Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
Christ speaks the parable of the sheepfold, Joh 10:1-6. Proclaims himself the door of the sheepfold, Joh 10:7-10, and the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep, Joh 10:11-18. The Jews are again divided, and some revile and some vindicate our Lord, Joh 10:19-21. His discourse with the Jews at the temple, on the feast of dedication, Joh 10:22-29. Having asserted that he was one with the Father, the Jews attempt to stone him, Joh 10:30, Joh 10:31. He vindicates his conduct, and appeals to his works, Joh 10:32-38. They strive to apprehend him; he escapes, and retires beyond Jordan, Joh 10:39, Joh 10:40. Many resort to and believe on him there, Joh 10:41, Joh 10:42.
Verily, verily, etc. - From Joh 10:6, we learn that this is a parable, i.e. a representation of heavenly things through the medium of earthly things. Some think our Lord delivered this discourse immediately after that mentioned in the preceding chapter; others think it was spoken not less than three months after. The former, says Bishop Pearce, was spoken at the feast of tabernacles, see chap. 7, or about the end of September, and this at the feast of dedication, or in December. See Joh 10:22.
Christ, says Calmet, having declared himself to be the light of the world, which should blind some while it illuminated others, Joh 9:41, continues his discourse, and, under the similitude of a shepherd and his flock, shows that he was about to form his Church of Jews and Gentiles, and that into it he would admit none but those who heard his voice. The unbelieving and presumptuous Jews, who despised his doctrine, are the sheep which hear not the voice of the shepherd: the proud and self-sufficient Pharisees are those who imagine they see clearly while they are blind. The blind who become illuminated are the Gentiles and Jews who turn from their sins and believe in Jesus.
The light of the world, the good shepherd, and the door which leads into the sheepfold, are all to be understood as meaning Jesus Christ; the hireling shepherds, the willfully blind; the murderers and robbers are the false Christs, false prophets, scribes, Pharisees, wicked hireling priests, and ungodly ministers of all sorts, whether among primitive Jews or modern Christians.
Our Lord introduces this discourse in a most solemn manner, Verily, verily! - Amen, amen! - it is true, it is true! - a Hebraism for, This is a most important and interesting truth; a truth of the utmost concern to mankind.
At all times our Lord speaks what is infallibly true; but when he delivers any truths with this particular asseveration, it is either,
1. Because they are of greater importance; or,
2. because the mind of man is more averse from them; or,
3. because the small number of those who will practice them may render them incredible. Quesnel.
He that entereth not by the door - Christ assures us, Joh 10:7, that he is the door; whoever, therefore, enters not by Jesus Christ into the pastoral office, is no other than a thief and a robber in the sheepfold. And he enters not by Jesus Christ who enters with a prospect of any other interest besides that of Christ and his people. Ambition, avarice, love of ease, a desire to enjoy the conveniences of life, to be distinguished from the crowd, to promote the interests of one's family, and even the sole design of providing against want - these are all ways by which thieves and robbers enter into the Church. And whoever enters by any of these ways, or by simony, craft, solicitation, etc. deserves no better name. Acting through motives of self-interest, and with the desire of providing for himself and his family, are innocent, yea, laudable, in a secular business; but to enter into the ministerial office through motives of this kind is highly criminal before God.
He that entereth in by the door - Observe here the marks, qualities, and duties of a good pastor; The first mark is, that he has a lawful entrance into the ministry by the internal call of Christ, namely, by an impulse proceeding from his Spirit, upon considerations which respect only his glory, and upon motives which aim at nothing but the good of his Church, the salvation of souls, the doing the will of God, and the sacrificing himself entirely to his service, and to that of the meanest of his flock.
To him the porter openeth - Sir Isaac Newton observes that our Lord being near the temple, where sheep were kept in folds to be sold for sacrifices, spoke many things parabolically of sheep, of their shepherds, and of the door to the sheepfold; and discovers that he alluded to the sheepfolds which were to be hired in the market place, by speaking of such folds as a thief could not enter by the door, nor the shepherd himself open, but a porter opened to the shepherd. In the porter opening the door to the true shepherd, we may discover the second mark of a true minister - his labor is crowned with success. The Holy Spirit opens his way into the hearts of his hearers, and he becomes the instrument of their salvation. See Col 4:3; Co2 2:12; Co1 16:9; Rev 3:8.
The sheep hear his voice - A third mark of a good shepherd is that he speaks so as to instruct the people - the sheep hear His voice; he does not take the fat and the fleece, and leave another hireling on less pay to do the work of the pastoral office. No: himself preaches Christ Jesus the Lord, and in that simplicity too, that is best calculated to instruct the common people. A man who preaches in such a language as the people cannot comprehend may do for a stage-player or a mountebank, but not for a minister of Christ.
He calleth his own sheep by name - A fourth mark of a good pastor is that he is well acquainted with his flock; he knows them by name - he takes care to acquaint himself with the spiritual states of all those that are entrusted to him. He speaks to them concerning their souls, and thus getting a thorough knowledge of their state he is the better qualified to profit them by his public ministrations. He who has not a proper acquaintance with the Church of Christ, can never by his preaching build it up in its most holy faith.
And leadeth them out - A fifth mark of a good shepherd is, he leads the flock, does not lord it over God's heritage; nor attempts by any rigorous discipline not founded on the Gospel of Christ, to drive men into the way of life; nor drive them out of it, which many do, by a severity which is a disgrace to the mild Gospel of the God of peace and love.
He leads them out of themselves to Christ, out of the follies, diversions, and amusements of the world, into the path of Christian holiness: in a word, he leads them, by those gentle yet powerful persuasions that flow from a heart full of the word and love of Christ, into the kingdom and glory of his God.
He goeth before them - A sixth mark of a true pastor is, he gives them a good example: he not only preaches, but he lives, the truth of the Gospel; he enters into the depths of the salvation of God; and, having thus explored the path, he knows how to lead those who are entrusted to his care into the fullness of the blessings of the Gospel of peace. He who does not endeavor to realize in his own soul the truths which he preaches to others will soon be as salt without its savor; his preaching cannot be accompanied with that unction which alone can make it acceptable and profitable to those whose hearts are right with God. The minister who is in this state of salvation the sheep, genuine Christians, will follow, for they know his voice. It was the custom in the eastern countries for the shepherd to go at the head of his sheep, and they followed him from pasture to pasture. I have seen many hundreds of sheep thus following their shepherd on the extensive downs in the western parts of England.
And a stranger will they not follow - That is, a man who, pretending to be a shepherd of the flock of God, is a stranger to that salvation which he professes to preach. His mode of preaching soon proves, to those whose hearts are acquainted with the truths of God, that he is a stranger to them; and therefore, knowing him to have got into the fold in an improper way, they consider him a thief, a robber, and a murderer; and who can blame them if they wholly desert his ministry? There are preachers of this kind among all classes.
I am the door of the sheep - It is through me only that a man can have a lawful entrance into the ministry; and it is through me alone that mankind can be saved. Instead of, I am the door, the Sahidic version reads, I am the shepherd; but this reading is found in no other version, nor in any MS. It is evidently a mistake of the scribe.
All that ever came before me - Or, as some translate, all that came instead of me, προ εμου, i.e. all that came as the Christ, or Messiah, such as Theudas, and Judas the Gaulonite, who are mentioned, Act 5:36, Act 5:37; and who were indeed no other than thieves, plundering the country wherever they came; and murderers, not only slaying the simple people who resisted them, but leading the multitudes of their followers to the slaughter.
But our Lord probably refers to the scribes and Pharisees, who pretended to show the way of salvation to the people - who in fact stole into the fold, and clothed themselves with the fleece, and devoured the sheep.
The words, προ εμου, before me, are wanting in EGMS, Mt. BKV, seventy others; Syriac, Persic, Syriac Hieros., Gothic, Saxon, Vulgate, eleven copies of the Itala; Basil, Cyril, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius, Augustin, and some others. Griesbach has left them in the text with a note of doubtfulness. The reason thy these words are wanting in so many respectable MSS., versions, and fathers, is probably that given by Theophylact, who says that the Manicheans inferred from these words that all the Jewish prophets were impostors. But our Lord has borne sufficient testimony to their inspiration in a variety of places.
Κλεπτης, and λῃστης, the thief and the robber, should be properly distinguished; one takes by cunning and stealth; the other openly and by violence. It would not be difficult to find bad ministers who answer to both these characters. Tithes have been often enforced and collected in a most exceptionable manner, and in a most disgraceful spirit.
The reflection of pious Quesnel on this verse is well worth attention. A pastor ought to remember that whoever boasts of being the way of salvation, and the gate of heaven, shows himself to be a thief and an impostor; and though few are arrived at this degree of folly, yet there are many who rely too much upon their own talents, eloquence, and labors, as if the salvation of the sheep depended necessarily thereon: in which respect they are always robbers, since they rob the grace of Christ of the glory of saving the sheep. God often puts such pastors to shame, by not opening the hearts of the people to receive their word: while he blesses those who are humble, in causing them to be heard with attention, and accompanying their preaching with an unction which converts and saves souls. Let every man know that in this respect his sufficiency and success are of the Lord.
I am the door: by me if any man enter, etc. - Those who come for salvation to God, through Christ, shall obtain it: he shall be saved - he shall have his sins blotted out, his soul purified, and himself preserved unto eternal life. This the scribes and Pharisees could neither promise nor impart.
Go in and out - This phrase, in the style of the Hebrews, points out all the actions of a man's life, and the liberty he has of acting, or not acting. A good shepherd conducts his flock to the fields where good pasturage is to be found; watches over them while there, and brings them back again and secures them in the fold. So he that is taught and called of God feeds the flock of Christ with those truths of his word of grace which nourish them unto eternal life; and God blesses together both the shepherd and the sheep, so that going out and coming in they find pasture: every occurrence is made useful to them; and all things work together for their good.
But for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy - Those who enter into the priesthood that they may enjoy the revenues of the Church, are the basest and vilest of thieves and murderers. Their ungodly conduct is a snare to the simple, and the occasion of much scandal to the cause of Christ. Their doctrine is deadly; they are not commissioned by Christ, and therefore they cannot profit the people. Their character is well pointed out by the Prophet Ezekiel, Eze 34:2, etc. Wo be to the shepherds of Israel, that do feed themselves! Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool; ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock, etc, How can worldly-minded, hireling, fox-hunting, and card-playing priests read these words of the Lord, without trembling to the center of their souls! Wo to those parents who bring up their children merely for Church honors and emoluments! Suppose a person have all the Church's revenues, if he have God's wo, how miserable is his portion! Let none apply this censure to any one class of preachers, exclusively.
That they might have life - My doctrine tends to life, because it is the true doctrine - that of the false and bad shepherds tends to death, because it neither comes from nor can lead to that God who is the fountain of life.
Might have it more abundantly - That they might have an abundance, meaning either of life, or of all necessary good things; greater felicity than ever was enjoyed under any period of the Mosaic dispensation; and it is certain that Christians have enjoyed greater blessings and privileges than were ever possessed by the Jews, even in the promised land. If περισσον be considered the accusative fem. Attic, agreeing with ζωην, (see Parkhurst), then it signifies more abundant life; that is, eternal life; or spiritual blessings much greater than had ever yet been communicated to man, preparing for a glorious immortality. Jesus is come that men may have abundance; abundance of grace, peace, love, life, and salvation. Blessed be Jesus.
I am the good shepherd - Whose character is the very reverse of that which has already been described. In Joh 10:7, Joh 10:9, our Lord had called himself the door of the sheep, as being the sole way to glory, and entrance into eternal life; here he changes the thought, and calls himself the shepherd, because of what he was to do for them that believe in him, in order to prepare them for eternal glory.
Giveth his life for the sheep - That is, gives up his soul as a sacrifice to save them from eternal death.
Some will have the phrase here only to mean hazarding his life in order to protect others; but the 15th, 17th, and 18th verses, as well as the whole tenor of the new covenant, sufficiently prove that the first sense is that in which our Lord's words should be understood.
But he that is a hireling - Or, as my old MS. Bible reads it, the marchaunt, he who makes merchandise of men's souls; bartering them, and his own too, for filthy lucre. Let not the reader apply this, or any of the preceding censures, to any particular class or order of men: every religious party may have a hireling priest, or minister; and where the provision is the greatest there the danger is most.
Whose own the sheep are not - A hireling priest, who has never been the instrument of bringing souls to God, will not abide with them in the time of danger or persecution. They are not the produce of his labor, faith, and prayers: he has no other interest in their welfare than that which comes from the fleece and the fat. The hireling counts the sheep his own, no longer than they are profitable to him; the good shepherd looks upon them as his, so long as he can be profitable to them.
Among the ancient Jews some kept their own flocks, others hired shepherds to keep them for them. And every owner must naturally have felt more interest in the preservation of his flock than the hireling could possibly feel.
I - know my sheep - I know, τα εμα, them that are mine: I know their hearts, their wishes, their purposes, their circumstances; and I approve of them; for in this sense the word to know is often taken in the Scriptures. Homer represents the goatherds as being so well acquainted with their own, though mixed with others, as easily to distinguish them.
Τους δ', ὡς' αιπολια πλατε' αιγων αιπολοι ανδρες
Ῥεια διακρινεωσιν, επει κε νομῳ μιγεωσιν.
Iliad. 2. 474.
"As goat-herds separate their numerous flocks
With ease, though fed promiscuous."
And are known of mine - They know me as their father, protector, and Savior; they acknowledge me and my truth before the world; and they approve of me, my word, my ordinances, and my people, and manifest this by their attachment to me, and their zeal for my glory. The first clause of the 15th verse should be joined to the fourteenth.
Other sheep I have - The Gentiles and Samaritans. As if our Lord had said, Do not imagine that I shall lay down my life for the Jews, exclusively of all other people; no: I shall die also for the Gentiles; for by the grace, the merciful design and loving purpose of God, I am to taste death for every man, Heb 2:9; and, though they are not of this fold now, those among them that believe shall be united with the believing Jews, and made one fold under one shepherd, Eph 2:13-17.
The original word, αυλη, which is here translated fold, dignifies properly a court. It is probable that our blessed Lord was now standing in what was termed the inner court, or court of the people, in the temple, see Joh 10:23; and that he referred to the outer court, or court of the Gentiles, because the Gentiles who were proselytes of the gate were permitted to worship in that place; but only those who were circumcised were permitted to come into the inner court, over the entrance of which were written, in large characters of gold, these words, Let no uncircumcised person enter here! Our Lord therefore might at this time have pointed out to the worshippers in that court, when he spoke these words, and the people would at once perceive that he meant the Gentiles.
Therefore doth my Father love me - As I shall be shortly crucified by you, do not imagine that I am abandoned by my heavenly Father, and therefore fall thus into your hands. The Father loveth me particularly on this account, because I am going to lay down my life for the life of the world. Again, do not suppose that I shall be put to death by your rulers, because I have not strength to resist them. I Lay Down my life voluntarily and cheerfully; no one can take it away from me, see Joh 10:18; and I shall give you the fullest proof of my supreme power by raising, in three days, that very crucified, wounded body from the grave.
I have power - Or, authority, εξουσιαν. Our Lord speaks of himself here as man, or the Messiah, as being God's messenger, and sent upon earth to fulfill the Divine will, in dying and rising again for the salvation of men.
This commandment have I received - That is, I act according to the Divine commandment in executing these things, and giving you this information.
There was a division - Σχισμα, a schism, a rent. They were divided in their opinions; one part received the light, and the other resisted it.
Again - There was a dissension of this kind before among the same people; see Joh 9:16.
He hath a devil, and is mad - So, then, a demoniac and a madman were not exactly the same in the apprehension of the Jews; no more than the effect is the same with the cause which produces it. Some will have it that, when the Jews told our Lord that he had a demon, they meant no more than that he was deranged; but here these matters are evidently distinguished. They believed him to be possessed by a demon, who deranged his faculties, and that he must have been a wicked man, and a deceiver, thus to be put under the power of such a spirit.
These are not the words of him that hath a devil - If he were deranged by an unclean spirit, his words would bear a similitude to the spirit that produced them; but these are words of deep sense, soberness, and piety: besides, could a demoniac open the eyes of blind men? This is not the work of a demon. Now we have seen that this man has restored a man who was born blind. Therefore it is demonstrably evident that he is neither a madman nor a demoniac.
Behold the usage which the blessed Lord received from his creatures! And behold with what meekness and gentleness he conducts himself! - not a word of impatience proceeds from his lips; nor a look of contempt or indignation is seen in his face. And what was he doing to merit all this? Why, he was instructing the ignorant, and telling the wretched that he was just going to die to save their souls! Amazing love of God, and ingratitude and obduracy of men! Let not the disciple suppose that, in this respect, he shall be above his master. When a minister of Christ has done his utmost to do good to his fellow creatures, let him not be surprised if he meet with nothing from many but reproaches and persecutions for his pains. The grand point is to take Jesus for an example of suffering, and to be armed with the same mind. It appears that the words spoken by the friendly Jews prevailed; and that the others were obliged to abandon the field.
The feast of the dedication - This was a feast instituted by Judas Maccabeus, in commemoration of his purifying the temple after it had been defiled by Antiochus Epiphanes. This feast began on the twenty-fifth of the month Cisleu, (which answers to the eighteenth of our December), and continued for eight days. When Antiochus had heard that the Jews had made great rejoicings, on account of a report that had been spread of his death, he hastened out of Egypt to Jerusalem, took the city by storm, and slew of the inhabitants in three days forty thousand persons; and forty thousand more he sold for slaves to the neighboring nations. Not contented with this, he sacrificed a great sow on the altar of burnt offerings; and, broth being made by his command of some of the flesh, he sprinkled it all over the temple, that he might defile it to the uttermost. See Prideaux's Connection, vol. iii. p. 236, edit. 1725. After this, the whole of the temple service seems to have been suspended for three years, great dilapidations having taken place also in various parts of the buildings: see 1 Maccabees 4:36, etc. As Judas Maccabaeus not only restored the temple service, and cleansed it from pollution, etc., but also repaired the ruins of it, the feast was called τα εγκαινια, the renovation.
It was winter - Χειμων ην, or, it was stormy or rainy weather. And this is the reason, probably, why our Lord is represented as walking in Solomon's porch, or portico, Joh 10:23. Though it certainly was in winter when this feast was held, yet it does not appear that the word above refers so much to the time of the year as to the state of the weather. Indeed, there was no occasion to add it was winter, when the feast of the dedication was mentioned, because every body knew that, as that feast was held on the twenty-fifth of the month Cisleu, it was in the winter season.
John has here omitted all that Jesus did from the time when he left Jerusalem, after the feast of tabernacles in September was ended, until the feast of the dedication in the December following: and he did it probably because he found that the other evangelists had given an account of what our Lord did in the interval. St. Luke relates what our Lord did on his way from Galilee to Jerusalem, to this feast, Luke 17:11-37; Luk 18:1-14. Observe, likewise, that this time here mentioned was the fourth time (according to John's account) that Jesus went up to the feasts at Jerusalem in about a year: for, first, he went up to the feast of the passover, Joh 2:13; next to the feast of pentecost, as it seems to have been, Joh 5:1; then to the feast of tabernacles, Joh 7:2, Joh 7:10; and, lastly, to the feast of the passover in which he was crucified. John seems purposely to have pointed out his presence in Jerusalem at these four feasts, because all the other evangelists have omitted the mention of every one of them. See Bishop Pearce; and see the note on Joh 5:1.
Solomon's porch - By what we find in Josephus, Ant. b. xx. c. 8, s. 7, a portico built by Solomon, on the east side of the outer court of the temple, was left standing by Herod, when he rebuilt the temple. This portico was four hundred cubits long, and was left standing, probably, because of its grandeur and beauty. But when Agrippa came to Jerusalem, a few years before the destruction of the city by the Romans, and about eighty years after Herod had begun his building, (till which time what Herod had begun was not completed), the Jews solicited Agrippa to repair this portico at his own expense, using for argument, not only that the building was growing ruinous, but that otherwise eighteen thousand workmen, who had all of them, until then, been employed in carrying on the works of the temple, would be all at once deprived of a livelihood.
How long dost than make us to doubt? - Or, How long dost thou kill us with suspense? Ἑως ποτε την ψυχην ἡμων αιρεις, literally, How long wilt thou take away our life? Mr. Markland would read αιωρεις for αιρεις, which amounts nearly to the same sense with the above. The Jews asked this question through extreme perfidiousness: they wished to get him to declare himself king of the Jews, that they might accuse him to the Roman governor; and by it they insolently insinuated that all the proofs he had hitherto given them of his Divine mission were good for nothing.
I told you, etc. - That is, I told you before what I tell you now again, that the works which I do, bear testimony to me. I have told you that I am the light of the world: the Son of God: the good shepherd: that I am come to save - to give life - to give liberty - to redeem you: that, in order to this, I must die, and rise again; and that I am absolute master of my life, and of my death. Have you not noticed my omniscience, in searching and discovering the very secrets of your hearts? Have you not seen my omnipotence in the miracles which I have wrought? Have not all these been sufficient to convince you? - and yet ye will not believe! - See the works which bore testimony to him, as the Messiah, enumerated, Mat 11:5 (note).
Ye are not of my sheep - Ye have not the disposition of those who come unto me to be instructed and saved: see what follows.
My sheep hear my voice - But ye will not hear: - my sheep follow me; but ye will neither follow nor acknowledge me. Any person who reads without prejudice may easily see, that our Lord does not at all insinuate that these persons could not believe, because God had made it impossible to them; but simply because they did not hear and follow Christ, which the whole of our blessed Lord's discourse proves that they might have done. The sheep of Christ are not those who are included in any eternal decree, to the exclusion of others from the yearnings of the bowels of eternal mercy; but they are those who hear, believe in, follow, and obey the Savior of the world.
They shall never perish - Why? Because they hear my voice, and follow me; therefore I know, I approve of and love them, and give them eternal life. They who continue to hear Christ's voice, and to follow him, shall never perish. They give themselves up to God - believe so on Jesus that he lives in their hearts: God hath given unto them eternal life, and this life is in his Son; and he that hath the Son hath life, Jo1 5:11, Jo1 5:12. Now it is evident that only those who have Christ living in and governing their souls, so that they possess the mind that was in him, are his sheep - are those that shall never perish, because they have this eternal life abiding in them: therefore to talk of a man's being one of the elect - one that shall never perish - one who shall have eternal life - who shall never be plucked out of the hand of God, etc., while he lives in sin, has no Christ in his heart, has either never received or fallen away from the grace of God, is as contrary to common sense as it is to the nature and testimonies of the Most High. Final perseverance implies final faithfulness - he that endures to the end shall be saved - he that is faithful unto death shall have a crown of life. And will any man attempt to say that he who does not endure to the end, and is unfaithful, shall ever enter into life?
My Father - is greater than all - More powerful than all the united energies of men and demons. He who loves God must be happy; and he who fears him need fear nothing on this side eternity.
I and my Father are one - If Jesus Christ were not God, could he have said these words without being guilty of blasphemy? It is worthy of remark that Christ does not say, I and My Father, which my our translation very improperly supplies, and which in this place would have conveyed a widely different meaning: for then it would imply that the human nature of Christ, of which alone, I conceive, God is ever said to be the Father in Scripture, was equal to the Most High: but he says, speaking then as God over all, I and The Father, εγω και ὁ πατηρ ἑν εσμεν - the Creator of all things, the Judge of all men, the Father of the spirits of all flesh - are One, One in nature, One in all the attributes of Godhead, and One in all the operations of those attributes: and so it is evident the Jews understood him. See Joh 17:11, Joh 17:22.
The Jews took up stones - To stone him as a blasphemer, Lev 24:14-16, because he said he was one with God. The evangelist adds the word again, because they had attempted to do this before, see Joh 8:59; but it seems they were prevented from doing this now by the following discourse.
Many good works have I showed you - I have healed your sick, delivered those of you who were possessed from the power of demons; I have fed multitudes of your poor, and I have taught you in all places, at all times, without expense, with patience; and is this my reward?
To show good works or good things is a Hebraism, which signifies to do them really, to give good things liberally. The phrase is similar to the following: Who will Show us any good? Psa 4:6; i.e. who shall give us good things. Show us thy mercy, Psa 85:7; i.e. give us to feel the effects of thy mercy. Thou hast Showed thy people hard things, Psa 60:3; i.e. thou hast treated them with rigor. Thou hast Showed me great and sore troubles, Psa 71:20; i.e. thou hast exposed me to terrible hardships.
But for blasphemy - I have elsewhere shown that the original word, βλασφημειν, when applied to men, signifies to speak injuriously of their persons, character, connections, etc.; but when applied to God it signifies to speak impiously, i.e. contrary to his nature, perfections, the wisdom of his providence, or goodness of his works.
Thou, being a man - That is, only a man - makest thyself God. When Christ said before, Joh 10:30, I and the Father are one, had the Jews understood him (as many called Christians profess to do) as only saying he had a unity of sentiments with the Father, they would not have attempted to treat him for this as a blasphemer; because in this sense Abraham, Isaac, Moses, David, and all the prophets, were one with God. But what irritated them so much was that they understood him as speaking of a unity of nature. Therefore they say here, thou makest thyself God; which word they understood, not in a figurative, metaphorical, or improper sense, but in the most literal meaning of the term.
Is it not written in your law - The words which our Lord quotes are taken from Psa 82:6, which shows that, under the word law, our Lord comprised the Jewish sacred writings in general. See also Joh 12:34; Joh 15:25.
Ye are gods? - That is, judges, who are called אלהים elohim. That judges are here meant appears from Psa 82:2, etc., and also from what follows here. And this is probably the only place where the word אלהים is applied to any but the true God. See Parkhurst under the root אלה.
Unto whom the word of God came - Bishop Pearce thinks that "the word λογος, here, is put for λογος κρισεως, the word or matter of judgment, as in Ch2 19:6, where Jehoshaphat, setting up judges in the land of Judah, says: Take heed what ye do: judge not for men, but for the Lord, who is with you in judgment - λογοι της κρισεως, in the words or matters of judgment, - Sept., which is nearly according to the Hebrew to בדבר משפט bedebar mishpat, in the word or matter of judgment. In Deu 1:17, when a charge is given to the judges that they should not be afraid of the face of man, this reason is given: for the judgment is God's. Hence it appears probable that λογος is here used for λογος κρισεως: and it is called λογος Θεου, because it is the judgment that properly belongs to God, and which they who give it on earth give only as acting in the stead of God. A way of speaking very like to this is found in Heb 4:13, where the writer says, προς ὁν ἡμιν ὁ λογος, with whom we have to do, i.e. by whom we are to be judged." But the words λογος Θεου may be here understood for the order, commission, or command of God; and so it properly signifies, Luk 3:2; and in this sense it is found often employed in the Old Testament. When it is there said that the word of the Lord came, etc., it means, God gave an order, commission, etc., to such a person, to declare or do such and such things.
And the scripture cannot be broken - Λυθηναι, dissolved, rendered of none effect, i.e. it cannot be gainsayed or set aside; every man must believe this, because it is the declaration of God. If those were termed gods who were only earthly magistrates, fallible mortals, and had no particular influence of the Divine Spirit; and that they are termed gods is evident from that scripture which cannot be gainsayed; what greater reason then have I to say, I am the Son of God, and one with God, when, as Messiah, I have been consecrated, sent into the world, to instruct and save men; and when, as God, I have wrought miracles which could be performed by no power less than that of omnipotence?
If I do not the works, etc. - I desire you to believe only on the evidence of my works: if I do not do such works as God only can perform, then believe me not.
Believe the works - Though ye do not now credit what I have said to you, yet consider my works, and then ye will see that these works prove that I am in the Father and the Father in me; and, consequently, that I and the Father are one. This seems to be the force of our Lord's argument; and every man must see and feel that it is conclusive. There was no possibility of weakening the force of this reasoning but by asserting that these miracles were not wrought by the power of God; and then they must have proved that not only a man, but a bad man, such as they said Jesus was, could work these miracles. As this was impossible, then the argument of Christ had a complete triumph.
They sought again to take him - They could not reply to his arguments but by stones. The evidence of the truth could not be resisted; and they endeavored to destroy the person who spoke it. Truth may confound the obstinately wicked, but it does not convert them; and it is a just judgment of God, to leave those to perish in their gainsayings who obstinately continue to gainsay and disbelieve.
But he escaped - In such a way as we know not, for the evangelist has not specified the manner of it.
Beyond Jordan - Rather, to the side of Jordan, not beyond it. See the note on Joh 6:22, and Mat 19:1.
Where John at first baptized - That is, at Bethabara: see Joh 1:28. Afterwards, John baptized at Aenon: Joh 3:23.
Many believed on him there - The people believed on him:
1. because of the testimony of John the Baptist whom they knew to be a good and a wise man, and a prophet of the Lord; and they knew he could neither deceive nor be deceived in this mater; and,
2. they believed because of the miracles which they saw Jesus work. These fully proved that all that John had said of him was true. The scribes and Pharisees with all their science could not draw a conclusion so just. Truth and common sense are often on the side of the common people, whom the insolently wise, the unsanctifiedly learned, and the tyrannically powerful sometimes disingenuously brand with the epithets of mob and swinish multitude.
1. This and the preceding chapter contain two remarkable discomfitures of the Jewish doctors. In the former they were confounded by the testimony of a plain uneducated man, simply appealing to the various circumstances of a matter of fact, at which they cavilled, and which they endeavored to decry. In this chapter the wise are taken in their own craftiness: the Pharisees are confounded by that wisdom which is from above, speaking of and manifesting the deep things of God. Sometimes God himself stops the mouths of gainsayers; at other times he makes the simplest of his followers too mighty for the most learned among the doctors. Ancient and modern martyrologies of the people of God abound with proofs of both these facts. And the persecutions of the Protestants by the Papists in the reign of Queen Mary afford a very large proportion of proofs. In these the mighty power of God, and the prevalence of truth, were gloriously apparent. Both the word of God and the Protestant cause were nobly illustrated by those transactions. May that abomination that maketh desolate never more sit in the holy place!
2. It must be remarked, by every serious reader, that our Lord did frequently speak of himself to the Jews, as being not only sent of God as their Messiah, but as being one with him. And it is as evident that in this sense the priests and Pharisees understood him; and it was because they would not credit this that they accused him of blasphemy. Now, if our Lord was not the person they understood him to state himself to be, he had the fairest opportunity, from their strong remonstrances, to correct their misapprehension of his words, if they really had mistaken his meaning - but this he never attempts. He rather strengthens his assertions in his consequent discourses with them; which, had not his positions been true, he could not have done, even as an honest man. He not only asserted himself to be equal with God, but wished them to believe it to be true; and he amply confirmed this heavenly doctrine by the miracles he wrought.