The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Fathers Nolan and Brown’s Commentary on John 8:21-30

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 12, 2011

Text in red represent my additions.

Joh 8:21  Again therefore Jesus said to them: I go: and you shall seek me. And you shall die in your sin. Whither I go, you cannot come.

It is doubtful whether this is a continuation of the preceding, or a new discourse. For the meaning of the verse, see above on 7:34. The particular sin referred to here is infidelity; but dying in infidelity, meant dying in many sins besides; and hence the plural sins, is used in verse 24.

Joh 8:22  The Jews therefore said: Will he kill himself, because he said: Whither I go you cannot come?

Josephus (De Bello Jud., iii. 8, 5) tells us that the Pharisees believed that the
lowest depths of hell are reserved for suicides. The words of this verse may refer to that superstition; as if they said: does He mean to go into the depths of hell where we the children of Abraham cannot, of course, follow Him? But the more simple explanation is: He cannot escape from us wherever He may go on this earth. Does He then mean to take His own life, that so He may
be out of our reach? The irony is that, though Jesus will not kill himself, he will voluntarily lay down his life for others (Jn 10:11-18).

Joh 8:23  And he said to them: You are from beneath: I am from above. You are of this world: I am not of this world.
Joh 8:24  Therefore I said to you that you shall die in your sins. For if you believe not that I am he, you shall die in your sin.

Taking no notice of what had just been said, Jesus proceeds in His discourse.
You, He says, are from beneath, I am from above (see Jn 3:31); i.e., you are
earthly in origin and nature, I am of heaven; moreover, you are earthly in sentiment, you belong to the wicked world (see Jn 15:19), I do not belong
to it. Thus He shows them there is a twofold difference between Him and them; and unless by the supernatural principle of faith they are lifted above their nature, andtaken out of the wicked world, they shall die in their sins (verse 24), and shall never here or hereafter be able to follow whither He goeth. Instead of peccato (Vulg.) in the end of verse 24, read peccatis.

For if you believe not that I am he. “He” is not represented in the Greek or Latin text, and ought not to stand in the English. The predicate may be purposely suppressed in order to leave the meaning, which was still
sufficiently intelligible, obscure, and thus afford no opportunity to His enemies of charging Him with blasphemy.
Joh 8:25  They said therefore to him: Who art thou? Jesus said to them: The beginning, who also speak unto you.

This is a very obscure verse. Christ had just spoken of faith in Himself; but in
Himself under what aspect He had not defined; and now in the hope of evoking an answerfor which they could punish Him, they ask: Who art thou? His answer is purposely obscure. It is according to the Greek text, την αρχην ο τι και λαλω υμιν   which is rendered in the Vulgate: Principium qui et loquor vobis, and in our Rheims version: The beginning, who also speak unto you.

About the meaning of this answer there is a great diversity of opinion. At this point the authors give 7 such opinions which, for the most part, would take the reader into technicalities. For this reason I’ve edited them out and will try to give as brief an explanation of the problem as possible. Most of the trouble seems to center on how to take the words την αρχην,  “the beginning. Is την αρχην to be taken as an accusative noun (as in “the beginning”), or as an adverb (e.g., “primarily,” or some similar meaning). The words following την αρχην are also a problem. Does St John intend it as one word (οτι = “that,” “because”), or as two words (ο τι= “that which”)  Nolan and Brown take αρχην (arche) to mean root, foundation, implying something absolute or certain: Absolutely, or most certainly (την αρχην), that which (ο τι) I also tell you.  The reader may wish to consult the varying translations found in the KJV, RV, YLY, DRV, NAB (first edition) NAB (with the revised NT published in 1986). I’ve not yet seen the newest revision of the NAB.

Joh 8:26  Many things I have to speak and to judge of you. But he that sent me, is true: and the things I have heard of him, these same I speak in the world.

Some explain thus: I have many things to say of you, and to condemn in you, but with this only will I charge you now, namely, that you are guilty of incredulity, since He who sent Me is true (truthful), and I speak His words, and yet you refuse to believe in Me. But the ellipsis here is not sufficiently obvious; and, hence, we prefer to understand thus . I have many things, &c.,
but My judgments will be just, and such as cannot be gain-said,

Joh 8:27  And they understood not that he called God his Father.

The Greek is: They knew not that He spoke to them of the Father.

Joh 8:28  Jesus therefore said to them: When you shall have lifted up, the Son of man, then shall you know that I am he and that I do nothing of myself. But as the Father hath taught me, these things I speak.

Lifted up. The reference is to Christ s crucifixion as is clear from Jn 12:32, 33. The substance of Christ’s prediction is, that after His death they will come to recognise Him as God. We know how truly this prediction was fulfilled, not merely in the centurion and his soldiers (Matt 27:54), and in the crowd that
returned from Calvary, striking their breasts (Luke 23:48), but all along from that time through the preaching of the Apostles. On the Father’s teaching the Son, see above on Jn 5:19, 20.

Joh 8:29  And he that sent me is with me: and he hath not left me alone. For I do always the things that please him.

For. “The word seems to be used as in Luke 7:47, to indicate the sign of the truth of the statement made, and not to give the ground of the fact stated” (Westc.).

Joh 8:30  When he spoke these things, many believed in him.

3 Responses to “Fathers Nolan and Brown’s Commentary on John 8:21-30”

  1. […] Father’s Nolan and Brown’s Commentary on the Gospel Reading (John 8:21-29). This post includes notes on verse 30 also. […]

  2. […] Father’s Nolan and Brown’s Commentary on the Gospel Reading (John 8:21-29). This post includes notes on verse 30 also. […]

  3. […] Fathers Nolan’s and Brown’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (John 8:21-30). […]

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