Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on John 7:40-53
Posted by Dim Bulb on March 5, 2016
Joh 7:40 Of that multitude therefore, when they had heard these words of his, some said: This is the prophet indeed.
40. “The Prophet, indeed.” The definite article, “the,” only denotes that He was a distinguished Prophet, not the Messias, the “Prophet of their own nation,” etc. (Deut. 18:15.) For another class said (v. 41), “He is the Christ,” or Messias. The text from Deuteronomy, above referred to, was meant by the Holy Ghost to designate the Messias. But, the Jews erroneously fancied the Prophet thus spoken of to be different from Christ (see John 1:21). It may refer to “the Prophet,” who, as was supposed by the Jews, would precede or accompany the Messiah (John 1:21).
Joh 7:41 Others said: This is the Christ. But some said: Doth the Christ come out of Galilee?
Joh 7:42 Doth not the scripture say: That Christ cometh of the seed of David and from Bethlehem the town where David was?
41, 42. Some of them may have thought that, as our Lord was brought up at Nazareth in Galilee, He was born there, and of parents, who were not Jews. Others, very likely, knew His parentage and birthplace, but affected to be ignorant of it, and would have Him looked upon as a Galilean, who could not be the Christ; as He was to be born in Bethlehem, of the seed of David.
Joh 7:43 So there arose a dissension among the people because of him.
43. Owing to their difference of opinion regarding Him, there was a division amongst them.
Joh 7:44 And some of them would have apprehended him: but no man laid hands upon him.
44. Others, had such inveterate hostility towards Him, that they would have arrested Him as an impostor, an abettor of rebellion and revolution, a blasphemer, who affected to be the Son of God, etc.
“But no one laid hands on Him.” Our Lord by His innate power restrained them from offering Him violence.
It may be, that those referred to in this verse, who would fain apprehend Him, are the same ministers who received orders to that effect (v. 32). The following (v. 45), renders this view very probable.
Joh 7:45 The ministers therefore came to the chief priests and the Pharisees. And they said to them: Why have you not brought him?
Joh 7:46 The ministers answered: Never did man speak like this man.
45, 46. The ministers commissioned by the Rulers to arrest Him, when on the first day, or some other day, He appeared in the Temple, did not do so, on that day. They then returned on the eighth day, “the great day of the festivity” (v. 37), when He appeared a second time during the Feast in the Temple (vv. 14–37), in order to carry out their commission, and being captivated by His eloquence, came back to their employers to whom, they were naturally so beholden, whose followers they were, and whose principles they had imbibed, and bore the most convincing testimony in His favour. Instead of their arresting and capturing Him, they were led captive by the divine force of His eloquence. “Never did man speak like this man.” This was the most convincing evidence in favour of our Lord’s teaching and the power of His Divine eloquence.
Whether the ministers sent to arrest our Lord (v. 32), came on more than one day to the Temple for that purpose, and deferred arresting Him, or whether they came only on the eighth or last day, is uncertain.
Joh 7:47 The Pharisees therefore answered them: Are you also seduced?
47. The Pharisees, these implacable enemies of our Lord, confirmed in iniquity, and rendered obdurate by sin, far from yielding to the impressions of grace, only derided and jeered at the testimony of their own servants. “Are you also,” as well as the ignorant crowd, you who have shared so largely in our confidence, and learned from us the principles of the law of Moses, “are you too seduced” by this impostor, so as to be inclined to receive Him for the Messiah.
Joh 7:48 Hath any one of the rulers believed in him, or of the Pharisees?
48. They wished to remove the favourable impressions made by our Lord on their servants, by alleging that if He were a Prophet or the Messiah, “the Rulers,” members of the Sanhedrim, who regulated and controlled their religious rites and doctrines, and were themselves versed in the law, and “the Pharisees,” noted for their sanctity, filling offices of authority, would not fail to receive Him and believe in Him. But, the contrary was the fact—those men well versed in the law rejected Him. They did so, however, from envy, blind ambition and jealousy, seeing their own power and influence with the people on the wane. In their case were verified the words of our Lord (Matthew 11:25), “Abscondisti hæc a sapientibus et revelasti ea parvulis.” The weapons they employ are scorn and contempt, instead of argument.
Joh 7:49 But this multitude, that knoweth not the law, are accursed.
49. “This multitude”—they speak of them in terms of scorn—“who knoweth not the law,” and, therefore, neglect to observe it, or believe the truths it announces; “are accursed,” that is, liable to the penalties threatened by God on the transgressors of the law. “Cursed is he who abideth not in the words of this law” (Deut. 27:26). The words may mean, deserving of contempt, of no consideration whatever.
Joh 7:50 Nicodemus said to them (he that came to him by night, who was one of them):
Joh 7:51 Doth our law judge any man, unless it first hear him and know what he doth?
50. Nicodemus (c. 3), this sincere, but hitherto timid follower of our Lord, “he that came to Him by night, who was one of them,” a member of the Sanhedrim or Supreme Council, now displays apostolic courage in defence of our Lord, and in reproaching His enemies with acting unjustly towards Him, and in violation of, at least, the spirit of the law in condemning Him unheard, and in pronouncing His followers as liable to a curse. Although it might be difficult to point out the text of the law, prohibiting what is here referred to; still, it is quite certain, that the whole spirit of the law of Moses, as seen in several places (Lev. 19:15–18, was, that justice should be done to the accused party, by a fair trial. The same was the practice of the Jews, as evidenced in the case of Susanna (Daniel). The same is dictated by the law of nature, or the law of justice itself, God’s own original law, with which the law of Moses is always in accord. It was strictly adhered to by moral Pagans and by the Romans in particular (Acts 25:16.)
What an example is held out here by Nicodemus to those placed in authority to defend the rights of God and religion, when unjustly assailed.
Joh 7:52 They answered and said to him: Art thou also a Galilean? Search the scriptures, and see that out of Galilee a prophet riseth not.
52. Far from listening to reason, they assail Nichodemus with cutting, scornful reproaches, calling him in terms of contempt, “a Galilean,” a follower of this impostor from Galilee. Art thou an abettor of this despised Galilean? “Galilean” was a term of reproach at this time. Julian, the apostate, mortally transfixed with the arrow or javelin of a Persian, cries out in defiant scorn, “Vicisti Galilæa.” They knew well Nicodemus was not from Galilee. But, they class him, a member of the Sanhedrim, with these despised Galileans. Ridicule is at all times a favourite weapon with infidels, for want of argument, in assailing the truths and practices of religion. In the Greek for “Galilean,” is read “from Galilee.”
“Search the Scriptures.” “Scriptures” is wanting in the Greek, in which the sentence runs thus:—“Search and see that out of Galilee a Prophet riseth not.” In the Greek, “ariseth” is in the past tense, “hath arisen.” A foolish argument, indeed. For, even if true, which is disputed by many, that hitherto no Prophet came out of Galilee, it would not follow, that a Prophet might not come out of it, hereafter. If urged, the argument would prove that the first Prophet, who came out of a country, was no Prophet. Some one must come forth, first. It would prove that Elias the Thesbite was no Prophet; for, he first came out of Thesbis. Besides, the fact is questioned by many. Some say, Debora, the Prophetess, was a Galilean, of the tribe of Zabulon and Nepthali. So was Anna the Prophetess, of the tribe of Aser (Luke 2:36).
The argument of the Pharisees is beside the point; since, Nicodemus said nothing of our Lord being a Prophet. He only spoke of the injustice of condemning Him unheard and unconvicted.
Joh 7:53 And every man returned to his own house.
53. The remarks of Nicodemus had some effect for the present. For, the assembly broke up in confusion, without giving them an opportunity, this time, of carrying out their murderous designs, against our Blessed Lord. God’s Providence had so arranged it, as His hour was not yet come.