Chapter 7 | Table
of Contents | Chapter 9
The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
THE DESCENT: FROM THE MOUNT OF TRANSFIGURATION
INTO THE VALLEY OF HUMILIATION AND DEATH.
TEACHING IN THE TEMPLE ON THE OCTAVE OF THE FEAST OF
(St. John 8:12-59.)
The startling teaching on 'the last, the Great Day of the
Feast' was not the only one delivered at that season. The impression left on
the mind is, that after silencing, as they thought, Nicodemus, the leaders of
the Pharisees had dispersed.1
The addresses of Jesus which followed must, therefore, have been delivered,
either later on that day, or, what on every account seems more likely, chiefly,
or all, on the next day,2
which was the Octave of the Feast, when the Temple would be once more thronged
1. This, although St. John vii. 53 must be rejected as spurious. But the whole context
seems to imply, that for the present the auditory of Jesus had dispersed.
2. It is, however, not unlikely that the first address (vv. 12-19) may have been
delivered on the afternoon of the 'Last Day of the Feast,' when the cessation
of preparations for the Temple-illumination may have given the outward occasion
for the words: 'I am the light of the World.' The palin of vv. 12 and 21 seems in each case to indicate a fresh period of time. Besides, we can scarcely suppose that all from vii. 37 to viii. 59 had taken place the same day. For this and other arguments on the
point, see Lücke, vol. ii. pp. 279-281.
On this occasion we find Christ, first in 'The Treasury,'3
and then4 in some
unnamed part of the sacred building, in all probabilities one of the 'Porches,'
Greater freedom could be here enjoyed, since these 'Porches,' which enclosed
the Court of the Gentiles, did not form part of the Sanctuary in the stricter
sense. Discussions might take place, in which not, as in 'the Treasury,' only
but the people generally, might propound questions, answer, or assent. Again,
as regards the requirements of the present narrative, since the Porches opened
upon the Court, the Jews might there pick up stones to cast at Him (which would
have been impossible in any part of the Sanctuary itself), while lastly, Jesus
might easily pass out of the Temple in the crowd that moved through the Porches
to the outer gates.6
3. St. John viii. 20.
4. ver. 21.
5. ver. 13.
6. The last clauses of ver. 59, 'going through the midst of them went His way, and so passed by,' must be omitted as spurious.
But the narrative first transports us into 'the Treasury,'
where 'the Pharisees' - or leaders - would alone venture to speak. It ought to
be specially marked, that if they laid not hands on Jesus when He dared to
teach in this sacred locality, and that such unwelcome doctrine, His immunity
must be ascribed to the higher appointment of God: 'because His hour had not
yet come.'7 An
archæological question may here be raised as to the exact localisation of 'the
Treasury,' whether it was the colonnade around 'the Court of the Women,' in
which the receptacles for charitable contributions - the so-called Shopharoth,
or 'trumpets' - were placed,8
or one of the two 'chambers' in which, respectively, secret gifts9
and votive offerings10
The former seems the most likely. In any case, it would be within 'the Court of
the Women,' the common meeting-place of the worshippers, and, as we may say,
the most generally attended part of the Sanctuary.13
Here, in the hearing of the leaders of the people, took place the first
Dialogue between Christ and the Pharisees.
7. ver. 20.
8. Sheqal. vi. 5.
9. The so-called 'chamber of the silent' (Chashaim), Sheqal. v. 6.
10. The 'chamber of the vessels' (Kelim). It was probably over, or in this chamber that
Agrippa hung up the golden memorial-chain of his captivity (Jos.
Antiq. xix. 6. 1).
11. Sheqal v. 6.
12. Comp. generally 'The Temple and its Services,' pp. 26, 27.
13. The 'Court of the Women' (gunaikwniV),
Jos. Jew. War v. 5. 3; comp. also v. 5. 2), so called, because women
could not penetrate further. It was the real Court of the Sanctuary. Here
Jeremiah also taught (xix. 14; xxvi. 2). But it is not correct to state (Westcott), that the Council Chamber of the Sanhedrin (Gazith) was 'between the
Court of the Women and the inner court.' It was in the south-eastern angle of the Court of the Priests - and hence at a considerable distance from the Court of the Women. But, not to speak of the circumstance that the Sanhedrin no longer met in that Chamber - even if it had been nearer, Christ's teaching in
the Treasury could not (at any period) 'have been within earshot of the
Sanhedrin,' since it would not sit on that day.
It opened with what probably was an allusion alike to one of
the great ceremonies of the Feast of Tabernacles, to its symbolic meaning, and
to an express Messianic expectation of the Rabbis. As the Mishnah states: On
the first,14 or, as
the Talmud would have it,15
on every night16
of the festive week, 'the Court of the Women' was brilliantly illuminated, and
the night spent in the demonstrations already described. This was called 'the
joy of the feast.' This 'festive joy,' of which the origin is obscure, was no
doubt connected with the hope of earth's great harvest-joy in the conversion of
the heathen world, and so pointed to 'the days of the Messiah.' In connection
with this we mark, that the term 'light' was specially applied to the Messiah.
In a very interesting passage of the Midrash17
we are told, that, while commonly windows were made wide within and narrow
without, it was the opposite in the Temple of Solomon, because the light
issuing from the Sanctuary was to lighten that which was without. This reminds
us of the language of devout old Simeon in regard to the Messiah,18
as 'a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of His people Israel.' The
Midrash further explains, that, if the light in the Sanctuary was to be always
burning before Jehovah, the reason was, not that He needed such light, but that
He honoured Israel with this as a symbolic command. In Messianic times God
would, in fulfilment of the prophetic meaning of this rite, 'kindle for them
the Great Light,' and the nations of the world would point to them, who had lit
the light for Him Who lightened the whole world. But even this is not all. The
Rabbis speak of the original light in which God had wrapped Himself as in a
garment,19 and which
could not shine by day, because it would have dimmed the light of the sun. From
this light that of the sun, moon, and stars had been kindled.20
It was now reserved under the throne of God for the Messiah,21
in Whose days it would shine forth once more. Lastly, we ought to refer to a
passage in another Midrash,22
where, after a remarkable discussion on such names of the Messiah as 'the Lord
our Righteousness,' 'the Branch,' 'the Comforter,' 'Shiloh,' 'Compassion,' His
Birth is connected with the destruction, and His return with the restoration of
But in that very passage the Messiah is also specially designated as the
'Enlightener,' the words:24
'the light dwelleth with Him,' being applied to Him.
14. Sukk. v. 2.
15. Jer. Sukk. 55 b; Sukk. 53 a.
16. Although Rabbi Joshua tells (in the Talmud) that during all the nights of the festive week they 'did not taste sleep,' this seems scarcely credible, and the statement of the Mishnah is the more rational. Maimonides, however,
adopts the view of the Talmud (Hilch. Lul. viii. 12).
17. Bemidb. R. 15, ed. Warsh. p. 62 a, b.
18. St. Luke ii. 32.
19. Ber. R. 3.
20. Bemidb. R. 15.
21. Yalk. on Is. 1x.
22. On Lam. i. 16, ed. Warsh. p. 64 a, b.
23. The passage is one of the most remarkable, as regards the Messianic views of the Rabbis. See
24. In Dan. ii. 22.
What has just been stated shows, that the Messianic hope of the
most truly expressed the Messianic thoughts of the time. It also proves, that
the Pharisees could not have mistaken the Messianic meaning in the words of
Jesus, in their reference to the past festivity: 'I am the Light of the world.'
This circumstance is itself evidential as regards this Discourse of Christ, the
truth of this narrative, and even the Jewish authorship of the Fourth Gospel.
But, indeed, the whole Address, the argumentation with the Pharisees which
follows, as well as the subsequent Discourse to, and argumentation with, the
Jews, are peculiarly Jewish in their form of reasoning. Substantially, these
Discourses are a continuation of those previously delivered at this Feast. But
they carry the argument one important step both backwards and forwards. The
situation had now become quite clear, and neither party cared to conceal it.
What Jesus had gradually communicated to the disciples, who were so unwilling
to receive it, had now become an acknowledged fact. It was no longer a secret
that the leaders of Israel and Jerusalem were compassing the Death of Jesus.
This underlies all His Words. And He sought to turn them from their purpose,
not by appealing to their pity nor to any lower motive, but by claiming as His
right that, for which they would condemn Him. He was the Sent of God,
the Messiah; although, to know Him and His Mission, it needed moral kinship
with Him that had sent Him. But this led to the very root of the matter. It
needed moral kinship with God: did Israel, as such, possess it? They did not;
nay, no man possessed it, till given him of God. This was not exactly new in
these Discourses of Christ, but it was now far more clearly stated and
developed, and in that sense new.
25. St. Luke ii. 32.
We also are too apt to overlook this teaching of Christ -
perhaps have overlooked it. It is concerning the corruption of our whole nature
by sin, and hence the need of God-teaching, if we are to receive the Christ, or
understand His doctrine. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; that which
is born of the Spirit is Spirit; wherefore, 'marvel not that I said, Ye must be
born again.' That had been Christ's initial teaching to Nicodemus, and it
became, with growing emphasis, His final teaching to the teachers of Israel. It
is not St. Paul who first sets forth the doctrine of our entire moral ruin: he
had learned it from the Christ. It forms the very basis of Christianity; it is
the ultimate reason of the need of a Redeemer, and the rationale of the
work which Christ came to do. The Priesthood and the Sacrificial Work of
Christ, as well as the higher aspect of His Prophetic Office, and the true
meaning of His Kingship, as not of this world, are based upon it. Very
markedly, it constitutes the starting-point in the fundamental divergence
between the leaders of the Synagogue and Christ - we might say, to all time
between Christians and non-Christians. The teachers of Israel knew not, nor
believed in the total corruption of man - Jew as well as Gentile - and,
therefore, felt not the need of a Saviour. They could not understand it - how
'Except a man' - at least a Jew - were 'born again,' and, 'from above,' he
could not enter, nor even see, the Kingdom of God. They understood not their
own Bible: the story of the Fall - not Moses and the Prophets; and how could
they understand Christ? they believed not them, and how could they believe Him?
And yet, from this point of view, but only from this, does all seem clear: the
Incarnation, the History of the Temptation and Victory in the Wilderness, and
even the Cross. Only he who has, in some measure, himself felt the agony of the
first garden, can understand that of the second garden. Had they
understood, by that personal experience which we must all have of it, the
Proto-Evangel of the great contest, and of the great conquest by suffering,
they would have followed its lines to their final goal in the Christ as the
fulfilment of all. And so, here also, were the words of Christ true, that it
needed heavenly teaching, and kinship to the Divine, to understand His
This underlies, and is the main object of these Discourses of
Christ. As a corollary He would teach, that Satan was not a merely malicious,
impish being, working outward destruction, but that there was a moral power of
evil which held us all - not the Gentile world only, but even the most
favoured, learned, and exalted among the Jews. Of this power Satan was the
concentration and impersonation; the prince of the power of 'darkness.' This
opens up the reasoning of Christ, alike as expressed and implied. He presented
Himself to them as the Messiah, and hence as the Light of the World. It
resulted, that only in following Him would a man 'not walk in the darkness,'26
but have the light - and that, be it marked, not the light of knowledge, but of
life.27 On the
other hand, it also followed, that all, who were not within this light, were in
darkness and in death.
26. Mark here the definite article.
27. St. John viii. 12.
It was an appeal to the moral in His hearers. The Pharisees
sought to turn it aside by an appeal to the external and visible. They asked
for some witness, or palpable evidence, of what they called His testimony about
knowing that such could only be through some external, visible, miraculous
manifestation, just as they had formerly asked for a sign from heaven. The
Bible, and especially the Evangelic history, is full of what men ordinarily,
and often thoughtlessly, call the miraculous. But, in this case, the miraculous
would have become the magical, which it never is. If Christ had yielded to
their appeal, and transferred the question from the moral to the coarsely
external sphere, He would have ceased to be the Messiah of the Incarnation,
Temptation, and Cross, the Messiah-Saviour. It would have been to un-Messiah
the Messiah of the Gospel, for it was only, in another form, a repetition of
the Temptation. A miracle or sign would at that moment have been a moral
anachronism - as much as any miracle would be in our days,29
when the Christ makes His appeal to the moral, and is met by a demand for the
external and material evidence of His Witness.
28. ver. 13.
29. It is substantially the same evidence which is demanded by the negative physicists
of our days. Nor can I imagine a more thorough misunderstanding of the
character and teaching of Christianity than, for example, the proposal to test the efficacy of prayer, by asking for the recovery of those in a hospital ward!
This would represent heathenism, not Christianity.
The interruption of the Pharisees30
was thoroughly Jewish, and so was their objection. It had to be met, and that
in the Jewish form31
in which it had been raised, while the Christ must at the same time continue
His former teaching to them concerning God and their own distance from Him.
Their objection had proceeded on this fundamental judicial principle - 'A
person is not accredited about himself.'32
Harsh and unjust as this principle sometimes was,33
it evidently applied only in judicial cases, and hence implied that
these Pharisees sat in judgment on Him as one suspected, and charged with
guilt. The reply of Jesus was plain. Even if His testimony about Himself were
unsupported, it would still be true, and He was competent to bear it, for He
knew, as a matter of fact, whence He came and whither He went - His own part in
this Mission, and its goal, as well as God's - whereas they knew34
But, more than this: their demand for a witness had proceeded on the assumption
of their being the judges, and He the panel - a relation which only arose from
their judging after the flesh. Spiritual judgment upon that which was within
belonged only to Him, that searcheth all secrets. Christ, while on earth,
judged no man; and, even if He did so, it must be remembered that He did it not
alone, but with, and as the Representative of, the Father. Hence, such judgment
would be true.36
But, as for their main charge, was it either true, or good in law? In
accordance with the Law of God, there were two witnesses to the fact of His
Mission: His own, and the frequently-shown attestation of His Father. And, if
it were objected that a man could not bear witness in his own cause, the same
Rabbinic canon laid it down, that this only applied if his testimony stood
alone. But if it were corroborated (even in a matter of greatest delicacy),37
although by only one male or female slave - who ordinarily were unfit for
testimony - it would be credited.
30. St. John viii. 13.
31. We mark here again the evidence of the Jewish authorship of the Fourth Gospel.
32. Kethub. ii. 9.
33. Thus the testimony of a man, that during the heathen occupancy of Jerusalem his wife
had never left him, was not allowed, and the husband forbidden his wife
(Kethub. ii. 9).
34. Not, as in the A.V., 'tell.'
35. St. John viii. 14.
36. vv. 15, 16.
37. Kethub. ii. 9. Such solitary testimony only when favourable, not when adverse. On the law of testimony generally, comp. Saalschütz, Mos. Recht, pp. 604, 605.
The reasoning of Christ, without for a moment quitting the
higher ground of His teaching, was quite unanswerable from the Jewish
standpoint. The Pharisees felt it, and, though well knowing to Whom He
referred, tried to evade it by the sneer - where (not Who) His Father was? This
gave occasion for Christ to return to the main subject of His Address, that the
reason of their ignorance of Him was, that they knew not the Father, and, in
turn, that only acknowledgment of Him would bring true knowledge of the Father.38
38. St. John viii. 19.
Such words would only ripen in the hearts of such men the
murderous resolve against Jesus. Yet, not till His, not their, hour had
come! Presently, we find Him again, now in one of the Porches - probably that
of Solomon - teaching, this time, 'the Jews.' We imagine they were chiefly, if
not all, Judæans - perhaps Jerusalemites, aware of the murderous intent of
their leaders - not His own Galileans, whom He addressed. It was in
continuation of what had gone before - alike of what He had said to them and of
what they felt towards Him. The words are intensely sad - Christ's farewell to
His rebellious people, His tear-words over lost Israel; abrupt also, as if they
were torn sentences, or, else, headings for special discourses: 'I go My way' -
'Ye shall seek Me, and in your sin39
shall ye die' - 'Whither I go, ye cannot come!' And is it not all most true?
These many centuries has Israel sought its Christ, and perished in its great
sin of rejecting Him; and whither Christ and His kingdom tended, the Synagogue
and Judaism never came. They thought that He spoke of His dying, and not, as He
did, of that which came after it. But, how could His dying establish such
separation between them? This was the next question which rose in their minds.40
Would there be anything so peculiar about His dying, or, did His expression
about going indicate a purpose of taking away His Own life?41
39. Not 'sins,' as in the A.V.
40. St. John viii. 22.
41. Generally this is understood as referring to the supposed Jewish belief, that suicides
occupied the lowest place in Gehenna. But a glance at the context must convince that the Jews could not have understood Christ as meaning, that He would be separated from them by being sent to the lowest Gehenna. Besides, this supposed
punishment of suicides is only derived from a rhetorical passage in Josephus
(Jew. War iii. 8. 5), but unsupported by any Rabbinic statements. The Rabbinic definition - or rather limitation - of what constitutes suicide is remarkable. Thus, neither Saul, nor Ahitophel, nor Zimri, are regarded as suicides, because
they did it to avoid falling into the hands of their enemies. For premeditated, real suicide the punishment is left with God. Some difference is to be made in
the burial of such, yet not such as to put the survivors to shame.
It was this misunderstanding which Jesus briefly but
emphatically corrected by telling them, that the ground of their separation was
the difference of their nature: they were from beneath, He from above; they of
this world, He not of this world. Hence they could not come where He would be,
since they must die in their sin, as He had told them - 'if ye believe not that
42. vv. 23, 24.
The words were intentionally mysteriously spoken, as to a
Jewish audience. Believe not that Thou art! But 'Who art Thou?' Whether or not
the words were spoken in scorn, their question condemned themselves. In His
broken sentence, Jesus had tried them - to see how they would complete it. Then
it was so! All this time they had not yet learned Who He was; had not even a
conviction on that point, either for or against Him, but were ready to be
swayed by their leaders! 'Who I am?' - am I not telling you it even from the
beginning; has My testimony by word or deed ever swerved on this point? I am
what all along, from the beginning, I tell you.43
Then, putting aside this interruption, He resumed His argument.44
Many other things had He to say and to judge concerning them, besides the
bitter truth of their perishing if they believed not that it was He - but He
that had sent Him was true, and He must ever speak into the world the message
which He had received. When Christ referred to it as that which 'He heard from
evidently wished thereby to emphasise the fact of His Mission from God, as
constituting His claim on their obedience of faith. But it was this very point
which, even at that moment, they were not understanding.46
And they would only learn it, not by His Words, but by the event, when they had
'lifted Him up,' as they thought, to the Cross, but really on the way to His
Then would they perceive the meaning of the designation He had given of
Himself, and the claim founded on it:49
'Then shall ye perceive that I am.' Meantime: 'And of Myself do I nothing, but
as the50 Father
taught Me, these things do I speak. And He that sent Me is with Me. He51
hath not left Me alone, because what pleases Him I do always.'
43. It would be impossible here to enter into a critical analysis or vindication of
the rendering of this much controverted passage, adopted in the text. The
method followed has been to retranslate literally into Hebrew: ytrbd Mg# )wh hlyxtm Mkyl) This might be rendered either, 'To begin with - He that I also tell you;' or, 'from the beginning He that I also tell you.' I prefer the latter, and its meaning seems substantially that of our A.V.
44. vv. 25, 26.
45. ver. 26.
46. ver. 27.
47. As Canon Westcott rightly points out (St. John xii. 32), the term 'lifting
up' includes both the death and the glory. If we ask ourselves what
corresponding Hebrew word, including the sensus malus as well as the sensus
bonus would have been used, the verb Nasa ()#n) naturally
occurs (comp. Gen xl. 19 with ver. 13). For we suppose, that the word used by Christ at this early part of His Ministry could not have necessarily involved a prediction of His Crucifixion, and that they who heard it rather imagined it to
refer to His Exaltation. There is a curiously illustrative passage here (in Pesiqta R. 10), when a king, having given orders that the head of his son should be 'lifted up' (w#)r t) w)#), that it should be hanged up (wlt w#)r t)), is
exhorted by the tutor to spare what was his 'moneginos' (only begotten). On the king's replying that he was bound by the orders he had given, the tutor answers
by pointing out that the verb Nasa means lifting up in the sense of
exalting, as well as of executing. But, besides the verb Nasa, there is also the verb Zeqaph (Pqa):), which in the Aramaic and in the Syriac is used both for lifting up and for hanging - specifically for crucifying; and,
lastly, the verb Tela ()laft@: or hlaft@:), which means in the first place to lift up, and secondarily to hang or crucify (see Levy, Targum,
Wörterb. ii. p. 539 a and b). It this latter verb was used, then the Jewish expression Taluy, which is still opprobriously given to Jesus, would after all represent the original designation by which He described
His own death as the 'lifted-up One.'
48. ver. 28.
49. ver. 28 (comp. ver. 24).
50. Not 'my,' as in A.V.
51. A new sentence; and 'He,' not 'the Father,' as in the A.V.
If the Jews failed to understand the expression 'lifting up,'
which might mean His Exaltation, though it did mean, in the first place, His
Cross, there was that in His Appeal to His Words and Deeds as bearing witness
to His Mission and to the Divine Help and Presence in it, which by its
sincerity, earnestness, and reality, found its way to the hearts of many.
Instinctively they felt and believed that His Mission must be Divine. Whether
or not this found articulate expression, Jesus now addressed Himself to those
who thus far - at least for the moment - believed on Him. They were at the
crisis of their spiritual history, and He must press home on them what He had
sought to teach at the first. By nature far from Him, they were bondsmen. Only
if they abode in His Word would they know the truth, and the truth would
make them free. The result of this knowledge would be moral, and hence that
knowledge consisted not in merely believing on Him, but in making His Word and
teaching their dwelling - abiding in it.52
But it was this very moral application which they resisted. In this also Jesus
had used their own forms of thinking and teaching, only in a much higher sense.
For their own tradition had it, that he only was free who laboured in the study
of the Law.53
Yet the liberty of which He spoke came not through study of the Law,54
but from abiding in the Word of Jesus. But it was this very thing which they
resisted. And so they ignored the spiritual, and fell back upon the national,
application of the words of Christ. As this is once more evidential of the
Jewish authorship of this Gospel, so also the characteristically Jewish boast,
that as the children of Abraham they had never been, and never could be, in
real servitude. It would take too long to enumerate all the benefits supposed
to be derived from descent from Abraham. Suffice here the almost fundamental
principle: 'All Israel are the children of Kings,'55
and its application even to common life, that as 'the children of Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob, not even Solomon's feast could be too good for them.'56
52. vv. 30-32.
53. Ab. Baraitha vi. 2, p. 23 b; Erub. 54 a, line 13 from bottom.
54. With reference to Exod. xxxii. 16, a play being made on the word Charuth
('graven') which is interpreted Cheyruth ('liberty'). The passage quoted by Wünsche (Baba Mets. 85 b) is not applicable.
55. Shabb. 67 a; 128 a.
56. Baba Mets. vii. 1.
Not so, however, would the Lord allow them to pass it by. He
pointed them to another servitude which they knew not, that of sin,57
and, entering at the same time also on their own ideas, He told them that
continuance in this servitude would also lead to national bondage and
rejection: 'For the servant abideth not in the house for ever.'58
On the other hand, the Son abode there for ever; whom He made free by adoption
into His family, they would be free in reality and essentially.5960
Then for their very dulness, He would turn to their favourite conceit of being
Abraham's seed. There was, indeed, an obvious sense in which, by their natural
descent, they were such. But there was a moral descent - and that alone was of
real value. Another, and to them wholly new, and heavenly teaching this, which
our Lord presently applied in a manner they could neither misunderstand nor
gainsay, while He at the same time connected it with the general drift of His
teaching. Abraham's seed? But they entertained purposes of murder, and that,
because the Word of Christ had not free course, made not way in them.61
His Word was what He had seen with (before) the Father,62
not heard - for His presence was there Eternal. Their deeds were what they had heard
from their father63
- the word 'seen' in our common text depending on a wrong reading. And thus He
showed them - in answer to their interpellation - that their father could not
have been Abraham, so far as spiritual descent was concerned.64
They had now a glimpse of His meaning, but only to misapply it, according to
their Jewish prejudice. Their spiritual descent, they urged, must be of God,
since their descent from Abraham was legitimate.65
But the Lord dispelled even this conceit by showing, that if theirs were
spiritual descent from God, then would they not reject His Message, nor seek to
kill Him, but recognise and love him.66
57. St. John viii. 34.
58. Here there should be a full stop, and not as in the A.V.
59. ver. 35.
60. ontwV. Comp. Westcott ad loc.
61. So Canon Westcott aptly renders it.
62. Not 'My Father,' as in the A.V. These little changes are most important, as we remember that the hearers would so far understand and could have sympathised, had the truth been in them.
63. According to the proper reading, the rendering must be 'from your father,' not 'with your
father,' as in the A.V.
64. vv. 37-40.
65. ver. 41.
66. ver. 42.
But whence this misunderstanding of His speech?6768
Because they are morally incapable of hearing it - and this because of the
sinfulness of their nature: an element which Judaism had never taken into
account. And so, with infinite Wisdom, Christ once more brought back His
Discourse to what He would teach them concerning man's need, whether he be Jew
or Gentile, of a Saviour and of renewing by the Holy Ghost. If the Jews were
morally unable to hear His Word and cherished murderous designs, it was
because, morally speaking, their descent was of the Devil. Very differently
from Jewish ideas69
did He speak concerning the moral evil of Satan, as both a murderer and a liar -
a murderer from the beginning of the history of our race, and one who 'stood
not in the truth, because truth is not in him.' Hence 'whenever he speaketh a
lie' - whether to our first parents, or now concerning the Christ - 'he
speaketh from out his own (things), for he (Satan) is a liar, and the father of
such an one (who telleth or believeth lies).'70
Which of them could convict Him of sin? If therefore He spake truth,71
and they believed Him not, it was because they were not of God, but, as He had
shown them, of their father, the Devil.
67. The word here is lalia.
68. vv. 43-47.
69. See Book II. ch. v.
70. I cannot here regard Canon Westcott's rendering, which is placed in the
margin of the Revised Version, as satisfactory.
71. In the text without the article.
The argument was unanswerable, and there seemed only one way to
turn it aside - a Jewish Tu quoque, an adaptation of the 'Physician,
heal thyself:' 'Do we not say rightly, that Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a
demon?' It is strange that the first clause of this reproach should have been
so misunderstood and yet its direct explanation lies on the surface. We have
only to translate it into the language which the Jews had used. By no strain of
ingenuity is it possible to account for the designation 'Samaritan,' as given
by the Jews to Jesus, if it is regarded as referring to nationality. Even at
the very Feast they had made it an objection to His Messianic claims, that He
was (as they supposed) a Galilean.72
Nor had He come to Jerusalem from Samaria;73
nor could He be so called (as Commentators suggest) because He was 'a foe' to
Israel, or a 'breaker of the Law,' or 'unfit to bear witness'74
- for neither of these circumstances would have led the Jews to designate Him
by the term 'Samaritan.' But, in the language which they spoke, what is
rendered into Greek by 'Samaritan,' would have been either Kuthi
(ytwk), which, while literally meaning a Samaritan,75
is almost as often used in the sense of 'heretic,' or else Shomroni
(ynwrm#). The latter word deserves special attention.76
Literally, it also means, 'Samaritan;' but, the name Shomron (perhaps
from its connection with Samaria), is also sometimes used as the equivalent of Ashmedai,
the Prince of the demons.7778
According to the Kabbalists, Shomron was the father of Ashmedai, and
hence the same as Sammael, or Satan. That this was a wide-spread Jewish
belief, appears from the circumstance that in the Koran (which, in such
matters, would reproduce popular Jewish tradition), Israel is said to have been
seduced into idolatry by Shomron,79
while, in Jewish tradition, this is attributed to Sammael.80 If, therefore, the term applied by the
Jews to Jesus was Shomroni - and not Kuthi, 'heretic' - it would
literally mean, 'Child of the Devil.'81
72. vii. 52.
73. St. Luke ix. 53.
74. The passage quoted by Schöttgen (Yebam. 47 a) is inapplicable, as it really
refers to a non-Israelite. More apt, but also unsuitable, is Sot. 22 a, quoted by Wetstein.
75. from Kuth or Kutha; comp. 2 Kings xvii. 24, 30.
76. Comp. Kohut, Jüd. Angelol. p. 95.
77. Ber. R. 36, ed. Warsh. p. 65 b,
line 5 from bottom; Yalkut on Job xxi. vol. ii. p. 150 b line 16 from bottom.
78. See the Appendix on Jewish-Angelology and Demonology.
79. L'Alcoran trad.par le Sieur du Ryer, p. 247.
80. Pirqé de R. Eliez. 45 ed. Lemb. p. 59 b, line 10 from top.
81. I need scarcely point out how strongly evidential this is of the Jewish authorship of the Fourth Gospel.
This would also explain why Christ only replied to the charge
of having a demon, since the two charges meant substantially the same: 'Thou
art a child of the devil and hast a demon.' In wondrous patience and mercy He
almost passed it by, dwelling rather, for their teaching, on the fact that,
while they dishonoured Him, He honoured His Father. He heeded not their
charges. His concern was the glory of His Father; the vindication of His own
honour would be brought about by the Father - though, alas! in judgment on
those who were casting such dishonour on the Sent of God.82
Then, as if lingering in deep compassion on the terrible issue, He once more
pressed home the great subject of His Discourse, that only 'if a man keep' -
both have regard to, and observe - His 'Word,' 'he shall not gaze at death
[intently behold it]83
unto eternity' - for ever shall he not come within close and terrible gaze of
what is really death, of what became such to Adam in the hour of his Fall.
82. St. John viii. 50.
83. The word is that peculiar and remarkable one, qewrew, to gaze earnestly and intently, to which I have already called attention (see
vol. i. p. 692).
It was, as repeatedly observed, this death as the consequence
of the Fall, of which the Jews knew nothing. And so they once more
misunderstood it as of physical death,84
and, since Abraham and the prophets had died, regarded Christ as setting up a
claim higher than theirs.85
The Discourse had contained all that He had wished to bring before them, and
their objections were degenerating into wrangling. It was time to break it off
by a general application. The question, He added, was not of what He said,
but of what God said of Him - that God, Whom they claimed as theirs, and yet
knew not, but Whom He knew, and Whose Word He 'kept.'86
But, as for Abraham - he had 'exulted' in the thought of the coming day of the
Christ, and, seeing its glory, he was glad. Even Jewish tradition could
scarcely gainsay this, since there were two parties in the Synagogue, of which
one believed that, when that horror of great darkness fell on him,87
Abraham had, in vision, been shown not only this, but the coming world - and
not only all events in the present 'age,' but also those in Messianic times.8889
And now, theirs was not misunderstanding, but wilful misinterpretation. He had
spoken of Abraham seeing His day; they took it of His seeing Abraham's day, and
challenged its possibility. Whether or not they intended thus to elicit an
avowal of His claim to eternal duration, and hence to Divinity, it was not time
any longer to forbear the full statement, and, with Divine emphasis, He spake
the words which could not be mistaken: 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, before
Abraham was, I AM.'
84. He spoke of 'seeing,' they of 'tasting' death (vv. 51, 52). The word M(+ 'taste,' is used in precisely the same manner by the Rabbis. Thus, in the Jer.
Targum on Deut. xxxii. 1. In Ber. R. 9, we are told, that it was originally destined that the first man should not taste death. Again, 'Elijah did not taste the taste of death' (Ber. R. 21). And, tropically, in such a passage as
this: 'If any one would taste a taste (here: have a foretaste) of death, let him keep his shoes on while he goes to sleep' (Yom. 78 l). It is also used of sleep, as: 'All the days of the joy of the house of drawing [Feast of Tabernacles] we did not taste the taste of sleep' (Succ. 53 a). It is needless to add other quotations.
85. vv. 52, 53.
86. On the expression 'keep (threin)
His work,' Bengel beautifully observes: doctrinam Jesu, credendo; promissa, sperando; facienda obediendo.
87. Gen. xv. 17.
88. Ber. R. 44, ed. Warsh. p. 81 b, lines 8, 7, 6 from bottom.
89. In the Targum Jerusalem on Gen. xv. also it seems implied that Abraham saw in vision all that would befall his children in the future, and also Gehenna and its torments. So far as I can gather, only the latter, not the former, seems implied
in the Targ. Pseudo-Jonathan.
Note on the differences between the Feast of Tabernacles
and that of its Octave (see p. 156, note 1). The six points of difference
which mark the Octave as a separate feast are indicated by the memorial words and letters b#$@&q& r&z&p&, and are as follows: (1) During the seven days of Tabernacles the Priests of all the 'courses' officiated, while on the Octave the sacrificial services were appointed, as usually, by lot (Myyp&). (2) The benediction at the beginning of a feast was spoken again
at the Octave (Nmz$). (3) The Octave was designated in prayer, and by
special ordinances, as a separate feast (lgr&). (4) Difference in the sacrifices (Nbrq&). (5) Difference in the Psalms - on the Octave (Soph. xix. 2) probably Ps. xii. (ry#). (6) According to 1 Kings viii. 66, difference as to the blessing (hkrb&).
It was as if they had only waited for this. Furiously they
rushed from the Porch into the Court of the Gentiles - with symbolic
significance, even in this - to pick up stones, and to cast them at Him. But,
once more, His hour had not yet come, and their fury proved impotent. Hiding
Himself for the moment, as might so easily be done, in one of the many
chambers, passages, or gateways of the Temple, He presently passed out.
It had been the first plain disclosure and avowal of His
Divinity, and it was 'in the midst of His enemies,' and when most contempt was
cast upon Him. Presently would that avowal be renewed both in Word and by Deed;
for 'the end' of mercy and judgment had not yet come, but was drawing terribly
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