§ 12. Echo of the dispute about the first Sabbath violation

Critique of the Gospel of John
by Bruno Bauer



§ 12. Echo of the dispute about the first Sabbath violation.

Ch 7.


1) The time of the Lord.


The last time Jesus withdrew from Judea to Galilee, the evangelist, contrary to his custom, omitted to state the reason for this withdrawal. But this time he really did not need to, since he had described the murderous rage of the Lord’s opponents shortly before (5:18). On the other hand, he had (6:1) strangely enough fallen into the language of the synoptics by considering the shore on this side of the Sea of Galilee as the fixed point from which Jesus departed when he went elsewhere. The evangelist does not say that the Lord went from Judea to Galilee and from there he went to the other side of the lake, but from this side, where he is already located, Jesus goes to the other side. But for a long time the evangelist cannot deny his own view, now (7:1) he reminds the reader that Jesus only stays in Galilee out of necessity, because he would be found in Judea if the Jews did not want to kill him. Even his brothers cannot dissuade the Lord from his plan to stay in Galilee for the time being, although they ask him to go to Judea for the Feast of Tabernacles, so that his disciples – namely the followers who are supposed to be in Judea – can also see his works. In vain the brothers tried to provoke him from the standpoint of their unbelief: he replied that his hour had not yet come and that he would not go up to the feast. He stayed in Galilee.


What it means when the Lord says that his time has not yet come is perfectly clear from the context. He could not surrender himself to the hatred of the world, which pursued him, arbitrarily and at will, but in the divine counsel the time was determined when he might surrender himself to the hostile world. The time of the Lord is the time of suffering. This conception is not in the least made uncertain or impossible *) by the fact that the Lord at the same time says that the time of his brothers is always there. For as is customary in the game of such antitheses, the corresponding elements are as much in agreement with a third element when viewed according to their superficial appearance, as they are opposed or divergent for the consciousness that follows their essence. The third element in which the elements of the present antithesis intersect is, in general, the idea of public appearance before the world. The Lord thinks that you can always show yourselves to the world, what you have in mind and what you demand of me, that I should appear freely before the world. This cannot yet be done on my part, but on your part, it can always be done. However, why the Lord cannot and may not do so at all times is justified in his consciousness in a particular way, because his time is entirely different from that given to his brothers every moment, and therefore is not a specific time. It is clear that the Lord is speaking here of the time of his death, just as he had earlier rejected a request from his mother by referring to his time of suffering. The difficulty that arises from the fact that the Lord refers to his time of suffering without his brothers being able to understand him must not tempt us to make artifices, nor does it give us a right to let the evangelist write everything else, except what he wants to write. It seemed to him that the only thing worthy of the Lord was that he should have the last conflict of his life constantly in view; from this point of view he has always let the Lord speak, and even the first revelation of his glory at Cana had to proceed from this point of view.

*) As de Wette (p. 93) and Lücke (Comm. II 157) think.


Another difficulty does not entitle the interpreter to use violent means. Although the Lord says to the brothers: you are going to “this” feast, I am not going to “this” feast, although therefore this particular feast is spoken of, and because of the contrast to the time of suffering, this whole feast must be spoken of, but not only the beginning of it *), the Lord nevertheless goes to “this” feast after the departure of his brothers, as if he had wanted to do it secretly. Whoever wants to add a “now” with Lucke **) when the Lord says, I am not going to this feast, may do so after all, but he does not say that he is explaining a saying which he has long since lost sight of by such an addition. For such an interpreter, the evangelist has in vain made the speech revolve around the purpose of “this” feast. Lücke has another help ready, namely, he thinks that the contradiction disappears if the present tense: I am not going to this feast “is taken quite strictly” *), to which the following: my time has not yet come “gives an indisputable right”; but then one would have to let the Lord put an accent on that present tense with an ulterior consciousness that is unworthy of him. If all the words deny the idea that he will go to “this” feast, the gentleman is supposed to have indicated the opposite by an ambiguous accent, and not only to have gone secretly to the feast, but to have secretly put into his words the inwardly already existing resolution to go there? Assuming the case, impossible without Jesuitism, that the “strict” version of the present tense was able to put a “now” into the words: I am not going to this feast, this explanation is at least certain enough here because of the context, which deals with “this” feast, with “this” par excellence, and – to say it again and to cancel that “indisputable right” – opposes this particular feast as this whole feast to the not yet fulfilled time of the Lord. And the “strict” version of the negated present tense! Does it exist only with an ambush in the consciousness, only in that the near future of the action is silently affirmed **) ? But it is good that we are reminded of the strict version of the present tense: for there is a way of setting the present tense which is also very strict, but which does not merely hint at it secretly and covertly, but is endowed with great force and distinctness, and which we might call the categorical. It is the version of the present tense which, when the present is negated, strictly negates, namely, in such a way that it negates the action for the present because of the essential nature and destiny of the subject from whom it is demanded or expected. And this version is the only possible one here. I do not go to this feast means here: it is my task and destiny not to go to this feast, for it is my destiny to confront the hatred of the world only when the time determined by divine counsel, when my time has arrived; but this time, which is inwardly connected with my being, has not yet been fulfilled. If someone nevertheless prefers the surreptitious path of apologetics to the straight and simple course of evangelical speech, he may and must also assume that overnight, after the brothers had departed, the time of the Lord determined in the divine counsel was fulfilled. For no sooner are the brethren on the road, than he also departs.

*) This artifice is not without a Jesuit reservation, for example when Bengel says: qui primo die festi non inter- erat, non videbatur interesse; or as Bengel continues:: accedit deindc Jesus ad festum, sed quasi incognitus; nec tam ad festum, quam in templum.

**) Lucke (Comm. II, 168). De Wette thinks that the sentence: I do not go (ουκ), is after all to be retained in its simplicity, for it is “the negation limited by the following αυπω (my time is not yet).” How can the fog of apologetics obscure even the simplest provisions, veil the clearest indications! Not limited, but strengthened, justified is the negation. Because his time is not yet here, the Lord does not go to this feast.

*) This is also Beugel’s opinion : αναβαινω striete in praescuti acciplendum.

**) Another time, where Lücke again speaks of a present tense with such “emphasis,” ibid. p. 252, he himself says that “the present tense, which is in itself ambiguous, would then have to be determined by a closer one”!


2) The journey of Jesus to the feast of tabernacles.


But it is evident, says the apologetics, that my help cannot be so proudly rejected; the Lord is really going to the feast, so – So shall we make ourselves a new gospel? Erase what is written in the Gospel? Shall we cut out and add to it as we please, until it has become an altogether poorer one? No! The contradiction cannot be blurred, but it can be explained if we get to the bottom of it and see how it arose with both its assertions. One thing we have already found confirmed by the whole structure of his work, that it seemed worthy of the Evangelist of the Lord when he constantly referred to the time of fulfilment, namely to the time which, according to divine counsel, should bring his work to a decision and conclusion. In addition, the Evangelist held the view that it was not worthy of the Lord to be determined by any external decision. His miraculous activity was not caused by the complaints or requests of the needy: thus he feeds the multitude, he heals the sick man at the pool of Bethesda, and Ch 9 the man born blind without their request. Or if he is asked for help, he first sternly rejects the request, such as the admonition of his mother at Cana or the request of the royal official whose son is struggling with an illness, and he does not respond to the call to the sick Lazarus until no more request for help was to be expected: always only so that the miraculous deed may proceed from his free decision and seem to serve only the revelation of his glory as an end. If in such cases, where request and admonition had been most severely rejected, the deed nevertheless comes to pass, it must finally happen because the evangelist also wanted to report it, for he forgets the Lord’s absolutely negative answer, does not allow himself to be misled by it and unites in his consciousness two contradictory interests, because he was driven by them with equal strength. Thus, here too, he satisfies the interest of giving an example of how the Lord rejected every external impulse, even if it came from his closest relatives, because he only allowed himself to be guided by divine counsel through his consciousness: on the other hand, he lets the Lord go to the feast because he wanted to involve him in the following conversation in Jerusalem and in several collisions with the people’s parties.


It is impossible to determine if there is anything similar in the life of Jesus that underlies the account of that interaction with his brothers, and if so, what it might have been. It may be *) that the Lord rejected a similar request of his brothers on the impulse of an inner voice – although such a daimon can hardly be assumed in view of the clarity of Jesus’ self-awareness; it may well be, but then the evangelist went beyond the goal if he nevertheless let the Lord set out on the journey, and he let himself be determined to do so by the presupposition that the Lord walked to the holy city for the celebration even in the face of the most imminent danger. He forgot that the Lord would then, according to the other conditions of the report, have preached to the murderers of the Jews before the time.

*) What Weisse (Evangelical History II, 237) assumes.

3) The mood of the people’s parties.


It does not seem as certain as the evangelist 7:1 states, that the people of Jerusalem were so murderous against the Lord, and the apologists do not have the right to praise the evangelist for reporting the development of the deadly catastrophe so accurately. On the contrary, since, instead of letting the catastrophe grow, he always regards it as already finished, since the assassination attempt has matured so early, it is in the nature of things that the evangelist himself must betray, by a multitude of individual features, that the thing is by no means so far advanced. If in one moment he stretched everything to the extreme, it could not fail that immediately afterwards he would bring the unnatural tension to a lower level and significantly soften the mood of the whole.


The crowd who missed the Lord at the beginning of the festival, as if it were a matter of course that he would attend every festival, had a divided opinion of him. What judgment would we expect from one party of the people if the authorities were to consider it necessary to go to the extreme? Clearly, it would be an enthusiastic recognition of his messianic dignity. However, the Evangelist only reports (v. 12, 13) that the well-disposed part of the people judged the Lord to be a good man, while others said he was leading the crowd astray. But such an insignificant judgment, that Jesus was a good man, could not provoke the authorities so much that they recognized death as the only solution to the collision. On the other hand, it was not necessary to whisper it to each other in secret, as it was not so terrifying. One thing cancels out the other: either the people had more decisively declared themselves for the Lord, or the authorities could not resort to the means that desperation would have suggested to them.

But not only does one thing exclude the other, but each of the two sides of the contradiction cancels itself out, or at least is cancelled out by the report. When Jesus appeared publicly in the temple in the middle of the feast and taught, his knowledge of the scriptures caused wonder, since, as is generally known, he had not enjoyed a learned education, and those who were thus astonished were the Jews (οι Ιουδαιοι), by whom, according to the context here v. 15, the evangelist understands the authorities as usual. Apologetics, which appreciates so much the fine pragmatic remarks of our author, could easily find here, or rather should find here, the suggestion that only now the rulers and scholars had come into contact with the Lord, while otherwise only the crowd of the uneducated people had surrounded him. For as soon as the rulers were in any way concerned about the Lord and considered him worthy of attention, they had to make this remark and marvel at his learning in the Scriptures. And this fine pragmatism must now dissolve itself! The authorities could only have decided so decisively on the downfall of Jesus if they were completely certain of the danger that threatened them in him, i.e. if they had decided in favour of the Lord’s death, then the power of his speech and the depth of his knowledge of Scripture could not have remained unknown to them. Or if the superiors only now noticed to their astonishment how the Lord knew how to treat the Scriptures, they could not yet have come to the conclusion from the knowledge of his danger and the power of his speech, that it was a matter of his or their downfall.


The author also made sure that the fear of the people, who did not dare to speak out loud about the Lord because they knew the plans of the authorities, was also satisfied. The astonishment of the Jews at his learning of the Scriptures prompts the Lord to make some remarks, and among other things he reproaches them for not keeping the law of Moses, for they wanted to kill him. When the author then has the crowd ask in amazement who would want to kill him, since he is probably not in his right mind to speak of assassination attempts (v. 20), he has of course soon enough noticed the contradiction into which he falls. For at the first opportunity he does not refrain from suggesting that it was only the strangers who knew nothing of the plans of the authorities, but that the citizens of the capital were better informed (v. 25). Only when he lets the leaders speak for a moment as if the lord were completely unknown to them, was it appropriate that he should let the mob wonder when the lord speaks of assassination attempts; then he returns to the original premise of the hostile plans of the leaders, and now he ascribes knowledge of them at least to the citizens of the capital. But the help comes too late, and the contradiction has once been too strong for it to be blurred. The crowd had already been brought to the scene in its entirety, v. 12, 13, and no one from this whole mass dared to speak aloud his opinion of Jesus, because they knew the plots of the rulers. All were warmly informed of it, for all were afraid; but if only the chiefs had been informed, if the strangers, as must be assumed from their statement in v. 20, had known nothing of the plans of the rulers, they would have had to speak out loudly and impartially their opinion of the Lord. So again a ball of presuppositions which, when unwound, falls apart into individual extraneous threads!


4) The mood of the people during the feast.


With great care the author now also reports how the people’s opinion of the Lord developed during the feast. The report seems all the more accurate since he continues, as he had begun in vv. 12, 13, to contrast the opposing opinions of the mass of the people. The citizens of the capital assume that Jesus might be the Messiah, since the rulers let him teach without danger, but they immediately stifle this seed of faith, since they know the origin, which must be unknown in the Messiah, in Jesus,and they even make accusations against the Lord. On the other hand, another part of the crowd, and a large one at that, believed in the Lord and was induced to do so by the calculation that the Messiah, when he came, could not do more signs than Jesus had done (vv. 26-31). Thus the masses are divided. But alas, we cannot acknowledge this division: the multitude of signs is said to have brought many to faith in Jesus, and that just at this feast, for before Jesus arrived, the opinion of the people was much more undecided; but now there is nothing to indicate that even one sign was performed by the Lord in these days. Indeed, there is so little talk of miraculous deeds that this festive talk must revolve around a sign that had happened long before at the Pool of Bethesda. So how can it suddenly be signs that move the crowd to faith! Perhaps the memory, which now ran through the whole of the earlier time and summarised all the miraculous deeds of the Lord in one glance, had brought about this faith? Not even that, for the same memory should have had this effect before, and the better part of the multitude should have thought more of the Lord than is assumed and reported in v. 2. When some of the people here judge Jesus to be a very good man, they do not think of signs, nor do they speak in such a way as if they remembered the excellent works of the Lord. His opinion is only that the Lord has no evil intentions in his dealings with people and does not want to seduce them to evil through the influence of his speech. Where, then, does the power of the signs suddenly come from? It comes from the pragmatism of the author, who once laid out this passage in such a way that he presents the crowd in its relationship to the Lord as a divided one and must now continue and enforce this division in every way.


Finally, on the last day of the feast, when the Lord had invited the thirsty to Himself, because He was able to satisfy their need in a true way, the division among the people was completed. Some said that Jesus was the Messiah, others denied it, because He was from Galilee, but not from the tribe of David and from Bethlehem, from where the Messiah must take His origin, and the third opinion was that Jesus was in truth a prophet (vv. 40-42). The two first opinions are actually the same as those mentioned by the evangelist just before; the only difference is that those who deny the Messianic dignity of Jesus are brought into direct opposition to those who definitely acknowledged it, and that they do not demand an unknown origin of the Messiah but the one prophesied by the prophet Micah. But now the third opinion is that Jesus is not the Messiah, but the Prophet, and it is – to say it at once – to blame for the fact that the whole division of popular opinion disappears altogether, the divided masses flow together again, and the apologists are deprived of the most beautiful opportunity to show their art and to load hypothesis upon hypothesis. The prophet (ο προφητης) in this excellent definiteness must also be something excellent, or rather, as this exclusive person, beside whom there is no equal, he must be the highest thing that can be thought of as the middle member of divine revelation. And so he is also otherwise in the N. T. as the mediator promised in the law, the Messiah. Even our author had to acknowledge this involuntarily when he reported how the crowd, after the feeding, wanted to raise the Lord to the position of king, i.e. as the Messiah to their ruler, he himself says that they wanted to do it because they had recognised in Jesus the promised prophet. Yet he suddenly distinguishes between the Prophet and the Messiah? How could he forget that both were the same to the people, namely the highest thing they expected from the future? That the author forgot is shown by the facts; but how it could have been possible for him is sufficiently explained by his interest in painting the shades of popular opinion. Anything that seemed to produce the slightest shade had to be welcome, and anything that offered only a hint of diversity was used *).

*) It thus becomes evident how futile it is when Gfrörer (Das Heiligth. und die Wahrh. p. 32, 33) wants to prove from the above passage, as well as from 6:14, that Jesus worked so that the people would not take him for the Messiah promised by the prophets, but for the prophet of whom Moses had spoken.


When we have now restored the crowd to its indefinite surging and to the manifold play of waves with which it flows to and fro, that is, to its actual element, we are also relieved of the question of whether the author went around among the crowd and counted the voices or whether the crowd itself dispersed and grouped itself according to the diversity of its opinions. Another gain! We are not obliged to go into the unanswerable question of what the Jews meant when they said in v. 27 that when the Messiah came, no one would know where he was from. The question is unanswerable because the Jews could not think of anything in terms of an idea that they did not even have and for which no evidence can be found anywhere **) Either they thought of David’s tribe as the starting point of the Messiah or, in the strength of faith, they, like many who joined the Lord, did not take offence when such a one made the impression on them of the Promised One, of whom they knew no other than that he did not have the earthly starting point determined by Scripture. In their ideal view, it was always certain that the Messiah would come from God. But: “one does not know from where:” this groundless indeterminacy is not peculiar to the popular view, and it is only the product of a writer who, as in this passage, seeks to set up a series of opposites, and since he needs so many, now also places one in the most groundless limbo.

**) Usually one cites, as also de Wette briefly does, the Dialogue with Tryphon as a witness that this idea existed among the Jews. The dialogue with Tryphon is usually cited as a witness to the fact that this conception existed among the Jews. But first, we saw that the idea of this dialogue of the anointing of the Messiah by Elijah, until which he would be unknown, only took its origin from our Gospel, or from the circle of thought in which it stands, and was a transformation of the view of this Gospel of the baptism of Jesus and its purposes. Then, if it be Dial. c. Tryph. p. 226, the Messiah will be unknown until Elijah anoints him, this does not refer at all to his origin, to his completely inexplicable origin, but only to the fact that his Messianic significance will only be revealed after the anointing by Elijah. The idea of this dialogue and that ascribed to the people in the fourth Gospel are therefore not so closely related as Lücke thinks (Comm. II, 176); only if the people had at least said that until Elijah came, no man would know who the Messiah was; “but whence he came,” then the people would not have been allowed to say at all, because the unknown of the person, not the secret of the origin, forms the point in the view of the dialogue with the Tryphon. The other passage, p. 336, which is quoted from that dialogue, deals just as little with an unknown origin of the Messiah, but with his twofold coming and appearance, with the δυο παρουσιαι, as the dialogue says: in the first, which takes place in lowliness, the Messiah will have to struggle with the resistance of the world, with disregard and misjudgment; only in the second coming will his glory be so clearly revealed that every contradiction will be repulsed. Gfrörer (Das Jahrh, des Heils II, 223) also brings Targum Jonath Micha 4:8 to our passage. Here it says: “Thou anointed of Israel, which art hid because of the sins of the people of Zion, unto thee shall the kingdom be given.” Lücke uses this passage (Comm. I, 363) to prove that the view that the Baptist came with water baptism to reveal the Lord to the people was based on a similar popular view that had already been given. But as far as the latter is concerned, the Targum knows nothing of a forerunner in this connection; but it does not speak of an unknown origin of the Messiah, nor of a hiding place where he is hidden, but it is only said that his arrival is held back by the sins of the people. There is no thought of an unknown whereabouts, but only of his ideal, heavenly pre-existence, from which he would not yet emerge because of the sins of the people. But the people do not even say in the Gospel: we do not know where the Messiah is hiding now, but: when he comes, no one knows where he will come from.


5) The three attacks of the enemies of Jesus.


Again and again, and at every opportunity, we must hear it said, “that John, more than any other evangelist, has revealed the natural connection and the soon hurrying, soon hesitating course of development of that great hour, and has thus skilfully linked the religious view of the history of Jesus with the natural pragmatic one”. *). The “religious pragmatism” is expressed in this passage on an occasion that is repeated three times here: they sought to seiize Jesus, but no one laid a hand on him, because, it says in v. 30, his hour had not yet come. If the danger from which the Lord is delivered were serious, sudden and threatening, then this pragmatism, which finds such incomprehensible things explained only in divine counsel, would not be rejected outright. But where the assassination attempts are commonplace, where the Jews have long (5:18) sought the death of the Lord, and where now again three attempts are made to capture the Lord, that pragmatism explains nothing, because it is supposed to explain too much. The wonderful power of that hour, for which the highest suffering is reserved and which must now thwart the earlier murder attempts, is weakened too much when it is supposed to be proven so often, and we finally do not understand how it happened that it did not collapse when it was continuously strained without interruption. By merely stating, “his hour had not yet come,” the author cannot explain to us the constant alternation of murder attempts and their thwarting time and time again.It is not because it is religious that we maintain that this pragmatism explains nothing, but because it remains in uniform while it is applied to a longer series of changing cases.

*) Lücke, Comm. II, 181, 182.


But let us leave only the religious point of unity in its sublimity, where it may, however, miss many rays and unite in itself an abundance of finite relations, and let us examine the “natural-pragmatic view” of the evangelist. The basis of historical relations, we have already seen, is not the firmest. The relationship of the authorities to the Lord fluctuates between the extreme endpoints of having once recognised the full danger of the Lord and at the same moment behaving as if they had never heard the Lord speak. The crowd, on the other hand, seems to be completely familiar with the plans of the rulers and is careful not to express its opinion about Jesus aloud, and then again it speaks as if it did not even suspect how far the matter between Jesus and the authorities has progressed. Finally – which is not without importance here – the mood of the crowd in relation to Jesus was a purely manufactured one, and if three assassination attempts in succession now emerge from such a nebulous region, then one finds apt pragmatism here?


The first attack (v. 30) comes from the part of the people who are surprised that the Lord speaks so freely and openly, although he is threatened by the superiors. These people even think that the rulers might have acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah and only the one circumstance keeps them from the decisive belief that they know the origin of Jesus, which would not be possible with the Messiah. But this certainly cannot be the mood in which an attempt is made which only the prerogative of the Lord’s actual time of suffering could repel. If the crowd suspected that the authorities might have withdrawn their attack and acknowledged the Lord, and if they were so inclined to do so, they would not have excepted that hostile plan with all the greater zeal. The cry of Jesus, that he knows where he comes from and who sent him (verse 28-29), could not have caused this anger of the crowd, not least because the crowd’s statement that they would not know the origin of the Messiah could not have elicited that cry, as there was no such popular belief.

The second attack comes from the Pharisees who, in connection with the priests, send out servants to catch Jesus; but the thread on which this attack hangs is so weak that it breaks at the first touch. The Pharisees had heard about the murmurings of the crowd, which was moved to faith by the calculation of the number of miracles in which Jesus revealed Himself (vv. 31, 32.). How the miracles of Jesus suddenly came here and had such a decisive effect, we would not be able to explain, if we had not already discovered the hand of the author, who forms and sets in motion the machinery of the whole at his own discretion: but how the Pharisees learned what the muffled murmurings of the crowd meant, can just as little be explained from the first premises of the report, for it is precisely out of fear of the rulers that the crowd is said not to have dared to speak openly of their opinion of the Lord.


Finally, for the third time, the danger breaks loose, and some again want to seize the Lord. Some! namely, some from the crowd (εξ αυτων), which grouped itself in its judgment of the Lord in such a way that some declared him to be the Messiah, while others declared him to be the Prophet, while several believed they could not recognize him as the Messiah because he was not from Bethlehem and from David’s lineage (verse 40-44). In this context, the few who wanted to seize the Lord can only be those who judged him less favorably, but must those who are only slightly less willing to believe immediately go to extreme hostility? Must those who still hesitate to recognize Jesus as the Messiah only because he is from Galilee act as his sworn enemies? They are only swaying, only one step away from full belief, but a deep chasm separates them from bitter enemies who could only find peace in the death of the Lord. But leading them over this chasm does not cause the author any trouble, and this easy task – a stroke of the pen is strong enough to be a bridge over that chasm – he had to use because he had previously let the plots against the Lord follow the judgment of the crowd each time (verse 25-30, verse 31-32). Therefore, if the crowd concludes its judgment, it is also appropriate that the hostile incident is repeated at the end. This is what the pragmatic arrangement demands, even if the strongest assumptions of the report itself must be overlooked at its request.


The apologist allows us one more question. Both times (vv. 30, 44) when the crowd wants to catch Jesus, the evangelist says, “No one laid a hand on Him”: if they did not even try to catch the Lord, how did the evangelist know that they wanted to catch Him both times, i.e. in these two moments?

6) Transition of Jesus’ Speech to the Point of Contention.

C. 7, 16 – 19.

Now the speeches that the Lord gave during the feast remained to be seen.

It is immediately striking that the Lord’s speech not only refers back to a long-past event, the healing of the sick man at the Pool of Bethesda, which had occurred during a Sabbath rest, but also that the main subject of this speech is the same as that which was discussed in detail at that time (in chapter 5). The contrast between self-will, seeking one’s own glory, and the activity that seeks the glory of God, reappears here (verse 18). The Lord refers, just as he did then, to his knowledge of the one who sent him (verse 29). In fact, in order to gather together some other striking repetitions of the speech that was given after the healing of that sick man, it should be noted that later in chapter 8, verses 13-18, the offense of the Lord testifying about himself is dealt with in the same way as it was then, by pointing to the righteous judgment of the Son and the testimony of the Father. It is also reiterated that the Son follows the pattern of the Father (verse 26), and finally, the works are brought up again so that they might bear witness to the Lord (chapter 10, verse 38).

This relationship is so strange that it is not enough to call attention to it and to present it as a fact; but the question arises as to what sense can be made of this fact. Lücke also says *): “A closer look teaches that the first important persecution and defence of Jesus Ch. 5 lies at the basis of the later speeches of argument and defence. The later speeches of the Lord, as reported by the evangelist: that is clear. But is it also a basis in the sense that the Lord Himself took proofs from it on every occasion, as it were, and almost always went back to it? This, of course, is how Lücke understands the matter, and this is how the apologist must understand it, that the Lord later repeats what he presented on an earlier occasion, and that the basic ideas of Ch. 5 “only return expanded and turned differently.” But the first glance at the new but groundless situation, which has already completely dissolved, teaches us that this division of the crowds was not an opportunity to revisit earlier sayings, to expand them and give them a different twist. And in the event that the situation was more settled, and the Lord had wished to give a different turn to thoughts which he had previously expressed, we have in the synoptic accounts quite different examples of the wealth of individual figures at the Lord’s disposal when he developed a substantial idea according to its different determinations. When we first hear those basic ideas of chapter 5 for the first time, they still have the advantage of the first impression they make on us: but if now the Lord, in order to prove his divine justification, always only emphasizes the contrast between the self-authoritative and the self-denial which seeks the glory of God, if he always only refers to the testimony of the Father and the works, then the repetition misses its purpose and takes on the anxious and pleading tone which is peculiar to apologetics when it asks the inclined opponent for concessions. It is not the Lord that we hear speaking in this tone, but the apologist who moves in a few narrow views, who has based his conviction on certain reasons and only has these reasons to draw on on every occasion.

*) Comm. II, 100.


It is also a vain effort if the interpretation tries to breathe some strength into the transition of Jesus’ speech to justification because of the Sabbath violation and to help it up. It is difficult to think of a more weak and laborious transition, and the Lord, after he has proved in the synoptic sayings how well he knows how to introduce a subject, should not also take upon himself the ambiguous glory that he has understood even the weakest transitions?

The Lord wants to give the Jews who wonder about his scriptural learning the touchstone by which they would learn that his teaching is not from him but from God: if they wanted to do the will of God, they would come to understand it. – This is the first turn of the discourse, which goes to the actual point of controversy. – One need only see the commentators of our Gospel at one point busily running to and fro through one another to notice for the time being that it is not quite right and sane, not at all as it should be. Even at this point, they are anxiously trying to bring out an inner coherence of the speech and yet cannot prevent its parts from falling apart. *). Everything would have held together if the Jews had wondered about the content of Jesus’ teaching as a completely new one and not only about the Lord’s teaching from the Scriptures, and if Jesus had answered in the same way as he did in 8:31-32: only receive my teaching into yourselves, make it your life principle, and you will then recognise its truth and its divine origin through inner experience. But the Jews did not say anything about the fact that the teaching of Jesus appeared to them as a new one – and yet the answer of the Lord presupposes this astonishment about the content, yes, it even jumps away from this presupposed subject and even falls apart into two unequal parts when it says: whoever does the divine will will recognize the origin of my teaching. The divine will is here an indeterminate abstraction, the most abstract generality, which stands apart from all living connection for that which is determined, namely for the doctrine of the Lord, and can bear as little witness to it as the barest deism can to ecclesiastical faith.

*) Olshausen, for example, (II, 173) defines the transition thus: “the object of the teaching of the rabbis was indeed essentially the right thing, but their relation to the true teaching was wrong. They taught without a true divine commission and without a divine calling.” Accordingly, the Lord would have to assume that his teaching and that of the rabbis was essentially the same. But he rather assumes that his doctrine is a new one and that the impulse of the new will be removed “if one does the will of God.” Lücke (Comm. II, 161) summarises the connection thus: “Certainly not from you and in your schools I have learned what I teach.” But that his doctrine is only his own, the Jews have said as little of this as that it is a new one.


Suddenly (verse 19), the Lord turns to the Law of Moses and accuses the Jews of not practicing it, for if they did, would they want to kill him? But how does this fit with the previous assumption, where the Jews’ amazement at his scholarship was entirely innocent and harmless? Even though there was talk of the divine will before, it was held in such a wide vagueness that the transition to the positive, Mosaic Law can only be called a leap. And as soon as this leap is made, how sluggish the speech becomes: “And none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” This is not the Lord speaking, but the evangelist has him speak this way because he still wants to add an argument for the legitimacy of that healing on the Sabbath.


If we have to ascribe to the age of the sick man who was healed at the pool of Beth- esda, in Hengstenberg’s sense, a symbolic relationship to the feast time in which the healing took place, that feast 5:1 was therefore a passover, but in the meantime (6:4) a new passover has passed, then a year and a half has passed until the present Feast of Tabernacles. What a coincidence it is that the Lord is immediately surrounded by the same crowd that saw the healing of the sick man and took offence at the violation of the Sabbath! How useless was the long speech wasted, which the Lord gave at that time Ch. 5, if the people, as soon as the Lord came to the holy city, were still in the position of amazement, which they had assumed at that time after that miraculous deed. The changeable crowd must have been of a quite different kind then than it has otherwise been in all the world and in all time: a petrifying spell must have taken hold of the people, so that after one and a half years they still stood amazed at that story and the Lord could immediately address them again after such a long interval: “Why are you surprised at my deed?

A year and a half! A much shorter time is enough to give the crowd new thoughts, interests and attitudes *). But on paper and for later perception, even greater periods of time shrink. The colourful change of reality simplifies itself for the memory, and the changing crowd that surrounded the Lord solidifies into the crowd in the statistical sense, into one and the same crowd that the Lord now always encountered when he came into contact with the people. How far this transformation of the changeable into a fixed quantity can go, we already had a striking but instructive example of it above at the Sea of Galilee 6:36. Finally, the rich interrelationships and interests of the real world merge into a simple circle of relationships and become fixed quantities. But to go so far in the petrification of relations and the mass of the people could only be achieved by a writer who, like everything else, had dissolved the real world into a simple abstract opposition, had already brought history and its collisions to an end at the beginning, and could now only ever have the same decisive opposition repeated. Now, of course, if the death of Jesus had become a firm decision for the Jews on the occasion of the healing of the Sabbath, it was self-evident that later on they would constantly bear that event in mind and that the Lord, after a long time, would have to take up his responsibility again, or rather, as if he had not brought it to an end earlier.

*) Olshausen (Comm. II, I76) explains himself, because of their difficulty, against the relation to Ch. 5. “It is far nearer to say that such a case had occurred again and that it gave rise to the whole conversation. How hasty! Only the innocent astonishment of the Jews at the Lord’s knowledge of Scripture gave rise to the conversation. And then not only would “such a case have occurred again” but it would also have to be reported by the author, yes, not only “such a case” but also the similar impulse to which it gave rise. Olshausen, however, has only given us an example of how facts are formed for sayings.


7) The justification against the Sabbath law.


But what harm does it do to a saying of the Lord that it is placed in an inappropriate context? It always comes to us at the right time, as long as it is otherwise reproduced in its pure originality. However, this is very questionable for this saying about the justification against the Sabbath law. The epigrammatic preparation necessary for such sayings lies in not postponing circumcision on the Sabbath, and the conclusion or the punchline is now the question: Why do you now consider it wrong that I healed a whole person on the Sabbath? Anyone who does not hear the disharmony with which the two parts of the saying are set in a essentially different key instead of harmonizing together has not yet learned from the synoptic Gospels how much the Lord’s sayings, like finished works of art, agree with all their parts and lead the listener to their pure, harmonious conclusion through the charm of rich melody. But this saying draws attention in completely different directions and ends in a dissonance, if that were even worth calling it that, which is a connection of indifferently different tones. The preparation of the saying suggests a different conclusion, and the conclusion is without preparation. The expectation aroused by the first part, when it is said that the Sabbath law deviates from the commandment of circumcision, would find its true conclusion in the fact that it is even more permissible for the Lord, who pursues higher purposes than the commandment of circumcision prescribes, to set aside the Sabbath law. Similarly, at least, the Lord says (Matt. 12:5, 6), if the priests profane the Sabbath for the sake of the temple service, and do not fall into sin, I am still more above the Sabbath law, because I am more than the temple. The fourth evangelist, however, could not in fact provide the appropriate preparation for the conclusion of the saying: “So there is no cause for accusation if I heal a whole man on the Sabbath”; he could not do so if he did not want to fall into the silliness of his interpreters.

It was reserved for them to attribute to the Lord the view that circumcision, which refers to this single member, also has a “medical” purpose *), and thus to place the Lord in the same line as Philo and Johann David Michaelis, who present this neat natural explanation of the purely religious symbol according to the legal view. Certainly, this interpretation has a right as such, since the conclusion of the saying presupposes this preparation. But it is just as certain that, if the preparation is taken worthily, it expects a different conclusion. We know from the synoptic account of a more dignified dialectic of the Lord, and even the evangelist did not dare to put the preparation of the saying in prosaic harmony with the inappropriate conclusion. Therefore, we do not commit a crime if we let this saying pass in its dissonance in honor of the Lord. **) —-

*) Lücke, Comm. II, 174.

**) Olshausen (Comm. II, 177) summarises the saying thus: circumcision refers only to the body, “but Christ’s healing was for the whole man, to which the inner life necessarily belongs. But it is only a question of the healing of this human being, and this encompasses the whole bodily organism, whereas circumcision refers only to a single member of the body. The body as such forms the medium tertium, and Christ’s healing and circumcision only diverge in such a way that the former completely embraces the body, while the latter has only a limited “medical significance”.


As an encore to this sacrifice of honour we would also add the attached saying (v. 24): “Judge not according to appearance, but hold righteous judgment”, if we did not allow the apologists the pleasure of exercising their anxious acumen in finding the most diverse and remote connections. As our evangelist proves, everything can be put into context, and we therefore do not want to trouble his interpreters with the question whether the Jews had judged only according to appearance and not rather according to the revealed law when they imputed the Sabbath violation to the Lord as an offence.

8) The Lord’s Ascension to the Father.


The Lord’s saying that He knew from whom He came and who had sent Him (v. 29), we will only touch upon in passing, since on the one hand it is only a repetition of the contrast between the independent appearance and the divine mission, and since the reason for the multitude saying that it was not known from where the Messiah would come, has already disappeared. We already know enough about how the author loves to make people take offence at the known lowly origin of Jesus. He already enjoyed it when he led Nathanael over this offence to the company of Jesus, and finally, after the people had felt this offence (6:42; 7:41-42) on all sides, he even lets the learned Pharisees mock at the Galilean origin of the supposed prophet (7:52).

But the evangelist now begins to exploit a new theme and to lead it through all the stages of misunderstanding just as diligently as he had hitherto used the mystery of the origin of the Logos to shatter the sensual mind and also the folly of the people. The Lord has always spoken of his death, but from now on he does so more clearly by calling his death the going home to the Father who sent him. In this way he speaks immediately to the servants whom the Pharisees had sent to seize him (vv. 32, 33). A man who speaks as a prophet, who wants to be acknowledged as God’s messenger, cannot refer to God more clearly and understandably than the Lord does when he says: “I am going where the one who sent me is.” And yet the Jews are to understand these words in such a way that this man, who has so often spoken of the testimony of the Father who sent him, might be willing to go into the dispersion of the Greeks in order to teach them. Never. This contrast does not belong to real life, but to a view that takes the contrasts so far that they no longer hold together at all and break like an overstretched string. The Lord’s self-awareness certainly had to struggle not infrequently with the rigid sense of the people, but if the gulf had been as great as we would have to assume according to this statement, then he would not even have been allowed to call out; he had to remain silent. The evangelist has so far exaggerated the contrast between the incomprehensibly dull spirit of the people and the clear self-awareness of Jesus that he has made it appear to his Master as if he had not been very conscientious in guarding the pearls of truth.


But we have one more reason to acquit the Lord of the unwise waste of the pearls, and the people of an intemperate folly, when we see only too clearly by what weak parenthesis that saying of going home to the Father is attached to this occasion. The servants of the Pharisees seek the Lord, and find him among the multitude: nothing but this suggestion of seeking and finding, which lies in the context, has brought this saying hither: later, when I have gone to the Father, ye shall seek me, but shall not find me. The reading αυτοις (v. 33): Jesus said to them, namely, to those servants of the Pharisees, is not quite certain, but if the Lord addressed the multitude with that saying, he must have addressed the servants of his enemies at the same time, since only the historical situation gave him the transition to this saying. Or he may have addressed the crowd in preference, in which case he must have regarded the crowd as complicit in the plan of the Pharisees’ servants, otherwise he would not have been allowed to address the people in this way. “You will seek me later, but you will not find me.” These words only make sense when they are addressed to those who have just sought the Lord and found him. The crowd would therefore have understood this address even less than the evangelist presupposes; they would not even have understood where it came from if they had not known the starting point of it, that they had sought the Lord with hostile intentions, and if they had not for a moment considered themselves to be guilty. But was this the right place to speak of the return to the Father, had it not been the Lord’s boastful revelation of a secret, which would have had no other purpose than to show that he was far above the present danger and would in future be inaccessible to all persecution? This speech is nothing other than one of those surprises to which writers resort when they cannot extricate princes and kings from dangers into which they have fallen through concealment of their rank, except by having them show the signs of their princely dignity. Our evangelist, however, when he reached for this help, was at a disadvantage because he could not even communicate to the crowd an understanding of this revelation of majesty, nor was he allowed to do so, because he immediately wanted to use the opportunity, according to his custom, to contrast the obtuseness of the people and the clarity of Jesus’ self-awareness.


9) The living water.


“In the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, let him that thirsteth come unto me, and drink.” The thought is the same that the Lord spoke to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well when He asked the woman for a drink of water. This time a certain occasion seems to be presupposed, for the attitude of the scene, how Jesus stands there, how he cries out, has something dramatic about it and clearly indicates a stimulus in the environment. The commentators have therefore thought, quite in the sense of the author, that it was a custom at the Feast of Tabernacles to pour out water before the people; but let us add that the Evangelist has here indeed acted in the manner of his commentators, who do not like to let the Lord use an image without showing the sensual material which is used for the image in the actual surroundings. They cannot hear that the Lord calls Himself the light of the world: immediately they must point to the sun or to the lampstands in the temple courtyard of the women, for these the Lord had in mind. When the Lord compares the position of the disciples in the world with the position of a mountain city which cannot escape the gaze, such commentators are immediately at hand to point out to us the particular mountain city whose sight brought the Lord to this image. Yes, who should believe it, if it were not written *), scarcely has the Lord said this time (v. 38), that from within (κοιλιας) the believer rivers of living water would flow forth, then a scholar also shows us the sensual occasion of this image in the belly of the temple-mountain, through which the water, which brought the Lord to the first half of the image, was conducted away in pipes **).

*) Theol. Studien u. Kritik. 1829. I, 138.

**) Bengel sees in the word κοιλια an allusion to the pot-bellied water-jars which had just been carried past. Alluditur ad amphoras, quibus ultimo festi illius die aqua ex sonte Siloah per urbem ad sacrarium ferebatur. Magnum enim ventrem habebant. Apart from the taste of the interpreter, one must also praise his exact archaeological knowledge of the shape of those jars.


There is no reason not to bring method into this kind of interpretation, and indeed we do not know how those interpreters could prevent us from surrounding the Lord with a magazine of sensual things, so that he had the salt immediately at hand when he called the disciples the salt of the earth, or could immediately point to the bushel with a light under it, in order to prove to them by the extinguished light how absurd it would be if they did not want to let their light shine. So – either consistency or the confession that this kind of interpretation misunderstands the figurative way of speaking! “Ye are the salt of the earth, I am the light of the world; come unto me, and I will quench your thirst;” in these images the general definiteness of the matter is indicated; for it is the very nature of the disciples that they are the salt of the earth, and it is likewise the general meaning of the Lord that he is the light of the world. Now, as the thing is conceived in its general definiteness, so also the figurative substratum is excepted in the generality which it has in its nature known to every one, which it has in general, which it always has, in short, which it has as a generic term, and which it can also only raise to the sign of a general spiritual destiny. Not this handful of salt, not this particular spring or bucket of water, not the sun rising or setting today, but the nature of salt, of water, of light in general, is what the Lord has in mind when He designates His or His disciples’ destiny. In the simple image, the general joins the general; any restriction of the natural substrate would give the image the most unbearable appearance and cast an unedifying dispute into its calm parallel. The picture is dignified and sustained when the general nature of the natural substance congruently joins the corresponding general power of the spirit; but when the general spiritual meaning is related to this single piece of the sensuous world, both sides throw themselves over, they quarrel *) and the general spiritual meaning unwillingly tears itself away from this handful of salt, from this bucket of water, points to it not as to a corresponding image, but as to a trifling, contemptible thing, in short the comparison acquires the appearance of grandstanding. The spiritual would then not be satisfied with the view rising of its own accord from the sensuous image to it as the counter-image; it would not expect this self-elevation, but would say from the outset: what do you want to do with this piece of sensuousness? Throw it away and come to me! As if the figurative way of speaking did not know that the spirit rises calmly and safely from the sensual image to its proper home. Our evangelist, however, has thrown into the picture a strife and quarrel which it does not originally know. In order to call himself the fountain of living water, the Lord did not need to refer to the water bucket of the Feast of Tabernacles or to the well of the Samaritans; rather, the invigorating and refreshing power of water in general was sufficient reason for him to see in it the image of his own invigorating power.

*) On occasion, the quarrel between the two sides would not only remain an ideal one and remain in the mind’s eye, but would also become very serious in reality. Just look, for example, how Tholuck Comm. p. 162, 163 describes the procession of priests with the holy water that has just arrived and considers it very probable that the Lord would throw that cry into the midst of this solemn act – would Jesus not in this case at least have interrupted, disturbed and confused the ceremony in a very obtrusive and untimely manner?


The Lord did not even think of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as the evangelist suggests, when he says that streams of living water would flow from within the believer. Even in the way the evangelist presents the saying, without dogmatic distinction, the personality of the Lord and the believers are related.

10) The meeting of the Sanhedrin.


The session of the Sanhedrin has waited a long time before we come to it, it is therefore time that we lift it up. Two speeches of the rulers are brought to us from this meeting; first a word to the servants who were sent to catch Jesus, but returned to no avail. To excuse themselves, the servants said that no man had ever spoken like this man, but the superiors immediately attacked them and said: “Are you also deceived? But do you see that one of the rulers or of the Pharisees believes in him? This answer, says Lücke *), “is so completely in the manner of domineering hierarchs and arrogant guilds of all times that – what do you expect, perhaps: that any writer, even the most ordinary one, could create it on their own? No! – that it is not necessary to develop the meaning of the words further.”

*) Comm. II, 201.


This is especially the fundamental error in the interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, that one thinks to have done everything if one believes to have demonstrated some sense of the words, some connection between the sentences, and has spoken edifyingly about many things. After such work, a passage whose meaning does not even need to be “further developed” provides true Sunday joys. Against this painful explanation that creeps along the ground of the letter, it is finally necessary for interpretation to stand freely, to speak from the heart and to also give honor to the scripture, to look without fear at its foundations and to examine the origin of its individual parts and its letters. The reward is immeasurable: the true core sayings of the Lord, the pure content, the gold, all this imperishable and originally free material is emancipated and no longer serves as a mere occasion for commentators to demonstrate their wit and intelligence – but these sayings become suns, rising to their own element, thundering on in their own revolutions, and now revealing the full power of their rays. Some things that seem like gold may indeed prove to be mere appearances and the work of later reflection, but even that is a gain, because after a thousand years of unsuccessful effort, the human mind no longer needs to fumble around with material that has no original life and can convey none.


Thus, those words of the Pharisees are indeed “so completely in the manner of power-hungry hierarchs and arrogant guild scholars of all times” that any writer of any time could find and consider them to be the true facts and write them down as such. If, therefore, it is at least highly probable that they are the product of pragmatism, this becomes certain when we see that they are nevertheless improper and highly inappropriate to the situation. The words are spoken to the servants who themselves belong to the people; in this case the speech is not natural, but – brutal to a degree that exceeds all measure of the real world. Yes, if it was even an educated man, a Pharisee, who seemed to be inclined to the faith, such a one could then be made aware of it: Behold, only the people can be deceived; but do you see any other of the educated, learned, and rulers inclined to the faith? But spoken to those who themselves belong to the masses, these words are so outrageous that by their very lack of moderation they should have provoked resistance and failed in their purpose. For the next thing after such a throwaway speech would have been the answer alone: Well, we belong to the people and therefore have this kind; you do what you want!

The servants excuse the unsuccessfulness of their mission by saying that no man had ever spoken like this man, so that this man’s speech would have made such an impression on them that they would no longer have been able to think of their task. But what authority, if it is serious about the business it has entrusted to its subordinates, will be content with such an excuse: it would immediately send the sentimental servants back again, so that they could better carry out their task on the spot. Hierarchs, who are so soft-hearted and satisfied by such a message, could not have had the courage to send their servants out into the midst of the crowd, which had even grown by the visitors to the festival, in order that they might seize their enemy from the protective crowd of his followers. And now the servants even say: No man teaches like this one; but all that they heard Jesus speak was only that hint that they would seek him in the future, but would not find him. These are not words of life that must shake the listener through and through, for no one could understand them, at least no one understood them.


Finally, the Sanhedrin disperses after a question directed at Nicodemus, who had dared to try to appease the passion and anger of the leaders. He is asked if he is also from Galilee, and he is told to investigate and see if a prophet has arisen from Galilee. He would soon be convinced of the opposite. And yet several prophets arose from Galilee, which could not have been unknown to the learned assessors of the Sanhedrin even in the moment of the highest passion. The manuscripts which read εγειρεται do not offer the help which the apologetic interest welcomed in them. For if Nicodemus should inquire and see that no prophet arose from Galilee, such enquiry can only refer to the nature of the country and to experience, which would teach him that none indeed “arose from thence.” The difficulty, then, remains the same – a body of scholars could neither deceive nor wish to deceive one of its members with evidence of this kind. The reason for the rebuke which Nicodemus received from his scribal comrades is already known to us: the evangelist wanted to let the entire historical environment of the Lord test their limited intellect against his lowly origin, and finally the scribal authorities also had to have their turn. But, as elsewhere, he let his love for contrasts drive him far beyond all bounds of probability *).

*) Olshausen (Comm. II, 188) thinks that “in the heat of the argument” the scribes could have overlooked a historical circumstance. (Likewise Tholuck Comm. p. 166.). But if the heat had passed away, i.e. if Nicodemus, as the apologists suppose, had communicated the conversation of that meeting to the evangelist, or beforehand to the Lord, then the author, with calm reflection, ought to have noticed it, and also to have told his readers that an oversight had occurred here. But this “heat” is rather peculiar to the author; in writing this speech he does not think of the historical data of the O. T. and is only driven by his love of contrasts.


The same fate that the grouping, the contrasts and divisions of the mass of the people have had to experience, therefore also benefits the meeting of the Sanhedrin – it dissolves. This particular business, at least, which is assigned to its agenda here, could not have been treated with such desperate earnestness, since the presupposed conditions and the speeches that took place in it could not bear the criticism. Especially in the last period of Jesus’ life, the synod will often have spoken of the stir he caused among the people, but not this time, i.e. at this feast; now the high council had to assemble only because the evangelist wanted it that way. For he wanted to portray all the shades of popular opinion about Jesus, and his painting would have lacked a poignant background if he had not moved the meeting of the synod there, which put the favourably-minded in fear and supported and even led the hostile attacks against the Lord.



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