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On the Gospel of John, Part 22: Best Witness
In the Christogenea New Testament, the text from John 7:53 through John 8:11 is not found, but it is certainly not missing. We have maintained the traditional verse numbering accompanying our translation, but John chapter 7 ends with verse 52, and John chapter 8 begins with verse 12. This is done purposefully, and it is for only one reason: that this pericope [a section or passage of scripture] is not found in any of the oldest Greek manuscripts, those known to predate the 5th century, and neither is it found in many of the manuscripts from the 5th century and later. According to the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, in both the 27th and 28th editions, verses up to 7:52 and beginning with 8:12 survived in both of the 3rd century papyri P66 and P75, but they do not contain any of the text from this pericope. The 4th century Codex Sinaiticus (א) can be viewed on line at the Internet website codexsinaiticus.org, and in John chapter 8 the text flows quite naturally from 7:52 to 8:12 with no indication of any break in the context. So there is no evidence in the Codex Sinaiticus for any of this passage from John 7:53 to 8:11. This is the way in which we have chosen to read John, but of course, the Codex Sinaiticus has no chapter or verse numbers, which were first added to copies of the Scriptures in the 16th century.
As a digression, translating the New Testament and observing all of the agreements and differences among the various ancient manuscripts, it is quickly realized that not all Codices are consistent in the frequency of their differences from Matthew through the Revelation. For example, while, the Codex Bezae has many interpolations in its copy of the Book of Acts, and many differences with the 4th century Codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus in the letters of Paul, it much more consistently agrees with the readings of the Sinaiticus throughout the Gospel of John, with a significant exception here. Among all Greek manuscripts, this pericope is first found in the Codex Bezae (D), a manuscript of the 5th century AD.
But in addition to the two significant 3rd century papyri and the Codex Sinaiticus, this pericope is not found in the 4th century Codex Vaticanus, nor in the 5th century Codices Alexandrinus (A), Ephraemi Syri (C), Borgianus (T) and Washingtonensis (W). Even many later manuscripts, such as the Codex Petropolitanus Purpureus of the 6th century and the Codices Coridethianus (Θ) and Athous Lavrensis (Ψ), both of the 9th century, do not contain this pericope, and these are followed by a broad collection of other significant manuscripts of the 9th century and later in which it is also wanting. The pericope is found in some ancient Syrian, Coptic, and Latin manuscripts, but not in all of them. It is also found in some of the manuscripts of Jerome, who created the Latin Vulgate in the 5th century, but not in all of them.
The passage is not found in any of the early church fathers, except – reportedly – in the writings of Didymus the Blind, who was an Alexandrian and a student of the works of Origen (who died ca. 253 AD), and who lived in the 4th century, from about 313 to 398 AD. Didymus evidently described this pericope in some recently-discovered portions of his writings, but he did not necessarily accept it as scripture, and Origen himself never mentioned the account which it contains. Quite appallingly, the medieval Roman Catholic writer Augustine of Hippo contrived excuses as to why the passage may have been removed from manuscripts of his own time, as if that were true. But even Augustine did not have access to the large number of ancient manuscripts and the wide variety of other Christian literature which we have available to us today.
The so-called Pericope Adulterae, or “pericope of the woman caught in adultery”, is found in the 5th century Codex Bezae (D), the 8th century Codex Regius (L), the 9th century codices Cyprius (K) and Sangallensis (Δ), and the 10th century Tischendorfianus IV (Λ). But, according to the Nestle-Aland textual apparatus, later revisions of the Codices Regius and Sangallensis struck the pericope from John. This shows that even in the late Middle Ages, copyists had disputed the inclusion of the passage even in manuscripts where it had before existed.
Based on all of this evidence, and more, we must soundly reject this pericope as being a part of the original Gospel of John. Since it does not belong to John’s original gospel, it does not merit either translation or commentary. Translating the Christogenea New Testament, it was my endeavor to first determine the most accurate possible reading of the text – the best witness, so to speak – and then to make a translation from that reading. The process cannot be perfect, because the manuscripts are not perfect, but we strove to be as discerning as possible. Because this commentary is based on our translation, we have no pressing necessity to comment on whatever does not belong in the first place. By offering a translation and commentary on the contents of this pericope, we would only justify the criminals who had it inserted into copies of the manuscripts. However we shall make a few comments on the pericope shortly.
In a presentation given here in November of 2015 Addressing "King James Only" Christians, we cited the following from a “rather accurate and straightforward article on the Textus Receptus found at a website called Theopedia”:
The term Textus Receptus is Latin meaning "Received Text". It comes from the preface to the second edition of a Greek New Testament published by the brothers Elzevir in 1633. In this preface the Elzevirs wrote… “What you have here, is the text which is now received by all, in which we give nothing changed or corrupted.” [Of course, the original preface was in Latin.] The Elzevirs printed seven editions of the Greek NT between 1624 and 1678. Unlike the editions of Erasmus, Estienne, and Beza before them, the Elzevirs were not editors of the editions attributed to them, only the printers…. From this statement comes the term Textus Receptus or TR, which today is commonly applied to all editions of the printed Greek NT before the Elzevir’s, beginning with Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus (1496-1536) and his first published edition in 1516.
Erasmus was the author of five published editions from 1516 to 1535. His consolidated Greek text was based on only seven minuscule manuscripts of the Byzantine text type that he had access to in Basel at the time, and he relied mainly on two of these - both dating from the twelfth century….
Although many point to obvious limitations and certain short-comings in Erasmus' first Greek text, later editors used it as their starting point, making minor revisions as needed based on additional Greek manuscript evidence.
Robert Estienne (known as Stephanus) (1503-1559) edited and printed four editions from 1546 to 1551. His third edition of 1550 was the first to have a critical apparatus, with references to the Complutensian Polyglot and fifteen additional Greek manuscripts. The fourth edition of 1551 had the same Greek text as the third, but is especially noteworthy for its division of the NT books into chapters and verses, a system still in use today….
Theodore Beza (1519-1605) published four independent editions from 1565 to 1604. His text was essentially a reprinting of Stephanus’ third edition (1550) with minor changes.
The third edition of Stephanus (1550) became the standard form of the Greek NT text in England and that of the Elzevirs (1633) on the continent…. The Stephanus 1550 text as given in Beza’s edition of 1598 was the main source for translators of the 1611 King James Version of the Bible.
Shortly after this citation, in that same presentation but founded on information from other sources, we wrote the following:
… the King James translators did not follow Erasmus exclusively, and neither did they follow Stephanus or Beza exclusively. So what manuscripts did they employ? The truth is that the King James Version of 1611 was not based on any single known manuscript. Rather, the translators basically cherry-picked a host of secondary versions in addition to these few scholarly editions in order to arrive at its English text. This can be proven by comparing the King James translation with its sources. It employed the 1527 manuscript of Erasmus, the 1550 manuscript of Stephanus, the 1598 manuscript of Beza, and to some extent the 1522 Complutensian Polyglot, and the 1592 Clementine Vulgate. While these later two manuscripts may not have made a large impact on the translation of the King James Version, when the italicized words are inspected it seems that these manuscripts were indeed an influence on the final text….
While the term Textus Receptus was originally an advertisement for the productions of the Elzevir family in Holland [who were not actually Dutch], and they in turn were based on only a small handful of medieval manuscripts, so the King James Version itself was based on very little evidence from actual ancient manuscripts, the term Majority Text better represents a vast collection of manuscripts produced throughout the Middle Ages by the scribes of the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches. The Majority Text is also now known as the Byzantine Text Type. Among the oldest manuscripts, it is represented by the Codices Alexandrinus, Ephraemi Syri, Washingtonensis and Vaticanus, which all have many differences with one . Neither does it follow any of those ancient codices completely or faithfully. In fact, none of them even contain this pericope which we are discussing. Because of its association with the Codex Alexandrinus, in the 19th century, the Byzantine Text Type was labeled as the Alexandrian Text in the textual groupings of Westcott and Hort, but now the meanings of the labels have changed, which often causes confusion.
However for this pericope, which is found in most of the Majority Text manuscripts at John 7:53 to 8:11, not even those manuscripts agree. Most of them have it, but some of them do not, and the ones which want it date from as early as the 9th to as late as the 14th centuries, while a few others only insert this pericope at the very end of John. Then, perusing in the Nestle-Aland text the differences among the manuscripts which contain the pericope, there are frequent significant variations among the Codices Bezae, Regius and Cyprius, as well as others of the manuscripts that have it, which would cause significant differences in the resulting English text once compared to the version found in the King James. Therefore if we translated the pericope once, we may have to translate it several times just to represent the most significant variations. This is all the more reason for rejecting the pericope entirely, as it should be rejected.
Interestingly, it is Theodore Beza for whom the Codex Bezae was named, and his was the only truly ancient manuscript available to English scholars at the time. Beza having been a friend and successor, or perhaps, co-conspirator, of Calvin, the manuscript fell into his hands after French Huguenots sacked a monastic library at Lyon, and he turned it over to the University of Cambridge where it remains today.
The King James Version translators could only make decisions based on what few resources they had available, all of which were far from being a best witness. Today, mostly through the science of archaeology, the development of the printing press, and now the Internet, we have access to many dozens, if not hundreds, of manuscripts and fragments of manuscripts which date to the time of the Codex Bezae and earlier. Some of the papyri which we label as “3rd century” are believed by some scholars to have actually been written much earlier than that, and in a few of them a significant portion of the text has been preserved. So as Christians, we must consider it an obligation to determine what best represents the text of the New Testament from a preponderance of the oldest sources available. Once we have done that, only then may we begin to consider what should be doctrine. Several Medieval interpolations of the Scriptures were certainly made in order to influence or support certain Church doctrines, not only here but notably also in Mark, Luke, the letters of Paul and John, and in the Revelation.
Now we will only speak of the improbability of the rulers of the Jews bringing a sinner to trial before Christ. These same Jews, as it is made evident in John chapters 5, 7 and 8, wanted to kill Christ Himself, but they could not yet find a way to do so. They certainly did not recognize Him as a judicial authority, they certainly would not have respected His opinion, and He Himself says in these opening verses of John chapter 8 that “I judge no man”, which would of course also include women. He also says in this chapter that “ It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true”, but in this pericope, the Jews had brought no witnesses. Furthermore, in John chapter 18, when Pilate was hesitant to condemn Him and said to them “Take ye him, and judge him according to your law”, the Jews responded that “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death”, and that was true. So long as Judaea was a province, and not a kingdom, only the Roman governors could condemn anyone in a capital offense, and every stoning by the Jews was actually an act of sedition against Rome. These same Pharisees and Sadducees expressed a fear of anything that would cause them disfavor in the eyes of the Romans, for example in John 11:48. They may have operated their office as a criminal enterprise, but to continue in that enterprise they had to remain in favor with the Romans.
There are other reasons why the pericope is in irreconcilable conflict with Scripture, including the fact that nowhere had Christ enjoined any abrogation or violation of the law. Many years later, for example, as he wrote in his first epistle to the Corinthians, Paul of Tarsus, evoking the law, demanded that Christians separate themselves from sinners, putting them out of their community. In Galatians he warned of those who commit adultery, fornication, and other sins, that “they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” So it is required of Christians to discern and govern themselves according to the law. But on the contrary, it seems that this pericope was added in order to lead Christians to believe that perhaps immoral behavior should go unpunished. The pericope of the woman caught in adultery is in many ways exposed as a late interpolation, which certainly does not belong to the original Scripture in the Gospel o f John.
So the account found from verse 12 of John chapter 8 is merely a continuation of those events which had transpired up through verse 52 of John chapter 7. It is still the day of the Sabbath which marks the end of the Feast of Tabernacles, which is the day mentioned by John in verse 37 of that chapter where he wrote “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.” Ostensibly, this is six months before the Passover upon which He would be crucified, the following Spring. Apparently, John continues his account of this day until verse 21 of chapter 10 of his gospel, as there is no break in the context until that point. So the discourse of John chapters 7 and 8, and the healing of the blind man described in John chapter 9, all evidently happened on this same day, which explains why Yahshua remained in Jerusalem, because it was still the same last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. The interpolation of John 7:52-8:11 may lead one to believe that these events occurred over a period of at least a week, when indeed they all occurred on the same day.
Christ had been teaching in the temple on the last day of the feast, and there was a division among the crowd concerning Him. The rulers wanted to kill Him, but Nicodemus spoke justly in His defense and said “Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?” So the Pharisees had exclaimed, in a rather weak attempt to discredit both Nicodemus and Christ, “Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.” Of course, there were prophets who had come from Galilee, and as we have shown, with all certainty the prophet Jonah was one of them. But we had also said that whether or not there were prophets form Galilee is immaterial, as Christ was from the line of David, and He was born in Bethlehem, the city of David. But Christ Himself chose a different way to answer His accusers, in what should be the very first verse of John chapter 8, or perhaps only a continuation from verse 52 in chapter 7:
VIII 12 Then again Yahshua spoke to them saying “I am the light of the Society. He following Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life!”
As David had prayed in the 18th Psalm, “ 27 For thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks. 28 For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.” Then again, in Psalm 27: “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? ” In the 119th Psalm, David professed that “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” But in the 97th Psalm we read that “11 Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart. 12 Rejoice in the LORD, ye righteous; and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.” So it is apparent that the wicked cannot even see such light.
The apostle John had earlier described Christ as “the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” Yet this is the first time in John’s Gospel that we see Yahshua use the analogy of Himself. So we read, in a Messianic prophecy in Isaiah chapter 42: “1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the [Nations]. 2 He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. 3 A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. 4 He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law. 5 Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: 6 I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the [Nations]; 7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.” This last passage we must also consider in relation to the healing of the blind man in John chapter 9, as it is also directly related to the events from this last day of the Feast of Tabernacles upon which Christ makes this declaration that He is the Light.
13 Then the Pharisees said to Him: “You testify concerning Yourself! Your testimony is not true!”
In Isaiah chapter 8 we read “ 13 Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14 And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15 And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken. 16 Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples. 17 And I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him. 18 Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion. 19 And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? 20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Even if many of these scribes and Pharisees were truly of Israel, they sought not the counsel of God, but rather they sought their own righteousness. If they had sought the counsel of God, they may have realized that the testimony of Christ was supported by Moses, and also by the best witness, which is Yahweh Himself. However it shall be revealed later in this chapter, that many of them could not have been of Israel.
Among the promises of reconciliation for Israel, we read in Isaiah chapter 60: “19 The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory. 20 Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the LORD shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended. 21 Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.” Likewise we read in the Revelation of Christ, in chapter 21, where it describes the City of God: “23 And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof [Christ being the Lamb of God]. 24 And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.” There will only be one Light because there can only be one Truth, if indeed men are to ever have peace. That Truth can only come from the One and True God, which is Yahshua Christ. Now He replies:
14 Yahshua replied and said to them: “Even if I testify concerning Myself, My testimony is true, because I know from where I have come and where I go. But [א wants “But”] you do not know from where I come or [P75, א, W and the MT have ‘and’, the text follows P66, B, D, T and 070] where I go.
Of course Christ knew Himself, but His adversaries did not even know where He came from in a worldly sense, so they could not ascertain that He was indeed the Messiah even if they were capable. A man can testify of himself, and his testimony may be true even if the testimony could not stand in a court of law, not having a second witness. Yet Christ already asserted that He had Moses for a witness, in John chapter 5, and now as Christ continues, He declares that He did indeed have a second witness, even if the men in the temple would not acknowledge it, First, He speaks about judgment:
15 You judge in accordance with the flesh. I [P75 has “But I”] judge no one. [Literally “I do not judge no one.” The double negative being common in Greek is “I do not judge anyone” in English.] 16 But then even if I judge, My judgment is truth [P66, א and the MT have “true”; the text follows P75, B, D, T and W], because I am not alone, but I and the Father [א and D have “I and He”; the text follows P39, P66, P75, and, according to the NA27, all other manuscripts] who sent Me!
His adversaries “judge in accordance with the flesh”, meaning that they could only judge by what they could see and by what little information they had, which was limited in their partial knowledge of the facts. But if they had considered the works which Christ was able to do, in accordance with the Word of God, they would have known that He also had the testimony of God, and there is no better witness.
Citing Isaiah, Matthew wrote in the opening chapter of his gospel: “ 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” Emmanuel in Hebrew means God is with us. So the people were to say of Christ that ‘God is with us”, meaning that He being God, God must be with Him, so He was not alone. His works had proved that, as He Himself shall illustrate further here, but His adversaries refused to consider it.
Concerning judgment, Christ had explained further in John chapter 12: “46 I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. 47 And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” As we described when we discussed John chapter 3, the “world” for which Christ had come to save was the once-present and then-future world which had been, and which still is, promised to come of the children of Israel. Solomon had described this world in Wisdom chapter 18 as the twelve tribes of Israel represented on the breastplate of the high priest, where he wrote speaking of the garment of the high priests of Israel that “24 … in the long garment was the whole world, and in the four rows of the stones was the glory of the fathers graven.” The stones represented the twelve tribes of Israel, and they are the “world” of the Scriptures.
In the end, the Word of God would divide the wheat and the tares. Therefore Paul had written to the Ephesians, in chapter 5 of his epistle to them, “11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead even reprove them. 12 For the things being done by them secretly it is disgraceful even to speak of. 13 Now all things being reproved by the light are made manifest. 14 For everything being made manifest is light. [Christ and His Gospel being that Light,] Therefore He says: ‘Awaken, you who are sleeping, and rise up from among the dead, and Christ shall shine upon you.’” In his first epistle, John wrote similarly, but from a different perspective: “9 Each who has been born from of Yahweh does not create wrongdoing, because His seed abides in him, and he is not able to do wrong, because from of Yahweh he has been born. 10 By this are manifest the children of Yahweh and the children of the Devil.” The wicked are, as Jude called them, twice dead, and they will not awake, but by the Gospel of Christ we should be able to tell them apart beforehand. They are the children of the Devil, and as we shall see here later in John chapter 8, the Devil certainly has children. Some of them are among the men whom Christ continues to address:
17 Now it is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true.
At Deuteronomy 17:6 we read “At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.” Then again at Deuteronomy 19:15, in a law which has a more general application: “15 One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.” Christ now continues, and calls upon His best witness:
18 I am He testifying concerning Myself and the Father who sent Me testifies concerning Me!”
In the next chapter, John chapter 9, there is an event which apparently occurred later on this same day, where Christ healed the eyes of a man who had been blind from birth. That would be, according to the Gospel of John, His second miracle in Jerusalem. At the first, He had healed the lame man at the pool, as it is described in John chapter 5. If His adversaries had considered these things, they may have recalled the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah chapter 42 where it says that Yahweh called His servant “for a covenant of the people, for a light of the [Nations]; 7 To open the blind eyes”, and another Messianic prophecy in Isaiah chapter 35 where it says “4 Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you. 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. 6 Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.” The fact that Yahshua had healed the lame and the blind was an immediate fulfillment of these prophecies that by itself should have distinguished Him as the Messiah, a Messiah which at that time the people had expected. Rather, they answer Him defiantly:
19 Therefore they said to Him: “Where is Your Father?” Yahshua replied: “You know neither Me nor My Father! If you had known Me, you also would have known My Father!”
They may have actually been attempting to belittle Him, where they asked “where is your father”, as they had already wanted to kill Him for referring to God as His Father. Now John informs us of the gravity of His defiance towards them:
20 He had spoken these words by [or perhaps, “in”, which seems unlikely, cf. Mark 12:41, 43, Luke 21:1] the treasury, teaching in the temple. Yet no one seized Him, because His hour had not yet come.
In the context of the legitimate text of John, Christ never left the temple since He appeared there teaching on the morning of the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, so this must still be that same day. He does not leave until just before He heals the blind man, as it is recorded in the final verse of John chapter 8, where He had finally aggravated them to the point where “59 Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.” But now He repeats something to them which He had already asserted earlier that week:
21 Then He [070 and the MT have “Yahshua”; the text follows P39, P66, P75, א, B, D, T and W] spoke to them again: “I go and you shall seek Me, and you shall die in your error! Where I go you are not able to come.”
When Christ had first begun teaching in the middle of the week of the Feast of Tabernacles, as it is recorded in John 7:34, He said to them “34 Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come.” At that time, certain of them answered “Where is He about to go that we shall not find Him? Is He about to go to the dispersion of the Greeks and teach the Greeks?” Now the answer is a little different, but His adversaries are only once again speculating:
22 Therefore the Judaeans said “Perhaps He shall kill Himself, that He says ‘Where I go you are not able to come’?”
But it was they who wanted to kill Him, and it was the inevitable fulfillment of that desire to which He was referring. As we had already discussed when we presented John chapter 7, Christ told His disciples that they could eventually go where He was, but ostensibly, there He was referring to their own deaths. Now He begins to tell His adversaries why they cannot go there:
23 And [P66 and א have “Therefore”; the text follows P75, B, D, T and W] He said to them: “You are from of those below; I am from of those above. You are from of this Society; I am not from of this Society.
Here we have two adverbs, κάτω, which is down or below, and ἄνω, which is up or above. An adverb is “a word or phrase that modifies or qualifies an adjective, verb, or other adverb or a word group”, and in this case the word group which each adverb modifies consists of a preposition, ἐκ, and a masculine or neuter genitive plural definite article, τῶν. The form of the Greek definite article in the genitive case plural is actually the same for all three genders. In each instance where it appears here, we interpret the phrase ἐκ τῶν as a Substantive, which is a group of words that functions as a noun. The preposition ἐκ basically denotes source or origin, and the article being plural, the resulting phrase, “from of those”, may refer to a specific group. Then, since the words form a noun which is modified by the adverb, each group being described by the respective adverb by which it is modified, the adverb is also a part of each Substantive. It is possible, that the article may be interpreted as being neuter, and then in that case Christ is referring to specific regions, “You are from of the regions below; I am from of the regions above.” But in any case, since the personal pronoun for “you “ is plural in each instance, He is nevertheless referring to a specific group of people with an origin which is very unlike His Own.
According to William MacDonald, in his Greek Enchiridion on page 121, on various occasions the definite article is often better translated by possessive, relative, or personal pronouns, and there are many examples of that in the Greek of the New Testament. It is widely recognized that the definite article in Greek may also function as a demonstrative pronoun. But here, all of the popular translations for the verse ignore the fact that the preposition typically governs a noun or pronoun, and not an adverb, that this particular preposition, ἐκ, governs a noun or pronoun of the genitive case, and they all completely ignore these two definite articles in this verse rather than properly interpreting them as pronouns. In each case, the word ἐκ governs the definite article, and not the adverb, so the definite article, which is also plural in each case, cannot simply be ignored.
One website attempting to explain New Testament Greek puts it rather simply: “Like demonstrative pronouns, the Greek article is used as a pronoun when it stands alone without a noun. This is usually translated as "the one" or, "the ones" but it can also have the sense of referring to a previously mentioned noun, like any pronoun, so "this one" or simple "this", referring back to the previous noun.” Here in these two phrases the definte articles stand alone without a noun, further proving that they were employed as pronouns, is the fact that they are governed by prepositions.
So, interpreting the article as masculine and not neuter, Christ is describing two specific groups of people, one from above, and another from below. But in any event, the articles cannot be ignored, and to ignore them allows the possibility of interpretations which may imagine that Christ is speaking of something other than the origins of particular people.
To say “you are from below” or “I am from above”, Christ would not have needed definite articles. But including them, on each occasion He was employing the plural definite article as a pronoun to describe something specific, which is most likely a group of people whose origin is from below, and another group of people whose origin is from above, those who are “born from above” as He Himself described in John chapter 3. The statement which follows, which is a Hebrew parallelism, also helps to define what He meant, where He said “You are from of this world; I am not from of this world.” In Part 9 of this commentary, titled The World of Salvation, we said the following:
Throughout the entire book of the Wisdom of Solomon is a comparison of the world created by God and the world corrupted by both men and devils. This is instrumental in understanding this passage of John [3:16], as even in the writings of the apostles there is a world which Christ came to save, and there is a world which is under the power of the devil, and which Christians are commanded to loathe. In 1 John 5:19, where we also see once again what it is meant by being “born from above”, we read: “18 For we know that each who has been born from of Yahweh does not do wrong, rather he born from of Yahweh keeps himself and the Evil One does not touch him…. 19 We know that we are from of Yahweh and the whole Society [or world] lies in the power of the Evil One.” Then in James chapter 4: “4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”
Christ did not come to save devils. Rather, in John chapter 17 He said concerning His disciples: “9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.” Then a little further on: “15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. 16 They are not of the world [because they were born from above], even as I am not of the world.”
As Christ continues to address His adversaries later in John chapter 8, He will explain rather precisely how it is that they are “from of those below”. So He continues:
24 Now [P66 and א want “Now”] I said to you that you shall die in your errors. For if you do not believe [א and D insert “Me”] that I am, you shall die in your errors!”
Sometimes, the concept of sin is too narrowly defined, and it is imagined that there is no sin unless one first has the law. This is because John wrote in his first epistle that “4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” So because only Israelites had the law, Christians often imagine that only Israelites can sin. But that is not true. What is true, is that since only Israelites had the law, only Israelites could bear guilt for sin, only Israelites could be held responsible and be punished for sin, and therefore only Israelites needed to be forgiven and cleansed of their sin, on account of which Christ came. To all others, forgiveness for sin is immaterial, since they were not party to the covenants or the promises made to Israel in the first place.
Paul of Tarsus had written in Romans chapter 5 that “For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” That John also had this understanding is apparent in 1 John chapter 3 where he wrote “8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning.” of course, the beginning was before the law was given at Sinai, and the law certainly was not given to the devil.
If men reject Christ, and are of those from below, they shall die in their sins, and they shall remain dead because there is no light in them, they are “clouds without water” and “twice dead”, as it is described in the epistle of Jude. But if men who were born from above do not accept Christ, as Paul wrote in 1 Timothy chapter 5, “24 Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.” For that reason, Christ spoke again in John chapter 12: “47 And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.”
Where Christ says “that I am”, the Greek phrase is ἐγώ εἰμι, and it may be interpreted “I am he”. This same phrase, which Christ used very frequently in reference to Himself, also appears very frequently in Messianic prophecies in the Septuagint. For example, it is the last phrase in Isaiah 41:4 where we read “I the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he.” It also appears in Isaiah 43:10 where we read “Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he…” and again in verse 13 “Yea, before the day was I am he”, and again in verse 25 “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.” Again we may read in Isaiah chapter 48: “12 Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last.” In Isaiah 51:12 where we read “I, even I, am he that comforteth you”, in the Septuagint the phrase is repeated twice at the beginning of the verse, ἐγώ εἰμι ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ παρακαλῶν σε. Those familiar with the Scriptures should have seen this correlation, and perhaps it vexed the Jews even more, since if they were familiar with Isaiah, they should have known what He meant when He said “if you do not believe that I am”, or more fully, “… I am He”.
Now, responding to His claim that “if you do not believe that I am”, we read of His adversaries:
25 Then [P66 has “And”; א wants “Then”] they said to Him: “Who are You?” Yahshua said to them: “What is it which I also say to you from the beginning?
The last clause may have been read as a statement, as the King James Version nearly has it, “That which also I say to you from the beginning.” The “beginning” may refer to the time where He had healed the lame man, and first began to confront His adversaries in Jerusalem as it is described in John chapter 5. There Yahshua had indeed made many claims that He was indeed the Messiah of the Scriptures, the Son to whom judgment would be given, as it is described in the 2nd Psalm. Or it may refer to the beginning of His proclamations on this day, where He started teaching with the declaration that “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water”, which his also an assertion that He is the expected Messiah. So He continues, without an answer for His question:
26 I have [P66 has “Having”] many things to say and to judge concerning you, but He who has sent Me is true, and the things which I hear from Him, these things I say to the Society.”
If they do not believe that He was sent by God, there is evidently no use trying to explain Himself to them any further. So rather than elaborate, He implies only that God had sent Him, and that God is true.
John now makes a parenthetical remark:
27 (They did not perceive that He spoke to them by [א and D insert “God”] the Father.)
Yahshua cannot prove that He is the Messiah by the testimony of men, and therefore it is vain for Him to even think of producing worldly witnesses. The best witness that He has, and the only credible witness, is God the Father. So He consistently appeals to God as His witness, and He consistently refers to those works which He had done in order to demonstrate that it is indeed God who provides Him a witness.
But Yahshua also knows that His adversaries will not accept that, so next we read:
28 Then Yahshua said [P75 inserts “to them”; א inserts “to them again”; D inserts “again to them”; the text follows P66, B, T and W] that [most manuscripts want “that”; the text follows P66, P75 and B] “When you raise up the Son of Man, then you shall know that I am, and I do nothing [P66 has “not even one thing”] by Myself, but just as the Father [B and the MT have ‘My Father”; W has only ‘My’, an obvious error; the text follows P66, P75, א, D and T] has taught Me, these things I say. 29 And He who has sent Me is with Me, He [the MT has ‘the Father’; the text follows P66, P75, א, B, D, T and W] has not left Me alone, because I always do the things which please Him!”
He had already healed the lame man, and they knew it, and there were many other reports of the works which He had done in Galilee. In John chapter 9, even when He heals the blind man, their hearts are only all the the more hardened against Him. So here He tells them that they are going to crucify Him in spite of His works. If they responded to this statement, it is not recorded, but the words which He chose to use here are ambiguous. The verb, ὑψόω (Strong’s # 5312) means to lift up, raise high, and metaphorically it can also mean to exalt or to make great. Of course, Christ was exalted in His crucifixion, where He was literally lifted up, and while the term may be interpreted either way, in any way His adversaries could not have entirely understood His intended meaning. Perhaps for this reason, there is no record of any response from them to this statement.
30 Upon His saying these things many believed in Him. 31 Therefore Yahshua said to those Judaeans who believed Him: “If you abide in My Word, truly you are My students, 32 and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”
Here Christ was not attempting to convert His enemies, and later in John chapter 8, as well as in John chapter 10, He states that quite explicitly. Rather, He speaks to His people, for the benefit of His people, and confronts and interacts with His enemies on their behalf, for their benefit and edification. Confronting them, He is using them in order to fulfill His objectives for His people Israel.
The truth of God does indeed set Christians free, once they come to understand His objectives for both His people and His enemies. However the apostles generally interpreted the concept of Christian liberty in a more immediate sense, to refer to liberty from the rituals of the temple and religious control of those devils who had sat in Moses’ seat. In regard to that, Paul wrote in Galatians chapter 5 exhorting his readers to “1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” For that same thing James wrote admonishing his readers “25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” Then later he told them “8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well… 12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.”