John 8:37-59

Chapter eight of the book of John records an intense discussion between Jesus and some Pharisees, a leading religious group of the day.

31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
33 They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?

37 I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.

[Abraham's seed] Dr. C. I. Scofield points out that all Jews are natural descendents of Abraham, but are not necessarily his spiritual posterity. See Galatians 3:7-9.

[My word hath no place in you] You hear the truths of God, but you do not heed them; the word of life has no influence over you; and how can it when you seek to kill me because I proclaim the truth to you?
From what is said here it is manifest, says Dr. Lightfoot, that the whole tendency of our Savior's discourse is to show the Jews that they are the seed of the serpent which was to bruise the heel of the Messiah. See verse 44 and Genesis 3:14-15.

38 I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.

[I speak that which I have seen] I speak nothing but the unchangeable, eternal truth which I have seen with my Father.

[Your father] Obviously, we have different fathers. I claim that God is my Father.

39 They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham.
40 But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.

[Ye would do the works of Abraham] As the son has the nature of his father in him, and naturally imitates him, so, if ye were the children of Abraham, ye would imitate him in his faith, obedience and uprightness. Instead, ye are watching for an opportunity to destroy me merely because I tell you the truth. Abraham never did anything like this, therefore, ye have no spiritual relationship to him.

41 Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.

[Ye do the deeds of your father] You certainly have another father than Abraham -- one who has instilled his malignant nature into you.

[We are not born of fornication] We are not a mixed, spurious breed -- our tribes and families have been kept distinct -- we are descended from Abraham by his legal wife, Sarah.

[We have one Father, even God.] In the spiritual sense of father and son, we are not spurious, that is, an idolatrous race; because we acknowledge none as our spiritual father, and worship none such, but the true God.

42 Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.

[If God were your Father ye would love me] I came from God. It would be absurd to suppose that you would persecute me if you were under the influence of God.

43 Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.

[Ye cannot hear my word] That is, you cannot bear my doctrine; it comes too close to you; it searches your hearts, detects your hypocrisy and exposes your iniquitous intentions and designs. As you are determined not to leave your sins, so are you determined to not hear my doctrine.

44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

[Ye are of your father the devil] You are the seed of the old serpent. Like father, like son. What Satan desires, you desire, because you are filled with his nature. Such is the heart of unregenerate man. As Jesus told Nicodemas in chapter three, "Ye must be born again."

[He was a murderer from the beginning] It was through him that Adam transgressed, in consequence of which death entered into the world, and slew him and all his posterity. This was the sentiment of the Jews themselves. In Sohar Kadash the wicked are called, "The children of the old serpent, who slew Adam and all his descendants."

[Abode not in truth] By his lies he deceived Eve and brought her, her husband, and, through them, their posterity, into his own condemnation.

[He is the father of lies] Jesus, the Son of God, knew well the personality and practice of Satan.

45 And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.

Why do you not believe me? Because, in your unregenerate state, filled with the nature of the father of all lies, you do not believe that anyone tells the truth.

46 Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?

You have maliciously watched all my steps. Have you seen the smallest matter to reprove in any part of my conduct? Have I told you any falsehood?

47 He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.

This was logic which they could not refute. Perhaps a little misdirection will work.

48 Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?

[Thou art a Samaritan] This was the same among them as an heretic. The commentary on John 4:9 provides some insight into why the Samaritans were held in such disrepute.

[Hast a devil] Posessed by an evil spirit. Not in his right mind.

49 Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me.

[I honor my Father] The first part of the charge was absurd and Jesus did not stop to refute them. He answers the second change with utmost meekness and conclusiveness; "I honor my Father (God)." This is something no demon can do, nor anyone who is under demonic influence.

50 And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth.

[There is one that seeketh and judgeth] There is one who seeks (my glory) and will punish those determined to stand between me and those who would believe in me.

51 Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.

[Shall never see death] Jesus was introducing a new frame of reference for death, the death of the soul. (For further study you may examine 2 Timothy 1:10, James 5:20 and Revelation 1:18 or, even better, use the concordance to do a thorough study of death.)
The Pharisees did not understand this and seized upon the statement as an opportunity to show Jesus in error.

52 Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death.
53 Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?

[Whom makest thou thyself?] The very Son of the one whom you claim as God.

54 Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God:
55 Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying.

Jesus was not intimidated by their hostility.

56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.

[Abraham rejoiced to see my day] The Greek word used here is made up of two other words, one meaning very much and the other to leap. The metaphor is as one who, desiring to see a long-expected friend who is coming, runs forward, now and then jumping up for a better view of his approaching friend.

[And he saw it] Compare Genesis 12:7, Genesis 22:15-18 and Galatians 3:16.

57 Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?
58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

[Before Abraham was, I am. The following is a literal translation of Calmet's notes on this passage as quoted by Dr. Adam Clarke: "I am from all eternity. I have existed before all ages. You consider in me only the person who speaks to you, who has appeared to you within a particular time. But besides this human nature, which ye think ye know, there is in me a Divine and eternal nature. Both, united, subsist together in my person. Abraham knew how to distinguish them. He adored me as his God; and desired me as his Savior. He has seen me in my eternity, and he predicted my coming into the world."

59 Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.

[They took up stones] The Jews understood him as asserting his Godhead, but chose to take offence and kill him as a blasphemer.

Based upon excerpts from Adam Clarke's Commentary, 2nd edition published in New York by Lane and Scott, 1850. More recent editions may be purchased from


This page updated 12/27/2006

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