VINCENT'S WORD STUDIES
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Robertson's Word Pictures in the NT - Greek NT
In ver. 20, we are told that Jesus spake these words in the Treasury. This was in the Court of the Women, the most public part of the temple. Four golden candelabra stood there, each with four golden bowls, each one filled from a pitcher of oil by a youth of priestly descent. These were lighted on the first night of the Feast of Tabernacles. It is not unlikely that they may have suggested our Lord's figure, but the figure itself was familiar both from prophecy and from tradition. According to tradition, Light was one of the names of the Messiah. See Isa. ix. 1; xlii. 6; xlix. 6; lx. 1-3; Malachi iv. 2; Luke ii. 32.
Walk in darkness (peripethsei en th skotia). This phrase is peculiar to the Gospel and First Epistle.
Shall have (exei). Not only shall see it, but shall possess it. Hence Christ's disciples are the light of the world (Matt. v. 14). Compare lights, or, properly, luminaries (fwsthrev) a name, applied to believers in Philip. ii. 15.
I know (oida). With a clear inward consciousness. See on ii. 24.
Whence I came and whither I go. Two essential facts of testimony, viz., origin and destiny. "The question was one about His own personal consciousness, of which only Himself could bear witness" (Lange). "If the sun or the day could speak, and should say: 'I am the sun!' and it were replied, 'No, thou mayest be the night, for thou bearest witness of thyself!' how would that sound? Argue it away if thou canst" ("Berlenburg Bible," cited by Stier, "Words of the Lord Jesus").
And whither I go. The best texts read, h, or.
It is written (gegraptai). The perfect tense: it has been written, and stands written. The common form of citation elsewhere, but used by John of the Old Testament scriptures only here. His usual form is gegrammenon ejstin, the participle with the finite verb, literally, it is having been written.
The witness of two men. See Deut. xix. 15.
The Father - beareth witness of me. Thus there are two witnesses, and the letter of the law is fulfilled.
And no man laid hands on Him (kai oudeiv epiasen auton). Notice the connection with the previous sentence by the simple and, where another writer would have said and yet: the sense being that though Jesus was teaching where He might easily have been apprehended, yet no one attempted to arrest Him. See on i. 10. Laid hands on is better rendered, as elsewhere, took (compare vii. 30). The inconsistency of the A.V. in the renderings of the same word, of which this is only one of many instances, is noteworthy here from the fact that in the only two passages in which John uses the phrase laid hands on (vii. 30; vii. 44), he employs the common formula, ejpiballein tav ceirav, or thn ceira, and in both these passages the word piasai is rendered take. The use of this latter word is confined almost exclusively to John, as it is found only three times elsewhere (Acts iii. 7; xii. 4; 2 Cor. xi. 32).
Said Jesus. Omit Jesus, and read, He said therefore.
Go away (upagw). Withdraw myself from you; this sense being emphasized by the succeeding words, ye shall seek me. In expressing one's departure from men or from surrounding objects, we may emphasize merely the fact of removal, in which case ajpercomai, to go away, would be appropriate; or we may emphasize the removal as affecting some relation of the person to that from which he removes, as in vi. 67, where Jesus says to the disciples, "will ye also go away, or withdraw from me," in which case uJpagw is the proper word. 31 In your sin (en th amartia umwn). See on Matt. i. 21. Note the singular, sin, not sins. It is used collectively to express the whole condition of estrangement from God.
From above (ek twn anw). Also peculiar to John's Gospel. Compare Col. iii. 1. On the phrase to be of (einai ek) see on i. 46.
Ye are of this world (ek tou kosmou toutou este). Peculiar to John, and occurring in the First Epistle. On kosmou, world, see on i. 9. Ye are of this earthly order or economy.
The second class of interpreters, who construe the passage affirmatively, vary in their explanations of thn archn, which they render severally, altogether, essentially, first of all, in the beginning. There is also a third class, who take thn archn as a noun, and explain according to Revelation xxi. 6, "I am the beginning, that which I am even saying unto you." This view is represented mostly by the older commentators, Augustine, Bede, Lampe, and later by Wordsworth.
I adopt the view of Alford, who renders essentially, explaining by generally, or traced up to its principle (arch). Shading off from this are Godet, absolutely; Winer, throughout; Thayer, wholly or precisely. I render, I am essentially that which I even speak to you. If we accept the explanation of I am, in ver. 24, as a declaration of Jesus' absolute divine being, that thought prepares the way for this interpretation of His answer to the question, Who art thou? His words are the revelation of Himself. "He appeals to His own testimony as the adequate expression of His nature. They have only to fathom the series of statements He has made concerning Himself, and they will find therein a complete analysis of His mission and essence" (Godet). 32
I speak to the world (legw eiv ton kosmon). The best texts read lalw, which emphasizes not what Christ says (which would be legw), but the fact that He speaks. See on Matt. xxviii. 18. The use of the preposition eijv here is peculiar. Literally, "I speak into the world;" so that my words may reach and spread through the world. See for a similar construction 1 Thessalonians ii. 9; iv. 8; Heb. ii. 3. So Sophocles, where Electra says, khrusse mj eijv apantav proclaim me to all: so that the report of me may reach all ears ("Electra," 606).
He spake. Imperfect. Was speaking would be much better.
Ye shall know (gnwsesqe). Render, perceive, here as in ver. 27.
I am He. As in ver. 24, on which see note.
Of myself (ap emautou). Properly, from myself, as Rev., at vii. 17, but not here. See on vii. 17.
Hath taught (edidaxen). Rev., more correctly, taught. The aorist tense, regarding the teaching as a single act. Compare hkousa, I heard, iii. 32. I speak these things (pauta lalw). Not equivalent to so I speak (i.e., as the Father taught me), but an absolute declaration with reference to these present revelations.
Alone. See ver. 16.
Those things that please Him (ta aresta autw). Literally, as Rev., the things that are pleasing to Him. Always (pantote) closing the sentence, is emphatic. Jesus' holy activity is habitual and continuous. See iv. 34.
If ye continue (ean umeiv meinhte). The emphasis is on the ye, addressed to those whose faith was rudimentary; who believed Him, but did not yet believe on Him. Rev., abide.
In my word (en tw logw tw emw). Literally, in the word which is mine: peculiarly mine, characteristic of me. The expression is intentionally stronger than my word. Compare my love (xv. 9).
Indeed (alhqwv). Literally, truly; as Rev. As those who believe on me, not as those who are moved by temporary excitement to admit my claims.
Sin (thn amartian). The definite article, the sin, shows that Jesus does not mean merely a simple act, but a life of sin. Compare 1 John iii. 4-8, and doeth the truth (John iii. 21); doeth the righteousness (1 John ii. 29). The servant (doulov). Or, a servant. Properly, a bond-servant or slave. See on Matt. xx. 26.
Of sin. A few authorities omit, and read whosoever committeth sin is a bond-servant. Compare Rom. vi. 17, 20.
This did not Abraham. In the oriental traditions Abraham is spoken of as "full of loving-kindness."
Fornication (porneiav). From pernhmi, to sell.
"I came forth out of."
And am come (hkw). As much as to say, and here I am.
Of myself (ap emautou). Of my own self-determination, independently, but my being is divinely derived. See on vii. 17.
Cannot. See on vii. 7.
The Devil. See on Matt. iv. 1. John uses Satan only once in the Gospel (xiii. 27), frequently in Revelation, and nowhere in the Epistles. A few critics have adopted the very singular rendering, which the Greek will bear, ye are of the father of the devil. This is explained by charging John with Gnosticism, and making him refer to the Demiurge, a mysterious and inferior being descended from God, by whom God, according to the Gnostics, created the universe, and who had rebelled against God, and was the father of Satan. It is only necessary to remark with Meyer that such a view is both unbiblical and un-Johannine.
Lusts (epiqumiav). See on Mark iv. 19.
Ye will do (qelete poiein). Wrong. Properly, ye will to do. Rev., it is your will to do. See on vii. 17.
Murderer (anqrwpoktonov). Only here and 1 John iii. 15. Literally, a manslayer; from anqrwpov, man, and kteinw, to kill. The epithet is applied to Satan, not with reference to the murder of Abel, but to the fact of his being the author of death to the race. Compare Rom. vii. 8, 11; Heb. ii. 14.
From the beginning. Of the human race.
Stood not (ouk esthken). This may be explained in two ways. The verb may be taken as the perfect tense of isthmi, which is the form for the English present tense, I stand. In that case it would describe Satan's present standing in the element of falsehood: he standeth not in the truth. Or it may be taken as the imperfect tense of sthkw, I keep my standing, or simply, I stand, in which case the form will be esthken, and it will mean that even before his fall he was not true, or that he did not remain true to God, but fell. Meyer, who takes it in the former sense, observes: "Truth is the domain in which he has not his footing; to him it is a foreign, heterogeneous sphere of life.... The lie is the sphere in which he holds his place." So Mephistopheles in Goethe's "Faust":
"I am the spirit that denies! And justly so; for all things from the void Called forth, deserve to be destroyed; 'Twere better, then, were naught created. Thus, all which you as sin have rated, - Destruction, - aught with evil blent, - That is my proper element."
When he speaketh a lie (otan lalh to yeudov). More strictly, whenever - the lie, as opposed to the truth, regarded as a whole. Two interpretations are given. According to one, the Devil is the subject of speaketh: according to the other, the subject is indefinite; "when one speaketh;" stating a general proposition.
Of his own (ek twn idiwn). Literally, out of the things which are his own. "That which is most peculiarly his ethical nature" (Meyer).
For he is a liar, and the father of it (oti yeusthv esti kai o pathr autou). Three interpretations are given.
After stating that the Jews are children of the Devil, He goes on to describe the Devil as a murderer and a liar, and enlarges on the latter characteristic by saying that falsehood is his natural and peculiar element. Whenever he lies he speaks out of his own false nature, for he is a liar, and the father of the lie or of the liar. If we accept the third rendering, the thought turns rather on the character of the Jews as children of Satan. He utters first, the general charge, ye are the children of the Devil, and as such will do his works. Hence you will be both murderers and liars. He was a murderer, and ye are seeking to kill me. He stood not in the truth, neither do ye; for, when one speaketh a lie, he speaketh out of his own false nature, by a birthright of falsehood, since his father also is a liar. 33
Sin (amartiav). Not fault or error, but sin in general, as everywhere in the New Testament.
The truth (alhqeian). Without the article, and therefore not the whole truth, but that which is true as to any part of divine revelation.
Thou art a Samaritan (Samareithv ei su). Literally, a Samaritan art thou: the su, thou, terminating the sentence with a bitter emphasis: thou who professest such reverence for God and His law, art only a Samaritan, hostile to the true law and kingdom of God.
Saying (logon). Better, word, as Rev. See on ver. 43.
He shall not see death (qanaton ou mh qewrhsh). The phrase qewrein qanaton, to see death, occurs only here in the New Testament. The double negative signifies in nowise, by no means. Qewrhsh see, denoting steady, protracted vision, is purposely used, because the promise contemplates the entire course of the believer's life in Christ. It is not, shall not die forever, but shall live eternally. Upon this life, which is essentially the negation and contradiction of death, the believer enters from the moment of his union with Christ, and moves along its entire course, in time no less than in eternity, seeing only life, and with his back turned on death. The reverse of this truth, in connection with the same verb, is painfully suggestive. The question is pertinent why the Revisers have retained see, and have not substituted behold, as in so many instances.
Is dead (apeqane). Better, died: referring to the historical fact.
Taste of death. They change the form of Jesus' statement. The Lord himself tasted of death. See Heb. ii. 9. The phrase taste of death does not occur in the Old Testament, but is common in Rabbinic writings. "The angel of death," say the Rabbis, "holdeth his sword in his hand at the bed's head, having on the end thereof three drops of gall. The sick man, spying this deadly angel, openeth his mouth with fear; and then those drops fall in, of which one killeth him, the second maketh him pale, the third rotteth."
Which is dead (ostiv). The compound pronoun ostiv, which, is used explicatively, according to a familiar New Testament usage, instead of the simple relative. The sense is, seeing that he is dead. The compound relative properly indicates the class or kind to which an object belongs. Art thou greater than Abraham, who is himself one of the dead? So Col. iii. 5. "Mortify covetousness, seeing it is (htiv estin) idolatry." See on Matt. xiii. 52; xxi. 41; Mark xii. 18; Luke xii. 1; Acts vii. 53; x. 41; 1 Peter ii. 11.