[(2) JESUS IS TRUTH AND LIGHT AND LOVE (7:1- 10:42).
(a)Jesus is Truth (John 8).
(α)The Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:1-13).
(β)The teaching of Jesus (John 7:14-39):
His doctrine is from the Father (John 7:15-24).
He is Himself from the Father (verses (25-31);
He will return to the Father (John 7:32-39).
(γ)The effect of the teaching. Division among the multitude, and in the Sanhedrin (John 7:40-52).]
Jewry was frequent in the older English translations, but has been preserved in the Authorised version of the New Testament only here and in Luke 23:5. (See Note there, and comp. Daniel 5:13 and the Prayer Book version of Psalm 76:1.)
That thy disciples also may see . . .—The last time the word “disciples” was used, it was to mark the departure of many from Him (John 6:60; John 6:66). The months which have passed since have been a time of comparative retirement. He did not go to the Passover, where many would have expected to see Him (John 7:11), but within the narrowed circle continued His works and words. The prophet hath not honour in His own home, and His brethren, who have seen these works and do not believe, challenge Him to an open demonstration of them. There is another great feast at hand, and His disciples from all parts will be at Jerusalem, where the rulers will test His claims. If He is the Messiah, no conspiracy to kill Him can prevail; and if these works are really divine, let the great body of disciples see them, and amid the joyous feast, and in the royal city, proclaim Him king.
If thou do these things.—The emphasis is on these things. There is no doubt that He does them; but if the acts themselves are such as they seem to be, and establish the claim which He bases on them, they should be done in Jerusalem, not in the villages of Galilee. They are for the world, and not for the retirement of home.
Your time is alway ready.—They may go now as then. Of the nation, their thoughts and feelings are in sympathy with the national feasts. They can join in the festive throng keeping holiday, and take their part in the Temple service. For Him present events have another meaning. Desertion of disciples, threatenings of Jews, unbelief of brethren—all this means that the end is approaching, and that His time is at hand.
But me it hateth, because I testify . . .—He had placed Himself in a position of antagonism to it, and must necessarily do so. His words and acts must be a witness against the evil of its deeds. This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil. But men who love darkness must also hate light. Its very presence makes the darkness visible; and nothing cuts to the very quick, like that which makes the heart condemn itself.
I go not up yet unto this feast.—The “yet” is of doubtful authority, though it is found in some early MSS. and versions, and the more so because it removes an apparent difficulty. Without it, the words do not involve a change of purpose, and Porphyry’s often-repeated charge of fickleness has no real ground. He is not going up unto the feast in the sense in which they intended—openly, with the usual caravan from Galilee. Another going up publicly, as they intended, and with an issue the dark presages of which now crowd upon Him, is present to His mind. “Ye, go ye up to the feast; I go not up to this feast.” The verb is in the present, and its meaning does not exclude a going up afterwards. (See also Note on John 7:10.) They were then going; the caravan was preparing to start. I am not going up (now). The time is coming, but it has not yet fully come. (Comp. Note on Luke 9:51.)
Not openly, but as it were in secret—i.e., not with the usual company. Judging from His practice at another time (John 4:4), He would go through Samaria, while the caravan would go on the Eastern side of the Jordan.
Doctrine represents a word which is frequently used in the Gospels, of our Lord, but only here and in the next verse by Him. It has acquired a definite and concrete meaning not found in the original, which is better rendered by teaching (comp., e.g., Mark 4:2).
Ye all marvel.—This answer is addressed to the multitude who said “Thou hast a devil,” when He spoke of the intention to kill Him. This work on the Sabbath day, which provoked the deadly hostility of the hierarchy (John 5:16; John 5:18), was cause of wonder to them all. They, too, though not in the same degree, were led by it to take a hostile position.
A man.—Used here, and in the next verse, as equivalent to a male child, as in John 16:21.
Do the rulers know indeed . . .?—Read, Have the rulers come to know indeed that this Man is the Christ? The word “very” is omitted by the best MSS. The word “indeed” shows that the questioners think it impossible that the rulers can have recognised Him.
Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am.—He takes up their objection in order to refute it. There is, indeed, a sense in which it is true. Those features were well known alike to friend and foe. With minds glowing with the fire of love or of hate, they had gazed upon Him as He walked or taught, and His form had fixed itself on the memory. They knew about His earthly home and early life (John 7:27), but all this was far short of the real knowledge of Him. It is but little that the events of the outer life tell of the true life and being even of a brother man. Little does a man know even his bosom friend; how infinitely far were they, with minds which did not even approach the true method of knowledge, from knowing Him whom no mind can fully comprehend!
And I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true.—Once again He asserts that He claims no position of independence. He is the first great Apostle (comp. Hebrews 3:1), but He is not self-commissioned. Had He not been the Christ, their objection that they knew His origin might have had force. But sent by Him who is the really existent One, and whom they knew not, His origin is unknown to them, and their technical test is fulfilled. In the fullest sense, they neither knew Him nor from whence He came.
For the meaning of the word “true,” see Note on John 1:9. It is almost impossible to give the sense of the original except in a paraphrase. We must keep, therefore, the ordinary rendering, but bear in mind that it does not mean, “He that sent Me is truthful,” but “He that sent Me is the ideally true One.” “You talk of person, and of origin, of knowing Me, and from whence I came, but all this is knowledge of the senses, and in the region of the phenomenal world. Being is only truly known in relation to the Eternal Being. He that sent Me to manifest His Being in the world is the truly existent One. In Him is My true origin, and Him ye know not.”
For I am from him, and he hath sent me.—This knowledge is here based upon His oneness of essence, and upon His true mission. He knows God because He is from Him, and in union ever one with Him. He knows God because He is in His human nature the representative of the Divine to mankind.
His hour was not yet come.—This is the writer’s explanation of the fact that they did not seek to take Him. Jesus had Himself used these words at the first sign at Cana of Galilee (John 2:4), and again before going up to this very festival (John 7:6). The beloved disciple has learnt the religious interpretation of history. That the hour was not yet come, was not the immediate cause which influenced those who desired, but dared not, to lay hands upon Him. The next verse points out that there was a division in the multitude (comp. John 7:43-44), and in the uncertainty of what the consequences may be, no one was bold enough to take the decisive step. But if not the immediate cause, the writer regards it as the primary cause. Looking back on the life of his Lord, from the old age of his own life, so full of eventful issues, he has learnt that every deed of that life, as every deed of every life, had its hour mapped out in the eternal counsels of God.
When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?—They believe that the Christ has come, but express the common thought of Messianic miracles in a question which must have a negative answer. The Messiah who is expected is not expected to do greater miracles than these. The Messianic idea is therefore fulfilled, and He who has fulfilled it must be the very Christ.
Yet a little while am I with you.—Their action is the first attempt to take Him by force. It brings to His mind the thought that the end is at hand. But a little while more, and the hour will have come. The manifestation of God’s love to man will then be completed in its crowning sacrifice, and when the work of His mission is completed, He will return to Him that sent Him.
Will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles?—Better, Will He go unto the dispersion among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles? The word for “dispersion” (διασπορά, diaspora) occurs again, in the New Testament, only in the opening verses of the Epistle of St. James and of the First Epistle of St. Peter, and is in both these passages represented by the English word “scattered.” The only other instance of its occurrence in the Bible, is in the Greek version (LXX.) of Psalm 146:2. (In Authorised version, Psalm 147:2, “He gathereth together the outcasts of Israel.”) It is also found in 2 Maccabees 1:27, “Gather those together that are scattered from us.” (Comp. Jos. Wars, vii. 3, § 3; Ant. xii. 1-3; 15:3, § 1.) The abstract word is used like “the circumcision,” e.g., as a comprehensive title for the individuals included in it. These were the Jews who did not dwell within the limits of the Holy Land, but spreading from the three chief centres, Babylonia, Egypt, and Syria, were found in every part of the civilised world. The Babylonian Diaspora owed its origin to the vast number of exiles who preferred to remain in the positions they had acquired for themselves in their new homes, and did not return to Palestine after the Captivity. They were by far the greater part of the nation, and were scattered through the whole extent of the Persian empire. Of the origin of the Egyptian Diaspora, we find traces in the Old Testament, as in Jeremiah 41:17; Jeremiah 42:18. Their numbers were greatly increased under Alexander the Great and his successors, so that they extended over the whole country (Jos. Ant. xvi. 7, §2). Much less numerous than their brethren of Babylonia, and regarded as less pure in descent, they have, through their contact with Western thought and the Greek language, left a deeper and wider influence on after ages. To them we owe the LXX. translation of the Old Testament Scriptures, and the Alexandrian school of Jewish philosophers, two of the most important influences which first prepared the way for, and afterwards moulded the forms of, Christianity. The Syrian Diaspora is traced by Josephus (Ant. vii. 3, § 1) to the conquests of Seleucus Nicator (B.C. 300). Under the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes, they spread over a wider area, including the whole of Asia Minor, and thence to the islands and mainland of Greece. It was less numerous than either that of Babylonia or that of Egypt, but the synagogues of this Diaspora formed the connecting links between the older and the newer revelation, and were the first buildings in which Jesus was preached as the Messiah.
But though thus scattered abroad, the Jews of the Diaspora regarded Jerusalem as the common religious centre, and maintained a close communion with the spiritual authorities who dwelt there. They sent liberal offerings to the Temple, and were represented by numerous synagogues in the city, and flocked in large numbers to the chief festivals. (Comp. Notes on Acts 2:9-11.) The Diaspora, then, was a network of Judaism, spreading to every place of intellectual or commercial importance, and linking it to Jerusalem, and a means by which the teaching of the Old Testament was made familiarly known, even in the cities of the Gentiles. “Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day” (Acts 15:21).
Such was the dispersion among the Gentiles of which these rulers of the Jews speak. They ask the question in evident scorn. “Will this Rabbi, leaving Jerusalem, the centre of light and learning, go to those who dwell among the heathen, and become a teacher of the very heathen themselves?” We feel that there is some fact which gives point to their question, and is not apparent in the narrative. We shall find this, it may be, if we remember that He Himself had before this crossed the limits of the Holy Land, and had given words to teach and power to save, in the case of the Greek woman who was a Syro-Phœnician by nation. (Comp. Notes on Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30.) More fully still do the words find their interpretation in the after history. They are, like the words of Caiaphas (John 11:49-51), an unconscious prophecy, and may be taken as summing up in one sentence the method of procedure in the earliest mission-work of the church. The great high-roads of the Diaspora were those which the Apostles followed. Every apostolic church of the Gentiles may be said to have grown out of a synagogue of the Jews. There is a striking instance of the irony of history, in the fact that the very words of these Jews of Palestine are recorded in the Greek language, by a Jew of Palestine, presiding over a Christian church, in a Gentile city.
For “Gentiles,” the margin reads “Greeks,” and this is the more exact translation, but the almost constant New Testament use of the word is in distinction from Jews, and our translators felt rightly that this is better conveyed to the reader by the word “Gentiles.” (Comp. Notes on Mark 7:26 and Acts 11:20.) We must be careful to avoid the not unfrequent mistake of rendering the word as though it were “Hellenist,” which means a Græcised Jew. This is to miss the point of their scorn, which is in the idea of His teaching those outside the pale of Judaism.
Jesus stood and cried.—Comp. Note on John 7:28. Here the vivid remembrance of the writer remembers the attitude as well as the voice.
If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.—These words were almost certainly suggested by part of the ritual of the festival, which consisted in a solemn procession with music, and headed by a priest, which went on each morning from the Temple to the pool of Siloam, where the priest filled a golden vase with water and carried it to the Temple amid the joyful cries of the people. He then poured it out on the western side of the altar of burnt-offering; while another priest poured a drink-offering of wine, at the same time, on the eastern side of the altar, and the people during this act chanted the words of “the Hallel,” Psalms 113-118. If we accept the eighth day as that referred to in this verse, then this ceremony was. not repeated; but its very absence may have suggested the fuller declaration of the reality of which it was the representation. The current Rabbinical interpretation of the symbolism connected it with the gift of the latter rain, which was at this season; and also with the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Talmud says expressly, “Therefore is its name called the house of drawing, because from thence is drawn the Holy Spirit,” as it is said, “with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation” (Jer. Succa, v. 1). Thoughts like these would be connected with this ritual by the Jews and by Jesus Himself, and the exact form which His own thought takes is marked by the words, “If any man thirst.” He stands there on the great day of the feast, and around Him are men who for seven successive mornings have witnessed acts and uttered words telling, though they know it not, of the true satisfaction of spiritual thirst, and thinking of the descent of showers on the thirsty ground, and in some vague way of the Holy Spirit’s presence. They are as the woman of Samaria was by the side of the true well. For every one who really knew his need, the source of living water was at hand. (Comp. Notes on John 4:7-15.) That very Feast of Tabernacles, with its dwelling in tents, moreover, brought vividly to their minds the wilderness-life; and as in the past chapter the manna has formed the basis of His teaching about the Bread of Life, so here the striking of the rock and the streams gushing forth in the desert would be present to their minds. In the interpretation of one who was himself a Pharisee, and was taught in the schools of Jerusalem, “that rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4).
He that believeth on me . . .—We have here an advance on the thought, “If any man thirst let him come unto Me and drink.” That represented the satisfaction of the individual mind. This teaches the fuller truth that every one in living communion with Christ becomes himself the centre of spiritual influence. There is in him a power of life which, when quickened by faith, flows forth as a river, carrying life and refreshment to others. No spirit grasps a great truth which satisfies its own yearnings as the waters of the fountain slake physical thirst, without longing to send it forth to others who are seeking what he himself had sought. There is in him a river whose waters no barrier can confine. This is the spirit of the prophet and the evangelist, of the martyr and the missionary. It is the spirit of every great teacher. It is the link which binds men together and makes the life of every Christian approach the life of Christ, for he lives not for himself but for the world.
The exact words “Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water,” are not found in any part of the Canonical Scriptures of the Old Testament, and yet Christ Himself utters them with the formula of quotation. This will be a difficulty only to those who value letter and syllable above spirit and substance. It may be that the words which our Lord actually uttered in the current language of Jerusalem were nearer to the very words of some passage in the Old Testament than they seem to be in the Greek form in which St. John has preserved them to us. But it is instructive that the thought is that which our Lord Himself, or St. John as representing Him, considers as the essence of the quotation. The thought meets us again and again in the Old Testament. See the following passages: Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:11; Psalm 114:8; Isaiah 44:3; Isaiah 55:1; Isaiah 58:11; Joel 2:23; Joel 3:18; Ezekiel 47:1; Ezekiel 47:12; Zechariah 13:1; Zechariah 14:8.
This frequent reference to the refreshment and life-giving power of water is the more natural in the East, where drought is a fearful evil ever to be guarded against, and a well of water a blessing always sought for as the first necessity of life.
The abundance is suggested by the contrast between the small quantity poured out in the Temple and the streams which flowed from the rock struck in the wilderness. The vessel they carried contained but three logs, or about a quart, of water, brought from the tank of Siloam. This was poured through a perforated silver bowl. In the spiritual interpretation the water shall not be carried to the Temple, for every believer shall be a temple of the Holy Ghost and a source of life; it shall not be a limited quantity in vessels of gold and silver, but shall be as rivers bursting forth in their strength and fulness.
Of a truth this is the prophet—i.e., the Prophet foretold by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15. (Comp. Notes on John 1:21; John 6:14.)
Shall Christ come out of Galilee?—The answer “No” is expected, and the tense is present—Surely the Messiah cometh not out of Galilee?
Where David was.—Comp. the history in 1 Samuel 16.
It has often been asked, sometimes in the spirit of objection, sometimes in the spirit of inquiry, how the Apostle, if he really knew the history of our Lord’s birth at Bethlehem, could record these questions without a correction. But in these verses he is giving the feelings and opinions of the multitude, and it is a mark of the truthfulness of his narrative that he gives them just as they really occurred. He, remembering the events as they took place, can with perfect historic fitness record the passing thoughts and words, erroneous as they were. A writer of the second century could not possibly have unintentionally made so great a mistake, with the earlier Gospels before him; nor could he have intentionally so thrown himself into the spirit of a Jewish multitude as to invent the question. (Comp. John 7:52, and references in Note there.)
No man laid hands on him.—Comp. John 7:30. The reason is not here repeated. The fact is in part explained by the existence of a section who received Him as the Prophet and as the Christ, and in part by the power of His presence and words which impressed even the officers sent to take Him. (Comp. John 18:6.)
Why have ye not brought him?—Their question shows the object of the mission. It is asked in the bitterness of disappointed craft. In the presence of the multitude they dared not proceed by open force, and the influence they feared was every hour gaining ground. If their officers could have brought Him on some technical charge away from the people and into their own chamber, all would then have been in their own hands.
Are cursed.—The writings of the Rabbis are full of scorn and contempt for the untutored multitude, whom they called ‘am hāāretz, “people of the earth,” as opposed to those instructed in the Law, whom they called ‘ām kōdesh, “holy people.” These words are an expression of this contempt. Some have supposed that they are meant to express the ban of excommunication, which they use as a weapon of compulsion in John 9:22, but this is quite out of the question as applied here to the multitude.
He that came to Jesus by night.—Comp. Note on John 3:2. The better reading here is, probably, he that came to Him before.
Being one of them contains the answer to their question, “Hath any one (as above) of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on Him?” (John 7:48).
Before it hear him.—The better reading is, unless it hear first from him.
And know what he doeth—i.e., know the deed for which he is tried.
Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.—The words mean, “Search the records, examine, scrutinize the authorities.” (Comp. John 5:39.) They seek to pass from the matter of fact immediately before them to the question of authority. Their generalisation includes an historical error which cannot be explained away. Jonah is described in 2 Kings 14:25 as of Gathhepher, which was a town of Zebulun, in Lower Galilee. Possibly Elkosh, the birthplace of Nahum, was also in Galilee, and Hosea was certainly a prophet of the Northern Kingdom, though not necessarily of Galilee. Adverse criticism would lay this error also to the charge of the Evangelist. (Comp. Notes on John 7:42, and John 1:45; John 8:33.) But the obvious explanation is, that the Sanhedrin, in their zeal to press their foregone conclusion that Jesus is not a prophet, are not bound by strict accuracy; and it is not unlikely that, in the general contempt of Judæans for Galilee, this assertion had become a by-word, especially with men with so little of the historical sense as the later Rabbis. As compared with Judæa, it was true that Galilee was not a country of prophets, and by-words of this kind often rest on imperfect generalisations. We have seen that of the great prophets of Christianity all were Galileans. Judas Iscariot alone, of the Twelve Apostles, was probably a Judæan (Note on John 6:71).
And every man went unto his own house.—This is not to be taken, then, as marking the close of the discussion in the Sanhedrin. It joins the inserted section with something which has preceded, but we have no means of judging what this was.