3. Jesus the bread of life, 6:1-71
v] The words of eternal life
The bread of life discourse concludes with a large number of disciples walking away from Jesus. They were happy to follow a popular teacher, but they were now confronted with not just teaching about life, nor a Moses like figure who could lead to life, but the source of life itself. For many of the disciples, this was all a bit too much to swallow, but for the twelve apostles, where else might they find life eternal?
See Brown (p299) and others for the realignment of v60-71 to follow v50 and the rather unconvincing eucharistic arguments that seem to drive this desire to tamper with the text. This discourse is not about the Lord's Supper. The imagery of eating Jesus' flesh and drinking his blood is easily aligned to the eucharistic, but in the text this imagery functions as a metaphor for believing in Jesus' words. If it says anything about the eucharist it supports Zwingli's case, but in truth, it is not about the eucharist.
There are few occasions in John's gospel where Jesus is involved in a discussion with the apostles alone, here and in 6:67-70. It's as if John does not give the twelve high status. If we accept that this gospel has, as its primary source, John the apostle, it well may express his intimate knowledge of his fellow apostles and their human limitations.
Division among the disciples; the twelve remain, but many disciples leave, v60-71.
oun "-" - therefore. Drawing a logical conclusion; "in response to Jesus words therefore, many disciples said ...."
akousanteV (akouw) aor. part. "on hearing it" .... "accept" - The participle is adverbial, temporal; "therefore, many of the disciples, when they understood what he was saying, said .."
ek + gen. "-" - [many] from [the disciples of him]. The preposition is being used instead of a partitive genitive; "many of his disciples."
maqhtwn (nV ou) "[his] disciples" - followers. This group should not be confused with the apostles. They are those who have accepted Jesus and his words and so have followed him, but now they do not accept his words and so abandon him. Salvation is for those who continue in Jesus' words, cf. 8:31.
sklhroV (oV) "hard" - harsh, offensive. Jesus' teaching at this point is intolerable. The obvious question is, what has Jesus said that is so offensive? The illustration of eating his flesh and drinking his blood is certainly offensive to those who don't understand that it is only a metaphor. Possibly there are those who are so crass that Jesus' failure to produce more free food is grounds for disassociation. Yet, it is more likely that Jesus' claim that he is authorized by God to give life and therefore stands over and above Moses, even over and above the Spirit, is surely the nub of the offence.
akouein (akouw) pres. inf. "[who can] accept?" - [who is able] to hear, heed. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "is able."
autou gen. pro. "it" - Genitive of direct object. The verb "hear, head / accept" followed by the genitive, or more particularly when it governs the genitive, indicates hearing with understanding as against "a hearing", often followed by the accusative, indicating a hearing without understanding. So, the "many disciples" hear, understand, but don't act on it; "we don't accept this teaching, and who would?"
eidwV (oida) perf. part. "aware" - having known [in himself]. The participle is adverbial, possibly temporal, even causal, "because Jesus was aware that ..." Jesus was conscious that some of his followers were antagonistic to his teaching. No miraculous understanding is being implied since any sensitive teacher can pick up audience reactions. "Inwardly conscious", Moffatt.
oJti "that" - Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what Jesus was aware of.
peri + gen. "about [this]" - Reference; "concerning this (ie., Jesus' self-revelation regarding his status as one greater than Moses - Jesus supplies bread that gives life eternal, whereas Moses supplied sustenance for a day only)."
autoiV dat. pro. "[Jesus said] to them" - [he said] to them. Dative of indirect object.
skandalizei (skandalizw) pres. ind. "[does this] offend [you]?" - cause you to sin, stumble. "Does it shake your faith?", NAB.
oun "then" - therefore. Drawing a logical conclusion. If the disciples are offended by Jesus' self-revelation as to his status (one greater than Moses), therefore they are going to be more offended when they see the Son of Man ascending.
ean + subj. "what if" - if. Introducing a conditional clause, 3rd. class, where the condition has the possibility of coming true; "if, as may be the case, you see the Son of man ascending, then where was he previously?" Yet, this doesn't make sense. We may have here an aposiopesis, ie., the protasis of a conditional clause (the "if" clause) without the apodosis (the "then" clause); "[but what] if you should see the son of man ascend to where he was before?", Ridderbos. The conditional clause is certainly incomplete, but probably the protasis assumes the "does this offend you" statement, ie. there is an ellipsis. So, "if, as may be the case, [my words have offended you], then, how much more will your faith be shaken when you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before?"
tou anqrwpou (oV) gen. "[Son] of Man" - The genitive is adjectival, relational. John uses Jesus' favored messianic title some dozen times. The Son of Man title is drawn from Daniel 7:13, the mysterious messianic son who comes to the Ancient of Days and receives power, authority and rule.
anabainonta (anabainw) pres. part. "ascend" - going up, ascending. The participle is functioning as an object complement; "you see" = verb, "the Son of Man" = object, "ascending" = object complement. Wescott notes that for John, Jesus ascends to the Father by ascending, or being lifted up, on the cross, cf. Isa.52:13. If Jesus' words have offended the disciples, how much more will they be offended with they see the messiah crucified, which for the messiah, is his way to return to the Father. So possibly, "how much more will your faith be shaken when you see the Son of Man lifted up on the cross?"
to proteron adv. "[where he was] before" - [where he was] at first, formerly. Obviously with the sense of being reunited to the Father through the cross.
Note Bultmann's translation of this verse: "You say, 'it is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless'; but I say, 'the words that I have spoken to you are both Spirit and life.'" There is much to commend this paraphrase. The disciples may be offended by Jesus' teaching up to this point, his greater than Moses claim, his claim to be the source of eternal life. Yet surely the Spirit is the source of life, not words, not a flesh and blood man like Jesus. "Not so", says Jesus; "the words I have spoken to you are both Spirit and life."
to pneuma (a atoV) "the Spirit" - the spirit. Either "the Spirit", meaning "the Holy Spirit", "God's Spirit", or "the human spirit", cf. NAB. Usually without an attributive the word "spirit" in the NT means "God's Spirit", but the context may imply that the human spirit is intended. The human spirit, our being, infused with the words of Jesus, produces life. On balance, "the Holy Spirit" is most likely intended.
zwopoioun (zwopoiew) pres. part. "[gives] life" - [is] the thing making alive. The participle functions as a substantive. In the Nicodemus discourse, chapter 3, Jesus reworked the Old Testament life-giving role of the Spirit. In this discourse, the words of Jesus, through the agency of the Holy Spirit, give life, cf. 1Cor.15:45. Such an assertion would indeed offend many of Jesus' disciples.
ouk ... ouden "[flesh counts for] nothing" - [the flesh does] not [benefit] nothing. Emphatic double negative. Jesus is possibly agreeing with his wayward disciples; how foolish to think that flesh will give spiritual life. The Spirit gives spiritual life, and believing in Jesus' words, words inspired by the Spirit, produces that life.
rJhmata (a atoV) "words" - It is the Spirit inspired words, spoken by Jesus, that give life. Note that those wanting to impose a eucharistic interpretation on chapter 6 translate "words" as "things", ie. the eucharistic (Mass, Communion) elements. C.H. Dodd regards this interpretation as "desperate".
egw pro. "I [have spoken]" - Emphatic "I". God through Moses gave life-giving Manna; Jesus ("I") gives life-giving words.
estin (eimi) "are [spirit]" - is [spirit]. "the words I have spoken to you are activated through the agency of the life-giving Spirit."
alla "but" - Strong adversative. Even though Jesus' words give life, some do not believe that he was the source of spiritual / eternal life.
ex + gen. "[some] of [you]" - from. Standing in for a partitive genitive.
pisteuousin (pisteuw) pres. "believe" - Jesus identifies the problem of the doubting disciples; they do not believe and therefore do not receive the gift of life.
gar "for" - Expressing cause/reason; explaining why Jesus was able to say some do not believe, namely, because he knew the heart of his followers.
h/dei (oida) pluperf. "had known" - had known. Probably in the sense of Jesus' ability to read people, rather than in the sense of Jesus exercising divine omniscience.
ex + gen. "from [the beginning]" - from [beginning]. Expressing source. Possibly from the beginning of creation, although more naturally from the early days of Jesus association with his disciples.
oi mh pisteuonteV (pisteuw) pres. part. "[which of them] did not believe" - [who are] the ones not believing. The participle serves as a substantive.
oJ paradwswn (paradidwmi) fut. part. "who would betray" - the one who would hand [him] over, deliver [him] up. The future substantive articular participle, expressing a firm expectation, is rare in John. The word is often used of Jesus being "delivered up" to the cross for our sins by his own people, or of Pilate doing the delivering up, or the Father doing it, or even Jesus himself doing it. Here, obviously referring to Judas and again indicating Jesus' ability to read people.
elegen (legw) imperf. "he went on to say" - he was saying. The imperfect here is possibly iterative, expressing repeated action, "he has said repeatedly." "So that was why he often said", Barclay.
dia touto "this is why" - because of this. Referring to the lack of faith noted in v64a. Jesus, knowing that some of the disciples would not believe the unfolding revelation in his person and work, had already made the point in v37 and v44 that only those given and attracted by the Father would continue in faith.
eirhka (eipon) perf. "I told" - Another example of Jesus saying that he has already made this point, although again he has not made it using exactly the same words.
uJmin "you" - to you. Dative of indirect object.
oJti "that" - Introducing a dependent statement expressing what Jesus had told them.
elqein (ercomai) aor. inf. "can come" - to come. Complementary infinitive, completing the sense of "[no one] is able". "It is impossible for anyone to come to me", Barclay.
ean mh + subj. "unless" - Forming a negated conditional sentence 3rd class where the condition has the possibility of coming true, "if not / unless, as the case may be, .... then ..."; "unless it has been given to him from the father then no one is able to come to me."
h/ dedomenon (didwmi) perf. pas. part. "has enabled" - it has been given. The subjunctive of the verb to-be with the perfect passive participle forming a periphrastic construction. In what sense is a person's coming to the Father "given", "enabled", made it possible, cf. TEV? Is the coming "given" in the sense of "granted" / approved, NEB; or given in the sense of "enabled", NIV? The same word "gift" is used in v37, "all that the Father gives me will come to me", although here in v65 it is passive, and therefore, the sense would be "granted". The NIV's translation, "enabled", follows the sense of v44, "no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him." The second alternative seems best. Only those who are reliant on the "gift" of the Father (in the sense of His enabling) can persist in faith. Obviously, we are faced with a difficult question, namely, if no one can come to the Father without a divine enabling, how does the Father enable? Some argue that divine choice enacted through a preliminary work of the Holy Spirit enables the elect to believe. Yet, it seems more appropriate to argue that those who are gifted, enabled, attracted, are those who rest on the grace of God in Christ, which grace enables them to truly hear the free offer of life in Christ and take hold of it (believe, come) and continue in it.
ek toutou "from this time" - from this. Possibly causal, "for this reason", although what is the reason? The sense may be that some disciples "turned back" because they were not "enabled", cf. v65, or they turned back because "what they wanted, Jesus would not give; what he offered, they would not receive", F.F. Bruce (ie. the disciples are reacting to the totality of Jesus' discourse). Most likely a temporal sense is intended; "from this time", Barrett.
twn maqhtwn (hV ou) "[many] of his disciples" - The genitive is adjectival, partitive. A variant ek exists which would serve the same grammatical intention.
eiV ta opisw "[turned] back" - [departed] to the back (lit. "what lies behind", Zerwick). Note allusion to turning away from God, cf. Isa.1:5. Possibly, "broke away", but better, "they went away to the things they had left behind", Stott. They had followed (litt. walk with - accompanied) Jesus, but now they returned to their former life.
ouketi ... periepatoun (peripatew) imperf. "no longer followed [him]" - were no longer walking around [with him]. In the sense of "no longer continued as his disciples."
oun "-" - therefore. Used here as a transitional conjunction introducing new subject matter, but possibly inferential; "so Jesus said", ESV.
uJmeiV "you" - Emphatic use of the personal pronoun.
mh "[do you / you do not]' - [you] don't [also want to go away]? The negative here implies either a question expecting a negative answer, or a question that is very tentative. Probably Jesus seeks to draw the apostles out with a challenge, but at the same time he would be somewhat deflated by the walk-out of so many disciples.
uJagein (uJagw) pres. inf. "[want] to leave" - [will] to go away. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "will / want."
toiV dwdeka dat. "the twelve" - Dative of indirect object. The first mention in John.
autw/ dat. pro. "[answered] him" - Dative of indirect object with the typical Aramaic "said" assumed; "answered and said to him."
kurie (oV) voc. "Lord" - Vocative used to introduce direct speech.
apeleusomeqa (apercomai) fut. ind. "[to whom] shall we go?" - [to/toward whom] will we go. A deliberative rhetorical phrase where the question expects no verbal reply. The verb in such a construction is often an aorist subjunctive, but here a future indicative. Peter, faced with such a radical choice, namely life, or death, states clearly that for him there is no other way to live out his life other than to follow Jesus, and this because Jesus is the source of eternal life.
rJhmata (a atoV) "the words" - words. The article is not present in most manuscripts. "You have words of eternal life."
zwhV (h) gen. "of [eternal] life" - of life. The force of the genitive is, as usual, unclear. It is probably adjectival, epexegetic, limiting "words", which classification is reinforced by "words" being anarthrous (without an article) such that the genitive construction serves to expose the nature of the head noun in question. Yet, what is the sense of the genitive construction? Are they words which "give eternal life", CEV, or "lead to eternal life", or "have the ring of eternal life", Phillips? Are they simply "living words" or just words that "concern life"? cf. v63.
hJmeiV pro. "we" - Emphatic use of the pronoun.
pepisteukamen (pisteuw) perf. "believe [and know]" - The use of the perfect tense here serves to define the action of the disciples whereby they have arrived at their present state of faith and knowledge and continue in it. Note that in John, "believe" and "know" are synonyms, used here to form a hendiadys; "we have believed / have become certain, that ..." The only exception is when "know" is used of Jesus; it is said of him that he knows the Father, but never said of him that he believes in the Father. "We are in a state of faith and knowledge; we have recognized the truth and hold it", Barrett.
oJti "that" - Here forming a dependent statement of perception expressing what they have believed.
su "you [are]" - Again, the emphatic use of the pronoun.
oJ aJgioV tou qeou "The holy one of God" - Clearly a messianic title, cf. Mk.1:24. Given its Old Testament background, the phrase refers to a person set apart for a special purpose; "God's consecrated one."
exelexamhn (eklegomai) aor. "chosen" - choose. This verse and the next seems to counter Peter's natural bluster. The apostles were specially selected by Jesus and so should not be overly self confident, especially as one of their number is a nasty piece of work.
ek + gen. "[one] of [you]" - from. Here standing in for a partitive genitive.
diaboloV "[is] a devil" - "Devil" is a monadic noun; there is only one devil, therefore "the devil" is better than "a devil." It would be more correct to say "one of you is a demon", since there are many demons, but John has "devil". The term is figurative, a metaphor; Jesus is not saying that Judas is actually the devil, eg. "get behind me Satan." "One of you has the devil in his heart", Phillips.
SimwnoV (wn onoV) gen. "[Judas], the son of Simon]" - Judas of Simon]. The genitive is adjectival, relational, as NIV.
Iskariwtou (Iskariwq) gen. "Iscariot" - In Aramaic the genitive "Iscariot" would function as an adjective modifying Judas, the meaning would be "Judas the son of Simon from Kerioth" (a village in southern Judea).
ek + gen. "[one] of [the twelve]" - [one] from [the twelve]. Again partitive. May mean "first of the twelve", but this is unlikely.
gar "-" - for [this one]. Expressing cause/reason; "for he .... was going to betray him", ESV.
paradidonai (paradidwmi) pres. inf. "[was later] to betray [him]" - [was about] to hand [him] over. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of "was about". Brown suggests that the phrase carries an "air of inevitability". Surely John is simply labeling him as the betrayer of Jesus rather than expressing divine inevitability. "Was afterwards to betray him", Weymouth.