Yohanan Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern

chapter 8
1. But Yeshua went to the Mount of Olives.
2. At daybreak, he appeared again in the Temple Court, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them.
3. The Torah-teachers and the P’rushim brought in a woman who had been caught committing adultery and made her stand in the center of the group.
4. Then they said to him, “Rabbi, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.
5. Now in our Torah, Moshe commanded that such a woman be stoned to death. What do you say about it?”
In our Torah Moshe commanded that such a woman be stoned to death. Leviticus 20:10, Deuteronomy 22:22-24; see also Numbers 5:11-31. Under Roman rule it was illegal for Jewish courts to enforce a death sentence, but that did not always succeed in preventing stonings (Ac 7:58-59) or attempts thereat (v. 59, 10:31).

6. They said this to trap him, so that they might have ground for bringing charges against him; but Yeshua bent down and began writing in the dust with his finger.
7. When they kept questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “The one of you who is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
8. Then he bent down and wrote in the dust again.
9. On hearing this, they began to leave, one by one, the older ones first, until he was left alone, with the woman still there.
10. Standing up, Yeshua said to her, “Where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11. She said, “No one, sir.” Yeshua said, “Neither do I condemn you. Now go, and don’t sin any more.”
Yeshua's response showed four things: he was not against the Tarah, he was merciful toward the woman, he opposed her sin (Exodus 20:13(14)), and he could silence hecklers and put them to shame (compare Mt 22:46).

7:53-8:11 See the note on this passage in the JNT itself. Brace MeUger, in A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, ad loc, writes that "the account has all the earmarks of historical veracity. It is obviously a piece of oral tradition which circulated in certain parts of the Western church and which was subsequently incorporated into various manuscripts in various places,"

namely, into Yochanan's Gospel after 7:36, 7:44 or 7:52, and into Luke's Gospel after 21:25 or 21:38. On the strength of its apparent "historical veracity" the JNT includes it here in its traditional location, with the asterisked note explaining that some scholars doubt whether it was originally part of this Gospel.

Then they all left, each one to his own home (7:53). If this remark is in chronological order, it seems lo refer to the return of the pilgrims at the end of the Sukkot holiday to their homes in regions and countries distant from Jerusalem (see 5:1N), while Yeshua went to the Mount of Olives (8:1) instead of going down to Nazareth. Perhaps he stayed in Bethany, on the flanks of the Mount of Olives, at the home of his friends Miryam, Marta and El'azar (11:1-2&N) at least until Chanukkah (10:22) and probably until he left to go to the East Bank of the Jordan River (10:40). The interchange with the woman caught in adultery took place after daybreak (8:2) the next day, which was still Hoshana Rabbah (7:37&N), since Jewish days begin at sunset. Later the same day he said, "I am the light of the world," which relates to Hoshana Rabbah customs (8:12&N).

12. Yeshua spoke to them again: “I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light which gives life.”
Yeshua spoke to them again, still on the last day of Sukkot, Hoshana Rabbah (7:37&N, 7:53-8: UN).
I am the light of the world: whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light which gives life. Compare Isaiah 9:1(2), "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light," and Malachi 4:2(3:20), "But to you who fear my name the sun of righteousness will arise with healing in his wings"; both are alluded to at Lk 1:78-79. Also see Isaiah 49:6 (quoted at Ac 13:47); Yn 1:4-5,7-9; 3:19-21; 5:35: 9:5; 12:35-36, 46; Ac 9:3. 13:47&N; 1 Ke 2:9; 1 Yn 1:5-7, 2:8-10. All of these texts have been understood as referring to Yeshua as the light or in connection with light.

His remark was specifically suited to the feast of Sukkot; for, according to the Mishna. at the Temple
"there were four golden menorahs with four golden bowls at the top of each, and four ladders each leading to a bowl. Four strong young cohanim wou Id climb up with pitchers each holding 9 liters of oil which they would pour into the bowls. From the worn-out drawers and girdles of the cohanim they made wicks, and with them they lit the menorahs; and there was not a courtyard in Jerusalem that was not lit up by the light of the Beit-HaSho'evah [festivities]. Pious men and men of good deeds would dance around [the menorahs\ with lit torches in their hands, si nging songs and praises, while the Levites played harps, lyres, cymbals, trumpets and innumerable other musical instruments...." (Sukkah 5:2-4)

The Gemara on this passage says the menoruhs were 75 feet high (Sukkah 52b). Thus, the water-drawing festival was accompanied by bright lights and dancing — for Sukkot is specifically a festival of rejoicing. As before, when the water from Shiloach was being poured and Yeshua used the occasion to invite people to come to him and drink, now he uses the fact that the feast is accompanied by a blaze of light to announce, "I am the light of the world," adding a promise with implications for both this life and eternity. For background see 7:2N, 7:37N.

13. So the P’rushim said to him, “Now you’re testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid.”
14. Yeshua answered them, “Even if I do testify on my own behalf, my testimony is indeed valid; because I know where I came from and where I’m going; but you do not know where I came from or where I’m going.
15. You judge by merely human standards. As for me, I pass judgment on no one;
I pass judgment on no one. Not now, during his human life, during his first coming. In the future he will judge everyone (5:22,27-30).

16. but if I were indeed to pass judgment, my judgment would be valid; because it is not I alone who judge, but I and the One who sent me.
17. And even in your Torah it is written that the testimony of two people is valid.
Your Torah. Some, perhaps to cast suspicion on whether Yeshua considered himself a Jew, suppose that with these words he distanced himself from the Torah, that by calling it your Torah he meant that it belonged to the Judeans or P'rushim but not to him. But there is no such implication, for Yeshua too is part of the Jewish people to whom the Torah was given. Rather, the sense is that since the Torah is theirs, as they themselves have already claimed (v. 5), they should heed it. (Compare President John F. Kennedy's famous inauguration address challenge, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." Needless to say, Kennedy considered America his own country too.)
The testimony of two people is valid. Deuteronomy 17:15, 19:15.

18. I myself testify on my own behalf, and so does the Father who sent me.”
Obviously Yeshua is not using the texts referred to in the previous verse in a literal sense to prove, as he would if it were actually a court hearing, that he has two acceptable witnesses. He is using them midrashically: he and his Father have independent wills (5:19N) and are therefore "two" witnesses.

19. They said to him, “Where is this ‘father’ of yours?” Yeshua answered, “You know neither me nor my Father; if you knew me, you would know my Father too.”
Yeshua never speaks of Yosef as his father in any of the Gospels; always he speaks of God as his Father. See 1:45N.

20. He said these things when he was teaching in the Temple treasury room; yet no one arrested him, because his time had not yet come.
21. Again he told them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, but you will die in your sin — where I am going, you cannot come.”
And you will die in your sin. A new teaching. Until now Yeshua has not said you must trust in him unless you are prepared to die in your sin.

22. The Judeans said, “Is he going to commit suicide? Is that what he means when he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?”
23. Yeshua said to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world.
24. This is why I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not trust that I AM [who I say I am], you will die in your sins.”
I am who I say I am, literally, just "I am." Yeshua is intimating here and in v. 28 that he is to be identified with God; see 4:26N.

25. At this, they said to him, “You? Who are you?” Yeshua answered, “Just what I’ve been telling you from the start.
26. There are many things I could say about you, and many judgments I could make. However, the One who sent me is true; so I say in the world only what I have heard from him.”
27. They did not understand that he was talking to them about the Father.
28. So Yeshua said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM [who I say I am], and that of myself I do nothing, but say only what the Father has taught me.
When you lift up the Son of Man. Yeshua is predicting the manner and instrumentality of his death: these Judeans will have him crucified by the Romans. See 3:14N, 12:32.

29. Also, the One who sent me is still with me; he did not leave me to myself, because I always do what pleases him.”
30. Many people who heard him say these things trusted in him.
31. So Yeshua said to the Judeans who had trusted him, “If you obey what I say, then you are really my talmidim,
32. you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
There is a kind of trust which falls short of making one really a talmid (see 2:23-25, Mt 5:IN) of Yeshua. Real talmidim obey Yeshua, which is more than mentally acknowledging who he is. The popular quotation, "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free," is conditioned on obeying what Yeshua says.

33. They answered, “We are the seed of Avraham and have never been slaves to anyone; so what do you mean by saying, ‘You will be set free’?”
We are the seed of Avraham. See Yochanan the Immerser's response to a similar claim (Mt 3:9&N); also Ga 3:16&N, 3:29&N.
We... have never been slaves. True for the speakers but not for the nation, which was redeemed from slavery in Egypt. The "Four Questions" of the Haggadah read on Passover are answered by a passage which begins, "'Avadim hayinu" ("We were slaves"). The speakers are avoiding Yeshua's challenge by invoking extreme literalism.

34. Yeshua answered them, “Yes, indeed! I tell you that everyone who practices sin is a slave of sin.
Slave of sin. See the exposition of this concept by Sha'ul at Ro 6:14-23.

35. Now a slave does not remain with a family forever, but a son does remain with it forever.
36. So if the Son frees you, you will really be free!
Contrast the well-known line in the Passover Haggadah, "Now we are slaves; next year may we be free!" Why next year, why not now? But also note Ro 8:18-25.

37. I know you are the seed of Avraham. Yet you are out to kill me, because what I am saying makes no headway in you.
38. I say what my Father has shown me; you do what your father has told you!”
39. They answered him, “Our father is Avraham.” Yeshua replied, “If you are children of Avraham, then do the things Avraham did!
40. As it is, you are out to kill me, a man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Avraham did nothing like that!
41. You are doing the things your father does.” “We’re not illegitimate children!” they said to him. “We have only one Father — God!”
We're not illegitimate children, like you (implied)! Apparently they knew something about the unusual circumstances of Yeshua's birth. Compare 9:34; also Mattityahu 1-2, Luke 1-3 and notes there.

42. Yeshua replied to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me; because I came out from God; and now I have arrived here. I did not come on my own; he sent me.
43. Why don’t you understand what I’m saying? Because you can’t bear to listen to my message.
44. You belong to your father, Satan, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. From the start he was a murderer, and he has never stood by the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he is speaking in character; because he is a liar — indeed, the inventor of the lie!
You belong to your father, the Adversary (Greek diabolos, "devil," used in the Septuagint to translate Hebrew satan, "adversary"; see Mt 4:IN). Yeshua is through playing games: he has listened to these people claim Avraham and God as their father; he is no longer interested in wrong answers.

45. But as for me, because I tell the truth you don’t believe me.
46. Which one of you can show me where I’m wrong? If I’m telling the truth, why don’t you believe me?
Which one of you can show me where I'm wrong? Or: "Which one of you can convict me of sin?" In either case the answer is: No one.

47. Whoever belongs to God listens to what God says; the reason you don’t listen is that you don’t belong to God.”
48. The Judeans answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying you are from Shomron and have a demon?”
You are from Shomron. Of course he wasn't, but they are insulting him; see 4:9N, 7:20N.

49. Yeshua replied, “Me? I have no demon. I am honoring my Father. But you dishonor me.
50. I am not seeking praise for myself. There is One who is seeking it, and he is the judge.
51. Yes, indeed! I tell you that whoever obeys my teaching will never see death.”
52. The Judeans said to him, “Now we know for sure that you have a demon! Avraham died, and so did the prophets; yet you say, ‘Whoever obeys my teaching will never taste death.’
53. Avraham avinu died; you aren’t greater than he, are you? And the prophets also died. Who do you think you are?”
54. Yeshua answered, “If I praise myself, my praise counts for nothing. The One who is praising me is my Father, the very one about whom you keep saying, ‘He is our God.’
55. Now you have not known him, but I do know him; indeed, if I were to say that I don’t know him, I would be a liar like you! But I do know him, and I obey his word.
56. Avraham, your father, was glad that he would see my day; then he saw it and was overjoyed.”
57. “Why, you’re not yet fifty years old,” the Judeans replied, “and you have seen Avraham?”
58. Yeshua said to them, “Yes, indeed! Before Avraham came into being, I AM!”
59. At this, they picked up stones to throw at him; but Yeshua was hidden and left the Temple grounds.
You're not yet fifty years old. The implication is that he appears close enough to fifty for the statement to be meaningful as a reasonable upper limit to his estimated age; yet we know that he was "about thirty" when he began his public ministry (Lk 3:23) and that his ministry lasted no longer than three years. Conclusion: he must have looked older than he was. Other commentators take fifty as the upper limit of the active life span, as, for example, in Numbers 4:3, 39; 8:24-25; but to me this seems arbitrary and irrelevant to the context.

Before Avraham came into being, I AM. This and 10:30 are Yeshua's clearest self-pronouncements of his divinity. On "I AM" see 4:26N. It was very clear to the Judeans exactly what Yeshua's claim was, because they immediately took up stones to put him to death (v. 59) for blasphemy. Claiming to be God and, specifically, pronouncing God's name (as Yeshua had just done) were punishable by death (Leviticus 24:15-16 and Mishna Sanhedrin 7:5, "The blasphemer is not guilty until he pronounces the Name.").

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