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St. John viii. 22
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.
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 beforealike 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 sin 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 can never come. 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. Would there be anything so peculiar about His dying, or, did His expression about going indicate a purpose of taking away His Own life? 2
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
1 Not sins,' as in the A. V.
2 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 definitionor 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.
" WHO ART THOU?'
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 I am.'
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.' Then, putting aside this interruption, He resumed His argument. 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 Him,' He 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. 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 Glory. Then would they
the first place to lift up, and second-
a ver. 27
perceive the meaning of the designation He had given of Himself, and the claim founded on it: "Then shall ye perceive that I am." Meantime: And of Myself do I nothing, but as the1 Father taught Me, these things do I speak. And He that sent Me is with Me. He hath not left Me alone, because what pleases Him I do always.'
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. 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. Yet the liberty of which He spoke came not through study of the Law,3 but from abiding in the Word of Jesus. But it was line 13 from this very thing which they resisted. And so they ignored the spiritual,
© Ab. Boraitha vi. 2, p. 13 b; Erub. 54 a,
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,' and its application even to common life, that as the children of Abraham,
• Baba Mez. Isaac, and Jacob, not even Solomon's feast could be too good for them.'*
a ver. 24
b vv. 30-32
d Shabb. 67 a; 128 a
is still opprobriously given to Jesus, would
'Not 'my,' as in A. V.
2 A new sentence; and 'He,' not 'the Father,' as in the A. V.
3 With reference to Exod. xxxii. 16, a play being made on the word Charuth ('graven ') which is interpreted Cheiruth ('liberty'). The passage quoted by Wünsche (Baba Mez. 85 b) is not applicable.
OUR FATHER IS ABRAHAM.'
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," 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.'1 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.b2 Then, for their very dulness, He would ver. 35 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.3 His Word was what He had seen with (before) the Father, not heard-for His Presence there was Eternal. Their deeds were what they had heard from their father 5-the word 'seen' in our common text depending on a wrong reading. And this-in answer to their interpellation -He shows them, could not have been Abraham-so far as spiritual descent was concerned. They had now a glimpse of His meaning, vv. 37–40 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. But the Lord dispelled even this conceit ver. 41 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.R
But whence all this misunderstanding of His speech? Because they were 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
Here there should be a full stop, and not as in the A. V.
Tws. Comp. Westcott ad loc.
So Canon Westcott aptly renders it. 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 sym-
According to the proper reading, the
a St. John viii. 34
e ver. 42
a vii. 52 b St. Luke ix. 53
Ber. R. 36, p. 65 6, line
from bottom; Yalkut on Job xxi. vol. ii. p. 150 b, line 16 from bottom
hear His word and cherished murderous designs, it was because, morally speaking, their descent was of the Devil. Very differently from Jewish ideas 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).' Which of them could convict Him of sin? If therefore He spake truth,3 and they believed Him not, it was because they were not of God, but, as He had shown them, of their father, the Devil.
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 retranslate 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 that very Feast they had made it an objection to His Messianic claims, that He was (as they supposed) a Galilean. Nor had He come to Jerusalem from Samaria; 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 '4. -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 Cuthi (n), which, while literally meaning a Samaritan, is almost as often used in the sense of 'heretic,' or else Shomroni (v). The latter word deserves special attention.5 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.c According to the Kabbalists, Shomron was the father of Ashmedai, and hence the same as Sammael, or Satan. That this was a wide-spread
'See Book II. ch. v.
2 I cannot regard Canon Westcott's rendering, which is placed in the margin of the Revised Version, as satisfactory. In the text without the article.
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.
5 Comp. Kohut, Jüd. Angelol. p. 95. See the Appendix on Jewish Angelology and Demonology.