Aug 17, 2010
Thomas on the PA
Excerpt from: D. Thomas, The Genius of the Fourth Gospel, (London, 1885), p.210
Section 49 - Christ as Religious Teacher
Exegetical Remarks - Mount of Olives, "Dawn"
(1) Devoutly Studious
(2) Sublimely Courageous
(3) Earnestly Diligent
(4) Beautifully Natural
Section 50 - The Woman Taken in Adultery
Exegetical Remarks - on authenticity
(from Farrar:) + Tischendorf, Alford, Holtzmann
(1) Sinners often Accusers
(2) Greatest Judge: Conscience
(3) Greatest Friend: Jesus Christ
No. XLIX. CHRIST AS A RELIGIOUS TEACHER.
" Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. And early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came unto Him ; and He sat down, and taught them." — (Jn. 8:1-2)
Exegetical Remarks. — Concerning the genuineness of these and the following ten verses of this chapter (Jn 7:53-8:11), which is questioned by some and denied by others, we shall offer remarks in our next section. Meanwhile we shall confine our attention to these two verses.
Ver. 1. — "Jesus went unto the Mount of Olives."
Some say that this ought to have been at the conclusion of the preceding chapter, following the words, "every man went unto his own house." Whilst the people had perhaps all their own houses to go to, and to them they retired, Jesus had no home, but withdrew to the "Mount of Olives".
"This spot is a high hill rising quite abruptly from the valley of Jehoshaphat, and overlooking Jerusalem on the east side. At its foot between the city and the hill, is the brook Kedron ; and on its slope, just across the brook, is the garden of Gethsemane. A winding footpath leads over the hill to Bethany on the other side. Our Lord seems to have passed the night on the Mount, perhaps at Bethany, where He was wont to resort, away from the bustle and the turmoil of the crowded city, and from the malice of His enemies."
From Luke 22:37 we learn that He was in the habit of spending the night on the Mount of Olives during His last residence at Jerusalem.
Ver. 2. — " And early in the morning."
ορθρου. "John writes elsewhere, πρωια (Jn. 18:28) ; πρωι (Jn. 20:1) ; Luke, on the contrary, ορθρου. It is to be observed here, however, that the term ορθρου denotes more precisely the dawn of morning, and that it is intended to denote just this time." — Lange.
"He came again into the temple, and all the people came unto Him; and He sat down, and taught them."
Though He had been persecuted in the temple, as we find in the 25th verse of the preceding chapter, with undaunted courage He resorts thither again in order to teach the people.
The two verses suggest to us a few thoughts concerning Christ as a Religious Teacher.
It was from the solitudes of the Mount of Olives, where He had spent the previous night, that He went to the temple to preach. Christ often had recourse to the lonelihood of the hills for holy meditation and communion with the Eternal. There, in those profound silences where alone the voices of truth are heard, He poured out His thoughts upon the loftiest themes, and opened His heart to the influences of His great Father's lovinfj mind. Devout solitude is the scene where preparation for pubhc speaking can be best attained. Without this, Theological Halls and ElocutionarySchools are worse than useless. It is only in solitude that a man can break the shells and reach the jjerms of the higher truths of life and destiny. There only, by bathing them in the living current of devotion, can he make them so real to himself as to make them realities to others. There are three things that seem essential in order properly to preach the Gospel, and these can come only by seasons of devout solitude.
First : Self-formed conviction of Gospel truth. Gospel truth is our great instrument of social usefulness ; that without which nothing else will be of any service. It is the "power of God imto salvation." But how is this to be wielded ? By circulating copies of the Scripture, or by a mere recitation of their contents, or by repeating what other people have said and written concerning those truths ? All these may be and are useful in their way. But there is one thing indispensable, even to do these things effectively, and that is, self-formed convictions. Heaven has so far honoured our nature, that the Gospel, in order to obtain its grand victories, must pass as living beliefs through the soul of him that employs it. If we would effectually use the Gospel to help society, we must see, taste, and handle it with our own souls. The men who speak the Gospel without such convictions,- — and there are thousands of such amongst conventional preachers, — cnn never enrich the world. They are echoes of old voices; what they say was in the world before they came into it. They are but mere channels through which old dogmas flow. But he who speaks what he believes, and because he believes, speaks in some sense a new thing to the race. The doctrine comes from him instinct and warm with life. His individuality is impressed upon it. The world never had it in that exact form before, and never would liave had it so had he not believed and spoken. Now, devout solitude is necessary to turn the Gospel into this power of living conviction ; you can never get it elsewhere. Alone with God, you can search the Gospel to its foundation, and feel the congruity of its doctrines with your reason, its claims with your conscience, its provisions with your wants.
Secondly : Unconquerable love for Gospel truth. There is an immense pi-actical opposition to Gospel truth in society. Men's pride, prejudice, pleasures, pursuits, and temporal interests are now, as ever, against it. It follows, therefore, that those who think more of the favour and applause of society than of the claims of truth, will not deal with it honestly, earnestly, and therefore successfully. The man only who loves truth more than popularity, fortune, or even life, can so use it as really and everlastingly to benefit mankind. In devout solitude you can cultivate this invincible attachment to truth, and you may be made to feel with Paul, who said — " I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ."
Thirdly : A living expression of Gospel truth. We must be " living epistles." Our conduct must confirm and illumine the doctrines which our lips declare. Gospel sermons which are the expressions of life, are life-giving. Gospel truth must be embodied ; the "Word must become tiesh;" it must be drawn out in living characters in all the phases of our every-day existence ; its spirit must be our inspiration, if we would make it instrumental for good. Now, for the production of such sermons, I am convinced there must be seasons of devout solitude ; hours when, under the silent sunbeams of eternity, ideas run into emotions, circulate as a vital current through every vein of the soul, and form the very stamina of our being. It is said of Moses, " that the skin of his face shone while he talked with God." But in seasons of devout solitude our whole nature may grow luminous, and every phase of our character coruscate with the deep things of the Spirit. John the Baptist gained his invincible energy in the lonely wilderness; Paul prepared to be an apostle in the quiet of Arabia ; and it was in the awful midnight solitude of Gethsemane that an angel from heaven came to strengthen Jesus for His work. It is beneath the earth s green mantle, in secret and silence amongst the roots, that the trees of the forest turn the elements of nature to their own advantage. And it is down in the quiet depths of spiritual realities, alone with God, that the soul only can turn this world to its true use. The verses suggest that —
"He came again into the temple" In that temple during the previous days, His life had been threatened. It is said that " they sought to take Him " (chap. vii. 80) ; that is, to kill Him. Ofiicers had been despatched on the previous day from the Sanhedrim in order to seize Him. Yet, notwithstanding this malignant determination to destroy Him, with a noble daring He goes " early in the morning" of the next day "into the temple." You must distinguish this spirit of fearless daring from that which the world calls courage.
First : Brute courage is dead to the sacredness of life. The great bulk of tlie armies of Europe is formed of men who have gone into the profession (as it is called) without any deep conviction as to the sacredness of human life. They are men, for the most part, wlio hold life cheaply. Their courage is an animal and a mercenary thing. Soldiers are not spiritual men, but sanguinary bipeds who have sold themselves to carnage. This was not the courage that Christ possessed and displayed. Deeply did He feel, and frequently did He teach, the sanctity of life. He came, not to destroy men's lives, but to save them. " What," said He, " shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ? "
Secondly : Brute courage is indifferent to the grand mission of life. The man of brute valour is not penetrated, still less inspired, with the question. What is the grand object of my life ? Wherefore was I sent into the world ? Am I here to work out the great designs of my Maker, and to rise into angelhood, or to be a mere fighting machine ? On the contrary, Christ's regard for the grand mission of His life made Him courageous. He held the will of His Father as a dearer thing to Him than His mortal existence. He came to " bear witness to the truth ; " and to fidfil this work He dared the fury of His enemies, and willingly risked His own mortal life.
Thirdly : Brute courage is always inspired by mere animal passion. It is when the blood is up the man is daring. And the blood, what is it ? The mere blood of the enrao;ed tisrer or the infuriated lion. When the blood cools down, the man's courage, such as it is, collapses. Not so with the valour of Christ. His courage was that of deep conviction of duty. His excitement was not animal, but spiritual — not malign or ambitious, but reverent and benign. " As Luther," Dr. D'Auhignd informs us, " drew near the door which was about to admit him into the presence of his judges (the Diet of Worms), he met a valiant knight, the celebrated George of Fruendsberg, who, four years later, at the head of his German lansquenets, bent the knee with his soldiers on the field of Pavia, and then, charging to the left of the French army, drove it into the Ticino, and in a great measure decided the captivity of the King of France. The old General, seeing Luther pass, tapped him on the shoulder, and shaking his head, blanched in many battles, said kindly, ' Poor monk, poor monk ! thou art now going to make a nobler stand than T or any other captain have ever made in the bloodiest of our battles. But if thy cause is just, and thou art sure of it, go forward in God's name, and fear nothing. God will not forsake thee.' A noble tribute of respect paid by the courage of the sword to the courage of the mind."
Nothing is more necessary for a religious teacher than courage, for his mission is to strike hard against the prejudices, the selfinterests, the dishonesties, the cherished passions and sinful pursuits of the masses. No man without an invincible valour of soul can do the work of a religious teacher in this age. The popular preacher must, more or less, be cowardly and conciliatory. The less force of conviction a preacher has, the more he is fitted for popularity.
Dead fish flow with the stream ; it requires living ones with much inner force to cut up against the current. The verses suggest that —
" Early in the morning." Elsewhere we are informed that He rose up " a great while before day." He did not indulge Himself in sleep. When sleep, which generally does its refreshing work in a few hours, had left Him, and the sun struck his rays upon the horizon, He was up at His great work. " I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day : the night cometh, when no man can work."' * Two things should make a teacher earnestly diligent —
First : The transcendent importance of his mission. What has he to do ? To enlighten and regenerate imperishable spirits that are in a morally ruinous condition. What is involved in the loss of one soul ?
Secondly : The brevity of his life. How short the time, even in the longest lived men, for the prosecution of this the greatest of all human undertakings ! Oh that all preachers of the Holy Word were inspired with something of the earnestness of Christ's spirit ! Then indeed they would be earnest in season and out of season, &c. No time would be wasted in sleep, in self-indulgence, or even in occupations that had not a salutary bearing on the great mission.
" Oh ! let all the soul within you For the truth's sake go abroad. Strike ! let every nerve and sinew Tell on ages— tell for God."
The verses susggest that —
" He sat clown, and taught them." There was nothing stiff or official in Christ's manner of teaching. All was free, fresh, and elastic as nature.
First : He was natural in attitude. Modern rhetoric has rules to guide a public speaker as to his posture, how he should move his hand, point his finger, and roll his eyes. All such miserable directions are not only to the utmost degree unlike Christ, but degrading to the moral nature of the speaker, and detrimental to his oratorio influence. Let a man be charged with great thoughts, and those thoughts will throw his frame into the most beseeming attitudes.
Secondly : He was natural in expression. He attended to no classic rule of composition; the words and similes He employed were such as His thoughts ran into at first, and such as His hearers could well understand. To many modei'n preachers composition is
* See a reading on early rising, " The Practical Philosopher." Published by R. Dickinson.
everything. Words the most select and ornate, sentences the most pohshed, and periods the most rounded, paragraphs the most finished and brilliant, they scrupulously regard. How unlike Christ ! and what solemn tritling Avitii Gospel truth !
Thirdly : He was natural in tones. The tones of His voice, we may rest assured, rose and fell according to the thoughts that occupied His soul. The voice of the modern teacher is often hideously artificial. Just so far as a speaker goes away from his nature, either in language, attitude, or tone, he loses self-respect, inward vigour, and social force.
"And the Scribes and Pliarissees brought unto Him a woman taken in adultery ; and when they had set her in the midst, they say unto Him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act," &c. — Jn. 8:3-11.
Exegetical Remarks. — On the question of the genuineness of this paragraph we cannot do better than by presenting our readers with a summary of the arguments as given by Dr. Farrar:
I. Arguments against its Genuineness.
(1.) It is not found in Rome of the best and oldest MSS. ;
(2.) nor in most of the Fathers (e.g. Origen, Cyril, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Tertullian, Cyprian)
(3.) nor in many ancient versions (e.g. Sahidic, Coptic, and Gothic)
(4.) in other MSS. it is marked with obeli and asterisks, or a space is left for it, or it is inserted elsewhere
(5.) it contains an extraordinary number of various readings ('variant singula fere verba in codicibus plerisque.' — Tischendorf)
(6.) it contains several expressions not elsewhere found in St. John, and
(7.) it differs widely in some respects — particularly in the constant use of the connecting δε — from the .style of St. John throughout the rest of the Gospel.
Several of these arguments are weakened,
(i.) by the fact that the diversities of readings may be reduced to three main recensions
(ii.) that the rejection of the passage may have been due to a false dogmatical bias
(iii.) that the silence of some of the Fathers may be accidental, and of others prudential.
II. Arguments in favour of its Genuineness.
(1.) It is found in some old and important uncials, and in more than 300 cursive MSS., in some of the Itala, and in the Vulgate ;
(2.) The tendencies which led to its deliberate rejection would have rendered all but impossible its invention or interpolatiim ;
(3.) It is quoted by Augustine, Ambrose, and Jerome, and treated as genuine in the Apostolic Constitutions.
St. Jerome's testimony is particularly important, because he says that in his time it was found 'in multis et Graecis et Latinis codicibus,' ('in many copies, both Greek and Latin', c. 394 A.D.) and it must be remembered that nearly all of these must have been considerably older than any which we now possess.
The main facts to be observed are, that though the dogmatic bias against the passage might be sufficient to account for its rejection, it gives us no help in explaining its want of resemblance to the style of St. John.
A very simple hypothesis will account for all difficulties. If we suppose that the story of the woman accused before our Lord of many sins, — to which Eusebius alludes as existing in the Gospel of the Hebrews, — is identical with this, we may suppose without any improbability, either,
(i.) that St. John (as Alford hesitatingly suggests) may here have adopted a portion of current synoptic tradition, or
(ii.) that the story may have been derived originally from Papias, the pupil of St. John, and having found its way into the Gospel of the Hebrews, may have been adopted gradually into some MSS. of St. John's Gospel. Many recent writers adopt the suggestion of Holtzmann, that it belongs to the 'Ur-Marcus', or ground doctrine of the Synoptists. Whoever embodied into the Gospels this traditionally remembered story deserved well of the world."
- Dr. Frederic Farrar, Life of Christ, (1874) vol. ii. p. 62.
Ver. 3. — "And the Scribes and Pharisees brought unto Him (RV BRING A woman) a woman taken in adultery; and when they had (RV having) set her in the midst." These Scribes and Pharisees had tried to entrap Him before, but were foiled. A death penalty was involved in the act here charged against the woman. We may therefore suppose that the Sanhedrim moved now in the matter.
Ver. 4. — "They say unto Him, Master, this woman was (RV hath been) taken in adultery, in the very act." Alford's reading of this verse is as follows: "The priests say unto Him, tempting Him that they might have to accuse Him, Master, this woman hath been taken in adultery, in the very act."
Ver. 5. — "Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned (RV to stone such) : but what say est Thou?" (RV what then SAYEST thou of her?) συ ουν τι λεγεις , " What now sayest Thou ? "
Ver. 6. — " This they said, tempting Him, that they might have (RV whereof) to accuse Him."
That is, putting Him to a test in order to have ground for accusation against Him. They thought that their question was such that, whatever answer He gave, He would involve Himself in guilt. If He said, "Stone her," they would charge Him with assuming a political authority that did not belong to Him. li He said, " Let her alone, do nothing with her," they would charge Him with encouraging immorality and abrogating their law. " But Jesus stooped down," — He was in a sitting posture before, — "and with His finger wrote on the ground." This gesture was familiar to antiquity as a representation of deep thinking, languor, or absence of mind (see the representation in Lucke, page 269).
Perhaps by the act Christ meant to express disregard of their question. "As though He heard them not " (RV omits) . This clause is not in the original, it is supplied by our translators. It should be struck out, as it conveys the idea that Christ meant to deceive.
Ver. 7. — "So (RV but) when they continued asking Him, He lifted up Himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."
"Without sin" Without this sin, in spirit if not in act ; and whose conscience acquits him of any such sin, " let him first cast a stone." Thus He turns the tables upon them. Under the law (Deut. 17:7) the stone in such a case was to be hurled by the witnesses of the guilt; and this in order that they might feel the responsibility of giving evidence.
Ver. 8. — "And again He stooped down, and (RV with his finger) wrote on the ground." What wrote He? No one knows. Did He stoop and write merely to give the accusers of this woman an opportunity to slink away unobserved? Probably so. Anyhow they availed themselves of the occasion.
Ver. 9. — "And they which (RV when they) heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, (RV omits this) went out one by one."
It is historically stated that at this time many prominent Rabbis were living in adultery, hence the words of Christ caused them to be convicted by their own conscience. "Beginning at (RV from) the eldest," or rather at the elders in the official sense, and not the seniors in age. " Even unto the last." One by one they slunk away. They did not dare to wait until Christ rose from His bent attitude and looked lightning and spoke thunder to them. "And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing (RV where she was) in the midst." Only the band of accusers ran away, the disciples and the people probably remained and were looking on. Why did not the accused run away ? Christ had His grasp upon her conscience ; she felt chained to His judgment-seat.
Vers. 10, 11. — "When Jesus had (r. V. AND JESUS lifted) lifted np Him- self , and saiv none hut the woman, (r. V. OMITS this) He said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? (RV where are they ?) hath no man condemned thee ? (RV did no man CONDEMN THEE?) Slie Said, No man, Lord. And Jesus saiil unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more " (RV go thy way ; from HENCEFORTH SIN NO MORE).
" What inimitable tenderness and grace! Conscious of her own guilt, and till now in the hands of men who had talked of stoning her, wondering at the skill with which her accussers had been dispersed, and the grace of the few words addressed to herself, she would be disposed to listen, with a reverence and teachableness before unknown, to our Lord's admonition. Jesus pronounces no pardon upon the woman, like, ' Thy sins be forgiven thee,' 'Go in peace,' much less does He say that she had done nothing condemnable.
He simply leaves the matter where it was. He meddles not with the magistrate's office, nor acts the judge in any sense.
But in saying ' Go, and sin no more,' which had been before said to one who undoubtedly believed (chap. v. 14), more is probably implied than expressed. If brought suddenly to conviction of sin, to admiration of her Deliverer, and to a willingness to be admonished and guided by Him, this call to begin a new life may have carried with it what would ensure and naturally bring about a permanent change."
— Dr. Brown.
Amongst the thoughts which this wonderful narrative suggests, there are three worthy of notice, which are true whether the narrative is genuine or not.
(1) THE VILEST SINNERS ARE OFTEN THE GREATEST ACCUSERS.
Who were the accusers of this adulteress? The Scribes and Pharisees; and according to Christ's judgment, and according to the judgment of all who would look at actions through His system of morality, they were, of all sinners, the greatest.
It is true that on this occasion their accusation of the woman was inspired by their dislike to Christ, rather than a dislike to her or a hatred of her crime.
'They say unto Him, "Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should he stoned: but what sayest Thou?" This they said, tempting Him, that they might have to accuse Him.'
They sought by this to entrap Him, to get Him to do or say something in the matter on which they could found a charge that would lead to His ruin.
If He acquitted her, they would accuse Him of violating the law of Moses ; and if He condemned her, they would accuse Him of political usurpation — for the power to condemn to death was invested entirely in Roman authority.
But whether their conduct in this instance was prompted by a dislike to Christ, or a dislike to the woman, it suggests and illustrates the truth, that the greatest sinners are generally the greatest accusers. The more base and corrupt a man is, the more ready he is to charge crimes on others, and the more severe he is in his censures on the conduct of his fellow-men. The more unchaste, untruthful, dishonest a man is, the more ready is he to suspect the chastity, truthfulness, and probity of others.
Take care of social accusers — the demon of the old Scribes and Pharisees is in them ! Were there worse men in Judaea or on the round earth than these Scribes and Pharisees, and members of the Sanhedrim, who now accused this woman ? It is ever so: the more base and corrupt a man is, the more ready to charge crimes on others, and the more severe in his censures.
" They which heard it, being convicted hy their own conscience, went out one by one."
See how Jesus touched the consciences of these sinners!
He stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground, as though He heard them not. So when they continued asking Him, He lifted up Himself, and said unto them. "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted hy their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
Observe two things —
First: Christ's method of awakening their conscience.
(1.) He expresses by a symbolic act His superiority over their malignant purposes. They were full of unholy excitement. Evil was in them now a passion, and they were impatient for Him to commit Himself, but He is sublimely calm. He stoops down as if He were utterly indifferent to their miserable aims. They must have felt this. There is often a power in holy silence which no words, however eloquent, can carry.
(2.) He puts the question of the woman's punishment upon their own consciences. "He that is without sin," etc.
As if He had said : "I do not defend her conduct; stone her if you like. But let her be stoned by those who are free from sin, for it is monstrous for one sinner to stone another. Are you without sin? Then stone her. If not, take care."
This touched them. Observe —
Secondly: The force of their awakened consciences. They were convicted, and "went out one by one." Conscience-smitten, they went out from the presence of Christ as if scared by His majestic purity. This conscience for a time confounded their purposes, and abashed them with their own wickedness. "One by one," they skulked away. Ah! there is no judge so severe and crushing in his sentence as that of a guilty conscience.
The accusers are gone, but the accused remains with Jesus alone. Observe —
First: He declines pronouncing a judicial condemnation upon
"Neither do I condemn thee."
He does not mean that He did not disapprove of her conduct and condemn her morally, but judicially. He declines to pronounce judgment. He neither possessed nor claimed any jurisdiction in civil or criminal affairs. He left the work of the magistrate for the magistrate to do. He did not come to stone bodies to de ith, but to save souls to life.
Secondly: He discharges her with a merciful admonition:
"Go, and sin no more."
An expression, this, implying
(1.) That she had sinned. Adultery is confessedly a crime.
(2.) That He forgave her. " Go." I absolve thee.
(3.) That her future should be free from sin. " Sin no more."
Let bygones be bygones ; let oblivion cover thy past; let virtue crown thy future. Thus Jesus deals with sinners. Desolate, branded, forsaken of all, He alone will stand by thee. He recriminates no penitent.