The Ministry of Messiah, 2:1-12:50

6. Jesus the light of life, 8:12-10:42

i] The authoritative testimony of Jesus, 8:12-20


Jesus continues his ministry in the temple during the Feast of Tabernacles; on this occasion he is teaching in the treasury. Jesus announces that he is the light of the world and whoever follows him will be filled with the light of life. This pronouncement prompts an exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees; they put little weight on his messianic claim because he speaks for himself. Jesus claims the support of two witnesses, his own testimony and that of the Father. The Pharisees don't accept Jesus' testimony, and can't accept the Father's testimony because they don't know him.


Jesus' gift of the light of life is only only for those who believe


i] Context: See 2:1-12. As with chapter 7, John draws on the water and light themes of the Festival of Tabernacles, here identifying Jesus as the light. Again John revisits previous themes such as the authority of Jesus, and unbelief, but although the passage begins with palin, "again", it is not a continuation of the dialogue / discourse at the end of chapter 7. There the exchange was between Jesus and the ocloV, "crowd", here Jesus is caught up "again" in an exchange with Israel's religious establishment, here the Pharisees.

John underlines his theme with a saying from Jesus - "I am the light of the world" - but before examining this theme in chapters 9 and 10 he returns to some of his earlier subjects.

• First, v12-20, the witness / testimony to Jesus which reveals the special relationship that exists between Jesus and the Father. This subject was first introduced in chapter 5.

• Then in v21-30, in the context of a challenge by the Jewish authorities, we have further teaching on the passion.

• Finally, v31-59, the discourse / dialogue examines the issue of descent from Abraham, developing the Pauline conclusion that the true children of Abraham are those who possess, not his genes, but his faith, faith in the Son of God. To this, the point is made that the religious authorities are sons of the Devil, as compared to Jesus who stands before them as the eternal Son of God.

In chapter 9 John returns to the theme Jesus the Light of the World. In this chapter a man receives his sight and then slowly grows in understanding to the point where he makes a confession of faith. The religious authorities, on the other hand, increasingly harden their disbelief and so are blind to the light.

In chapter 10 John uses two sayings of Jesus developed as parables - "I am the gate for the sheep" and "I am the good shepherd" - to establish that a faith relationship with Jesus is essential for an understanding of who he is - faith brings sight, v1-18. Then, in 10:22-39, John sets out to reveal in the clearest of terms Jesus' messianic credentials - "the Father and I are one" / "the Father is in me and I am in the Father." This revelation of the person of Jesus can only be accessed by his sheep -"My sheep hear my voice and they follow me, and I give them eternal life and they will never perish." For those who do not believe there is only blindness.


ii] Background: See 7:1-13. During the Feast of Tabernacles, along with the water drawing ceremony, there is the lighting of four large lamps in the Court of the Women. This ceremony involves a major celebration played out under their light, including the singing of liturgical songs, dancing and music. The worshippers themselves carry torches during the night celebrations such that their glow can be seen throughout Jerusalem. In this context Jesus announces that he is the light of the world.


iii] Structure: The Authoritative Witness of Jesus:

Saying / declaration, v12:

I am the light of the world.

Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness,

but will have the light of life.

The Pharisees challenge Jesus' testimony, v13;

The twofold testimony to Christ, v14-19:

Father and Son.

Setting - The temple treasury, v20.


iv] Interpretation:

The confrontation between Jesus and Israel's religious establishment, a conflict that fired up after his Sabbath healing of the lame man at the pool of Bethesda (5:1-18), continues to heat up. The Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem is still in progress and Jesus is now teaching in the treasury, an area in the Court of the Women where thirteen funnel-shaped collection boxes stood to receive the offerings of the people. As such, Jesus is virtually next door to the assembly chamber where the Sanhedrin meets and so it is not surprising that an argument develops between Jesus and some Pharisees.

The Pharisees react to a messianic declaration by Jesus. The scriptures proclaim that messiah is the Light, a light even unto the Gentiles, Isa.49:6. Jesus pronounces that he is that Light, a light that enlightens and enlivens, cf., Matt.5:14. Here is Jesus claiming messianic status and the realization of Israel's covenant promises - the fullness of life. As Hunter puts it, Jesus is claiming "that he, and he alone, can savingly irradiate the dark mystery of men's existence and give their life meaning, purpose and destiny." We will have to wait until chapter 9, and especially chapter 10, before John explains in more detail what this means, but in the meantime the claim must be substantiated.

The Pharisees go to the heart of the issue, namely, an "invalid witness", Morris, ie., Jesus makes this claim on his own behalf and so his testimony carries no weight, v13. This issue has already been covered in 5:31-47. There we learnt that there are supportive witnesses to Jesus' messianic status, but in the end, it comes down to Jesus' own testimony and that of God the Father, the one who sent him. Jesus' own testimony may be his own, but that does not make it untrue; it is valid because Jesus knows where he comes from, v14. The problem for the Pharisees is that they judge Jesus' messianic claims by human standards and so are blind to his real person, v15. The Pharisees are making an assessment about a person who did not come to assess / judge anyone, but rather to save them - a task to which both the Son and the Father are dedicated, v16. And as for Jesus' unsupported testimony, it is supported by none other than God the Father, v17-18.

Again the Pharisees demonstrate their inability to understand what Jesus is saying by asking him to identify his father, v19. The simple fact is that knowledge follows faith, if they were to believe in Jesus they would know Jesus' father, namely God the Father, and of course, if they knew God, if they trusted his merciful love, then they would know Jesus, but as it stands they remain blind guides.

John concludes by describing the setting, v20.

Text - 8:12

Jesus is the light of the world, v12-20: i] Saying, v12. John now sets the theme for the next three chapters. As God is a light to his people, illumining them that they may find wisdom, grace and peace, so the Son of God / Messiah is light, illumining even the nations, cf., Num.6:24-26, Ps.27:1, Prov.6:23, Isa.49:6, Mic.7:8. Jesus, the light of the world, illuminates the way to life eternal; he is "the light of life", ie., his light is a life-giving light. The world is entrapped in a darkness which leads to death, whereas those who follow / believe in Jesus find in him an enlivening light which leads to life eternal. Note that "I am" sayings usually appear at the beginning or end of a discourse unit, obviously here at the beginning. Note also that Barrett sees no significance in the use of the saying here other than "to raise the question of witness-bearing"; a rather harsh assessment!

oun "When [Jesus spoke again]" - therefore. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative, as NIV.

autoiV dat. pro. "to the people" - [again jesus spoke] to them. Dative of indirect object.

legwn (legw) pres. part. "he said" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to speak"; redundant.

egw pro. "I [am]" - i [am]. Emphatic by use and position.

to fwV (wV wtoV) "the light" - the light. Predicate nominative. This key word only appears in the first 12 chapters of this gospel, indicating its association with the ministry of messiah. It is sometimes linked with zwh, "life", as here, an even more common word than "light". Kostenberger argues that it "serves as a metaphor for eternal life in its spiritual, moral and present-day implications."

tou kosmou (oV) gen. "of the world" - of the world. The genitive is adjectival, verbal, "for the world = humanity" / idiomatic, "I am the light who enlightens the way for / enlivens the world."

oJ akolouqwn (akolouqew) pres. part. "whoever follows [me]" - the one following [me]. The participle serves as a substantive. The verb "to follow" will often take a dative of direct object, as here. For John, following Jesus is the same as believing in Jesus.

ou mh + subj. "[will] never [walk]" - no no = not ever [will walk]. Subjunctive of emphatic negation.

en + dat. "in [darkness]" - Local, expressing space - metaphorical.

all (alla) "but" - Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction; "not .... but ....."

thV zwhV (h) gen. "[the light] of life" - [will have the light] of life. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, "enlivening light", or idiomatic, "the light which produces life"; "light that illuminates life's pathways", Harris. Harris also suggests an epexegetic classification, "light which is the life." "Liberation from the realm of death for life in the kingdom of light", Beasley-Murray. A soteriological sense is surely primary, but the ethical dimension may also be part of the package; "light confers life and illumines the path of right conduct", Thompson.


ii] The Pharisees challenge Jesus' testimony, v13.The Pharisees regard Jesus' testimony, made without supportive evidence, as little more than self-promotion.

oun "-" - therefore. Transitional, "then", or inferential, establishing a logical connection, "So the Pharisees said to him."

autw/ dat. pro. "[the Pharisees challenged] him" - [the pharisees said] to him. Dative of indirect object.

peri + gen. "as [your own witness]" - [you testify] about [yourself]. Here expressing reference / respect; "concerning, about, with respect to."

sou gen. pro. "your [testimony is not valid]" - [the testimony] of you [is not true]. The NIV treats the genitive as adjectival, possessive, but it may be treated as verbal, subjective, "the testimony you give." The word alhqhV, "true", is taken in this context by the NIV, NEB, etc., to mean "valid"; "What you say proves nothing", TEV, or stronger, "isn't true", CEV.


iii] The twofold testimony to Christ, v14-19. "Jesus claims for himself a unique power to bear witness to himself, because he knows his origin and destiny", Fenton. The Pharisees don't understand Jesus' origins and therefore they are not equipped to krinw, "to make a proper assessment / an informed decision", on his claim. Yet, the Pharisees foolishly make a flawed assessment of Jesus, one whose remit, in accord with the Father, is krinw, "to judge (in a judicial sense)." Two witnesses support the case in hand; Jesus' testimony to messianic status, and the testimony of the Father. The problem for the Pharisees is that they know nothing of God the Father and so are blind to the Son.

autoiV dat. pro. "[Jesus answered]" - [jesus answered and said] to them. Dative of indirect object. Note again the Semitic construction for introducing direct speech, "Jesus answered and said."

kan + subj. "even if" - and if. "Even if as the case may be I testify concerning myself, then my testimony is true". Usually kan (= kai+an) + subj. would introduce a third class conditional clause where the assumed condition has the possibility of coming true. Yet, here a more concessive sense is probably intended given that Jesus does actually testify on his own behalf, "though I do testify testify to myself, my evidence is valid", Moffatt. "Self-testimony is not automatically false in his (Jesus) case", Pfitzner.

peri + gen. "on my behalf" - [i testify] about [myself, the testimony of me is true]. Either expressing advantage, as NIV, or reference / respect, "about, concerning, "about myself", ESV.

oJti "for" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Jesus' testimony is true, namely "because" "I know where I am from and where I am going", CEV.

poqen .... pou "I know] where [I came] from [and] where" - [i know] from where [i came and] where. Usually interrogative, but here both are used as adverbs, local. Another way of saying that Jesus, the Son of God, was sent from God the Father and will return to God the Father. "Because he (Jesus) has come from God, and God is the ultimate source of truth, Jesus may then truthfully testify to himself", Thompson.

uJpagw pres. "I am going" - Usually taken as a futuristic present - Jesus knows where he soon will be going; "I know where I come from and where I go next", Peterson.

de "but" - but/and [you do not know from where i come or where i go]. Transitional, changed focus in the dialogue from "I" to "you". Usually treated as adversative here, as NIV.


krinete (krinw) pres. "you judge" - Bruce argues that the verb krinw, "to judge", is being used in two ways here. The Pharisees "judge" in the sense of making an informed decision, which, as it turns out, is not very well informed. Jesus, on the other hand, does not make uninformed decisions about anyone. In v16 krinw is used in a judicial sense. If Jesus should have to pass judgment, although this is not the purpose of his coming (cf., 3:17), then he will do so in an informed manner, and this in association with the Father.

kata + acc. "by [human standards]" - according to [the flesh; i judge no one]. Expressing a standard; "corresponding to / in accordance with, in conformity with." In 7:24 John had kat oyin, "according to sight = appearance". An adverbial sense is possible, either expressing manner, or as NIV, means, "by appearance."


de "but" - but/and. Adversative, as NIV, certainly carries the argument forward - not this, but that. Jesus doesn't judge, in the sense of making uninformed decisions about other human beings as do the Pharisees, v15, but he is responsible for judgement, in the sense of making a judicial decision on the eternal status of humans, and this in association with God the Father. If John intended this construction we would expect ou ..... allla, "not ..... but ....." So, de is probably transitional here, possibly indicating a qualification, so Harris; "Mind you, even if I were to pass judgment ..."

kai "-" - and. Usually treated as ascensive, "Even if I do judge ..", TNT.

ean + subj. "if [I do judge]" - if [i judge]. "If, as the case may be, I judge, then my judgment is true." Introducing a third class conditional clause where the proposed condition has the possibility of coming true. Given that the conditional clause in v14 is likely to be concessive, the presence of kai here indicates that a concessive sense is probably intended here as well, a sense where there is no "if" about it; "and though I do judge, my judgment is true", Moffatt. Note that the personal pronoun egw, "I", is emphatic by use. Jesus may have come to save, but he also serves with the Father as the "judge" of humanity; it's just that he doesn't "judge" like the Pharisees.

alhqinh adj. "true" - [the judgment of me is] true. Predicate adjective. "Valid", REB; "My judgement is one guided by the truth", Cassirer; "valid", REB; "judge fairly", CEV; "my decision would be just", Phillips; "my judgment is sound", Rieu; "genuine, trustworthy", Harris; one that "corresponds to the facts", Zerwick.

oJti "because" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why Jesus' decisions are "true", namely, "because" Jesus acts in concord with God the Father, the one who sent him.

all (alla) "-" - [i am not alone to judge] but. Strong adversative in a counterpoint construction, "not ..... but ....." When it comes to the business of judging, Jesus is not alone, but rather, he stands in accord with the one who sent him, namely the Father.

oJ pemyaV (pempw) aor. part. "I stand with [the Father] who sent me" - [i and] the one having sent me, [the Father]. The participle may serve as a substantive, standing in apposition to "the Father"; "I and he who sent me, namely the Father, judge together", so Harris. Novakovic argues strongly that the participle is adjectival, attributive; "It is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me", ESV. The sense is "I am not alone, but I and the Father are together, and judge together", Barrett. Note textual disruption, particularly "Father" omitted in a number of major texts; cf., Metzger.


de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument; "besides, it is set down in your law", Cassirer. It's position indicates that "in your law" is emphatic, so Barrett.

kai "-" - and. Probably ascensive, "even in your law."

en + dat. "in" - in Local, expressing space; indicating where the information can be found.

tw/ uJmeterw/ pro. "your own [law]" - the your [law]. The articular pronoun serves as an attributive adjective, limiting "law", "the law which is yours." Not used in a pejorative sense; Jesus is not being rude, but rather wants to carry his argument with the support of the law which they subscribe to, namely Deuteronomy 19:15, cf., 17:6. Barrett argues that "it is unlikely that Jesus himself, speaking as a Jew to Jews, would have spoken of 'your law'", but Bruce argues that Jesus calls it "your law" "because they (the Pharisees) acknowledge its authority and were bound to admit the force of an argument based on it." The use of "your", as with "your father Abraham", possibly serves as a distancing measure, separating Jesus from his opponents, so Kostenberger.

gegraptai (grafw) perf. "it is written" - it is recorded, written, inscribed. The perfect expresses a past action with ongoing force; "It is stated", Phillips.

oJti "that" - that [the testimony of two men is true]. Here introducing an object clause / dependent statement of extract / quotation, expressing what the law says on the matter at hand. Morris argues that Israel's religious establishment were very strong on the issue of two witness and only accepted one witness where it was specifically stated in the law.


egw eimi "I am" - i am. Morris suggests there is a hint of deity in this statement, cf., Isa.43:10. The use of the personal pronoun "I" is emphatic by position and use. Note that the position of "Father" in the Gk. is also emphatic.

oJ marturwn (marturew) pres. part. "one who testifies" - the one testifying. The participle serves as a substantive, predicate nominative of the verb to-be.

peri + gen. "for [myself]" - about [myself]. Here usually taken to express advantage / representation, as NIV; "I have two witness for what I am", Rieu.

oJ pemyaV (pempw) aor. part. "who sent me" - [and the father] having sent [me, bears witness about me]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "Father". The testimony of both the Father and the Son "carries absolute authority", Bruce.


oun "then" - therefore. Transitional, as NIV, or inferential, establishing a logical connection, "So they said to him."

autw/ dat. pro. "him" - [they were saying] to him [where is the father of you]. Dative of indirect object. The witness must be present to give his/her testimony, and so the Pharisees ask Jesus to present his witness. Of course, we may have here Johannine irony where he is underlining the fact that the Pharisees have no knowledge of Jesus' person and are therefore estranged from God, so Ridderbos.

oute .... oute "[you do] not [know me] or [my Father]" - [you know] neither [me] nor [the father of me]. Negated comparative construction; "neither ..... nor ..." Anyone who is in a relationship with God, living by faith in the shadow of his mercy, would recognize who Jesus is, because the Father "is spiritually present with him throughout his ministry and has testified to him in Scripture", Kostenberger.

ei + a past ind. .... a]n + a past ind. "if" - if [you had known me, also the father of me you would have known]. "If, as is not the case, [you had known me] then [you would have known my Father also]." A second class unreal conditional clause where the proposed condition is not true. "He who has seen me has seen the Father", 14:9.


iv] Setting - The temple treasury.

didaskwn (didaskw) pres. part. "while teaching" - [these words he spoke in the treasury] teaching [in the temple precincts]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV.

en + dat. "where [the offerings were put]" - in [the treasury]. Local, expressing space; a general sense meaning "nearness", BAGD. The word may refer to the 13 offertory boxes in the court of the women, or the store rooms close by where valuables are stored. Probably the offertory boxes are in mind so "near the place where the offertory boxes are located", TH.

kai "yet" - and. Usually treated here as concessive, "and yet ...."

oJti "because" - [no one arrested / seized him] because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why no attempt was made to arrest Jesus. For "his hour had not yet come", see 2:4, 7:30, 13:1.

autou gen. pro. "his [hour had not yet come]" - [the hour] of him [had come not yet]. Usually treated as adjectival, possessive, expressing a derivative characteristic, but possibly more idiomatic, "the hour which was ordained for him by the Father." Jesus commonly uses the phrase "my hour" to refer to the moment of his glorification / lifting up - crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and enthronement ("coming"). It entails the achievement of God's purposes in Christ, of the realization of Israel's covenant promises in the glorification of the messiah.


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