Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1, 2. Jesus went unto the Mount of Olives--This should have formed
the last verse of the foregoing chapter. "The return of the people to
the inert quiet and security of their dwellings
at the close of the feast, is designedly contrasted with our Lord's
homeless way, so to speak, of spending the short night, who is
early in the morning on the scene again. One cannot well see why what
is recorded in
Lu 21:37, 38
may not even thus early have taken place; it might have been the Lord's
ordinary custom from the beginning to leave the brilliant misery of the
city every night, that so He might compose His sorrowful and
interceding heart, and collect His energies for new labors of love;
preferring for His resting-place Bethany, and the Mount of
Olives, the scene thus consecrated by many preparatory prayers for
His final humiliation and exaltation" [STIER].
3-6. scribes and Pharisees--foiled in their yesterday's attempt, and
hoping to succeed better in this.
4, 5. woman . . . in adultery . . . Moses
. . . commanded . . . should be stoned--simply
put to death
but in aggravated cases, at least in later times, this was probably by
but what sayest thou--hoping, whatever He might answer, to put Him
in the wrong:--if He said, Stone her, that would seem a stepping out of
His province; if He forbade it, that would hold Him up as a relaxer of
the public morals. But these cunning hypocrites were overmatched.
6. stooped down--It will be observed He was sitting when they
came to Him.
with his finger wrote on the ground--The words of our translators in
italics ("as though He heard them not") have hardly improved the sense,
for it is scarcely probable He could wish that to be thought. Rather He
wished to show them His aversion to enter on the subject. But as this
did not suit them, they "continue asking Him," pressing for an answer.
At last, raising Himself He said.
7. He that is without sin--not meaning sinless altogether; nor yet,
guiltless of a literal breach of the Seventh Commandment; but probably,
he whose conscience acquits him of any such sin.
cast a stone--"the stone," meaning the first one
8. again he stooped down and wrote--The design of this second stooping
and writing on the ground was evidently to give her accusers an
opportunity to slink away unobserved by Him, and so avoid an exposure
to His eye which they could ill have stood. Accordingly it is added.
9. they . . . convicted . . . went out one by one . . . Jesus was left
alone--that is, without one of her accusers remaining; for it is added.
the woman in the midst--that is, of the remaining audience. While the
trap failed to catch Him for whom it was laid, it caught those who laid
it. Stunned by the unexpected home thrust, they immediately made
off--which makes the impudence of those impure hypocrites in dragging
such a case before the public eye the more disgusting.
10. Woman, &c.--What inimitable tenderness and grace! Conscious of
her own guilt, and till now in the hands of men who had talked of
stoning her, wondering at the skill with which her accusers had been
dispersed, and the grace of the few words addressed to herself, she
would be disposed to listen, with a reverence and teachableness before
unknown, to our Lord's admonition. "And Jesus said unto her, Neither do
I condemn thee, go and sin no more." He pronounces no pardon upon the
woman (such as, "Thy sins are forgiven thee" [compare
Lu 5:28; 7:48]
--"Go in peace" [compare
Lu 7:50; 8:48]),
much less does He say that she had done nothing condemnable; He simply
leaves the matter where it was. He meddles not with the magistrate's
office, nor acts the Judge in any sense
But in saying, "Go and sin no more," which had been before said to one
who undoubtedly believed
more is probably implied than expressed. If brought suddenly to
conviction of sin, admiration of her Deliverer, and a willingness to be
admonished and guided by Him, this call to begin a new life may have
carried with it what would ensure and naturally bring about a permanent
change. (This whole narrative is wanting in some of the earliest and
most valuable manuscripts, and those which have it vary to some extent.
The internal evidence in its favor is almost overpowering. It is easy
to account for its omission, though genuine; but if not so, it
is next to impossible to account for its insertion).
12. I am the light of the world--As the former references to
(Joh 4:13, 14; 7:37-39)
and to bread
were occasioned by outward occurrences, so this one to light. In
"the treasury" where it was spoken (see on
stood two colossal golden lamp-stands, on which hung a multitude of
lamps, lighted after the evening sacrifice (probably every evening
during the feast of tabernacles), diffusing their brilliancy, it is
said, over all the city. Around these the people danced with great
rejoicing. Now, as amidst the festivities of the water from
Siloam Jesus cried, saying, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me
and drink," so now amidst the blaze and the joyousness of this
illumination, He proclaims, "I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD"--plainly in the most absolute
sense. For though He gives His disciples the same title, they are only
"light in the Lord"
and though He calls the Baptist "the burning and shining light" (or
"lamp" of his day,
yet "he was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that
Light: that was THE TRUE LIGHT which, coming into the world, lighteth every
(Joh 1:8, 9).
Under this magnificent title Messiah was promised of old
he that followeth me--as one does a light going before him, and as the
Israelites did the pillar of bright cloud in the wilderness.
but shall have the light of life--the light, as of a new world, a newly
awakened spiritual and eternal life.
13-19. bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true--How does
He meet this specious cavil? Not by disputing the wholesome human maxim
that "self-praise is no praise," but by affirming that He was
an exception to the rule, or rather, that
it had no application to Him.
14. for I know whence I came, and whither I go, &c.--(See on
15. Ye judge after the flesh--with no spiritual apprehension.
I judge no man.
16. And yet if I judge, my judgment is true, &c.--Ye not only
form your carnal and warped judgments of Me, but are bent on
carrying them into effect; I, though I form and utter My judgment of
you, am not here to carry this into execution--that is reserved to a
future day; yet the judgment I now pronounce and the witness I now bear
is not Mine only as ye suppose, but His also that sent Me. (See on
Joh 5:31, 32).
And these are the two witnesses to any fact which your law
20. These words spake Jesus in the treasury--a division, so
called, of the fore court of the temple, part of the court of the women
[JOSEPHUS, Antiquities, 19.6.2, &c.], which
may confirm the genuineness of
as the place where the woman was brought.
no man laid hands on him, &c.--(See on
In the dialogue that follows, the conflict waxes sharper on both sides,
till rising to its climax, they take up stones to stone him.
21-25. Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way,
22. Then said the Jews, Will he kill himself?--seeing something
more in His words than before
but their question more malignant and scornful.
23. Ye are from beneath; I am from above--contrasting Himself, not as
simply with earthborn messengers of God, but with men sprung
from and breathing an opposite element from His, which rendered it
impossible that He and they should have any present fellowship, or
dwell eternally together. (Again see on
also see on
24. if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins--They
knew well enough what He meant
But He would not, by speaking it out, give them the materials for a
charge for which they were watching. At the same time, one is
irresistibly reminded by such language, so far transcending what is
becoming in men, of those ancient declarations of the God of
Israel, "I AM HE"
Isa 43:10, 13; 46:4; 48:12).
25. Who art thou?--hoping thus to extort an explicit answer; but they
26, 27. I have many things to say and to judge of you; but he that sent
me is true, &c.--that is, I could, and at the fitting time, will say
and judge many things of you (referring perhaps to the work of the
Spirit which is for judgment as well as salvation,
but what I do say is just the message My Father hath given Me to
28-30. When ye have lifted up the Son of man--The plainest intimation
He had yet given in public of the manner and the authors of His
then shall ye know that I am he, &c.--that is, find out, or
have sufficient evidence, how true was all He said, though they would
be far from owning it.
29. the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things
that please him, &c.--that is, To you, who gnash upon Me with your
teeth, and frown down all open appearance for Me, I seem to stand
uncountenanced and alone; but I have a sympathy and support transcending
all human applause; I came hither to do My Father's will, and in the
doing of it have not ceased to please Him; therefore is He ever by Me
with His approving smile, His cheering words, His supporting arm.
30. As he spake these words, many believed on him--Instead of
wondering at this, the wonder would be if words of such unearthly,
surpassing grandeur could be uttered without captivating
some that heard them. And just as "all that sat in the council"
to try Stephen "saw his face"--though expecting nothing but
death--"as it had been the face of an angel"
so may we suppose that, full of the sweet supporting sense of His
Father's presence, amidst the rage and scorn of the rulers, a divine
benignity beamed from His countenance, irradiated the words that fell
from Him, and won over the candid "many" of His audience.
31-33. Then said Jesus to those Jews who believed, If ye continue in my
word, then are ye my disciples indeed, &c.--The impression produced
by the last words of our Lord may have become visible by some decisive
movement, and here He takes advantage of it to press on them
"continuance" in the faith, since then only were they His real
and then should they experimentally "know the truth," and "by
the truth be made (spiritually) free."
33. They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage
to any man, &c.--Who said this? Not surely the very class just spoken
of as won over by His divine words, and exhorted to continue in them.
Most interpreters seem to think so; but it is hard to ascribe such a
petulant speech to the newly gained disciples, even in the lowest sense,
much less persons so gained as they were. It came, probably, from
persons mixed up with them in the same part of the crowd, but of a very
different spirit. The pride of the Jewish nation, even now after
centuries of humiliation, is the most striking feature of their
character. "Talk of freedom to us? Pray when or to whom were we ever
in bondage?" This bluster sounds almost ludicrous from such a nation.
Had they forgotten their long and bitter bondage in Egypt? their dreary
captivity in Babylon? their present bondage to the Roman yoke, and their
restless eagerness to throw it off? But probably they saw that our Lord
pointed to something else--freedom, perhaps, from the leaders of sects
or parties--and were not willing to allow their subjection even to
these. Our Lord, therefore, though He knew what slaves they were in this
sense, drives the ploughshare somewhat deeper than this, to a bondage
they little dreamt of.
34, 35. Whosoever committeth sin--that is, liveth in the commission
is the servant of sin--that is, the bond-servant, or slave of
it; for the question is not about free service, but who are in bondage.
The great truth here expressed was not unknown to heathen moralists;
but it was applied only to vice, for they were total strangers to what
in revealed religion is called sin. The thought of slaves
and freemen in the house suggests to our Lord a wider idea.
35. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever, but the Son
abideth ever--that is, "And if your connection with the family of God
be that of BOND-SERVANTS,
ye have no natural tie to the house; your
tie is essentially uncertain and precarious. But the
to the FATHER is a natural and essential one; it is an indefeasible
tie; His abode in it is perpetual and of right: That is My
relationship, My tie: If, then, ye would have your connection with God's
family made real, rightful, permanent, ye must by the Son be
manumitted and adopted as sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty."
In this sublime statement there is no doubt a subordinate allusion
"Cast out this bondwoman and her son, for the son of
this bond-woman shall not be heir with my son, with Isaac."
37-41. ye seek to kill me--He had said this to their face before: He
now repeats it, and they do not deny it; yet are they held back, as by
some marvellous spell--it was the awe which His combined dignity,
courage, and benignity struck into them.
because my word hath no place in you--When did ever human prophet
so speak of His words? They tell us of "the word of the Lord" coming to
them. But here is One who holds up "His word" as that which ought to
find entrance and abiding room for itself in the souls of all who hear
38. my Father . . . your father--(See on
39. If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham--He
had just said He "knew they were Abraham's children," that is, according
to the flesh; but the children of his faith and holiness they
were not, but the reverse.
40. this did not Abraham--In so doing ye act in direct opposition to
41. We be not born of fornication . . . we have one Father,
God--meaning, as is generally allowed, that they were not an illegitimate
race in point of religion, pretending only to be God's people, but
were descended from His own chosen Abraham.
42, 43. If God were your Father, ye would love me--"If ye had anything
of His moral image, as children have their father's likeness, ye would
love Me, for I am immediately of Him and directly from Him." But "My
speech" (meaning His peculiar style of expressing Himself on these
subjects) is unintelligible to you because ye cannot take in the truth
which it conveys.
44. Ye are of your father the devil--"This is one of the most
decisive testimonies to the objective (outward) personality of
the devil. It is quite impossible to suppose an accommodation to Jewish
views, or a metaphorical form of speech, in so solemn an assertion as
the lusts of your father--his impure, malignant, ungodly propensities,
ye will do--are willing to do; not of any
blind necessity of nature, but of pure natural inclination.
He was a murderer from the beginning--The reference is not to
Cain (as LOCKE,
ALFORD, &c.), but to Adam
LUTHARDT, &c.]. The death of the human race, in its
widest sense, is ascribed to the murderous seducer of our race.
and abode not in the truth--As, strictly speaking, the word means
"abideth," it has been denied that the fall of Satan from a former
holy state is here expressed [LOCKE, &c.], and some superior
interpreters think it only implied
[OLSHAUSEN, &c.]. But though the
form of the thought is present--not past--this is to express the
important idea, that his whole character and activity are just
a continual aberration from his own original truth or rectitude; and
thus his fall is not only the implied basis of the thought, but
part of the statement itself, properly interpreted and brought out.
no truth in him--void of all that holy, transparent rectitude which,
as His creature, he originally possessed.
When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own--perhaps his own
[ALFORD]. (The word is plural). It means
that he has no temptation to it from without; it is purely
self-begotten, springing from a nature which is nothing but
the father of it--that is, of lying: all the falsehood in the world
owes its existence to him. What a verse is this! It holds up the devil
(1) as the murderer of the human race; but as this is meant here in the
more profound sense of spiritual death, it holds him up, (2) as the
spiritual parent of this fallen human family, communicating to his
offspring his own evil passions and universal obliquity, and stimulating
these into active exercise. But as there is "a stronger than he," who
comes upon him and overcomes him
(Lu 11:21, 22),
it is only such as "love the darkness," who are addressed as children
of the devil
45-47. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not--not
although, but just because He did so, for the reason given in
the former verse. Had He been less true they would have hailed Him
46. Which of you convinceth me of sin--"Convicteth," bringeth home a
charge of sin. Glorious dilemma! "Convict Me of sin, and reject Me: If
not, why stand ye out against My claims?" Of course, they could only be
supposed to impeach His life; but in One who had already passed
through unparalleled complications, and had continually to deal with
friends and foes of every sort and degree, such a challenge thrown wide
among His bitterest enemies, can amount to nothing short of a claim to
48-51. Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a
devil?--What intense and virulent scorn! (See
The "say we not well" refers to
"A Samaritan" means more than "no Israelite at all"; it means one who
pretended, but had no manner of claim to the title--retorting
perhaps, this denial of their true descent from Abraham.
49. Jesus answered, I have not a devil--What calm dignity is here!
Verily, "when reviled, He reviled not again"
"I am not mad," &c. He adds not, "Nor am I a Samaritan," that He might
not even seem to partake of their contempt for a race that had already
welcomed Him as the Christ, and began to be blessed by Him.
I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me--the language of
wounded feeling. But the interior of His soul at such moments is
only to be seen in such prophetic utterances as these, "For thy sake I
have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face; I am become a
stranger unto my brethren, an alien unto my mother's children. For
the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up, and
the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me"
50. I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh--that is,
evidently, "that seeketh My glory"; requiring "all men to honor
the Son even as they honor the Father"; judicially treating him "who
honoreth not the Son as honoring not the Father that hath sent Him"
but giving to Him
such as will yet cast their crowns before His throne, in whom He "shall
see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied"
51. If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death--Partly thus
vindicating His lofty claims as Lord of the kingdom of life everlasting,
and, at the same time, holding out even to His revilers the scepter of
grace. The word "keep" is in harmony with
"If ye continue in My word," expressing the permanency, as a
living and paramount principle, of that faith to which He referred:
"never see death," though virtually uttered before
(Joh 5:24; 6:40, 47, 51),
is the strongest and most naked statement of a very glorious truth yet
it is repeated in nearly identical terms).
52, 53. Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a
devil, &c.--"Thou art now self-convicted; only a demoniac could speak
so; the most illustrious of our fathers are dead, and Thou promisest
exemption from death to anyone who will keep Thy saying! pray, who
54-56. If I honour myself, my honour is nothing, &c.--(See on
55. I shall be a liar like unto you--now rising to the summit of
holy, naked severity, thereby to draw this long dialogue to a head.
56. Abraham rejoiced to see my day, &c.--exulted, or exceedingly
rejoiced that he should see, he exulted to see it, that is, by
he saw it, and was glad--he actually beheld it, to his joy.
If this mean no more than that he had a prophetic foresight of the
gospel-day--the second clause just repeating the first--how could the
Jews understand our Lord to mean that He "had seen Abraham?" And if it
mean that Abraham was then beholding, in his disembodied spirit, the
incarnate Messiah [STIER,
ALFORD, &c.], the words seem very unsuitable
to express it. It expresses something past--"he saw My day, and
was glad," that is, surely while he lived. He seems to refer to
the familiar intercourse which Abraham had with God, who is once and
again in the history called "the Angel of the Lord," and whom Christ
here identifies with Himself. On those occasions, Abraham "saw ME"
(OLSHAUSEN, though he thinks the reference is to some unrecorded scene).
If this be the meaning, all that follows is quite natural.
57-59. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old--"No inference can be drawn from this as to the age
of our Lord at the
time as man. Fifty years was with the Jews the completion of manhood"
and hast thou seen Abraham?--He had said Abraham saw Him, as being
his peculiar privilege. They give the opposite turn to it--"Hast Thou
seen Abraham?" as an honor too great for Him to pretend to.
58. Before Abraham was, I am--The words rendered "was" and "am" are
quite different. The one clause means, "Abraham was
brought into being"; the other, "I exist." The statement therefore
is not that Christ came into existence before Abraham did (as Arians
affirm is the meaning), but that He never came into being at all, but
existed before Abraham had a being; in other words, existed before
creation, or eternally (as
In that sense the Jews plainly understood Him, since "then took
they up stones to cast at Him," just as they had before done when
they saw that He made Himself equal with God
hid himself--(See on