 4:17), in the age to come, which is the age of Messiah's rule. Yeshua conveys this point in his parable of the tares (Matt 13:36-42). Paul also asserts that the unrighteous and habitual sinners will not inherit eternal life (1Cor 6:9-10; Gal 5:19-21).
The son: Grk. huios with the definite article. See verse 28 above. For parabolic purposes the son of the house contrasts with the slave. Perhaps the parable alludes to the oldest son who has inherited the house and all his father's property, including servants. The son is free and independent. The son could own the slave and could free the slave. remains: Grk. menō. forever: Grk. aion. The son being a free person has an indefinite right to the house. The parable may imply a very real warning on the assumption that members of the Sanhedrin are the "slaves" of whom Yeshua has been speaking. The temple was considered the "house of God" (Mark 2:26), and it along with the Sadducean priests will be eventually destroyed by the Romans. In contrast Yeshua, the Son, remains forever because of his divinity. He always has been and always will be. Moreover, he will return to a grand house in the heavens and he will build a spiritual house that will endure forever.
Since aion is used in the sense of the age to come, i.e., the millennial kingdom (Matt 12:32; Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; Eph 1:21; Heb 6:5), the parabolic saying contains another layer of meaning. The Son will abide and reign over his house in the millennial kingdom.
36 If therefore the Son frees you, you will be really free.
If therefore: Yeshua introduces a potential action. the Son: The title refers back to the "lifted up" Son of Man in verse 28 above. frees you: The verb is eleutheroō, aor. subj. See verse 32 above. It is the sacrificial death of Yeshua that will accomplish deliverance, occurring appropriately during the celebration of Passover on Nisan 15 the following Spring. you will be: Grk. eimi, fut. mid. See verse 10 above. really: Grk. ontōs, adv., in every sense of the word; unquestionably, really, certainly, truly. free: Grk. eleutheros, adj., enjoying freedom from constraint. The adjective has a wide range of application: (1) a non-slave status or being freed from slavery (1Cor 7:21; 12:13; Eph 6:8; Col 3:11); (2) independent, not bound by constraints that apply to others (Matt 17:3; 1Cor 7:39; 9:1, 19); or (3) spiritual freedom (Rom 6:20; 1Cor 7:22; 1Pet 2:16).
The question is, what sort of freedom was Yeshua promising? Based on the axiom of verse 34 and the promise of verse 35 freedom means being no longer bound to a life of constant sinning. There is also another level of spiritual freedom. Paul uses this adjective to describe Sarah, a free woman, in contrast to Hagar, a servant woman (Gal 4:22-23). These two women represent two covenants, Hagar as the Sinaitic Covenant and Sarah as the New Covenant. The covenant enacted at Sinai was good, because it was ratified at Moab with new promises. Yet, like Hagar, the wilderness generation rebelled against the marriage covenant with God and became slaves to their own willfulness. Furthermore, by the first century the strict religious parties, like the Pharisees, had perverted the covenantal obligations into an oppressive system, which is the essence of legalism (cf. Matt 23:4; Acts 15:10; 1Tim 1:8).
Sarah is then considered a type of the New Jerusalem or New Covenant (Gal 4:26). She represents freedom from Pharisaic legalism (Rom 6:14-15). (We should note that the Galatian letter is not about Torah versus Grace as commonly presented by Christian teachers, but about Legalism versus Covenant Faithfulness.) Just as Abraham is the father of our faith (Rom 4:12), so Sarah is the mother of our faith and worthy of emulation (cf. Heb 11:11; 1Pet 3:6). Freedom, of course, does not mean being independent of God. Rather the disciple has accepted the "yoke" or authority of Messiah Yeshua (Matt 11:29-30; 1Cor 9:21). Indeed, there is no freedom from obeying God's commandments (1Cor 7:19).
37 I know that you are seed of Abraham, but you seek to kill me, because my word finds no room in you.
I know: Grk. oida, perf. See verse 14 above. that you are seed: Grk. sperma. See verse 33 above. of Abraham: Grk. Abraam. See verse 33 above. Yeshua affirms their ethnic, not their spiritual heritage. but you seek: Grk. zēteō. See verse 21 above. The verb expresses the searching for ways to satisfy an interest, as expressed by the following verb. to kill me: Grk. apokteinō, aor. inf. See verse 22 above. It is a shocking revelation that that these "seed" of Abraham would want to eliminate the true promised Seed of Abraham.
because my word: Grk. logos. See verse 31 above. Both "my" and "word" have the definite article which gives the expression a distinctive proprietary character. Yeshua's word is the word of truth and freedom. finds no room: Grk. chōreō, derived from chōra, 'make use of space for movement;' has two basic meanings, (1) move forward to a position; go, head for; and (2) be in a condition of having space; hold, contain and in imagery have or make room. in you: The pronoun is plural and could have the effect of "in none of you," that is, of his hearers on this occasion. There is no more sad commentary on the spiritual condition of these religious men.
38 What I have seen with the Father I speak; but you however what you heard from your father you do."
Yeshua offers another contrast between himself and his hearers, both in terms of action and source. What: pl. of Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 25 above. Some versions translate with "the things." I have seen: Grk. horaō, perf., to perceive with the physical eyes or to experience extraordinary mental or inward perception. In Yeshua's case both meanings apply. with: Grk. para, prep., the basic function of which is to associate a person, thing, or circumstance as beside or alongside something else; from, beside, alongside of, with. With the dative case of the noun following the preposition has the meaning of 'with' or 'in association with.' the Father: Grk. patēr with the definite article. See verse 16 above. I speak: Grk. laleō. See verse 12 above. Yeshua refers to everything he has been saying about his relationship with the Father since chapter five.
but you: Grk. humeis, pl. of su, pronoun of the second person. however: Grk. oun, an inferential conj. See verse 12 above. The word is used in an adversative sense here. what: pl. of Grk. hos. you heard: Grk. akouō, aor. See verse 9 above. The verb is second person plural. Some versions have "seen" (Grk. horaō) instead of "heard" (DRA, HNV, JUB, KJV, NKJV, NLV, WEB, YLT). The verb "seen" is found in many MSS, including some early ones, but the UBS translation committee judged that it was introduced by copyists in order to balance "seen" in the preceding clause (Metzger 192). The verb "heard" is also found in early and reliable MSS (GNT 358) and serves better to make Yeshua's contrast between himself and his adversaries.
from: Grk. para, prep. With the genitive case of the noun following the preposition marks the origin; from (the side of). The versions listed above with the verb "seen" have the preposition "with." your: Grk. humōn, gen. pl. of su. See the textual note below. father: Grk. patēr. This is the first of three times Yeshua refers to "your father" in relation to his adversaries (also verses 41 and 44 below). A few versions have "Father" capitalized (LEB, NET, NRSV, TLV), which would mean God the Father. However, Yeshua's point is that his Father in not their Father. you do: Grk. poieō, pres. ind. See verse 34 above. The NRSV translates the verb as an imperative mood "you should do," which Metzger supports (192). (The verb endings for indicative mood and imperative mood in the second person plural are the same, so determination must be made from the context.)
Morris allows for the possibility that the verb could be in the imperative mood, but believes this approach would undermine the contrasts contained in the verse and is contrary to the natural understanding of the Greek (460). Yeshua emphasizes the actions of his adversaries which contrast with his own. The use of the lower case "father" in most versions reflects the view of commentators that "father" here is preparatory to Yeshua's declaration in verse 44 below that the "father" of his adversaries is the devil. If such were the case then the verb "heard" would imply demonic influence. In the book of Job the character Eliphaz developed a false idea of Job's character because of what he heard from a demonic source (Job 4:15-21).
The phrase "heard from your father" might also allude to the legalistic traditions that had been passed down from the Sages. The use of man-made traditions to supersede the Torah and create an oppressive system is not from God but from Satan (cf. Matt 4:1-10; 12:34; 15:1-9; 16:23; 23:23; Acts 13:10; Rom 6:14; 7:11; Gal 3:1-2; 1Tim 1:8). Yeshua will later call his adversaries "sons of hell" (Matt 23:15) and "serpents" (Matt 23:33; cf. Luke 10:19; Rev 12:9). So, these adversaries have allowed their traditions to preempt the will of the Father.
39 They answered and said to him, "Our father is Abraham." Yeshua said to them, "If you were the children of Abraham, you would be doing the works of Abraham.
They answered: Grk. apokrinomai, aor. pass. and said: Grk. legō, aor. Both verbs are second person plural. See verse 14 above for the Jewish use of "answered and said." to him: The use of the pronoun emphasizes the adversaries were addressing Yeshua alone and in a confrontational manner. Our father: Grk. patēr, lit. "the father of us." is Abraham: Grk. Abraam. See verse 33 above. Yeshua said to them: Yeshua responded directly to his opponents. Imagine the crowd around them hearing these words. If: Grk. ei, conditional conjunction used to introduce a premise. you were: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 10 above. the children: pl. of Grk. teknon, child of undetermined age, used here fig. of being descendants.
of Abraham: The second mention of the patriarch could be in the sense of paternity, but also has a spiritual application as used elsewhere (cf. Luke 13:16; 19:9; Rom 11:1; Gal 3:7; Heb 2:16). Invariably a child is like his father. you would be doing: Grk. poieō, impf. See verse 34 above. the 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. of Abraham: Yeshua is using "works of Abraham" with a sense of approval and the implication is that his adversaries should be doing such works.
There is no hint of censure of Abraham as some Christian interpreters are prone to in regards to some of Abraham's decisions. This begs the question, what were the works of Abraham to which Yeshua refers? Yeshua no doubt uses this expression in the sense that his brother Jacob will later use in his letter to Messianic Jews.
"Was not Abraham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith worked with his works, and by works faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, 'And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness;' and he was called the friend of God." (Jas 2:21-23 Mine)
Abraham also performed other works, all based on his implicit trust in God. When God called him in Ur of the Chaldees, Abraham "obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going" (Heb 11:8; Gen 12:4). Abraham gave honor to Melchizedek, a type of the Messiah, by paying him tithes (Gen 14:18-20; Heb 7:9-10). He obeyed God in circumcising his sons and male servants (Gen 17:23). Abraham interceded for Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of Lot and his family (Gen 18:22-33). He also interceded to end God's judgment on Abimelech for taking Sarah into his harem (Gen 29:8, 17). Lastly, Abraham made arrangements to obtain a bride for Isaac in order to convey the covenantal promises and to continue the Messianic line (Gen 24:2-7). Paul spoke much of the faith of Abraham, but the term he used also means faithfulness or fidelity. All of Abraham's works demonstrated his faithfulness to God.
40 But now you seek to kill me, a man who has spoken the truth to you, which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this.
But now: Grk. nun, adv. of time in the present; now or just now. Yeshua stresses the immediacy of the following action verb. you seek: Grk. zēteō. See verse 37 above. to kill me: Grk. apokteinō, aor. inf. See verse 22 above. Yeshua describes an active conspiracy to commit legal murder. a man: Grk. anthrōpos. See verse 17 above. The reminder of his humanity might have the emphasis of "just a man with no political power." who has spoken: Grk. laleō, perf. See verse 12 above. the truth: Grk. alētheia. See verse 32 above. to you, which I heard: Grk. akouō, aor. See verse 9 above. Yeshua could mean either "heard" in the sense of the Hebrew prophets who heard from God or "understood" in the sense of comprehending the truth of God's Word. Yeshua stresses again the source of his message.
from God: Grk. theos with the definite article, the only omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, Creator and ruler of the universe and the God of Israel. In the LXX theos renders names 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, a generic term for the deities worshipped by all people, or a "Christian" god who rejected Israel and hates Jews. All the other deities worshipped by religions in the world and false concepts people have of God are the product of Satan-inspired imagination. The true God revealed His name, His character, His covenants and His commandments to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and then Moses for the benefit of His people. This God chose Israel and the Jewish people out of all the nations on the earth to communicate the knowledge of Himself and to provide the means of salvation to the human race (Jer 16:19-20; Isa 49:6; John 4:22).
Abraham: Grk. Abraam. See verse 33 above. did not do this: Grk. poieō, aor., to accomplish something. See verse 34 above. Barclay notes that when Abraham received a messenger from God (Gen 18:1-8), he was welcomed with eagerness and reverence (6:26). The Genesis narrative identifies the special visitor as ADONAI (Heb. YHVH, Gen 18:1, 13, 17), who happened to be the pre-incarnate Son of God. Yeshua says in effect, "When I brought an important message to Abraham, he never treated me as you have." Gill offers this excellent comment on Yeshua's statement about Abraham.
"The sense is not, that Abraham did not tell the truth he had heard of God; for he did instruct, and command his children after him, to walk in the ways of the Lord, which he had learned from him; but that Abraham did not reject any truth that was revealed unto him, and much less seek to take away the life of any person that brought it to him; and indeed not the life of any man that deserved not to die: and our Lord suggests, that if he had been on the spot now, he would not have done as these his posterity did, since he saw his day by faith, and rejoiced in the foresight of it (John 8:56)."
41 You do the works of your father." They said to him, "We were not born of harlotry. We have one Father, God."
You: pl. of Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. do: Grk. poieō. See verse 34 above. the works: pl. of Grk. ergon. See verse 39 above. of your: pl. of Grk. su. The repetition of the plural pronoun is purposeful. father: Grk. patēr. See the notes on verse 16 and 38 above. In this instance Yeshua does not mean Abraham. We should not be quick to interpret Yeshua's statement here as synonymous with his statement in verse 44 below. He could mean an allusion to Aaron, their tribal father, who facilitated the golden calf idolatry (Ex 32:1-6), failed to prevent his sons Nadab and Abihu from offering "strange fire" contrary to God's instructions (Lev 10:1-3; Num 3:2-4), opposed Moses in his second marriage to a Cushite (Num 12:1), and lastly colluded with Moses in not obeying God's instruction to speak to the rock for water (Num 20:8-12). As a result Aaron was banned from entering the Land.
Some of these adversaries could be among the Chief Levites, of which there were twelve, as well as Levites who were directors of the weekly Levitical courses (Jeremias 160). These officials worked with the Chief Priests to accomplish all the sacrificial offerings, administration of Temple finances and supervision of the Temple (Jeremias 175). In addition, the Levites formed the Temple police (Jeremias 209), who would later arrest Yeshua and still later the apostles. So, if Yeshua's statement was directed to any of that group their "father" could be an allusion to Korah of the Levite family Kohath who led a rebellion against God's choice that priests should come exclusively from the family of Aaron (Num 16). Yeshua's adversaries would not have known that he was God's choice to be High Priest, but they did understand that if Yeshua became King he would exercise authority over the Temple.
We: pl. of Grk. egō. The respondents employ the plural pronoun to counter Yeshua's use of the plural pronoun for them. were not born: Grk. gennaō, perf. pass., cause to come into being; to father, beget children or bear children (BAG). When the verb is in the active voice it emphasizes the role of the father in procreation, and when it is in the passive voice, as here, it normally emphasizes the role of a woman in bearing and/or giving birth to children. (See Matthew 1:16 where the verb occurs twice, once of Joseph and once of Miriam.) of harlotry: Grk. porneia, sexual immorality, unchastity, or fornication. The word-group originally meant a prostitute or the practice of prostitution. A pornē (probably derived from pernēmi, "export for sale") was a woman who sold her body, a prostitute or a courtesan (1Cor 6:15-16).
A pornos referred to a male prostitute, a man who frequented prostitutes or a habitually immoral man (1Cor 5:11) (DNTT 1:497). In the LXX porneia translates zanah, which means "harlotry" (BDB 275). The Tanakh usage of harlotry included both the practice of prostitution (Gen 38:24; Lev 21:9, 14; Deut 22:21), but also promiscuous wives having multiple lovers (Prov 6:24-32). Intertestamental Jewish writings understood zanah-porneia as including not only prostitution and extra-marital relations but also marriages forbidden between relatives and unnatural sexual intercourse as set forth in Leviticus 18. Such definition is the basis for Paul's condemnation in 1 Corinthians 5:1. Zanah particularly stood for the wicked practices of idolatry, pagan religion, occultism, child sacrifice, and intermarriage with the forbidden pagan nations in Canaan (Ex 34:15-16; Lev 20:5-6; Num 25:1-2; Deut 31:16). Zanah is rebellion against God.
Some commentators (Morris, Stern and Tenney) suggest that these adversaries apparently knew something about the unusual circumstances of Yeshua’s birth and their response implies "we're not illegitimate as you are." Reinhartz suggests that this slander was the basis for the heresy two centuries later promulgated by the gnostic Cerinthus (a Christian of Jewish descent) that Yeshua was the son of Panthera, a Roman soldier (Origen, Contra Celsum I:69; cf. Sanh. 67b, fn 12), but there is no evidence to support this claim. Yeshua's adversaries were not speaking generally of illegitimacy nor were they impugning Yeshua's mother Miriam.
Some versions translate "born of porneia" as "illegitimate children" (AMP, CJB, GW, NIV, NLT, NOG, NRSV). Whether this translation was intended to represent the assumed slander of Yeshua cannot be determined, but it does obscure the meaning of their words. In modern English "illegitimate" means born of parents not married to each other, and marriage is defined as a relationship sanctioned by legal authority with a license. The Israelite-Jewish definition of marriage in the Bible, subject to the prohibitions already mentioned, required only the consent of the woman and consummation, not the approval of the government or religious authorities. Thus, the modern definition of illegitimacy does not apply to biblical situations. In Jewish culture the term mamzer is used to identify a child born of any forbidden relationship, such as those mentioned above (Kidd. 3:13; Yeb. 4:10).
For example, God imposed a specific restriction on priests, "A widow, or one divorced, or one who has been defiled as a prostitute, he is not to marry. He is to take a virgin from his own people as a wife" (Lev 21:14). A child born to a priest of a forbidden marriage would be mamzer, and the priest barred from his office. A child born to a Jewess married to a forbidden Gentile would be mamzer. Yet, such marriages are hardly immoral in a sexual sense. The negative consequences for the mamzer child are significant. First, since a mamzer could never enter the congregation of Adonai (Deut 23:3), then a mamzer can not contract marriage with a legitimate Jew or a proselyte (Yeb. 45b; Kidd. 69a; 74a). Second, the offspring of a mamzer and a legitimate Jew are mamzerim (Kidd. 3:12; Yeb. 8:3). For more discussion on the Jewish laws of this matter see the article Mamzer, Jewish Virtual Library.
We have: Grk. echō. See verse 6 above. one: Grk. heis, adj., the cardinal number one. The mention of "one" alludes to the Shema, "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one" (Deut 6:4 TLV). The corresponding Hebrew word echad conveys the meaning of singularity and uniqueness. When applied to God echad means that the God of Israel is the only God there is (Isa 45:5). The gods of other religions are the result of Satan's deception and man's imagination. And, as such He alone is to be worshipped. Nevertheless, echad also conveys compound unity. "One flesh" is the joining of male and female (Gen 2:24). The Torah says there is "one" law for the Israelite and the alien (Num 15:15). Unity of action is described as echad (Jdg 20:8; 1Sam 11:7). There is also the echad of a cluster of grapes (Num 13:23). Thus, echad incorporates the idea of a plurality in unity, as may be seen in Genesis 1:26 when the Creator says, "Let us make man in our image."
Father: See verse 16 above. The fatherhood of God toward the chosen people was first revealed in a message that Moses was to convey to Pharaoh, "Israel is My son, My firstborn" (Ex 4:22). The religious authorities speaking in corporate unity insist that God is their father, echoing the conviction of Israelites in former times of God as "our father" (1Chron 29:10; Isa 63:16; 64:8; Mal 2:10). Yet, this declaration is an ironic testimony of their hypocrisy since the previous year they were wanting to kill Yeshua for calling God his father (John 5:18). God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 40 above. There is no other God.
There does not appear to be an intentional slur on Yeshua's character in this verse as there is in verse 48 below. The rebuttal has a defensive purpose. There are a few translations that seem to deduce the intent of the adversaries' declaration. The ERV and EXB versions have, "We are not like children who never knew who their father was. God is our Father. He is the only father we have." The TEV has "God Himself is the only Father we have and we are his true children." The rebuttal takes Yeshua's questioning of their paternity (verse 38 and this verse) in a literalistic sense, as if Yeshua were challenging their legal right to serve as priests, rather than recognizing his spiritual meaning. The rebuttal amounts to an antithetical parallelism, first stating what they are not and then stating what they are.
42 Yeshua said to them, "If God were your father, you would love me, for I came forth and have come from God. For I have not come from myself, but He sent me.
If: Grk. ei, conj., used here to introduce an assumption. See verse 12 above. God were: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 10 above. The imperfect tense is used of continuous or repeated action in past time. your: The pronoun is plural, no doubt taking in all Yeshua's adversaries. father you would love me: The verb "love" is Grk. agapaō, impf., which means to have such an interest in another that one wishes to contribute to the other's well-being, even if it means making a personal sacrifice to do so. After all, God is love (1Jn 4:16) and God loves the entire world (John 3:16), most of whom have no interest in Him. And, love would not motivate killing someone for telling the truth.
for I came forth: Grk. exerchomai, aor. See verse 9 above. and have come: Grk. g, pres., with the sense of the perfect tense, have come, have arrived, be present. from God: The two verbs contrast Yeshua's entrance into the world via his incarnation and his later commencement of public ministry, both of which have their point of origin in God. Yeshua then states his recurring message (over 15 times already) that the Father sent him. There is no other explanation for his presence and his teaching.
43 Why do you not understand my way of speaking? Because you are not able to hear my message.
Why: Grk. dia ti, interrogative preposition and pronoun; lit. "because of what?" do you not: Grk. ou, adv., particle with a strong substantive negation. understand: Grk. ginōskō, lit. "know." See verse 27 above. my way of speaking: Grk. lalia, speech, either with the focus on the peculiar way in which something is said, such as regional pronunciation, or the mode of presentation. Mounce adds "talk, discourse." BAG adds "form of speech, way of speaking," and interprets lalia here as "the characteristic way in which Yeshua spoke. Yeshua likely alludes to the fact that his teaching was often parabolic in nature (Matt 13:13, 34). The question is essentially rhetorical yet Yeshua continues to provide an answer.
Because you are not: Grk. ou. able: Grk. dunamai, pres. mid., to be capable of doing or achieving; be able. Yeshua is not talking about physical ability, but spiritual readiness. to hear: Grk. akouō, pres. inf. See verse 9 above. In Hebrew thought "to truly hear is to obey." my message: Grk. logos. See verse 31 above. Yeshua is not finding fault with the function of their ears, but the attitude of their hearts. They were not willing to accept what Yeshua had been saying to them. Yeshua's adversaries were predisposed to reject his message because of his challenge of their legalistic rules.
44 You are of the father, the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and stood not in the truth, because truth is not in him. When he speaks the lie, he speaks of his own things; because he is a liar, and the father of it.
You: pl. pers. pron. are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 10 above. of: Grk. ek, prep., out of, from within. the father: Grk. patēr. See verse 16 above. Many versions have "your father" even though there is no pronoun associated with "father" in the opening phrase. Given that the verse ends with "the father" Yeshua asserts there are two fathers, one who speaks truth and the other who speaks lies. the devil: Grk. diabolos, slanderer, accuser. Diabolos occurs 21 times in the LXX to translate the Heb. word satan, "adversary," mostly of the angelic adversary (13 times in Job alone), but also a wicked human opponent (e.g. 1Kgs 11:14, 23, 25). Diabolos occurs 37 times in the Besekh, primarily in reference to Satan (DNTT 3:468f). The term is also used of human adversaries, such as Judas (John 6:70) and Elymas the magician (Acts 13:10). Paul also used the plural form of diabolos to mean slanderers (1Tim 3:11; 2Tim 3:3; Titus 2:3).
The devil (aka "Satan") was created by God in the beginning with all the other angels. Scripture gives no information about the creation of angels, although they must have been created very early in the creation week. Precisely when and how Satan became evil remains a mystery. Hints as to his origin are found in two passages directed initially to the kings of Tyre and Babylon.
"The word of Adonai came to me saying: 12 "Son of man, lift up a lament for the king of Tyre. Say to him, thus says Adonai Elohim: ‘You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God. Every precious stone was your covering —ruby, topaz and diamond, beryl, onyx and jasper, sapphire, turquoise and emerald—your settings and your sockets a workmanship of gold —in the day you were created they were prepared. 14 You were an anointed guardian cheruv. I placed you on the holy mountain of God. You walked among stones of fire. 15 You were perfect in your ways from the day that you were created, until unrighteousness was found in you. 16 By the abundance of your trade they filled you within with violence. So you have sinned. So I threw you out as a profane thing from the mountain of God. I made you vanish, guardian cheruv, from among the stones of fire. 17 Your heart was exalted because of your beauty. You corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. I threw you down to the earth. Before kings I set you up as a spectacle." (Ezek 28:11-17 TLV)
"How you have fallen from heaven, O daystar, son of the dawn! How you are cut down to the earth, you who made the nations prostrate! 13 You said in your heart: "I will ascend to heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God. I will sit upon the mount of meeting, in the uttermost parts of the north. 14 I will ascend above the high places of the clouds— I will make myself like Elyon." 15 Yet you will be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest parts of the Pit." (Isa 14:12-15 TLV)
These passages indicate that Satan was not created to be an adversary or a deceiver. His sin was pride and in his arrogance he believed he could overthrow God and reign over creation. In the Tanakh Satan appears most frequently in the book of Job. God's repeated emphasis in Job on His creation of the space-time-matter universe hints that Satan may have come to consciousness in the waters that were formed on the second day. Henry Morris suggests that "Even though they [the angels] had later observed God create the earth, stars, and living beings [Job 38:4-7], they had not seen him create the universe itself. Thus, Satan may have persuaded himself that God, like the angels, must have simply 'evolved' somehow, out of the eternal primordial chaos." (The Remarkable Record of Job, Baker Book House, 1988; p. 52). Thus, Satan inspired the original evolutionary mythology and its modern "scientific" incarnation that pervades human institutions.
and you want: Grk. thelō, to have a desire for something or have a purpose for something; will, wish, desire. to do: Grk. poieō, pres. inf. See verse 34 above. the desires: pl. of Grk. epithumia, may mean either (1) a strong feeling or interest, 'desire' or (2) an inordinate or improper desire, 'craving.' In the LXX epithumia occurs about 50 times and normally translates the Heb. avvah to express (a) a morally neutral desire (e.g. Deut 12:15, 20); (b) a praiseworthy desire (e.g. Gen 31:30; Prov 10:24; 13:12); or (c) an evil desire opposed to God's will (e.g. Num 11:4, 34, Deut 5:21; 9:22). A few versions translate epithumia with "lusts" (AMP, ASV, DARBY, KJ21, KJV), but its common association with sexual sin makes it a poor choice in this context.
of your father: Yeshua's accusation begs the question, "what are the devil's desires?" The Sanhedrin sought to accomplish all these of these aims against Yeshua. The accusation is not unlike God's assessment of Jerusalem leaders in the time of the Babylonian exile.
"Son of man, confront Jerusalem with her abominations and say, thus says Adonai to Jerusalem: ‘Your origin and your birth are from the land of the Canaanite; your father was an Amorite, your mother was a Hittite." (Ezek 16:2-3 TLV)
Paul's declaration to Elymas has a direct bearing on Yeshua's intention in his accusation: "You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord?" (Acts 13:10) The devil, also known as Satan, is a schemer (2Cor 2:11) who masquerades himself as an angel of light (2Cor 11:14) and works to hinder the ministry of God's servants (Luke 8:12; 1Th 2:18). Yeshua will later tell Peter "Get behind me Satan, for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's" (Mark 8:33 NASB), and Peter from his experience will declare, "the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1Pet 5:8 NASB). Satan tempts people to follow their own desires rather than the will of God. Satan is successful when there is a lack of self-control (1Cor 7:5).
He: Grk. ekeinos, demonstrative pronoun, lit. "that one." was: Grk. eimi, impf. The emphasis on continuous action in past time is certainly appropriate to Satan. a murderer: Grk. anthrōpoktonos, slayer of a fellow human being, murderer. from the beginning: Grk. archē. See verse 25 above. The term with the preceding preposition "from" is used here as a time reference. Satan is considered a murderer because his enticement of the woman into disobeying God's command brought about the curse of death. In that sense Satan has responsibility for the death of every human being who has ever lived. He may also be blamed for the first human murder of Abel by his brother Cain (cf. Gen 4:7; 1Jn 3:12).
and stood: Grk. histēmi, impf. See verse 3 above. The verb is used fig. of being set in an attitude. not in the truth: Grk. alētheia. See verse 32 above. because truth is not in him: Satan is so thoroughly depraved that no virtue can be found in him. When he spoke: Grk. laleō, pres. subj. See verse 12 above. The present tense not only refers to current activity, but is likely intended as an aoristic present, giving dramatic emphasis to a past event. the lie: Grk. pseudos, a distortion of the way something really is; a lie, falsehood. The singular noun with the definite article implies a particular lie, perhaps the first lie, "Has God said?" (Gen 3:1)
he spoke: Grk. laleō. The same verb is repeated for dramatic effect. of his own things: pl. of Grk. idios, belonging to oneself, one's own. Idios conveys the idea of property, that is, something belonging to an individual in contrast to what is public property or belongs to another. Satan may deny his nature (Job 4:18), but he cannot blame God or anyone else for his nature. because he is a liar: Grk. pseustēs, one who tells falsehoods; liar. and the father of it: Many versions render that last phrase as "the father of lies," even though "lies" is not in the Greek text. The singular pronoun "it" emphasizes that Satan is the originator of lying and the very first lie ever told in history was told by Satan in the Garden.
45 So inasmuch as I tell the truth, you do not believe me.
So: Grk. de, conj., used here to continue a thought, "and, also, so." See verse 1 above. inasmuch as: Grk. hoti, conj. that serves as a link between two sets of data, here with an inferential aspect from what was previously said; for, because, that, inasmuch as. I: Grk. egō, first person pronoun. tell: Grk. legō. See verse 4 above. the truth: Grk. alētheia. See verse 32 above. By "truth" Yeshua may mean everything he has said in this chapter. you do not believe me: Grk. pisteuō. See verse 24 above. A few versions have "trust" (NLV, OJB), which is part of the meaning. The present tense of "not believing" is coincidental with the present tense of "tell."
Most versions render hoti with "because," but such a translation put the inference on what follows than what Yeshua said in the previous verse. If we reverse the proposition, "You don't believe because I tell the truth," the point becomes nonsensical. That would be like saying "You know I am the way to heaven, but you prefer to go to hell." Rather Yeshua is saying, "You don't believe when I tell the truth because you're deceived by Satan." Perhaps the NLT has the best translation: "So when I tell the truth you naturally don't believe me."
46 Who of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?
Who of you accuses: Grk. elenchō, used in evaluating or responding to improper behavior and may mean (1) expose wrongdoing; bring to light, expose; (2) disapprove of wrongdoing; reprove, show fault; or (3) offer convincing evidence of wrongdoing; refute, convict; charge, accuse. The last meaning fits here. me of sin: Grk. hamartia. See verse 24 above. Yeshua dares his critics to name one commandment of the Torah that he has disobeyed. The only way his adversaries could bring a charge was by fabricating one. See verse 7 above for Yeshua's attribute of sinlessness. If: Grk. ei, a contingency marker to introduce a logical argument that presents a condition assumed to be valid or to be taken for granted. I tell the truth: Grk. alētheia. See verse 32 above. Yeshua has already established that he tells the truth (verses 40 and 45 above).
why do you not believe me: Grk. pisteuō. See verse 24 above. The question is rhetorical because Yeshua has already explained why they don't believe. The reality of spiritual warfare against the truth is expressed in the parable of the sower, "Those beside the road are the ones who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they may not believe and be saved" (Luke 8:12 TLV). Similarly Paul says, ""And even if our Good News is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case, the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, so they might not see the light of the Good News of the glory of Messiah, who is the image of God" (2Cor 4:3-4 TLV).
47 He who is of God hears the words of God. Therefore you do not hear because you are not of God."
He who is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 10 above. of God: Grk. theos. See verse 40 above. The genitive case emphasizes that God is the object of worship and loyalty. Someone who is "of God" has a relationship with God, and not just any god, but the God of Israel. hears: Grk. akouō. See verse 9 above. To hear is to respond favorably and obey (cf. 1Jn 4:6).
the words: pl. of Grk. rhēma. See verse 20 above. of God: Yeshua may have intended the expression "words of God" as an allusion to the Torah given to Moses as it says in Exodus 34:27, "Write down these words [LXX rhēma], for in accordance with these words [LXX logos] I have made a covenant with you and with Israel." In Psalm 107:11 "words of God" is synonymous with the "counsel of the Most High" and used in the context of Israelites rebelling against the message of the prophets. In John's midrash of John 3:34 he uses the expression "words of God" as the Spirit-inspired teaching of the One God sent, namely Yeshua.
Therefore: Grk. dia touto, lit. "through this." There is only one logical conclusion. These adversaries did not respond favorably to the "words of God" through Moses, the Prophets and Yeshua's own teaching, because in reality they had no relationship with God. They were "of a different god," namely the devil (verse 44 above), the god of this world (2Cor 4:4; 1Jn 5:19).
Yeshua, the I AM, 8:48-59
48 Then the Judean authorities answered and said to him, "Do we not say correctly that you are a Samaritan, and have a demon?"
Then the Judean authorities: Grk. Ioudaioi, pl. of Ioudaios. See verse 22 above. answered: Grk. apokrinomai, aor. pass. and said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 4 above. Both verbs are second person plural. See verse 14 above for the Jewish use of "answered and said." to him: With this grammatical construct there is the feeling of finger pointing in Yeshua's face. Do we not say: Grk. legō. correctly: Grk. kalōs, adv., in an effective manner, often with the focus on meeting expectations; well, effectively, accurately, correctly, appropriately. that you are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 10 above. a Samaritan: Grk. Samaritēs (for Heb. Samerim), a person from Samaria as a place of origin. The term does not occur in the Tanakh at all. These authorities know that Yeshua is not an actual Samaritan, so the word is used here as a slur.
The history of the Samaritans is bound up with the founding of the Northern Kingdom of Israel after the death of King Solomon (c. 931 BC; 1Kgs 11−12), its decline and eventual destruction by Assyria in 722 BC. The Assyrians deported many of the residents and replaced them with pagans from five different locations (2Kgs 17:24), some of whom intermarried with Israelites left in the land. According to the Kings history the Assyrian immigrants were attacked by mountain lions, and they decided to convert to the God of Israel. As a result the King of Assyria appointed an Israelite priest to educate them in Torah religion (2Kgs 17:25-28). Even with this social upheaval there is no evidence that all northern Israelites were exiled or totally assimilated into a Gentile culture and ceased to exist. Members of the northern tribes still participated in the pilgrim festivals in Jerusalem after the Assyrian occupation (cf. 2Chron 30:1, 21, 25; 31:1; 32:17, 23; 34:9, 21; 35:17; 36:13).
The tendency of Bible scholars to regard the Samaritans in Yeshua's time as non-Jews is due to the failure of recognizing that the term Ioudaios (pl. Ioudaioi), "Jew(s)," refers to Judean Jews as a religious expression, comparable to the Orthodox Jews in modern times. Ioudaioi is never used as a label for Hellenistic Jews or Samaritan Jews. Generally speaking the Ioudaioi followed the traditions of the Pharisees (Mark 7:3; Acts 10:28). Richard Coggins writes, "The Samaritans are best understood as a conservative group within the total spectrum of Judaism. This rather clumsy definition is necessary because of the ambiguity of the word "Judaism" (OCB 671). The Samaritans shared the beliefs and practices of mainstream Judaism of the day and reverenced holy traditions set forth in the Torah.
In the Talmud the Samaritans are referred to frequently with the slur "Cuthean." Cutheans (Heb. Kutim), named for those brought by the Assyrians from their native Cuthah to repopulate Israel. The use of "Samaritan" by apostolic writers (Luke 9:52; 17:16; John 4:39, 40; Acts 8:25) and Yeshua (Matt 10:5; Luke 10:33) instead of "Cuthean" demonstrates their respect for the people as well as the belief that they were descendants of the northern tribes. The Samaritan woman referred to Jacob as "our father" (John 4:12). Nevertheless there had been a long-standing prejudice against the Samaritans that predates the first century. This attitude is represented in Sirach 50:25, "With two nations my soul is vexed, and the third is no nation: Those who live on Mount Seir [Edom], and the Philistines, and the foolish people that dwell in Shechem [Samaria]."
Josephus also records the historical animosity between Judean Jews and Samaritans (Ant. XVIII, 2:2; 4:2-3; XX, 6:1-2). Shechem was the metropolis of Samaria (Ant. XI, 8:6). The attitude of Judean Jews is reflected in this statement from a Pharisee Sage, "the daughters of the Samaritans are deemed unclean as menstruants from their cradle (Niddah 4:1). The negative assessment in the Talmud is based on the Samaritan rejection of Pharisaic traditions. In reality the Samaritans followed the Torah in a strict manner. Gill cites the Talmud:
"R. Simeon b. Gamaliel [10 BC-AD 70] said: Every precept which Cutheans [Samaritans] have adopted, they observe it with minute care, [even] more than the Israelites. But here [in respect to marriage], wherein are they not well-versed? — Because they are not well-versed in the law of betrothal and divorce." (Kiddushin 76a)
So, the Samaritans were not so "well-versed" in Jewish traditions as to allow divorce for frivolous reasons as the School of Hillel (Gittin 9:10). Yeshua's own pronouncement on divorce is closer to the Samaritans than to the Pharisees. For their part the Samaritans acknowledged only the Pentateuch as inspired by God and denied Jerusalem as the religious center, opting instead for Mount Gerizim. This sentiment is echoed by the woman with whom Yeshua conversed in chapter 4 (see the note on verse 20 there). The attitude of Samaritans was similar to the Essenes who regarded the Jerusalem Temple as unfit for religious activities since it was presided over by the corrupt Sadducean priesthood. Daniel Gruber offers this quote from a Jewish midrash:
"R. Jonathan was going up to worship in Yerushala'im, when he passed the Palantanis mountain [Mt. Gerizim] and was seen by a certain Samaritan, who asked him, 'Where are you going?' He said, 'To go up to worship in Yerushala'im." [The Samaritan replied.] "It would be better for you to pray at this blessed mountain than at that dunghill." (Mid. Gen. Rabbah 32:10; 80:3; quoted in Gruber-Notes 148)
So, for the authorities to call Yeshua a "Samaritan" is highly ironic because a Samaritan would never enter the Jerusalem Temple in the first place and the Levitical guard would not have admitted a Samaritan into the Treasury where Yeshua spoke.
and have: Grk. echō, to have, hold or possess. a demon: Grk. daimonion refers to a deity or transcendent being of lesser or subordinate rank. In the Besekh the term only has a negative connotation of an evil spirit hostile toward man and God. Daimonion was historically derived from daiomai, to divide or apportion and may be connected with the idea of the god of the dead as a divider of corpses (DNTT 1:450). The terms "demon" and "unclean spirit" are essentially synonymous in Scripture (Luke 9:42). Neither term refers to a ghost or a spirit of a dead person. Demons are subordinate to Satan and are his angels (Mark 3:22-23) and while active in the world, they are destined for judgment (Matt 8:29; 25:41). Worship in false religions brings people into contact with demons that are the true reality behind the pagan deities (Lev 17:7; Deut 32:17; 2Chr 11:15; Ps 106:37; 1Cor 10:20f; Rev 9:20).
In the LXX daimonion occurs only in Isaiah 34:14 for Heb. sa'iyr (SH-8163, 'satyr, demon,') and in Isa 65:11 for Heb. gad (SH-1409, 'fortune, or 'god of fortune'). The related term daimōn ('demon') occurs in Isaiah 13:21 for Heb. sa'iyr. The Tanakh has two other words for evil spirits: Heb. shedim (SH-7700, "demons" Deut 32:17; Ps 106:37), and lilith (SH-3917, 'female night demon,' Isa 34:14). Scripture is silent on the origin of demons, but they are likely the angels who followed Satan and were cast down to earth (Rev 12:9; cf. Jude 1:6). Demons might be considered the foot soldiers in Satan's army. According to the cases reported in the apostolic narratives they have the power to cause great harm.
Jewish scribes were steeped in belief in demons and had many names for them, such as powerful ones, harmers, destroyers, attackers, satyrs, and evil spirits. According to Jewish belief in the first century demons ascend from beneath the earth (cf. 1Sam 28:13) and fill the world. They have access to heaven, and though they belong to Satan's kingdom, God gives them authority to inflict punishments on sinners. Their power began in the time of Enosh (Gen 4:26), but will end in the days of the Messiah. Their main goal is to lead men into sin. They are the cause of some, but not all diseases, and they can also kill (DNTT 1:451). The criticism of Yeshua's adversary misstates reality because in demon-possession the demon "has" the person.
One might want to temper the harsh slander on the basis that Jewish leaders often hurled epithets against those who did not agree with their traditions or teaching. It was common for the School of Hillel to refer to the School of Shammai as "the synagogue of Satan" (Moseley 96). Gruber notes the Talmudic anecdote of R. Dosa b. Harkinas of Beit Hillel, who called his younger brother of Beit Shammai, "the first-born of Satan" (Yebamot 16a) (MW-Notes 158). In addition, the accusation of having a demon is really associated with their prejudice against Samaritans. However, this is not the first time this slander has been hurled at Yeshua (also in John 7:20). The anecdote repeats the occasions in the Synoptic passages in which some Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem accused Yeshua of having a demon and casting out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of demons (Matt 9:34; 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15). Ironically, these same people also accused Yochanan the Immerser of "having" a demon (Matt 11:18; Luke 7:33).
49 Yeshua answered, "I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me."
Yeshua flatly denied the slanderous lie of his enemies. Then he offers another contrast between himself and them. I honor: Grk. timaō, pres., to have special regard for, to show respect to. The corresponding Hebrew verb kabad means to honor or to glorify (BDB 457). my Father: See verse 19 above. Yeshua's life and ministry had been one of full obedience to the Father's will. you dishonor: Grk. atimazō, pres., to deprive of honor or respect; dishonor, disgrace or shame. The present tense of the two verbs likely describes concurrent activity. me: One might expect that Yeshua would again mention the Father to complete an antithetical parallelism. However, he is the visible presence and Word of the Father. As a publicly acknowledged teacher of the Kingdom of God they should show more respect.
50 But I do not seek my glory. There is One seeking and judging.
But I do not seek: Grk. zēteō. See verse 37 above. my glory: Grk. doxa. originally meant opinion, conjecture, praise or repute in secular Greek in regard to what one thought about a person or thing. In the LXX doxa renders Heb. kabod (pronounced "kah-vohd"), "abundance, honor, glory" (SH-3519; BDB 458). Kabod does include the meanings of dignity of position, reputation of character and the reverence due to or ascribed to someone, and is frequently used for the honor brought or given to God (e.g., Ps 29:1; Isa 42:12). Above all, kabod expresses God's glory and power, the luminous manifestation of His presence and the glorious revelation of Himself.
During the inter-testamental period doxa-kabod was applied to the realities of heaven, God's throne and angelic majesties. In the Besekh doxa is a continuation of the underlying Hebrew concept (DNTT 2:45). A few versions render doxa here as "honor" (AMP, CEV, ERV, NCV, NLV, TEV). Yeshua has no interest in their approval. Moreover, these critics are incapable of giving Yeshua the true glory that he will possess seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven.
There is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 10 above. One: Grk. ho, demonstrative pronoun functioning as a personal pronoun of the third person; this one, that one, etc. The pronoun is used here as a circumlocution for the Father. The word may also function as a definite article to the verb following, which highlights a character attribute of the One. seeking: Grk. zēteō, pres. part. The unstated part of the proposition is that the One seeking is seeking the glory of Yeshua. and judging: Grk. krinō, pres. part. See verse 15 above. The verb refers to an active evaluation and does not specifically point to the judgment of the last day. The affirmation, which serves as a warning, echoes the statement of John 3:18, "the one not trusting has been judged already, because he has not trusted in the name of the only Son of God." Yeshua's warning also anticipates his exhortation in 12:48, "He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day."
51 "Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he may not see death into the age."
Truly, truly: Grk. amēn amēn. See verse 34 above. The double use of amēn reinforces the complete reliability and truthfulness of Yeshua's prophetic teaching. I say to you: The you is plural and likely includes the crowd witnessing the exchange between Yeshua and his adversaries. One might imagine Yeshua pointing a finger at those in front of him and then moving that finger over the crowd. if: Grk. ean, conj. functioning as a conditional particle to introduce a proposition with a potential outcome. anyone: Grk. tis, an indefinite pronoun, someone, anyone. The pronoun is not exclusive. There is no hint of "ones I've selected." keeps: Grk. tēreō, aor. subj., may mean (1) to maintain in a secure state with a focus on personal interest or obligation; keep; or (2) to be in compliance in regard to instruction; keep, observe. The second meaning applies here.
my word: Grk. logos. See verse 31 above. The singular noun combined with the verb probably alludes to the whole of Yeshua's teaching. The verb occurs in the commission Yeshua will give to his apostles that they would teach future disciples to observe all that he had commanded (Matt 28:20). Yeshua gave many commandments, all based on the Torah, and none more demanding than his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. by no means: Grk. ou mē, both particles that negate, lit. "not, not." There is no stronger denial of something than can be expressed by these two particles used together. Many versions translate the particle combination with "never." may he see: Grk. theōreō, aor. subj., may mean (1) pay attention to; look at, observe, watch, behold; or (2) conclude on the basis of personal experience; infer, see. As used here the verb emphasizes personal experience. The subjunctive mood stresses probability and looks toward what is potential, which is appropriate to the conditional nature of the promise.
death: Grk. thanatos, death in the natural physical sense, but also fig. of existence outside a relationship with God (1Jn 3:14), including that existence into eternity (Rev 2:11). Yeshua could also be personifying Death, an allusion to the demonic agent of destruction in Revelation (6:8; 20:13-14). In other words the one who obeys Yeshua will not go to the place where Death reigns. into: Grk. eis, prep., that marks a transition from outside to the inside, lit. 'into.' the age: Grk. aiōn. See verse 35 above. The noun could mean "forever" in the sense of eternity, but more likely is used here to allude to the Jewish manner of expressing time as either the present age (Matt 12:32; 13:39-40; 24:3; Mark 10:30; Luke 16:8; 20:34; 1Cor 1:20; 2:6; Gal 1:4; Eph 1:21; Titus 2:12) or the age to come (Matt 12:32; Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; Eph 1:21; Heb 6:5), a reference to the time when Messiah will reign as King over the earth, a kingdom without end (Luke 1:33; Rev 11:15).
Most versions render the last clause as either "he will never see death" or "he will never die" and thereby obscure the Jewish nature of the promise. This translation also implies a guarantee that one can cheat physical death merely by believing in Yeshua. Only a few versions render aiōn by adding "for ever" (DRA), "forever" (JUB, LEB) or "ever" (HCSB) to the end of the verse, which is needed to emphasize "death" as spiritual and its duration. The reason a disciple will not see death into the age to come is that the resurrection occurs at the end of the present age (Dan 12:13; John 6:39-40, 44, 54; 11:24). Yeshua's statement could contain a hint of the final judgment in which Death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire (Rev 20:14).
52 The Judean authorities said to him, "Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets; and you say, 'If anyone keeps my word, by no means may he taste of death into the age.'"
The Judean authorities: pl. of Grk. Ioudaios. See verse 22 above. said to him: It's difficult to gauge emotion in these conversation narratives, but the adversaries probably faced Yeshua with a look of triumph. Now: Grk. nun, adv. of time in the present; now or just now. we know: Grk. ginōskō, perf. See verse 27 above. The perfect tense reflects action that began in the past with continuing results to the present and combined with the adverb "now" has the effect of "gotcha." that you have: Grk. echō, pres. See verse 48 above. a demon: See verse 48 for the same phrase. The confidence of the adversaries has the effect of saying, "We've said all along that you have a demon (Matt 12:24) and now you've proven it."
Abraham: Grk. Abraam. See verse 33 above. died: Grk. apothnēskō, aor. See verse 29 above. and the prophets: pl. of Grk. prophētēs, one who is gifted with the ability for interpretation or revelation transcending normal insight or awareness, i.e., a prophet. In Scripture the term "prophet" refers to one who spoke on God's behalf, whether in foretelling future events or forth-telling the message of God (DNTT 3:76). The record of the Tanakh indicates considerable variance in the activity and ministry of Hebrew prophets, but they all spoke for God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2Pet 1:21). The sentence is incomplete but implies the prophets died too. The attempt at a mocking rebuttal suggests the speakers were Sadducean priests, who didn't recognize the authority of the literary prophets and didn't believe in the resurrection.
and you say: Grk. legō. See verse 4 above. The verb is used here to introduce quoted material, no doubt with a mocking tone. If anyone keeps my word, by no means: Yeshua's adversaries repeat this portion of what he said in the previous verse verbatim. may he taste: Grk. geuomai, aor. mid. subj., to partake of something by mouth, liquid or solid, and fig. of experiencing or coming to know something. Yeshua did not use this verb. of death: Grk. thanatos. See the previous verse. The noun here is in the genitive case which robs it of the potential of personification contained in the nominative case that Yeshua used. into the age: See the previous verse. The critics do not say as most Bible versions translate "he will never taste death." A few versions complete the verse with "into all eternity" (AMP), "for ever" (DRA), "forever" (JUB, LEB) and "ever" (HCSB). As typical of their father the devil, Yeshua's adversaries misquote him in order to slander him.
53 "You are not greater than our father Abraham who died; and the prophets died. Who do you make yourself out to be?"
You are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 10 above. not: Grk. mē, negative particle. See verse 24 above. This particle is used in declarations and questions of a tentative nature or marked by matters of opinion. Since the particle begins the sentence in the Greek text, it is used here in an interrogative sense and all Bible versions render the opening sentence as a question. In interrogative text mē usually anticipates the negative reply oú, which is not present. This is not a question of genuine inquiry or interest. Rather, this is a declaration framed as a question such as might be asked of a hostile witness in a trial. greater than: Grk. megas, adj., exceeding a standard and therefore impressive; great. our father Abraham: See the notes on verse 33 and 39 above.
who died: Grk. apothnēskō, aor. See verse 29 above. and: Grk. kai, conj., and, also. See verse 8 above. The conjunction continues the thought rather than interrupting to make a new sentence as in most versions. the prophets: pl. of Grk. prophētēs. See the previous verse. died: Grk. apothnēskō, aor. The challenge to Yeshua is "Do you really mean to tell us that you are greater than Abraham and the prophets, all of whom died?" Who: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun indicating interest in establishing something definite; who, which, what, why. do you make: Grk. poieō, to make or do something. See verse 34 above. yourself: Grk. seautou, reflexive pronoun of the second person; yourself. out to be: These words are supplied for clarity, because the Greek text only has the words "whom yourself make." The inquisitors have obviously not been paying attention.
54 Yeshua answered, "If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. The One glorifying me is my Father, of whom you say 'He is our God.'"
Yeshua insists that he is not boasting in himself, because he is not concerned about his reputation. The verb "glorify" means to praise, honor or pat himself on the back. His statement is similar to Paul's argument to the Corinthian congregation,
"But we will not boast beyond limits, but within the limits of the area that God has assigned to us—to reach even as far as you. … 15 Neither are we boasting beyond limits based on the labors of others … 17 But "let him who boasts boast in the Lord." 18 For it Is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends." (2Cor 10:13, 15, 17-18 TLV)
The Father, whom these adversaries claim is their God, has given His seal of approval for Yeshua. The refusal to accept the Father's appraisal effectively challenges their claim of divine paternity.
55 You have not known Him, but I know Him. If I said, ‘I don’t know Him,’ I would be like you, a liar. But I know Him, and keep His word.
You have not known him: The verb is Grk. ginōskō, perf. See verse 27 above. This knowledge is not only information received from instruction, but knowledge based on a personal relationship. Yeshua's adversaries did not possess real knowledge of God. but I know him: The verb is Grk. oida, perf. See verse 14 above. Oida has the same range of meaning as ginōskō, but includes intimate first-hand knowledge. Of course, the Son knows his own Father. If: Grk. kan, contingency particle setting the stage for consideration of additional possibility; and if, even if, even, at least. I said: Grk. legō, aor. subj., to say or speak something. See verse 4 above.
I don’t know him: Again Yeshua uses oida to express intimate knowledge. Yeshua describes a hypothetical situation, which in reality would never happen. I would be: Grk. eimi, fut. mid., to be. like: Grk. homoios, adj., like, similar to, resembling, of equal rank. you, a liar: Grk pseustēs, a liar, deceiver. But I know him: Yeshua uses oida a third time, employing the Torah principle of two or three witnesses, but in this case giving the same message three times (2Cor 13:1). and keep: Grk. tēreō, to keep. See verse 51 above. His word: Grk. logos. See verse 31 above. Yeshua affirms again that he lived as an obedient servant of his Father in heaven.
56 Your father Abraham celebrated that he should see my day. He saw it, and rejoiced."
Your father Abraham: See verses 33 and 39 above. Yeshua mentions "your father" in the simple sense of ancestry. celebrated: Grk. agalliaō, aor. mid., to be exuberantly joyful; rejoice, exult. Mounce adds 'to celebrate, to praise and to desire ardently.' that he should see: Grk. horaō, aor. subj., to perceive with the physical eyes or to experience extraordinary mental or inward perception. The subjunctive mood implies the nuance of feeling a privilege. my 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 third meaning would have application here. The clause could also be translated as "desirous to see my day" (Gill).
Since Yeshua is the Messiah of Israel then "my day" alludes to the "days of the Messiah," the time when deliverance would come to the descendants of Jacob by the one chosen of God who will restore the fortunes of Israel and reign over the earth. Gill says, "Many kings and prophets, and righteous men, were desirous of, even of seeing the Messiah and his day." Jewish speculation was rampant as to when the Messiah would come and how long he would remain. At the end of Sanhedrin 96b we read,
said to R. Isaac: 'Have you heard when Bar Nafle will come?' 'Who is Bar
Nafle?' he asked. 'Messiah,' he answered, 'Do you call Messiah Bar Nafle?'
— 'Even so,' he rejoined, 'as it is written, in that day I will raise up
the tabernacle of David [that is fallen [Amos 9:1]." [NOTE: "Bar Nafle"
is a transliteration of the LXX of "son of the clouds" in Dan 7:13.]
Reinhartz suggests that Yeshua may be referring to traditions among the Jewish people, such as described in the Testament of Abraham, in which God gives Abraham a tour of the heavens and provides him with knowledge of the final judgment, before his own death (177). The Testament of Abraham is a Jewish work from the late part of first century A.D. although the precise date and original language are debated by scholars. A similar account of Abraham is recorded in The Legends of the Jews by Louis Ginzberg (1909). This book is massive collation of the Haggada—the traditions which have grown up surrounding the Biblical narrative.
However, these traditions about Abraham make no mention of the Messiah being revealed to him. Since Yeshua used the singular "my day" he might have intended the day known as "the day of the Messiah" (1Cor 5:5; Php 1:6, 10; 2:16; 2Th 1:9-10), the day that Messiah Yeshua returns in glory and judges the world (cf. Matt 7:22-23; 24:36; 25:31-32; 26:29). It is very possible that Abraham was given a special revelation concerning the final judgment of the Messiah, but the Jewish author of the Testament decided to omit that detail so as not to support Yeshua's comment.
He saw it: Grk. horaō, aor. Yeshua states the "seeing" of Abraham as an accomplished fact, but again the verb has a fig. meaning. That is, Abraham saw the "days of the Messiah" by faith. and rejoiced: Grk. chairō, aor. pass., to be in a state marked by good feeling about an event or circumstance; be happy, glad, delighted, rejoice. Yeshua's comment is a kind of midrash that alludes to the fact that when Abraham and Sarah were informed that Sarah would bear a child they both laughed (Gen 17:17; 18:12-13). God directed Abraham to name the promised son Isaac (Heb. Yitschaq), which means "he laughs." The meaning of Isaac's name might intend God as the subject in that He had the last laugh on Abraham and Sarah.
The subject of "he laughs" could also be the parents. After Isaac's birth Sarah said, "God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me" (Gen 21:6). Then Abraham celebrated his son with a great feast when he was weaned (Gen 21:8). The birth of Isaac no doubt for Abraham pointed to fulfillment of the promise to the Woman in the Garden of a Redeemer-Seed. Paul makes this connection in Galatians where he declares that the promise given to Abraham in Genesis 15:4-5 points to the Messiah. "Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his Seed. It doesn’t say, 'and to seeds," as of many, but as of one, "and to your Seed,' who is the Messiah" (Gal 3:16 TLV). In Genesis 15:5 God asks Abraham to count the stars and then says, "So shall your Seed be." God's point is that the Seed will be able to count the stars. In addition, the Seed shall be as the stars, that is of infinite and eternal character. Then the Seed will be the one who rules over the stars.
Abraham's joy was made complete in the "resurrection" of his son Isaac as reflected in Paul's statement that Abraham received Isaac back after the offering on Mount Moriah as a type (Heb 11:19). Yeshua's point, as Gill observes, is that Abraham's rejoicing over his son Isaac also included the realization that the binding of Isaac, the sacrifice of the ram, and the receiving of Isaac back as it were from the dead, served as a portent that the Redeemer-Seed would also suffer, die, and be raised from the dead. In the Seed of the Messiah all the covenantal promises would be fulfilled. The sheer ingeniousness and magnitude of God's glorious plan was a matter of joy and gladness for Abraham.
57 The Judean authorities therefore said to him, "You have not yet fifty years, and you have seen Abraham?"
The Judean authorities: pl. of Grk. Ioudaios. See verse 22 above. therefore said to him: Yeshua's critics open their mouths to rebut Yeshua and promptly launch into a distortion. You have: Grk. echō, to possess something. See verse 6 above. not yet: Grk. oupō., adv., a negative particle indicating than an activity, circumstance, or condition is in abeyance or suspension; not yet. fifty: Grk. pentēkonta, the cardinal number fifty. years: pl. of Grk. etos, a period of twelve months. Irenaeus (A.D. 202) concluded that Yeshua must have "already passed the age of forty, without having as yet reached his fiftieth year, yet is not far from this latter period" (Against Heresies, II, 22:6). In an attempt to harmonize the age 50 comment more closely with "about 30" in Luke 3:23, a few late MS witnesses, including Chrysostom (A.D. 407), changed the text to read "forty years old" (Metzger 193). (See my comment on Luke 3:23.)
Stern takes the age reference comment too literally saying, "The implication is that he appears close enough to fifty for the statement to be meaningful as a reasonable upper limit to his estimated age; yet we know that he was 'about thirty' when he began his public ministry (Luke 3:23) and that his ministry lasted no longer than three years. Conclusion: he must have looked older than he was." Tenney is also of the same viewpoint as if "the tensions of life" had aged Yeshua prematurely. Lightfoot, on the other hand, takes the reference to fifty as the upper limit of the active life span (3:336). According to the Torah (Num 4:3, 39; 8:24–25) Levites began their service of physical labor at age twenty-five and retired at age fifty.
The age of 50 was very important in Jewish society. It meant that one "had arrived." In Hagigah 13a Rabbi Ammi ben Nathan said that the mysteries of the Torah may be transmitted only to one who possesses the five attributes listed in Isaiah 3:3, the first one being 50 years of age. Also, a Meturgan (one who translates into Aramaic or Greek for a service), was not chosen under fifty years of age (Hagigah 14a). In the Sayings of the Fathers a man gained "full strength" at age 30, "understanding" at age 40 and "the ability to give counsel" at age 50 (Avot 5:21). According to Sanhedrin 17a appointed members of the Sanhedrin, were to be "men of stature, wisdom, good appearance, mature age, with a knowledge of sorcery, and who are conversant with all the seventy languages of mankind, in order that the court should have no need of an interpreter."
The "knowledge of sorcery" refers to being able to detect those who seduce and pervert by means of witchcraft. The mention of seventy languages refers to the principal languages of the nations, such as Aramaic, Greek and Latin. "Seventy" is a symbolic number for the nations based on the seventy nations listed in Genesis 10. Therefore, it was preferable that the "mature age" would be at least 40 as the minimum age for membership on the Sanhedrin and the President should be at least 50. (See The Jewish Court System at Aish.com for all the qualifications to sit on the Sanhedrin). Since the authorities challenging Yeshua were members of the Sanhedrin it's reasonable to assume that they were much older than him.
and you have seen: Grk. horaō, perf. See the previous verse. The perfect tense indicates action in past time with continuing results to the present. Abraham: Two versions connect the verb "seen" with Abraham. Two versions (MESSAGE and WE) translate the verb as applying to Abraham, but the verb "saw" is second person singular, so it applies to Yeshua. Again, Yeshua's critics misquote him in order to slander him. Yeshua did not say that he saw Abraham, but rather that Abraham saw him. Unfortunately, some commentators, as illustrated below, fall into the trap of taking the words of the critics as a restatement of Yeshua's words. Lightfoot, for example, suggests the point they are making is "You have yet to come to retirement age and you claim to have seen Abraham?"
Morris makes a similar observation as Lightfoot in terms of the regulation on the Levite's term of service. He goes on to suggest the mention of "50" may contrast one short life-time with the centuries that had elapsed since Abraham's day. Then Morris, not recognizing the distortion, adds the comment, "He could not claim even to be one of the elders. How then could He possibly have seen Abraham?" (473). In reality the statement of "you are not yet 50, so you can't have seen Abraham" is yet another slur. The critics probably did not mean the verb "saw" as physical eyesight, but having mental comprehension about Abraham. In other words, "You're not old enough to claim elevated insights about God, who is eternal, so you are definitely not old enough to say anything about Abraham."
58 Yeshua said to them, "Truly, Truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM."
Truly, Truly: Grk. amēn, amēn. See verse 34 above for this unique expression of Yeshua. 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: Grk. legō, to make a statement, here in an oral form. See the not on verse 4 above. to you: The personal pronoun is plural and its use may indicate taking the entire listening audience into account.
before: Grk. prin, adv., at a point in time earlier than the moment of a specified event or activity; before. Abraham: Grk. Abraam (Heb. Avraham). See verse 33 above. was born: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. inf., come into being by birth or natural process. See verse 33 above. I AM: Grk. egō eimi. See the notes on verse 12 and 24 above. This is the third time in this chapter (also verse 24, 28) that Yeshua makes the claim of being YHVH, but here it is much more explicit given that Yeshua essentially claims to be preexistent before the birth of Abraham. As Stern says, this may be Yeshua's clearest self-pronouncement of his deity.
59 Then they took stones to throw at him, but Yeshua was hidden, and went out of the temple.
Then they took: Grk. airō, aor., 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. stones: pl. of Grk. lithos, stone. The term is used of various types of stone. The stones, or rocks, were apparently of a size to hold in the hand. to throw: Grk. ballō, aor. subj. See verse 7 above. at him: Stern comments, "It was very clear to the Judeans exactly what Yeshua’s claim was, because they immediately took up stones to put him to death for blasphemy. Claiming to be God and, specifically, pronouncing God’s name as Yeshua had just done were punishable by death (Lev 19:12; 24:15–16; and Mishnah Sanh. 7:6, "The blasphemer is only punished if he utters the Divine Name.")."
However, the Gemara goes on to explain that only he who both blasphemes, that is, utters the ineffable Name, and curses it, is executed (Sanh. 56a, see fn 19). We should note what the text says. The words in the previous verse "I AM," egō eimi, standing alone grammatically would in Hebrew be ani ["I"] eheyeh [to be, I am], anoki ["I"] eheyeh, or just simply eheyeh. In the LXX Kurios translates the sacred name YHVH. Yeshua does not say egō eimi Kurios, which is the frequent translation in the LXX for ani YHVH (Ex 7:5), nor does he say ani YHVH Elohekim ("your God," Ex 16:12) or anoki YHVH Eloheka ("your God," Ex 20:2). Yeshua just says "I AM." However, by itself the adversaries took the pronoun-verb as an allusion to the instruction by YHVH to Moses at the end of Exodus 3:14, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM' has sent me to you."
So, Yeshua's adversaries did not attempt to stone him because he spoke the sacred name, but that he made himself equal to the divine person who existed before Abraham. Actually, the Mishnah confirms that there was no prohibition against pronouncing the Name in ancient times. In fact, the Mishnah recommends using God's Name as a routine greeting to a fellow Jew (Berachot 9:5). During the days of the second Temple the name of YHVH was spoken during worship services. In the course of the services on the Day of Atonement the high priest pronounced the name YHVH ten times (Deut 21:5; Yoma 37a, 39b, 66a) and the people standing in the temple courts bowed with their faces to the ground. Yet Yoma says that the ineffable name was apparently spoken so loud that it was heard "even unto Jericho."
but: Grk. de, conj. Yeshua was hidden: Grk. kruptō, aor. pass., to keep from view, to conceal or hide. Most versions translate the verb as "hid himself," but the verb is passive, meaning that he received the action of the verb rather than performing it. Several versions translate more accurately with "was hidden" (CJB, HCSB, HNV, LEB, MW, NET, NLT, OJB, TLB). Gill notes that a miracle occurred in which Yeshua was made invisible to his adversaries, perhaps by holding their eyes, or casting a mist before them, that they could not see him. To say that Yeshua "hid himself" creates more of a mystery considering he had just been speaking to his adversaries and they were close enough to throw rocks at him. Where would he hide himself? and went out: Grk. exerchomai, aor. See verse 9 above.
of the temple: Grk. hieron, a term for the entire temple complex. See verse 2 above. Readers may wonder how Yeshua's adversaries found stones in the temple. The temple was still under construction (cf. John 2:20), so stones, or pieces of stones, would be available for ammunition. Herod commenced the project of tearing down the temple and replacing it with something truly magnificent in the eighteenth year of his reign (c. 20 BC) (Josephus, Ant. XV, 11:1). The sanctuary, was completed in 18 months (Ant. XV, 11:6). The entire temple complex was then enlarged to a size of about thirty-five acres and was still being worked on at this time. The temple was not completed until the procuratorship of Albinus (AD 62-64) (Ant. XX, 9:7).
According to the chronology of Santala Yeshua left Jerusalem after departing the temple and returned to Galilee and the events of Luke 9:51—13:35 occurred before John 9:1 (119-120). Luke's narrative in that section does not appear in the narratives of Matthew or Mark. Some scholars place the events of Luke 9:51-62 as coincidental with John 7:10 (Yeshua traveling to Sukkot) and Luke 10—13 between John 10:21 and John 10:22. Other authorities place Luke 10—13 after John 10:44. By this reckoning chapters 7─10 of John all occur within the same time frame in Jerusalem.
Yet, surely Yeshua would not have remained in Jerusalem when the authorities had just tried to stone him. In addition, there is no mention of the Twelve being with Yeshua in Jerusalem in John chapter seven and eight, but 9:2 indicates their presence. According to the account of Luke 9:51—13:35 Yeshua's disciples were with him. Lastly, the significant event in Luke 10 is the sending of the seventy on their mission, and it seems unlikely that Yeshua would do this in the midst of winter.
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.
Barclay: William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series. Revised Ed., 16 Vols. The Westminster Press, 1975-76.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981. Online.
Coke: Thomas Coke (1747-1814), 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.
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology. 3 Vols., ed. Colin Brown. Zondervan Publishing House, 1975.
Edersheim-Temple: Alfred Edersheim (1825-1889), The Temple: It's Ministry and Services (1874). New Updated Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1994. Online.
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.
HELB: Hebrew-English Lexicon of the Bible. Schocken Books, 1975.
Jeremias: Joichim Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. Fortress Press, 1975.
Lightfoot: John Lightfoot (1602-1675), A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica (1859 ed.), 4 Vols. Hendrickson Pub., 1989. Online.
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)
Moseley: Ron Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Yeshua and the Original Church. Lederer Books, 1996.
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.
NIBD: Nelson's Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible. Herbert Lockyer, ed. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986.
OCB: The Oxford Companion to the Bible. ed. Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan. Oxford University Press, 1993.
Reinhartz: Adele Reinhartz, Annotations on "John," Jewish Annotated New Testament, eds. Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Brettler. Oxford University Press, 2011.
Santala: Risto Santala, The Messiah in the New Testament in the Light of Rabbinical Writings. Trans. William Kinnaird. Keren Ahvah Meshihit, 1992. Online.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
Thayer: Joseph Henry Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Harper Brothers, 1889.
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