Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The story of the woman taken in adultery, Joh 8:1-11. Jesus declares himself the light of the world, Joh 8:12. The Pharisees cavil, Joh 8:13. Jesus answers, and shows his authority, Joh 8:14-20. He delivers a second discourse, in which he convicts them of sin, and foretells their dying in it, because of their unbelief, Joh 8:21-24. They question him; he answers, and foretells his own death, Joh 8:25-29. Many believe on him, in consequence of this last discourse, Joh 8:30. To whom he gives suitable advice, Joh 8:31, Joh 8:32. The Jews again cavil, and plead the nobility and advantages of their birth, Joh 8:33. Jesus shows the vanity of their pretensions, and the wickedness of their hearts, Joh 8:34-47. They blaspheme, and Christ convicts and reproves them, and asserts his Divine nature, Joh 8:48-58. They attempt to stone him, Joh 8:59.
A woman taken in adultery - Some of the popish writers say that her name was Susanna; that she was espoused to an old decrepid man, named Manasseh; that she died a saint in Spain, whither she had followed St. James. These accounts the judicious Calmet properly terms fables.
It is allowed that adultery was exceedingly common at this time, so common that they had ceased to put the law in force against it. The waters of jealousy were no longer drunk, the culprits or those suspected of this crime, being so very numerous; and the men who were guilty themselves dared not try their suspected wives, as it was believed the waters would have no evil effect upon the wife, if the husband himself had been criminal. See the whole of the process on the waters of jealousy in the notes on Num 5:14 (note), etc.; and see at the end of chap. 18 (note).
That such should be stoned - It is not strictly true that Moses ordered adultery in general to be punished by stoning. The law simply says that the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death. Lev 20:10; Deu 22:22. The rabbins say they were strangled. This they affirm was the ordinary mode of punishment, where the species of death was not marked in the law, If the person guilty of an act of this kind had been betrothed, but not married, she was to be stoned: Deu 22:23. But if she was the daughter of a priest, she was to be burned alive: Lev 16:9. It appears, from Eze 16:38, Eze 16:40, that adulteresses in the time of that prophet were stoned, and pierced with a sword.
Selden and Fagius suppose that this woman's case was the same with that mentioned, Deu 22:23. If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto a husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; then ye shall stone them with stones that they die, the damsel because she cried not, and the man because he hath humbled his neighbors wife. As the Pharisees spoke of stoning the woman, it is possible this was her case; and some suppose that the apparent indulgence with which our Lord treated her insinuates that she had suffered some sort of violence, though not entirely innocent. Therefore he said, I do not condemn thee, i.e. to death, because violence had been used. Sin no more. Nevertheless thou art in certain respects guilty; thou mightest have made more resistance.
That they might have to accuse him - Had our Lord condemned the woman to death, they might have accused him to Pilate, as arrogating to himself the power of life and death, which the Romans had taken away from the Jews; besides, the Roman laws did not condemn an adulteress to be put to death. On the other hand, if he had said she should not be put to death, they might have represented him to the people as one who decided contrary to the law, and favored the crime of which the woman was accused.
With his finger wrote - Several MSS. add their sins who accused her, and the sins of all men. There are many idle conjectures concerning what our Lord wrote on the ground, several of which may be seen in Calmet.
We never find that Christ wrote any thing before or after this; and what he wrote at this time we know not. On this the pious Quesnel makes the following reflections: -
"1. Since Jesus Christ never wrote but once that we hear of in his whole life; 2. since he did it only in the dust; 3. since it was only to avoid condemning a sinner; and, 4. since he would not have that which he wrote so much as known; let men learn from hence never to write but when it is necessary or useful; to do it with humility and modesty; and to do it on a principle of charity. How widely does Christ differ from men! He writes his Divine thoughts in the dust: they wish to have theirs cut in marble, and engraved on brass." Schools for children are frequently held under trees in Bengal, and the children who are beginning to learn write the letters of the alphabet in the dust. This saves pen, ink, and paper.
He that is without sin - Αναμαρτητος, meaning the same kind of sin, adultery, fornication, etc. Kypke has largely proved that the verb ἁμαρτανειν is used in this sense by the best Greek writers.
Let him first cast a stone at her - Or, upon her, επ' αυτῃ. The Jewish method of stoning, according to the rabbins, was as follows: The culprit, half naked, the hands tied behind the back, was placed on a scaffold, ten or twelve feet high; the witnesses, who stood with her, pushed her off with great force: if she was killed by the fall there was nothing farther done; but, if she was not, one of the witnesses took up a very large stone, and dashed it upon her breast, which generally was the coup de grace, or finishing stroke. This mode of punishment seems referred to, Mat 21:44. However, this procedure does not appear to have been always attended to. See Lev 24:16, and Joh 8:59 of this chapter.
Being convicted by their own conscience - So it is likely they were all guilty of similar crimes. Their own is not in the original, and is needless: being convicted by conscience is expressive enough.
Beginning at the eldest even unto the last - Απο των πρεσβυτερων ἑως των εσχατων, from the most honorable to those of the least repute. In this sense the words are undoubtedly to be understood.
The woman standing in the midst - But if they all went out, how could she be in the midst? It is not said that all the people whom our Lord had been instructing went out, but only her accusers: see Joh 8:2. The rest undoubtedly continued with their teacher.
Neither do I condemn thee - Bishop Pearce says: "It would have been strange if Jesus, when he was not a magistrate, and had not the witnesses before him to examine them, and when she had not been tried and condemned by the law and legal judges, should have taken upon him to condemn her. This being the case, it appears why Jesus avoided giving an answer to the question of the scribes and Pharisees, and also how little reason there is to conclude from hence that Christ seems in this case not enough to have discouraged adultery, though he called it a sin. And yet this opinion took place so early among the Christians, that the reading of this story was industriously avoided, in the lessons recited out of the Gospels, in the public service of the churches; as if Jesus's saying, I do not condemn thee, had given too much countenance to women guilty of that crime. In consequence of this, as it was never read in the churches, and is now not to be found in any of the Evangelistaria, and as it was probably marked in the MSS. as a portion not to be read there, this whole story, from Joh 8:1-11, inclusive, came, in length of time, to be left out in some MSS., though in the greater part it is still remaining." Thus far the judicious and learned bishop. How the passage stands in all the MSS. hitherto collated may be seen in Wetstein and Griesbach. After weighing what has been adduced in favor of its authenticity, and seriously considering its state in the MSS., as exhibited in the Var. Lect. of Griesbach, I must confess, the evidence in its favor does not appear to me to be striking. Yet I by no means would have it expunged from the text. Its absence from many MSS., and the confused manner in which it appears in others, may be readily accounted for on the principles laid down by Bishop Pearce above. It may however be necessary to observe, that a very perfect connection subsists between Joh 7:52 and Joh 8:12 - all the intermediate verses having been omitted by MSS. of the first antiquity and authority. In some MSS. it is found at the end of this Gospel; in others a vacant place is left in this chapter; and in others it is placed after the 21st chapter of Luke. See at the end of this chapter.
Then spake Jesus again unto them - Allowing the story about the woman taken in adultery to be authentic, and to stand here in its proper place, we may consider that our Lord, having begun to teach the people in the temple, was interrupted by the introduction of this woman by the scribes and Pharisees; and now, having dismissed them and the woman also, he resumes his discourse.
I am the light of the world - The fountain whence an intellectual light and spiritual understanding proceed: without me all is darkness, misery, and death. The Divine Being was, by the rabbins denominated, The light of the world. So in Bamidbar Rabba: "The Israelites said to God, O Lord of the universe, thou commandest us to light lamps to thee, yet thou art The Light of The World: and with thee the light dwelleth." Our Lord, therefore, assumes here a well known character of the Supreme Being; and with this we find the Jews were greatly offended.
Shall not walk in darkness - He shall be saved from ignorance, infidelity, and sin. If he follow me, become my disciple, and believe on my name, he shall have my Spirit to bear witness with his, that he is a child of God. He shall have the light of life - such a light as brings and supports life. The sun, the fountain of light, is also the fountain of life: by his vivifying influences, all things live - neither animal nor vegetative life could exist, were it not for his influence. Jesus, the Sun of righteousness, Mal 4:2, is the fountain of all spiritual and eternal Life. His light brings life with it, and they who walk in his light live in his life. This sentiment is beautifully expressed and illustrated in the following inimitable verse (all monosyllables except one word) of that second Spenser, Phineas Fletcher. Speaking of the conversion of a soul to God, he says: -
"New Light new Love, new Love new Life hath bred;
A Life that lives by Love, and loves by Light:
A Love to him, to whom all Loves are wed;
A Light, to whom the sun is darkest night:
Eye's Light, heart's Love, soul's only Life he is:
Life, soul, love, heart, Light, eye, and all are his:
He eye, Light, heart, Love, soul; He all my joy and bliss."
Purple Island, Can. I. v. 7.
Some suppose our Lord alludes to the custom of lighting lamps or torches, on the first day of the feast of tabernacles. But as these words seem to have been spoken the day after that last and great day of the feast, mentioned Joh 7:37, they may rather be considered as referring to the following custom: It has already been observed, that the Jews added a ninth day to this feast, which day they termed, The feast of joy for the law; and on that day they were accustomed to take all the sacred books out of the chest where they had been deposited, and put a lighted candle in their place, in allusion to Pro 6:23 : For the commandment is a Lamp (or Candle) and the law is life: or to Psa 119:105 : Thy word is a Lamp unto my feet, and a Light unto my path. If this custom existed in the time of our Lord, it is most likely that it is to it he here alludes; as it must have happened about the same time in which these words were spoken. See Buxtorf. Synagog. Jud. c. xxi.
As the Messiah was frequently spoken of by the prophets under the emblem of light, see Isa 60:1; Isa 49:6; Isa 9:2, the Pharisees must at once perceive that he intended to recommend himself to the people as the Messiah, when he said, I am the light of the world.
The rabbins think that the Messiah is intended in Gen 1:8, And God said, Let there be light, and there was light. "From this we may learn that the holy and blessed God saw the light of the Messiah and his works before the world was created; and reserved it for the Messiah, and his generation, under the throne of his glory. Satan said to the holy and blessed God, For whom dost thou reserve that light which is under the throne of thy glory? God answered: For him who shall subdue thee, and overwhelm thee with confusion. Satan rejoined, Lord of the universe, show that person to me! God said, Come and see him. When he saw him, he was greatly agitated, and fell upon his face, saying, Truly this is the Messiah, who shall cast me and idolaters into hell." Yalcut Rubeni, fol. 6. This is a very remarkable saying; and, as it might have existed in the time of our Lord, to it he might have alluded in the verse before us. The thing itself is true: the Messiah is the light of the world, and by him Satan's empire of idolatry is destroyed in the world, and the kingdom of light and life established. See several similar testimonies in Schoettgen.
Thou bearest record - As if they had said, Dost thou imagine that we shall believe thee, in a matter so important, on thy bare assertion? Had these people attended to the teaching and miracles of Christ, they would have seen that his pretensions to the Messiahship were supported by the most irrefragable testimony.
I know whence I came - I came from God, and am going to God, and can neither do nor say any thing but what leads to and glorifies him.
Ye judge after the flesh - Because I appear in the form of man, judging from this appearance, ye think I am but a mere man - pay attention to my teaching and miracles, and ye shall then see that nothing less than infinite wisdom and unlimited power could teach and do what I have taught and performed. Our Lord speaks here exactly in the character of an ambassador. Such a person does not bring a second with him to vouch his truth; his credentials from his king ascertain his character: he represents the king's person. So our Lord represents the Father as bearing witness with him. The miracles which he wrought were the proof from heaven that he was the promised Messiah: these were the great seal of all his pretensions.
Ye neither know me, etc. - Ye know neither the Messiah, nor the God that sent him.
If ye had known me - If ye had received my teaching, ye would have got such an acquaintance with the nature and attributes of God as ye never could have had, and never can have any other way. That is a true saying, No man hath seen God at any time: the only begotten Son, who lay an the bosom of the Father. he hath Declared him. The nature and perfections of God never can be properly known, but in the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is worthy of remark that, in all this discourse, our blessed Lord ever speaks of the Father and himself as two distinct persons. Therefore, the Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Father, as some persons vainly imagine; though it is plain enough that the completest unity and equality subsists between them.
The treasury - Lightfoot observes, from the rabbins, that the treasury was in what was called the court of the women - that there were thirteen chests in it; in the thirteenth only the women were permitted to put their offerings. Probably the other twelve were placed there in reference to the twelve tribes; each perhaps inscribed with the name of one of Jacob's twelve sons.
It seems that our Lord sometimes sat in this court to teach the people. See Mar 12:41, etc.
His hour was not yet come - The time was not arrived, in which he had determined to give himself up into the hands of his crucifiers.
Then said Jesus again unto them - He had said the same things to them the day before. See Joh 7:34.
Ye shall seek me - When your calamities come upon you, ye shall in vain seek for the help of the Messiah, whom ye now reject, and whom ye shall shortly crucify.
Will he kill himself? - They now understood that he spoke concerning his death; but before, Joh 7:35, they thought he spoke of going to some of the Grecian provinces, to preach to the dispersed Jews.
Ye are from beneath - Ye are capable of murder, and of self-murder too, because ye have nothing of God in you. Ye are altogether earthly, sensual, and devilish. They verified this character in murdering the Lord Jesus; and many of them afterwards, to escape famine, etc., put an end to their own lives.
Who art thou? - This marks the indignation of the Pharisees - as if they had said: Who art thou that takest upon thee to deal out threatenings in this manner against us?
Jesus saith unto them, Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning - Rather, Just what I have already told you, i.e. that I am the light of the world - the Christ - the Savior of mankind. There are a variety of renderings for this verse among the critics. Some consider την αρχην (which makes the principal difficulty in the text) as the answer of our Lord. Who art thou? I am την αρχην, the chief, the supreme; and have therefore a right to judge, and to execute judgment. But if our Lord had intended to convey this meaning, he would doubtless have said ἡ Αρχη, or ὁ Αρχων, and not την αρχην, in the accusative case. This mode of reading appears to have been followed by the Vulgate, some copies of the Itala, and some of the fathers; but this construction can never be reconciled to the Greek text. Others take την αρχην as an adverb, in which sense it is repeatedly used by the best Greek writers; and, connecting the 25th with the 26th verse, they translate thus: I have indeed, as I Assure ye, many things to say of you, and to condemn in you. See Wakefield. Raphelius takes up the words nearly in the same way, and defends his mode of exposition with much critical learning; and to him I refer the reader. I have given it that meaning which I thought the most simple and plain, should any departure from our own version be thought necessary: both convey a good and consistent sense.
I have many things to say and to judge of you - Or, to speak and to condemn, etc. I could speedily expose all your iniquities - your pride and ambition, your hypocrisy and irreligion, your hatred to the light, and your malice against the truth, together with the present obstinate unbelief of your hearts, and show that these are the reasons why I say you will die in your sins; but these will appear in their true light: when, after you have crucified me, the judgments of God shall descend upon and consume you.
He that sent me is true - Whatever he hath spoken of you by the prophets shall surely come to pass; his word cannot fail.
When ye have lifted up - When ye have crucified me, and thus filled up the measure of your iniquities, ye shall know that I am the Christ, by the signs that shall follow; and ye shall know that what I spoke is true, by the judgments that shall follow. To be lifted up, is a common mode of expression, among the Jewish writers, for to die, or to be killed.
The Father hath not left me alone - Though ye shalt have power to put me to death, yet this shall not be because he hath abandoned me. No - he is ever with me, because I do that which pleaseth him; and it is his pleasure that I should lay down my life for the salvation of the world. Does not our Lord allude to the following scriptures? - Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; my ears hast thou opened: (or, a body hast thou prepared me: Heb 10:5): then said I, Lo, I come: this is written in the volume of the book concerning me. I delight to do thy will, O my God! Thy law is in my heart. Psa 40:6-8.
As he spake these words, many believed on him - The same sun that hardens the clay softens the wax. This discourse, which proved the savor of death unto death to the obstinate Pharisees, became the savor of life unto life to many of the simple-hearted people.
If ye continue in my word - Or, in this doctrine of mine. It is not enough to receive God's truth - we must retain and walk in it. And it is only when we receive the truth, love it, keep it, and walk in it, that we are the genuine disciples of Christ.
Ye shall know the truth - Shall have a constant experimental knowledge of its power and efficacy.
And the truth shall make you free - It was a maxim of the Jews, "That no man was free, but he who exercised himself in the meditation of the law." No man is truly free, but he in whose heart the power of sin is destroyed, and who has received the Spirit of adoption, through which he cries, Abba! Father! See Rom 8:15. The bondage of sin is the most grievous bondage; and freedom from its guilt and influence is the greatest liberty.
They answered - That is, the other Jews who had not believed - the carping, cavilling Pharisees already mentioned; for the words cannot be spoken of the simple people who had already believed. See Joh 8:30.
Were never in bondage to any man - This assertion was not only false, but it was ridiculous in the extreme; seeing their whole history, sacred and profane, is full of recitals of their servitude in Egypt, in Chaldea, under the Persians, under the Macedonians, and under the Romans. But those who are not under the influence of the truth of God will speak and act according to the influence of the spirit of falsehood and error. If the words are to be restrained to themselves alone, they may be understood thus: We are Abraham's seed: and we were never in bondage. Both these propositions had a faint shadow of truth.
Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin - Or, δουλος εστι, etc., is the slave of sin. This was the slavery of which Christ spoke; and deliverance from it, was the liberty which he promised.
And the servant abideth not in the house - Or, rather, Now the slave abided not in the family. As if Jesus had said: And now that I am speaking of a slave, I will add one thing more, viz. a slave has no right to any part of the inheritance in the family to which he belongs; but the son, the legitimate son, has a right. He can make any servant of the family free, though no slave can. He can divide or bestow the inheritance as he pleases. Our Lord seems here to refer to the sending away of Ishmael, mentioned, Gen 21:10-14. Only those who are genuine children can inherit the estate. If sons, then heirs: heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ: Gal 4:21-31; Rom 8:17; and see Bishop Pearce's Paraphrase.
My word hath no place in you - Or, this doctrine of mine hath no place to you. Ye hear the truths of God, but ye do not heed them: the word of life has no influence over you; and how can it, when you seek to kill me because I proclaim this truth to you?
It is a dismal omen when a person is regardless of the truth of God: it is more so to be provoked against it: but to persecute and endeavor to destroy those who preach it is the last degree of perverseness and obduracy. The word of God requires a heart which is empty. A heart filled with earthly projects, carnal interests ambition, thoughts of raising a fortune, and with the love of the superfluities and pleasures of life, is not fit to receive the seed of the kingdom. When a man shuts his heart against it by his passions, he at the same time opens it to all sorts of crimes. Quesnel.
From what is here said, it is manifest, says Dr. Lightfoot, that the whole tendency of our Savior's discourse is to show the Jews, that they are the seed of that serpent which was to bruise the heel of the Messiah: else what could that mean, Joh 8:44 : Ye are of your father the devil, i.e. ye are the seed of the serpent.
I speak that which I have seen - I speak nothing but that unchangeable, eternal truth which I have received from the bosom of God.
Ye do that which ye have seen - Instead of ἑωρακατε, ye have seen, I think we should read ηκουσατε, ye have heard, on the authority of BCKL, fifteen others; Coptic, Ethiopic, Armenian, later Syriac in the margin, Gothic, one copy of the Itala; Origen, Cyril, and Chrysostom. This reading, says Bishop Pearce, (who has adopted it), seems preferable to the other, because it could not be said, with the same propriety, that the Jews had seen any thing with their father the devil, as it could that Jesus had seen with his.
Jesus saw the Father, for he was the Word that was with God from eternity. The Jews did not see, they only felt and heard, their father the devil. It is the interest of Satan to keep himself out of sight, and to work in the dark.
If ye were Abraham's children - Griesbach reads εϚε, ye are, instead of ητε, ye were, on the authority of BDL, Vulgate, four copies of the Itala; Origen and Augustin.
Ye would do the works of Abraham - As the son has the nature of his father in him, and naturally imitates him, so, if ye were the children of Abraham, ye would imitate him in his faith, obedience, and uprightness; but this ye do not, for ye seek to kill me - ye are watching for an opportunity to destroy me, merely because I tell you the truth: Abraham never did any thing like this; therefore, you have no spiritual relationship to him.
Ye do the deeds of your father - You have certainly another father than Abraham - one who has instilled his own malignant nature into you; and, as ye seek to murder me for telling you the truth, ye must be the offspring of him who was a murderer from the beginning, and stood not in the truth, Joh 8:44.
We be not born of fornication - We are not a mixed, spurious breed - our tribes and families have been kept distinct - we are descended from Abraham by his legal wife Sarah; and we are no idolaters.
We have one Father, even God - In the spiritual sense of father and son, we are not a spurious, that is, an idolatrous race; because we acknowledge none as our spiritual father, and worship none as such, but the true God. See Bishop Pearce.
If God were your Father, ye would love me - I came from God, and it would be absurd to suppose that you would persecute me if you were under the influence of God. The children of the same father should not murder each other.
Why do ye not understand my speech? - Την λαλιαν την εμην, This my mode of speaking - when illustrating spiritual by natural things: λαλια refers to the manner of speaking; λογος, to the matter or subject on which he spoke. For λαλιαν, the Codex Bezae had originally αληθειαν: why do ye not acknowledge this Truth of mine? A few other MSS. agree in this reading.
Because ye cannot hear my word - That is, ye cannot bear my doctrine: it comes too close to you; it searches your hearts, detects your hypocrisy, and exposes your iniquitous intentions and designs; and as ye are determined not to leave your sins, so ye are purposed not to hear my doctrine.
Ye are of your father the devil - Ye are the seed of the old serpent. See on Joh 8:37 (note).
The lusts of your father - Like father like son. What Satan desires, ye desire; because ye are filled with his nature. Awful state of unregenerate men! They have the nearest alliance to Satan; they partake of his nature and have in them the same principles and propensities which characterize the very nature and essence of the devil! Reader, canst thou rest in this state? Apply to God, through Christ, that thou mayest be born again.
He was a murderer from the beginning - It was through him that Adam transgressed; in consequence of which death entered into the world, and slew him and all his posterity. This was the sentiment of the Jews themselves. In Sohar Kadash, the wicked are called, "The children of the old serpent, who slew Adam and all his descendants." See Schoettgen.
Abode not in the truth - He stood not in the truth - was once in a state of glorious felicity, but fell from it; and, being deprived of all good himself, he could not endure that others should enjoy any; therefore by his lies he deceived Eve, and brought her, her husband, and, through them, their posterity, into his own condemnation.
He speaketh of his own - Εκ των ιδιων λαλει, He speaketh of his own offspring, or, from his own disposition, for he is the father and fountain of all error and falsity; and all who are deceived by him, and partake of his disposition, falsity and cruelty, are his offspring, for he is a liar, and the father of it - και ὁ πατηρ αυτου - literally, his father also. There is considerable difficulty in this verse. The Cainites, and the Archontites, mentioned by Epiphanius, read it thus: "Ye are the children of your father the devil, because he is a liar, and his father was a liar. He was a man-slayer, and he did not remain in the truth. When he speaketh, he speaketh a lie of his own, (progenitors understood), because his father also was a liar." The consequences which the above heretics drew from this verse were the following. They said that the father of the Jews was a demon; that he also had a demon for his father; and that he had a demon for his father, etc. The Archontites maintained that Cain had a demon for his father, the spirit which our Lord speaks of here; and that the Jews proceeded from the race of Cain.
Grotius, supposing that the devil who tempted Eve was not the prince of devils, but rather a subordinate one, seems to think he may be understood here, he is a liar, and his father also, which is the literal translation of the latter clause of the text, ὡς και ὁ πατηρ αυτου, as it has been read by many of the primitive fathers.
Mr. Wakefield, by changing το, before ψευδος, into τις, gives the text the following translation: - "The devil is your father, and ye willingly perform the lusts of your father. He was a man-slayer from the first, and continued not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When Any One speaketh a lie, he speaketh according to his own kindred: for his father also is a liar." Our own translation, that refers πατηρ αυτου to ψευδος, a lie, and not to ψευϚης, a liar, is probably the most correct.
Which of you convinceth me of sin? - Do you pretend to reject the truths which I announce, because my life does not correspond to the doctrines I have taught? But can any of you prove me guilty of any fault? You have maliciously watched all my steps; have you seen the smallest matter to reprove, in any part of my conduct?
But it is probable that ἁμαρτια, sin, is put here in opposition to αληθεια, truth, in the same verse, and then it should be rendered falsehood. The very best Greek writers use the word in the same sense: this, Kypke proves by quotations from Polybius, Lucian, Dionysius Halicarnassensis, Plutarch, Thucydides, and Hippocrates. Raphelius adds a pertinent quotation from Herodotus, and shows that the purest Latin writers have used the word peccatum, sin, in the sense of error or falsehood. See the note on Gen 13:13.
He that is of God - Meaning probably himself: he who came from God, or was born of God - heareth the words of God - has the constant inspiration of his Spirit, speaks nothing but truth, and cannot possibly err.
Thou art a Samaritan - This was the same, among them, as heretic, or schismatic, among us. This is the only time in which the Jews gave our Lord this title of reproach; and they probably grounded it on his having preached among them, and lodged in their villages. See the account in Joh 4:39, Joh 4:40; but Samaritan, among them, meant a person unworthy of any credit.
Hast a devil? - Art possessed by an evil spirit; and art, in consequence, deranged.
I have not a devil - The first part of the charge was too futile: if taken literally, it was both absurd and impossible; they did not believe it themselves, and therefore our Lord does not stop a moment to refute it; but he answers to the second with the utmost meekness and conclusiveness: I honor God. This is what no demon can do, nor any man who is under such influence.
I seek not mine own glory - Another proof that I am not influenced by any spirit but that which proceeds from God. But there is one that seeketh - i.e. my glory - and judgeth - will punish you for your determined obstinacy and iniquity.
Shall never see death - As Moses promised a long life, with abundance of temporal blessings, to those who should keep his statutes and ordinances, so he who keeps my doctrine shall not only have a long life, but shall never see death - he shall never come under the power of the death of the soul, but shall live eternally with me in glory.
Your God - Many MSS. and most of the versions read ἡμων, our, instead of ὑμων. The variation is of very little consequence. They called God their God, while enemies to him both in their spirit and conduct.
Abraham rejoiced to see my day - Or, he earnestly desired to see my day; ηγαλλιασατο, from αγαν, very much, and ἁλλομαι, I leap - his soul leaped forward in earnest hope and strong expectation that he might see the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The metaphor appears to be taken from a person who, desiring to see a long-expected friend who is coming, runs forward, now and then jumping up to see if he can discover him. There is a saying very like this in Sohar Numer fol. 61: "Abraham rejoiced because he could know, and perceive, and cleave to the Divine Name." The Divine name is יהוה Yehovah; and by this they simply mean God himself.
And he saw it - Not only in the first promise, Gen 3:15, for the other patriarchs saw this as well as he; and not only in that promise which was made particularly to himself, Gen 12:7; Gen 22:18, (compared with Gal 3:16), that the Messiah should spring from his family; but he saw this day especially when Jehovah appeared to him in a human form, Gen 18:2, Gen 18:17, which many suppose to have been a manifestation of the Lord Jesus.
Thou art not yet fifty years old - Some MSS. read forty. The age of our blessed Lord has never been properly determined. Some of the primitive fathers believed that he was fifty years old when he was crucified; but their foundation, which is no other than these words of the Jews, is but a very uncertain one. Calmet thinks that our Lord was at this time about thirty-four years and ten months old, and that he was crucified about the middle of his thirty-sixth year; and asserts that the vulgar era is three years too late. On the other hand, some allow him to have been but thirty-one years old, and that his ministry had lasted but one year. Many opinions on this subject, which are scarcely worthy of being copied, may be found in Calmet.
Before Abraham was, I am - The following is a literal translation of Calmet's note on this passage: - "I am from all eternity. I have existed before all ages. You consider in me only the person who speaks to you, and who has appeared to you within a particular time. But besides this human nature, which ye think ye know, there is in me a Divine and eternal nature. Both, united, subsist together in my person. Abraham knew how to distinguish them. He adored me as his God; and desired me as his Savior. He has seen me in my eternity, and he predicted my coming into the world." On the same verse Bishop Pearce speaks as follows: - "What Jesus here says relates (I think) to his existence antecedent to Abraham's days, and not to his having been the Christ appointed and foretold before that time; for, if Jesus had meant this, the answer I apprehend would not have been a pertinent one. He might have been appointed and foretold for the Christ; but if he had not had an existence before Abraham's days, neither could he have seen Abraham, (as, according to our English translation, the Jews suppose him to have said), nor could Abraham have seen him, as I suppose the Jews understood him to have said in the preceding verse, to which words of the Jews the words of Jesus here are intended as an answer."
Then took they up stones, etc. - It appears that the Jews understood him as asserting his Godhead; and, supposing him to be a blasphemer, they proceeded to stone him, according to the law. Lev 24:16.
But Jesus hid himself - In all probability he rendered himself invisible - though some will have it that he conveyed himself away from those Jews who were his enemies, by mixing himself with the many who believed on him, (Joh 8:30, Joh 8:31), and who, we may suppose, favored his escape. Pearce.
But where did they find the stones, Christ and they being in the temple? It is answered:
1st. It is probable, as the buildings of the temple had not been yet completed, there might have been many stones near the place; or,
2dly. They might have gone out so the outer courts for them; and, before their return, our Lord had escaped. See Lightfoot and Calmet.
Going through the midst of them, and so passed by - These words are wanting in the Codex Bezae, and in several editions and versions. Erasmus, Grotius, Beza, Pearce, and Griesbach, think them not genuine. The latter has left them out of the test. But, notwithstanding what these critics have said, the words seem necessary to explain the manner of our Lord's escape.
1st. He hid himself, by becoming invisible; and then,
2dly. He passed through the midst of them, and thus got clear away from the place.
See a similar escape mentioned, Luk 4:30, and the note there.
The subjects of this chapter are both uncommon and of vast importance.
1. The case of the woman taken in adultery, when properly and candidly considered, is both intelligible and edifying. It is likely that the accusation was well founded; and that the scribes and Pharisees endeavored maliciously to serve themselves of the fact, to embroil our Lord with the civil power, or ruin his moral reputation. Our Lord was no magistrate, and therefore could not, with any propriety, give judgment in the case; had he done it, it must have been considered an invasion of the rights and office of the civil magistrate, and would have afforded them ground for a process against him. On the other hand, had he acquitted the woman, he might have been considered, not only as setting aside the law of Moses, but as being indulgent to a crime of great moral turpitude, and the report of this must have ruined his moral character. He disappointed this malice by refusing to enter into the case; and overwhelmed his adversaries with confusion, by unmasking their hearts, and pointing out their private abominations. It is generally supposed that our Lord acquitted the woman: this is incorrect; he neither acquitted nor condemned her: he did not enter at all juridically into the business. His saying, Neither do I condemn thee, was no more than a simple declaration that he would not concern himself with the matter - that being the office of the chief magistrate; but, as a preacher of righteousness, he exhorted her to abandon her evil practices, lest the punishment, which she was now likely to escape, should be inflicted on her for a repetition of her transgression.
2. In several places in this chapter, our Lord shows his intimate union with the Father, both in will, doctrine, and deed; and though he never speaks so as to confound the persons, yet he evidently shows that such was the indivisible unity, subsisting between the Father and the Son, that what the one witnessed, the other witnessed; what the one did, the other did; and that he who saw the one necessarily saw the other.
3. The original state of Satan is here pointed out - he abode not in the truth, Joh 8:44. Therefore he was once in the truth, in righteousness and true holiness - and he fell from that truth into sin and falsehood, so that he became the father of lies and the first murderer. Our Lord confirms here the Mosaic account of the fall of man, and shows that this fall was brought about by his lies, and that these lies issued in the murder or destruction both of the body and soul of man.
4. The patience and meekness exercised by our Lord, towards his most fell and unrelenting enemies, are worthy the especial regard of all those who are persecuted for righteousness. - When he was reviled, he reviled not again. As the searcher of hearts, he simply declared their state, Joh 8:44, in order to their conviction and conversion: not to have done so, would have been to betray their souls. In this part of his conduct we find two grand virtues united, which are rarely associated in man, Meekness and Fidelity - patience to bear all insults and personal injuries; and boldness, is the face of persecution and death, to declare the truth. The meek man generally leaves the sinner unreproved: the bold and zealous man often betrays a want of due self-management, and reproves sin in a spirit which prevents the reproof from reaching the heart. In this respect also, our blessed Lord has left us an example, that we should follow his steps. Let him that readeth understand.