Exercitations upon the Evangelist St. John
Verses: 1, 4, 5, 9, 12, 13, 14, 16, 21, 25, 29, 38, 41, 42, 46, 47, 51
Verses: 1, 6, 7, 8, 18, 19, 20, 21
1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
[In the beginning was the Word.] In the beginning; in the same sense with Bereshith, In the beginning, in the history of the creation, Genesis 1:1. For the evangelist proposeth this to himself, viz. to shew how that, by the Word, by which the creation was perfected, the redemption was perfected also: That the second person in the holy Trinity, in the fulness of time, became our Redeemer, as in the beginning of time he had been our Maker. Compare this with verse 14:
In the beginning was the Word.
Was with God.
The Word was God.
The Word was made flesh.
Dwelt among us.
Was made flesh, and we beheld, &c.
[Was the Word.] There is no great necessity for us to make any very curious inquiry, whence our evangelist should borrow this title, when in the history of the creation we find it so often repeated, And God said. It is observed almost by all that have of late undertaken a commentary upon this evangelist, that the Word of the Lord, doth very frequently occur amongst the Targumists, which may something enlighten the matter now before us. "And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet the Word of the Lord." "And the Word of the Lord accepted the face of Job." And the Word of the Lord shall laugh them to scorn. "They believed in the name of his Word." And my Word spared them. To add no more, Genesis 26:3, instead of "I will be with thee," the Targum hath it And my Word shall be thine help. So Genesis 39:2, "And the Lord was with Joseph": Targ. And the Word of the Lord was Joseph's helper. And so, all along, that kind of phrase is most familiar amongst them...
4. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
[In him was life.] The evangelist proceeds from the creation by the Word, to the redemption of the world by the same Word. He had declared how this Word had given to all creatures their first being, verse 3; "All things were made by him": and he now sheweth how he restored life to man when he lay dead in trespasses and sins. "Adam called his wife's name Hevah, life," [Eve, AV Chavah, margin] Genesis 3:20: the Greek reads Adam called his wife's name, 'Life.' He called her Life who had brought in death; because he had now tasted a better life in the promise of the woman's seed. To which it is very probable our evangelist had some reference in this place.
[And the life was the light of men.] Life through Christ was light arising in the darkness of man's fall and sin; a light by which all believers were to walk. St. John seems in this clause to oppose the life and light exhibited in the gospel, to that life and light which the Jews boasted of in their law. They expected life from the works of the law, and they knew no greater light than that of the law; which therefore they extol with infinite boasts and praises which they give it. Take one instance for all: "God said, Let there be light. R. Simeon saith, Light is written there five times, according to the five parts of the law [i.e. the Pentateuch], and God said, Let there be light; according to the book of Genesis, wherein God, busying himself, made the world. And there was light; according to the book of Exodus, wherein the Israelites came out of darkness into light. And God saw the light that it was good; according to the Book of Leviticus, which is filled with rites and ceremonies. And God divided betwixt the light and the darkness; according to the Book of Numbers, which divided betwixt those that went out of Egypt, and those that entered into the land. And God called the light, day; according to the Book of Deuteronomy, which is replenished with manifold traditions." A gloss this is upon light, full of darkness indeed!
5. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
[And the light shineth in darkness.] This light of promise and life by Christ shined in the darkness of all the cloudy types and shadows under the law and obscurity of the prophets. And those dark things 'comprehended it not,' i.e. did not so cloud and suppress it but it would break out; nor yet so comprehended it, but that there was an absolute necessity there should a greater light appear. I do so much the rather incline to such a paraphrase upon this place, because I observe the evangelist here treateth of the ways and means by which Christ made himself known to the world before his great manifestation in the flesh; first, in the promise of life, verse 4; next, by types and prophecies; and lastly, by John Baptist.
9. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
[Which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.] All the men that are in the world. "Doth not the sun rise upon all that come into the world?" "All that come into the word are not able to make one fly." "In the beginning of the year, all that come into the world present themselves before the Lord." There are numberless examples of this kind. The sense of the place is, that Christ, shining forth in the light of the gospel, is a light that lightens all the world. The light of the law shone only upon the Jews; but this light spreads wider, even over the face of the whole earth.
12. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
[He gave them power.] He empowered them, so Ecclesiastes 5:19, and 6:2. He gave them the privilege, the liberty, the dignity, of being called and becoming the sons of God. Israel was once the son and the first-born, Exodus 4:22: but now the adoption of sons to God was open and free to all nations whatever.
13. Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
[Which were born, not of blood.] It may be a question here, whether the evangelist in this place opposeth regeneration to natural generation, or only to those ways by which the Jews fancied men were made the sons of God. Expositors treat largely of the former: let us a little consider the latter.
I. Not of bloods. Observe the plural number: "Our Rabbins say, That all Israel had thrown off circumcision in Egypt--but at length they were circumcised, and the blood of the passover was mingled with the blood of the circumcised, and God accepted every one of them and kissed them." "I said, while thou wert in thy bloods, Live: i.e. in the twofold blood, that of the passover, and that of the circumcision." The Israelites were brought into covenant by three things; by circumcision, by washing, and by offering of sacrifices. In the same manner, a heathen, if he would be admitted into covenant, he must of necessity be circumcised, baptized, and offer sacrifice. We see how of bloods of the passover and circumcision, they say the Israelites were recovered from the degeneracy: and how of the bloods of circumcision and sacrifices (with the addition only of washing), they supposed the Gentiles might become the sons of God, being by their proselytism made Israelites, and the children of the covenant: for they knew of no other adoption or sonship.
II. Of the will of the flesh. In the same sense wherein the patriarchs and other Jews were ambitious by many wives to multiply children of themselves, as being of the seed of Israel and children of the covenant.
III. Of the will of man, in that sense wherein they coveted so many proselytes, to admit them into the religion of the Jews, and so into covenant and sonship with God.
These were the ways by which the Jews thought any became the sons of God, that is, by being made Israelites. But it is far otherwise in the adoption and sonship that accrues to us by the gospel.
14. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth.
[The glory as of the only begotten.] This glory in this place imports the same thing as worthy. We saw his glory as what was worthy or became the only-begotten Son of God. He did not glister in any worldly pomp or grandeur according to what the Jewish nation fondly dreamed their Messiah would do; but he was decked with the glory, holiness, grace, truth, and the power of miracles.
16. And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.
[And grace for grace.] He appeared amongst us full of grace and truth; and all we who conversed with him, and saw his glory, "of his fulness did receive" grace and truth. Nay farther, we received grace towards the propagation of grace, i.e. the grace of apostleship, that we might dispense and propagate the grace of the gospel towards others.
21. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.
[Art thou that prophet?] That is, Luke 9:8,19, one of the old prophets that was risen again.
I. The Masters of Traditions were wont to say that "the spirit of prophecy departed from Israel after the death of Zechariah and Malachi." So that we do not find they expected any prophet till the days of the Messiah; nor indeed that any, in that interim of time, did pretend to that character.
II. They believed that at the coming of the Messiah the prophets were to rise again.
"'Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice, with the voice together shall they sing,' Isaiah 52:8. R. Chaia Bar Abba and R. Jochanan say, All the prophets shall put forth a song with one voice."
"All the just whom God shall raise from the dead shall not return again into the dust." Gloss, "Those whom he shall raise in the days of the Messiah."
To this resurrection of the saints they apply that of Micah 5:5: "We shall raise against him seven shepherds; David in the middle, Adam, Seth, Methuselah on his right hand; Abraham, Jacob, and Moses on his left. And eight principal men: but who are these? Jesse, Saul, Samuel, Amos, Zephaniah, Zedekiah [or rather Hezekiah, as Kimch. in loc.], Messiah and Elijah. But indeed [saith R. Solomon] I do not well know whence they had these things." Nor indeed do I.
The Greek interpreters, instead of eight principal men have eight bitings of men, a very foreign sense.
Hence by how much nearer still the 'kingdom of heaven,' or the expected time of Messiah's coming, drew on, by so much the more did they dream of the resurrection of the prophets. And when any person of more remarkable gravity, piety, and holiness appeared amongst them, they were ready to conceive of him as a prophet raised from the dead, Matthew 16:14. That therefore is the meaning of this question, "Art thou one of the prophets raised from the dead?"
25. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?
[Why then baptizest thou?] The Jews likewise expected that the world should be renewed at the coming of the Messiah. "In those years wherein God will renew his world." Aruch, quoting these words, adds, "In those thousand years." So also the Gloss upon the place.
Amongst other things, they expected the purifying of the unclean. R. Solomon upon Ezekiel 36:26; "I will expiate you, and remove your uncleanness, by the sprinkling of the water of purification." Kimchi upon Zechariah 9:6; "The Rabbins of blessed memory have a tradition that Elias will purify the bastards and restore them to the congregation." You have the like in Kiddushin, Elias comes to distinguish the unclean and purify them, &c.
When therefore they saw the Baptist bring in such an unusual rite, by which he admitted the Israelites into a new rule of religion, they ask him by what authority he doth these things if he himself were not either the Messiah or Elias, or one of the prophets raised from the dead.
It is very well known that they expected the coming of Elias, and that, from the words of Malachi 4:5, not rightly understood. Which mistake the Greek version seems to patronise; I will send you Elias the Tishbite; which word the Tishbite, they add of themselves in favour of their own tradition; which indeed is too frequent a usage in that version to look so far asquint towards the Jewish traditions as to do injury to the sacred text.
29. The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
[The Lamb of God.] St. John alludes plainly to the lamb of the daily sacrifice. Which in shadow took away the sins of Israel.
I. It was commanded in the law that he that offered the sacrifice should lay his hand upon the head of the sacrifice, Leviticus 1:4, 3:2, 4:4, &c.
II. The reason of which usage was, that he might, as it were, transfer his sins and guilt upon the head of the offering, which is more especially evident in the scapegoat, Leviticus 16:22.
Hence Christ is said "himself to have borne our sins in his own body on the tree," 1 Peter 2:24, as the offering upon the altar was wont to do. He was made by God a "sin for us," 2 Corinthians 5:21; that is, a sacrifice for sin.
III. The same rite was used about the lamb of the daily sacrifice that was offered for all Israel; "The stationary men [as they were called], or the substitutes of the people, laying their hands upon the head of the lamb."
To this therefore the words of the Baptist refer: "The lamb of God, that is, the daily sacrifice, taketh away the sins of the world, as the sacrifice did for all Israel. But behold here the true Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world."
38. Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master), where dwellest thou?
[Where dwellest thou?] The proper and most immediate sense of this is, Where dwellest, or, Where lodgest thou? But I could willingly render it as if it had been said, 'Where dost thou keep thy sabbath?' and from thence conjecture that day was the evening of the sabbath. For whereas it is said, "and they abode with him that day," it would be a little hard to understand it of the day that was now almost gone; and therefore we may suppose it meant of the following day, for it is added it was now the tenth hour. It was about the middle of our November when these things fell out in Bethabara, as will easily appear to any one that will be accurate in calculating the times, and that little that was left of that day was then the tenth hour. It was then about sunset, and, as it were, the entrance of a new day: so that it might more properly have been said, "They abode with him that night," rather than that day; only the evangelist seems to point out that they remained with him the next day; which that it was the sabbath I will not so much contend, as (not without some reason) suppose.
"Caesar, for two reasons, would not fight that day; partly because he had no soldiers in the ships, and partly because it was after the tenth hour of the day."
41. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.
[He findeth his brother.] So "Rab Nachman Bar Isaac found him with Rab Houna": and many such-like expressions, in the Talmudic authors, as also We have found!
42. And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.
[The son of Jona.] I do not see any reason why the word Joannes, or Joannas, should be here put for Jona; or why any should contend (as many do) that it should be the same with Joannas.
I. In the third chapter of St. Luke the name of Jochanan is sounded three ways in the Greek pronunciation of it, Janna, verse 24; Joanna, verse 27; and Jonan, verse 30: but never Jona.
II. Jona was a name amongst the Jews very commonly used, and we meet with it frequently in the Talmudic authors written Jonah: why, therefore, should not Peter's father be allowed the name of Jonah as well as that of John?
III. Especially when this son of Jonah imitated the great prophet of that name in this, that both preached to the Gentiles, and both began their journey from Joppa.
[Which is by interpretation, A stone.] So Acts 9:26, "Tabitha, which, being interpreted, is Dorcas": Beza, Caprea, a goat. But what! do the holy penmen of the Scriptures make lexicons, or play the schoolmasters, that they should only teach that the Syriac word Cepha signifies in the Greek language a stone; and Tabitha, Dorcas, that is, a goat? No; they rather teach what Greek proper names answer to those Syriac proper names: for the Syriac proper name is here rendered into the Greek proper name, and not an appellative into an appellative, nor a proper name into an appellative.
But let the Vulgar have what it desires, and be it so, "Thou shalt be called a rock"; yet you will scarce grant that our blessed Saviour should call Simon a rock in the direct and most ordinary sense; "There is no rock save our God," 2 Samuel 22:32: where the Greek interpreters, instead of a rock, have the Creator. Which word St. Peter himself makes use of, 1 Peter 4:19, showing who is that rock indeed.
There is a rock, or 'stone of stumbling,' indeed, as well as a 'foundation-stone'; and this stone of stumbling hath St. Peter been made, to the fall of many thousands; not by any fault of his, but theirs, who, through ignorance or frowardness, or both, will esteem him as a rock upon which the church is built.
If, therefore, they will so pertinaciously adhere to that version, Et tu vocaberis Petra, let it be rendered into English thus, Thou wilt be called a rock: and let us apprehend our blessed Lord speaking prophetically, and foretelling that grand error that should spring up in the church, viz., that Peter is a rock, than which the Christian world hath not known any thing more sad and destructive.
46. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.
[Come and see.] Nothing more common in the Talmudic authors than Come and behold, come and see.
47. Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!
[An Israelite indeed.] Compare it with Isaiah 63:8. "I saw thee (saith Christ) when thou wert under the fig tree." What doing there? Doubtless not sleeping, or idling away his time, much less doing any ill thing. This would not have deserved so remarkable an encomium as Christ gave him. We may therefore suppose him, in that recess under the fig tree, as having sequestered himself from the view of men, either for prayer, meditation, reading, or some such religious performance; and so indeed from the view of men, that he must needs acknowledge Jesus for the Messiah for that very reason, that, when no mortal eye could see, he saw and knew that he was there. Our Saviour, therefore, calls him an "Israelite indeed, in whom there was no guile," because he sought out that retirement to pray, so different from the usual craft and hypocrisy of that nation, that were wont to pray publicly, and in the streets, that they might be seen of men.
And here Christ gathered to himself five disciples, viz., Andrew, Peter, Philip, Nathanael (who seems to be the same with Bartholomew), and another, whose name is not mentioned, verse 35, 40; whom, by comparing John 21:2, we may conjecture to have been Thomas.
51. And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.
[Verily, verily.] If Christ doubled his affirmation, as we here find it, why is it not so doubled in the other evangelists? If he did not double it, why is it so here?
I. Perhaps the asseveration he useth in this place may not be to the same things and upon the same occasion to which he useth the single Amen in other evangelists.
II. Perhaps, also, St. John, being to write for the use of the Hellenists, might write the word in the same Hebrew letters wherein Christ used it, and in the same letters also wherein the Greeks used it, retaining still the same Hebrew idiom.
III. But, however, it may be observed, that, whereas by all others the word Amen was generally used in the latter end of a speech or sentence, our Lord only useth it in the beginning, as being himself the Amen, Revelation 3:14; and Isaiah 65:16, the God of truth.
So that that single Amen which he used in the other evangelists contained in it the germination, Amen, Amen. I, the Amen, the true and faithful witness, Amen, i.e. "of a truth do say unto you," &c. Nor did it become any mortal man to speak Amen in the beginning of a sentence in the same manner as our Saviour did. Indeed, the very Masters of Traditions, who seemed to be the oracles of that nation, were wont to say, I speak in truth; but not "Amen, I say unto you."
IV. Amen contains in it Yea and Amen; 2 Corinthians 1:20; Revelation 1:7; i.e. truth and stability, Isaiah 25:1. Interlin. faithfulness and truth. The other evangelists express the word which our Saviour useth: St. John doubles it, to intimate the full sense of it.
I have been at some question with myself, whether I should insert in this place the blasphemous things which the Talmudic authors belch out against the holy Jesus, in allusion (shall I say?) or derision of this word Amen, to which name he entitled himself, and by which asseveration he confirmed his doctrines. But that thou mightest, reader, both know, and with equal indignation abhor, the snarlings and virulency of these men, take it in their own words, although I cannot without infinite reluctancy allege what they with all audaciousness have uttered.
They have a tradition, that Imma Shalom, the wife of R. Eliezer, and her brother Rabban Gamaliel, went to a certain philosopher (the Gloss hath it 'a certain heretic') of very great note for his integrity in giving judgment in matters, and taking no bribes. The woman brings him a golden candlestick, and prayeth him that the inheritance might be divided in part to her. Rabban Gamaliel objects, "It is written amongst us, that the daughter shall not inherit instead of the son. But the philosopher answered, 'Since the time that you were removed from your land, the law of Moses was made void: and Aven was given' [he means the Gospel, but marks it with a scurrilous title]; and in that it is written, The son and the daughter shall inherit together. The next day Rabban Gamaliel brought him, a Libyan ass. Then saith he unto them, 'I have found at the end of Aven [i.e. the Gospel] that it is written there, I, Aven, came not to diminish, but to add to the law of Moses'": where he abuseth both the name of our Saviour and his words too, Matthew 5:17.
And now, after our just detestation of this execrable blasphemy, let us think what kind of judge this must be, to whose judgment Rabban Gamaliel, the president of the Sanhedrim, and his sister, wife to the great Eliezer, should betake themselves. A Christian, as it should seem by the whole contexture of the story; but, alas! what kind of Christian, that should make so light of Christ and his gospel! However, were he a Christian of what kind soever, yet if there be any truth in this passage, it is not unworthy our taking notice of it, both as to the history of those times, and also as to that question, Whether there were any Christian judges at that time?
[Ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God, &c.] There are those that in this place observe an allusion to Jacob's ladder. The meaning of this passage seems to be no other than this: "Because I said, 'I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou?' Did this seem to thee a matter of such wonder? 'Thou shalt see greater things than these.' For you shall in me observe such plenty, both of revelation and miracle, that it shall seem to you as if the heavens were opened and the angels were ascending and descending, to bring with them all manner of revelation, authority, and power from God, to be imparted to the Son of man." Where this also is included, viz., that angels must in a more peculiar manner administer unto him, as in the vision of Jacob the whole host of angels had been showed and promised to him in the first setting out of his pilgrimage.
Of this ladder the Rabbins dream very pleasantly: "The ladder is the ascent of the altar and the altar itself. The angels are princes or monarchs. The king of Babylon ascended seventy steps; the king of the Medes fifty-and-two; the king of Greece one hundred and eighty; the king of Edom, it is uncertain how many," &c. They reckon the breadth of the ladder to have been about eight thousand parasangae, i.e. about two-and-thirty thousand miles; and that the bulk of each angel was about eight thousand English miles in compass. Admirable mathematicians these indeed!
1. And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:
[And the third day there was a marriage, &c.] A virgin marries on the fourth day of the week, and a widow on the fifth. "This custom came not in but from the decree of Ezra, and so onward: for the Sanhedrim doth not sit but on the second and the fifth days; but before the decree of Ezra, when the Sanhedrim assembled every day, then was it lawful to take a wife on any day." There is a twofold reason given for this restraint:
I. The virgin was to be married on the fourth day of the week because the assembly of the twenty-three met on the fifth: so that if the husband should find his wife to be no virgin, but already violated, he might have recourse to the consistory in the heat of his displeasure, and procure just punishment for her according to law. But why then might they not as well marry on the first day of the week, seeing the Beth Din met on the second as well as the fifth?
II. Lest the sabbath should be polluted by preparations for the nuptials: for the first, second, and third days of the week are allowed for those kind of preparations. And the reason why the widow was to be married on the fifth day was, that her husband might rejoice with her for three days together, viz. fifth, sixth, and the sabbath day.
If therefore our bride in this place was a virgin, then the nuptials were celebrated on the fourth day of the week, which is our Wednesday: if she was a widow, then she was married on the fifth day of the week, which is our Thursday. Let us therefore number our days according to our evangelist, and let it be but granted that that was the sabbath in which it is said, "They abode with him all that day," chapter 1, verse 39; then on the first day of the week Christ went into Galilee and met with Nathanael. So that the third day from thence is the fourth day of the week; but as to that, let every one reckon as he himself shall think fit.
[A marriage.] I. The virgin to be married cometh forth from her father's house to that of her husband, "in some veil, but with her hair dishevelled, or her head uncovered."
II. If any person meets her upon that day, he gives her the way; which once was done by king Agrippa himself.
III. They carry before her a cup of wine, which they were wont to call the cup of Trumah, which denoted that she, for her unspotted virginity, might have married a priest, and eaten of the Trumah.
IV. Skipping and dancing, they were wont to sing the praises of the bride. In Palestine they used these words "She needs no paint nor stibium, no plaiting of the hair, or any such thing; for she is of herself most beautiful."
V. They scattered some kind of grain or corn amongst the children; that they, if occasion should serve, might bear witness hereafter that they saw that woman a married virgin.
VI. They sprinkled also or sowed barley before them, by that ceremony denoting their fruitfulness. Whether these sports were used at the wedding where our Saviour was present, let others inquire.
VII. In Sotah there is mention of crowns which the bride and bridegroom wore; as also what fashion they were of, and of what materials they were made.
VIII. Because of the mirth that was expected at nuptial solemnities, they forbade all weddings celebrating within the feasts of the Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles, "because there were great rejoicings at nuptials, and they must not intermingle one joy with another"; that is, the joy of nuptials with the joy of a festival.
IX. The nuptial festivity was continued for the whole seven days; which we also see of old, Judges 19:12.
[And the mother of Jesus was there.] The mother of Jesus was there, not invited (as it should seem) with Christ and his disciples, but had been there before the invitation made to them.
You may conceive who were the usual nuptial guests by those words of Maimonides: "The bridegroom and his companions, the children of the bridechamber, are not bound to make a tabernacle."
I. In a more general sense, denotes a friend or companion, as in the Targum, Judges 14:2; 2 Samuel 13:3: but it is more particularly applied to those friends that are the nuptial guests.
II. But in a most strict sense to those two mentioned Chetubb. fol. 12. 1: "Of old they appointed two Shoshbenin, one for the bridegroom, the other for the bride, that they should minister to them especially at their entry into the bridal chamber." They were especially instituted for this end, that they should take care and provide that there should be no fraud nor deceit as to the tokens of the bride's virginity. So Gloss upon the place. The Rabbins very ridiculously (as they almost always do) tell a trifling story, that Michael and Gabriel were the two Shoshbenin at Adam and Eve's wedding.
III. But as to the signification of this nuptial term in a more large sense, we may see farther: "If any amongst the brethren make a Shoshbenuth while the father is yet alive, when the Shoshbenuth returns, that also is returned too; for the Shoshbenuth is required even before the Beth Din; but if any one send to his friend any measures of wine, those are not required before the Beth Din; for this was a deed of gift? or work of charity."
The words are very obscure, but they seem to bear this sense, viz.: This was the manner of the Shoshbenuth: some bachelor or single person, for joy of his friend's marriage, takes something along with him to eat and be merry with the bridegroom: when it comes to the turn of this single person to marry, this bridegroom, to whom he had brought this portion, is bound to return the same kindness again. Nay, if the father should make a wedding for his son, and his friends should bring gifts along with them in honour of the nuptials, and give them to his son [the bridegroom], the father was bound to return the same kindness whenever any of those friends should think fit to marry themselves. But if any one should send the bridegroom to congratulate his nuptials, either wine or oil, or any such gift, and not come himself to eat and make merry with them, this was not of the nature of the Shoshbenuth, nor could be required back again before the tribunal, because that was a free gift.
IV. Christ therefore, and five of his disciples, were not of these voluntary Shoshbenin at this wedding, for they were invited guests, and so of the number of those that were called the children of the bridechamber, distinguished from the Shoshbenin. But whether our Saviour's mother was to be accounted either the one or the other is a vain and needless question. Perhaps she had the care of preparing and managing the necessaries for the wedding, as having some relation either with the bridegroom or the bride.
6. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.
[Six waterpots.] Gloss, "If any one have water fit to drink, and that water by chance contract any uncleanness, let him fill the stone vessel with it."
The number of the six waterpots, I suppose, needs not be ascribed to any custom of the nation, but rather to the multitude then present. It is true indeed that at nuptials and other feasts, there were waterpots always set for the guests to wash their hands at; but the number of the vessels and the quantity of water was always proportioned according to the number of the guests; for both the hands and vessels, and perhaps the feet of some of them, were wont to be washed.
Mashicala mashi culla, the greater vessel out of which all wash; maschilta mashia callatha, the lesser vessel in which the bride washes, and (saith the Gloss) the better sort of the guests.
[Firkins.] The Greek version thus expresseth the measure of a bath, 2 Chronicles 4:5: so Haggai 2:16, where the same measure of a bath is to be understood. Now if every one of these waterpots in our story contained two or three baths apiece, how great a quantity of wine must that be which all that water was changed into!
The waterpots of Lydda and Bethlehem: where the Gloss, "They were wont to make pots in Lydda from the measure of the seah to that of the log; and in Bethlehem from the measure of two seahs to that of one." How big were these pots that contained six or nine seahs: for every bath contained three seahs.
As to the washing of the hands, we have this in Jadaim; "they allot a fourth part of a log for the washing of one person's hands, it may be of two; half a log for three or four; a whole log to five or ten, nay, to a hundred; with this provision, saith R. Jose, that the last that washeth hath no less than a fourth part of a log for himself."
7. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.
[Jesus said, Fill, &c.] I. It is probable that the discourse betwixt Jesus and his mother was not public and before the whole company, but privately and betwixt themselves: which if we suppose, the words of the son towards the mother, "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" will not seem so harsh as we might apprehend them if spoken in the hearing of all the guests. And although the son did seem by his first answer to give a plain denial to what was propounded to him, yet perhaps by something which he afterward said to her, (though not expressed by the evangelist,) or some other token, the mother understood his mind so far, that when they came into company again she could intimate to them, "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it."
II. He answered his mother, "Mine hour is not yet come": for it might be justly expected that the first miracle he would exert should be done in Jerusalem, the metropolis of that nation.
8. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.
[The governor of the feast.] This governor of the feast I would understand to have been in the place of chaplain, to give thanks, and pronounce blessings in such kind of feasts as these were. There was the bridegroom's blessing, recited every day for the whole space of the seven days, besides other benedictions during the whole festival time, requisite upon a cup of wine (for over a cup of wine there used to be a blessing pronounced;) especially that which was called the cup of good news, when the virginity of the bride is declared and certified. He, therefore, who gave the blessing for the whole company, I presume, might be called the governor of the feast. Hence to him it is that our Saviour directs the wine that was made of water, as he who, after some blessing pronounced over the cup, should first drink of it to the whole company, and after him the guests pledging and partaking of it.
As to what is contained in verses 14, 15, and 16 of this chapter, I have already discussed that in Matthew 21:12.
18. Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign showest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?
[What sign showest thou unto us?] "Noah, Hezekiah, &c., require a sign; much more the wicked and ungodly."
Since there had been so many, no less than four hundred years past, from the time that the Holy Spirit had departed from that nation, and prophecies had ceased, in which space there had not appeared any one person that pretended to the gift either of prophesying or working miracles, it is no wonder if they were suspicious of one that now claimed the character, and required a sign of him.
19. Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.
[Destroy this Temple.] I. Christ showeth them no sign that was a mere sign, Matthew 12:39. The turning of Moses' rod into a serpent, and returning the serpent into a rod again; the hand becoming leprous, and restored to its proper temperament again; these were mere signs; but those wonders which Moses afterward wrought in Egypt were not mere signs, but beneficent miracles; and whoever would not believe upon those infinite miracles which he wrought, would much less have believed upon mere signs. And, indeed, it was unbecoming our blessed Lord so far to indulge to their obstinate incredulity, to be showing new signs still at every beck of theirs, who would not believe upon those infinite numbers he put forth upon every proper occasion.
II. Matthew 12:39,40. When they had required a sign, Christ remits them to the sign of the prophet Jonah; and he points at the very same sense in these words, Destroy this Temple, &c.: that is, "My resurrection from the dead will be a sign beyond all denial, proving and affirming, that what I do I act upon divine authority, and that I am he who is to come (Rom 1:4). Further than this you must expect no other sign from me. If you believe me not while I do such works, at least believe me when I arise from the dead."
He acted here, while he is purging the Temple, under that notion as he was the authorized Messiah, Malachi 3:1,3, and expressly calls it "his Father's house," verse 16. Show us therefore some sign, (say the Jews,) by which it may appear that thou art the Messiah the Son of God; at least, that thou art a prophet. I will show you a sufficient sign, saith Christ: destroy this temple, viz. of my body, and I will raise it from the dead again; a thing which was never yet done, nor could be done by any of the prophets.
20. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?
[Forty-and-six years.] I. That this was spoken of the Temple as beautified and repaired by Herod, not as built by Zorobabel, these reasons seem to sway with me:
1. That these things were done and discoursed betwixt Christ and the Jews in Herod's Temple.
2. That the account, if meant of the Temple of Zorobabel, will not fall in either with the years of the kings of Persia; or those seven weeks mentioned Daniel 9:25, in which Jerusalem was to be built, "even in troublous times." For whoever reckons by the kings of Persia, he must necessarily attribute at least thirty years to Cyrus; which they willingly do that are fond of this account: which thirty years too, if they do not reckon to him after the time that he had taken Babylon, and subverted that monarchy, they prove nothing as to this computation at all.
"Cyrus destroyed the empire of the Medes, and reigned over Persia, having overthrown Astyages, the king of the Medes": and from thence Eusebius reckons to Cyrus thirty years. But by what authority he ascribes the Jews' being set at liberty from their captivity to that very same year, I cannot tell. For Cyrus could not release the Jews from their captivity in Babylon before he had conquered Babylon for himself; and this was a great while after he had subdued the Medes, as appears from all that have treated upon the subversion of that empire: which how they agree with Xenophon, I shall not inquire at this time: content at present with this, that it doth not appear amongst any historians that have committed the acts of Cyrus to memory, that they have given thirty or twenty, no, not ten years to him after he had taken Babylon. Leunclavius gives him but eight years; and Xenophon himself seems to have given him but seven. So that this account of forty-and-six years falls plainly to the ground, as not being able to stand, but with the whole thirty years of Cyrus included into the number.
Their opinion is more probable who make these forty-and-six years parallel with the seven weeks in Daniel 9:25. But the building of the Temple ceased for more years than wherein it was built; and, in truth, if we compute the times wherein any work was done upon the Temple, it was really built within the space of ten years.
II. This number of forty-six years fits well enough with Herod's Temple; for Josephus tells us, that Herod began the work in the eighteenth year of his reign; nor does he contradict himself when he tells us, in the fifteenth year of his reign he repaired the Temple; because the fifteenth year of his reign alone, after he had conquered Antigonus, was the eighteenth year from the time wherein he had been declared king by the Romans. Now Herod (as the same Josephus relates) lived thirty-seven years from the time that the Romans had declared him king; and in his thirty-fifth year Christ was born; and he was now thirty years old when he had this discourse with the Jews. So that between the eighteenth of Herod and the thirtieth of Christ exclusively there were just forty-six years complete.
III. The words of our evangelist therefore may be thus rendered in English: "Forty-and-six years hath this Temple been in building": and this version seems warranted by Josephus, who, beginning the history of G. Florus, the procurator of Judea, about the 11th of Nero, hath this passage; From that time particularly our city began to languish, all things growing worse and worse. He tells us further, that Albinus, when he went off from his government, set open all the gaols and dismissed the prisoners, and so filled the whole province with thieves and robberies. He tells withal, that king Agrippa permitted the Levite singing-men to go about as they pleased in their linen garments: and at length concludes, "And now was the Temple finished [note that]; wherefore the people, seeing the workmen, to the number of eighteen thousand, were at a stand, having nothing to do...besought the king that he would repair the porch upon the east," &c. If therefore the Temple was not finished till that time, then much less was it so when Christ was in it. Whence we may properly enough render those words of the Jews into such a kind of sense as this: "It is forty-and-six years since the repairing of the Temple was first undertook, and indeed to this day is not quite perfected; and wilt thou pretend to build a new one in three days?"
21. But he spake of the temple of his body.
[But he spake of the temple of his body.] If we consider how much the second Temple came behind that of the first, it will the more easily appear why our blessed Saviour should call his body the Temple.
"In the second Temple there wanted the Fire from heaven, the Ark with the Propitiatory and Cherubims, Urim and Thummim, the Divine Glory, the Holy Ghost, and the anointing Oil."
These things were all in Solomon's Temple, which therefore was accounted a full and plenary type of the Messiah: but so long as the second Temple had them not, it wanted what more particularly shadowed and represented him.
I. There was indeed in the second Temple a certain ark in the Holy of Holies; but this was neither Moses' ark nor the ark of the covenant: which may not unfitly come to mind when we read that passage, Revelation 11:19, "The Temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his Temple the ark of his testament." It was not seen, nor indeed was it at all in the second Temple.
The Jews have a tradition, that Josias hid the ark before the Babylonish captivity, lest it should fall into the hands of the enemy, as once it did amongst the Philistines; but there is no mention that it was ever found and restored again.
II. In Moses' Tabernacle and Solomon's Temple the divine presence sat visibly over the Ark in the Propitiatory, in a cloud of glory: but when the destruction of that Temple drew near, it went up from the Propitiatory, Ezekiel 10:4, and never returned into the second Temple, where neither the Ark nor the Propitiatory was ever restored.
III. The high priest, indeed, ministered in the second Temple as in the first, in eight several garments. Amongst these was the pectoral, or breastplate, wherein the precious stones were put (out of which the jasper chanced to fall and was lost): but the oracle by Urim and Thummim was never restored: see Ezra 2:63; Nehemiah 7:63. And if not restored in the days of Ezra or Nehemiah, much less certainly in the ages following, when the spirit of prophecy had forsaken and taken leave of that people. For that is a great truth amongst the Talmudists; "Things are not asked or inquired after now [by Urim and Thummim] by the high priest, because he doth not speak by the Holy Ghost, nor does there any divine afflatus breathe on him."
This, to omit other things, was the state of Zorobabel's Temple with respect to those things which were the peculiar glory of it. And these things being wanting, how much inferior must this needs be to that of Solomon's!
But there was one thing that degraded Herod's Temple still lower; and that was the person of Herod himself, to whom it is ascribed. It was not without scruple, even amongst the Jews themselves, that it was built and repaired by such a one: (and who knew not what Herod was?) and they dispute whether by right such a person ought to have meddled with it; and invent arguments for their own satisfaction as to the lawfulness of the thing.
They object first, It is not permitted to any one to demolish one synagogue till he hath built another: much less to demolish the Temple. But Herod demolished the Temple before he had built another. Ergo,
They answer, "Baba Ben Buta gave Herod that counsel, that he should pull it down." Now this Baba was reckoned amongst the great wise men, and he did not rashly move Herod to such a work; for he saw such clefts and breaches in the Temple that threatened its ruin.
They object, secondly, concerning the person of Herod, that he was a servant to the Asmonean family, that he rose up against his masters and killed them, and had killed the Sanhedrim.
They answer, We were under his power, and could not resist it. And if those hands stained with blood would be building, it was not in their power to hinder it.
These and other things they apologize for their Temple; adding this invention for the greater honour of the thing--that all that space of time wherein it was a building, it never once rained by day, that the work might not be interrupted.
The Rabbins take a great deal of pains, but to no purpose, upon those words, Haggai 2:9, "The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former." "R. Jochanan and R. Eliezer say; one, that it was a greater for the fabric; the other, that it was greater for the duration." As if the glory of the Temple consisted in any mathematical reasons of space, dimension, or duration; as if it lay in walls, gilding, or ornament. The glory of the first Temple was the Ark, the divine cloud over the Ark, the Urim and the Thummim, &c. Now where or in what can consist the greater glory of the second Temple when these are gone?
Herein it is indeed that the Lord of the Temple was himself present in his Temple: he himself was present in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, Colossian 2:9; as the divine glory of old was over the ark typically, or by way of shadow only.
This is the glory, when he himself is present who is the great High Priest and the Prophet; who, answerably to the Urim and Thummim of old, reveals the counsels and will of God; he who is the true and living Temple, whom that Temple shadowed out. "This Temple of yours, O ye Jews, does not answer its first pattern and exemplar: there are wanting in that, what were the chief glory of the former; which very defect intimates that there is another Temple to be expected, that in all things may fall in with its first type, as it is necessary the antitype should do. And this is the Temple of my body." No further did he think fit to reply to them at that time.
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