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The I AM
1. John 8:48 “Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?”
48.—But it brought from them a shout of derision and a burst of scornful mockery.
The Jews answered and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a dæmon?
They imagine that the bare charge that they, the leaders of Israel, are “not of God,” and that they reveal the fact by their inability to hear the words of God then sounding in their ears, was flat heresy, a gross lack of patriotism, and proved that, in his lofty self-assertion, he was no better than a Samaritan—the most hated of their neighbours.
They return a harsh tu-quoque to our Lord’s refusal to admit their Abrahamic descent, and his condemnation of their utter moral dissimilarity from their putative father.
The sentence, “a Samaritan art thou!” is singularly insulting in its tone and form.
We cannot measure the exact amount of insult they condensed into this word, whether it be of heresy or alienation from Israel, or accusation of impure descent.
It is remarkable that our Lord had shown special kindness to Samaritans (ch.
4.), and had made in his parable “the good Samaritan” the type of neighbourly love; but these very Jews had, in the height of this controversy, accused him of being a “Galilæan,” and it is not probable that they used the term otherwise than as a soubriquet of scorn.
Edersheim (loc.
eit., 174, 175) would translate into Aramaic the language here cited, and finds in its form Shomroni the real interpretation of its meaning.
Shomron is, according to him, used in rabbinical writing for Ashmedai, and in the cabbalists is used for Sammael or Satan.
Arabian traditions are brought in to confirm this interpretation of the speech, which he regards as equivalent to “Thou art a child of the devil,” thus retorting upon Jesus the charge that they were doing the works of their father, the devil.
The one expression is thought by Edersheim equivalent to that which follows, thou hast a dæmon; and his explanation is thought to cover our Lord’s silence respecting it.
In our opinion this is far-fetched and unnatural.
Christ’s silence is better justified by his refusal to regard such a term as conveying opprobrium.
He had risen above the distinction of race, and could afford to despise the taunt.
In ch.
7:20 (see note) a similar charge had been made by the angry Jews.
The Lord is accused of being mastered by some dæmon, who is perverting his mind and confusing his speech.
Some further force is added to the charge from the language of the Talmud.
‘Jebamoth,’ fol.
47, a: “R.
Nachman, son of Isaac, said to a Samaritan, ‘Thou art a Cuthite, and testimony from thy month has no validity.’
H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., St. John, vol. 1, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 369.
John 8:49 “Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me.”
Jesus then affirmed His superiority over the prophets and Abraham.
Abraham came into being; but when he was born, Jesus was already existing.
I Am is a title of Deity (cf.
Ex. 3:14; Isa.
41:4; 43:11–13; John 8:28); the Jews’ response (v.
59) showed they understood it that way.
Jesus, because of His equality with God (5:18; 20:28; Phil.
2:6; Col. 2:9), existed from all eternity (John 1:1).
Jesus’ clear affirmation of His deity evoked a crisis.
They had to decide whether He was what He claimed or was a blasphemer (cf.
Stoning was the normal punishment for this sin.
The words, but Jesus hid Himself, could refer to a supernatural means of escape.
The NIV‘s slipping away (lit., “He went out”) implies ordinary means (cf.
5:13; 10:39; 12:36).
Once again His time had not yet come (cf.
2:4; 7:6, 8, 30; 8:20).
2. the healing of a man born
Edwin A. Blum, “John,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed.
J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 306–307.
John 8:50 “And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth.”
I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh—that is, evidently, “that seeketh My glory”; requiring “all men to honor the Son even as they honor the Father”; judicially treating him “who honoreth not the Son as honoring not the Father that hath sent Him” (Jn 5:23; and compare Mt 17:5); but giving to Him (Jn 6:37) such as will yet cast their crowns before His throne, in whom He “shall see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied” (Is 53:11).
John 8:51 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.”
If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death—Partly thus vindicating His lofty claims as Lord of the kingdom of life everlasting, and, at the same time, holding out even to His revilers the scepter of grace.
The word “keep” is in harmony with Jn 8:31, “If ye continue in My word,” expressing the permanency, as a living and paramount principle, of that faith to which He referred: “never see death,” though virtually uttered before (Jn 5:24), is the strongest and most naked statement of a very glorious truth yet given.
(In Jn 11:26 it is repeated in nearly identical terms).
John 8:52-53 “Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil.
Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death.
Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead?
and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?”
52, 53.
Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil, &c.—“Thou art now self-convicted; only a demoniac could speak so; the most illustrious of our fathers are dead, and Thou promisest exemption from death to anyone who will keep Thy saying!
pray, who art Thou?”
John 8:54 “Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God:”
If I honour myself, my honour is nothing, &c.—(See on Jn 5:31, &c.).
John 8:55 “Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying.”
I shall be a liar like unto you—now rising to the summit of holy, naked severity, thereby to draw this long dialogue to a head.
John 8:56 “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.”
Abraham rejoiced to see my day, &c.—exulted, or exceedingly rejoiced that he should see, he exulted to see it, that is, by anticipation.
he saw it, and was glad—he actually beheld it, to his joy.
If this mean no more than that he had a prophetic foresight of the gospel-day—the second clause just repeating the first—how could the Jews understand our Lord to mean that He “had seen Abraham?”
And if it mean that Abraham was then beholding, in his disembodied spirit, the incarnate Messiah [Stier, Alford, &c.], the words seem very unsuitable to express it.
It expresses something past—“he saw My day, and was glad,” that is, surely while he lived.
He seems to refer to the familiar intercourse which Abraham had with God, who is once and again in the history called “the Angel of the Lord,” and whom Christ here identifies with Himself.
On those occasions, Abraham “saw ME” (Olshausen, though he thinks the reference is to some unrecorded scene).
If this be the meaning, all that follows is quite natural.
John 8:57 “Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?”
Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old—“No inference can be drawn from this as to the age of our Lord at the time as man.
Fifty years was with the Jews the completion of manhood” [Alford].
and hast thou seen Abraham?—He had said Abraham saw Him, as being his peculiar privilege.
They give the opposite turn to it—“Hast Thou seen Abraham?” as an honor too great for Him to pretend to
John 8:58 “Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.”
Before Abraham was, I am—The words rendered “was” and “am” are quite different.
The one clause means, “Abraham was brought into being”; the other, “I exist.”
The statement therefore is not that Christ came into existence before Abraham did (as Arians affirm is the meaning), but that He never came into being at all, but existed before Abraham had a being; in other words, existed before creation, or eternally (as Jn 1:1).
In that sense the Jews plainly understood Him, since “then took they up stones to cast at Him,” just as they had before done when they saw that He made Himself equal with God (Jn 5:18).
John 8:59 “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.”
Then took they up stones] Or, Therefore took they up stones, i.e. in consequence of His last words.
They see clearly what He means.
He has taken to Himself the Divine Name and they prepare to stone Him for blasphemy.
Material lying there for completing and repairing the Temple would supply them with missiles.
John 10:31; John 10:33.
but Jesus hid himself] Probably we are not to understand a miraculous withdrawal as in Luke 4:30, where the ‘passing through the midst of them’ seems to be miraculous.
Here we need not suppose more than that He drew back into the crowd away from those who had taken up stones.
The Providence which ordered that as yet the fears of the hierarchy should prevail over their hostility (John 7:30, John 8:20), ruled that the less hostile in this multitude should screen Him from the fury of the more fanatical.
It is quite arbitrary to invert the clauses and render, ‘Jesus went out of the Temple and hid Himself.’
going through the midst of them, and so passed by] These words are apparently an insertion, and probably an adaptation of Luke 4:30.
No English Version previous to the one of 1611 contains the passage.
As a comment on the whole discourse see 1 Peter 2:22-23, remembering that S. Peter was very possibly present on the occasion.
“The whole of the Jews’ reasoning is strictly what we should expect from them.
These constant appeals to their descent from Abraham, these repeated imputations of diabolic possession, this narrow intelligence bounded by the letter, this jealousy of anything that seemed in the slightest degree to trench on their own rigid monotheism—all these, down to the touch in John 8:57, in which the age they fix upon in round numbers is that assigned to completed manhood, give local truth and accuracy to the picture; which in any case, we may say confidently, must have been drawn by a Palestinian Jew, and was in all probability drawn by a Jew who had been himself an early disciple of Christ.” S. p. 160.
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