John 21
Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament
After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself.
John 21:1. Μετὰ ταῦτα, after these things) More than eight days, as it seems, having intervened, for they had now no longer an expectation of another manifestation: John 21:4. John proves by an example that it was in his power to have recorded more miracles than what were written: ch. John 20:30. [This chapter is a kind of appendix to the book.—V. g.]—ἐφανέρωσεν ἑαυτὸν, He manifested Himself) This conveys to the reader a more striking idea than ἐφάνη, He appeared, would.—ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης, at the sea) In such a way, however, as that He did not Himself enter the sea, after the resurrection: comp. Revelation 21:1, “A new earth,—and there was no more sea.”

There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.
John 21:2. Ὁμοῦ, together) in the one place, in the house, seven in all.—Θωμᾶς, Thomas) who was now the less absent than formerly (ch. John 20:24), and was the more confirmed and to be confirmed.—Ναθαναήλ, Nathanael) ch. John 1:46, note. His name here occurring in the midst of names of apostles, makes it likely he was the same as Bartholomew.—οἱ τοῦ Ζεβεδαίου, the sons of Zebedee) John therefore wrote this book; for had any one else written it, he would have named John with his brother, immediately after Peter. Also he takes it for granted as a thing known from the other Evangelists, who were the sons of Zebedee, as well as who was Zebedee.—ἐκ τῶν μαθητῶν, of the disciples) apostles or others.

Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.
John 21:3. Ὑπάγω ἁλιεύειν, I go a fishing) Constrained by necessity, not for the sake of gain: John 21:5, “Children, have ye any meat?” ‘No.’ A remarkable example of αὐτουργία, labouring with one’s own hands, without sacrificing the apostolical dignity.—καὶ ἡμεῖς, we also) They were now by this time not so much afraid.—εἰς τὸ πλῦιον, into a ship) which is called in John 21:8 a little ship.

But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.
John 21:4. Πρωΐας, the morning) when they had been toiling for a considerable length of time.

Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No.
John 21:5. Παιδία, Children, Little sons) A name of age [i.e. such as would be used by an aged person]. He addresses them as though He were one unknown, lovingly, from an elevation above them, as being the eternal Wisdom.[400]—προσφάγιον, meat) as for instance a fish.—οὐ, no) Human art is not always consistent with itself [cannot always produce the same results]: but John 21:6, the Divine blessing always is [always can].

[400] Aeterna, referring to the previous “ætatis.” He had used a name applied by age to youth, being indeed Himself the Wisdom, who has existed through all ages.—E. and T.

And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.
John 21:6. Δεξιὰ, the right side) A most precise and unerring command. The power of the Lord collected together the fishes thither.—ἑλκύσαι) [to draw] The verb σύρειν, John 21:8 [to drag], implies the employment of greater force.

Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.
John 21:7. Λέγει, saith) A quiet life more quickly observes Divine things, than an active life: and yet this latter furnishes an opportunity of doing so, and does not fail to produce fruit in the case of saints.—ἐπενδύτην) Suidas explains ἐπενδύτης as τὸ ἐσώτατον ἱμάτιον, the inmost garment. But the LXX. render by the word ἐπενδύτης, מעיל (the long upper garment worn by persons of rank).—διεζώσατο, girt on himself) Peter [did so, because he] reverenced the presence of the Lord, whereas he had been previously engaged with his fellow-disciples in a more familiar manner.—γυμνὸς) He had script off (whilst fishing with his fellow-disciples) τὸν ἐπενδύτην.[401]—ἜΒΑΛΕΝ ἙΑΥΤῸΝ ΕἸς ΤῊΝ ΘΆΛΑΣΣΑΝ, he cast himself into the sea) being likely to reach the Lord sooner by swimming than by ship. Comp. Matthew 14:28, “Peter said, Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water.”[402] The love of Jesus draws one through fires and waves.

[401] Wahl Clav. New Testament makes it the upper tunic, somewhat approaching to the pallium or toga, and put on between the shirt and the outer garments, and therefore different from the shirt or chemise, χιτώνισκος or ὑποδύτης. Th. ἐπὶ and ἐνδύω.—E. and T.

[402] Archbishop Whately, in a MS. note kindly furnished to me, observes, that “εἰς, with the Accusative, probably means on, upon, not into. Had Peter been going to wade or swim, he would not have grit on his coat, but rather thrown it off (unless, as Beng. suggests, from reverence to the Lord). He received, probably, an intimation, that he should now perform the miracle in which his faith had formerly failed”—viz. walking ON the water.—E. and T.

And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes.
John 21:8. Γὰρ, for) These latter also (as well as Peter) were able to come quickly.—τὸ δίκτυον, the net) which had been left by Peter.

As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.
John 21:9. Βλέπουσιν, they see) unexpectedly. A miracle.—ὀψάριον, a small fish) a single one.—ἄρτον, a loaf) a single one: John 21:13, “Jesus taketh the loaf” [Engl. vers., ‘bread,’ loses the force of the article]. Jesus entertained His disciples at a feast: and with food, which would have been only enough for one guest, He fed them all.

Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.
John 21:10. Ἐνέγκατε, bring) Thus the disciples were able to perceive, that that fish was as real as the rest of the fishes.—ἀπὸ, of) The remainder of the plentiful supply, they were allowed to keep.—ἐπιάσατε, ye have caught) It was by the Lord’s gift that they had caught them: and yet He kindly says, that they had caught them.—νῦν, now) Demonstratively, in order that they might attend. In antithesis to, “that night they caught nothing,” John 21:3.

Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.
John 21:11. Ἰχθύων μεγάλων, of great fishes) which just now the great Lord had called, little fishes, John 21:10. It was thus (by fishing) that they had their livelihood (whilst in Galilee) up to the time of their journey into Judea.—ἑκατὸν πεντήκοντα τριῶν, a hundred and fifty-three) It is wonderful that the actual number should be thus expressed in tin’s passage, as contrasted with Luke 5:6 (the ratio of which number might have affected the disciples more then than now), although the completely round number one hundred and fifty was so near, to which ὠς might have been also added for accuracy, as in John 21:8, “about two hundred cubits.” The number cliii., is memorable. Jerome, on Ezekiel 47 : [9, 10, “There shall be a very great multitude of fish—their fish shall be according to their kinds”], “They who have written of the natures and peculiar qualities of animals, who have learned ἁλιευτικὰ, as well in the Latin as in the Greek language, of whom Oppian, a Cicilian, is the most learned poet, assert that there are one hundred and fifty-three kinds of fishes, all of which were taken by the apostles, and not one remained uncaptured; whilst both the noble and base-born, the rich and poor, and every class of men, are being drawn out of the sea of the world to salvation.” Comp. Matthew 13:47, “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind.”—οὐκ ἐσχίσθη, was not broken) A new miraculous circumstance.

Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.
John 21:12. Δεῦτε, come) The Lord receives His disciples at the banquet. In John 21:9 there is mentioned the preparation for dinner (or rather luncheon, or breakfast, ἄριστον, the early meal).—ἀριστήσατε, breakfast or dine) viz. ye. Jesus had no necessity to eat. From the mention of breakfast or luncheon (the morning meal), with which comp. John 21:4, “the morning,” it is evident the manifestation (John 21:1) of Him lasted many hours.—οὐδεὶς, none) Implying the great solemnity of this feast.—εἰδότες, knowing) Syllepsis.[403]

[403] The sense being regarded in the construction more than the words. The participle plural agreeing with μαθηταὶ understood, taken out of οὐδεὶς μαθητῶν.—E. and T.

Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.
This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.
John 21:14. Τρίτον, the third time) He is speaking of the more solemn appearances, viz. those here recorded, which were vouchsafed to the disciples conjointly. [In fact, already in ch. John 20:14; John 20:19; John 20:26, John had recorded three appearances of the Saviour, if that which was vouchsafed to Mary Magdalene be taken into account. But in this ch. 21, when he thought it advisable to subjoin some particulars concerning Peter and John by way of an Appendix, he adds one appearance also, in order that of those appearances which were vouchsafed to a number of the apostles together, there might be three in all on record in this Gospel.—Harm., p. 609.] Thomas also was present on two of these occasions.

So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
John 21:15. Ὅτε, when) During their eating there had been more than usual silence. Silence at the beginning of a feast is not only the part of politeness, but even of modesty and self-control.—ὁ Ἰησοῦς) The Byz. and Lat. formerly omitted these words, as is evident from Augustine. Nor were they in the cod. Reutlingensis “manu primâ.”[404]—ἀγαπᾷς με, lovest [amas] thou Me?) Thrice the Lord asks a question: Lovest thou Me more than these? Lovest thou Me? φιλεῖς [diligis?], dost thou esteem Me? Thrice Peter answers, I do esteem Thee. Ἀγαπᾶν, amare, is the part of relationship and affection: φιλεῖν, diligere, is the act of the judgment. Others make this distinction, that ἀγαπᾶν is simply to love; φιλεῖν, to love in such a way as that we should evince our love by kissing one: and this is the distinction which Eustathius upholds; but Peter, to the question of the Lord ἀγαπᾷς με, does not seem to have been likely to answer ἐμφατικώτερον, more emphatically, than was the expression in the question, φιλῶ. Where the difference is not expressed, the one is included in the signification of the other.[405] Jesus, now that Peter’s faith was established, questions him about his love: and this is the distinguishing characteristic of the Shepherd. On this condition of love depend the things which are mentioned in John 21:15, etc., and John 21:18-19.—πλεῖον τούτων) more than these, viz. thy fellow-disciples. So οὗτος, this man, occurs in John 21:21. Previously Peter had said that he would show more fidelity than these (his fellow-disciples): Matthew 26:33, “Though all[406] shall be offended because of Thee, yet will I never be offended:” but now he simply says, I love Thee: he does not add, more than these. Yet he had lately shown himself most eagerly desirous of the Lord, in John 21:7 [“He cast himself into the sea,” to reach Him the sooner].—σὺ οἶδας, Thou knowest) Peter had given a proof of the contrary by his late denial of Jesus: now, instead of argument, he makes his appeal to the knowledge and omniscience of Jesus.—βόσκε, feed) The words, more than these, serve to indicate that Peter is here restored to his place, which he had lost by his denial of Jesus; and at the same time that a something is assigned to him peculiarly, as compared with the other disciples, but nothing from which the others are to be excluded: for in truth they also loved Jesus, ch. John 16:27. Let the Pope, in the name of truth, cease, under the pretext of the succession to Peter, to claim violently this privilege to himself, and himself alone, seeing that he is one who does not either love or feed the sheep, but on the contrary feeds upon them. Rome can no more claim Peter as her own, than Jerusalem or Antioch, or any other place where Peter acted as an apostle: nay, Rome, as being the capital of the Gentiles, can least of all claim him. For Peter was one of the apostles of the circumcision. There is one feature peculiar to Rome, that the blood of the apostles, including even Peter, is to be ‘found’ in her: Revelation 18:20; Revelation 18:24.—τὰ ἀρνία μου, My lambs) Jesus is the Lord of the sheep and of the lambs. He loves His flock, and commits it to him that loves Him.

[404] But ABDabc and best MSS. of Vulg. support the words.—E. and T.

[405] The Vulg. differs from Bengel, and rightly gives the reverse explanation to ἀγαπᾶς and φιλεῖς respectively; “diligis, diligis,” twice, to represent the twice repeated ἀγαπᾶς, the love of choice and judgment, esteem; and “amo, amo,” to represent φιλῶ, the love of affection and impulse. The word ἀγαπᾶς sounds too cold to the ear of Peter, who was now burning with love. He therefore substitutes in his answer the word of affection, φιλῶ. At the third time Peter has gained his point: for the Lord now, instead of ἀγαπᾶς, gratifies Peter by using φιλεῖς. See Trench, Syn. New Testament—E. and T.

[406] Viz. of the disciples: not “all men,” as Engl. Vers.—E. and T.

He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
John 21:16. Ποίμαινε, feed) This verb Peter has repeated in his first Epistle, ch. John 5:2.—πρόβατα, sheep) The Latin Vulg. has, in the second answer, ‘agnos’:[407] although it comes to the same thing, as we shall presently see. By far the most frequent form in which this saying was quoted, was, Feed My sheep. Therefore more modern transcribers have introduced into John the formula which Ancient writers employed; and John seems to have written ἀρνία in this second place. [A different judgment is passed upon this reading in the margin of both Ed. and in Vers. Germ., wherein the word ἈΡΝΊΑ is approved of only in the first place, John 21:15 : however, the subject itself, exhibiting as it does three periods, equally favours each of the two views.—E. B.]; (and the more recent Greeks seem to have laid hold of πρόβατα); so that thus there are three distinct sentences in John 21:15-17, ΒΌΣΚΕ ΤᾺ ἈΡΝΊΑ ΜΟΥ· ΠΟΊΜΑΙΝΕ ΤᾺ ἈΡΝΊΑ ΜΟΥ· ΒΌΣΚΕ ΤᾺ ΠΡΌΒΑΤΆ ΜΟΥ. In these three sentences the flock that is committed to Peter is distributed into three ages; and the flock of the first age comes under the appellation, lambs; that of the third age, under the appellation, sheep (which, however, are never without lambs growing up to maturity); therefore the flock of the second age fall under the appellation of sheep still somewhat tender, or of lambs already become somewhat hardy. The distinction between the nouns, which the Greek language hardly admitted of, is compensated for by the distinction of the verbs, βόσκε and ΠΟΊΜΑΙΝΕ: ΒΌΣΚΕΙΝ is a part of ΠΟΙΜΑΊΝΕΙΝ. And, though the Hebrew language did not admit of these distinctions in the words, it does not follow that John could not have expressed the sense of our Lord by the convenient propriety of distinctions which the Greek words afforded. It is with this meaning that the Syr[408] Version puts, in John 21:15-17, after the verb, Feed, three different nouns, to which lambs, little sheep (‘oviculæ’), sheep, correspond. And similarly Ambrosius writes on Luke 24., “In fine, in the third instance Peter is desired to feed, not the lambs, as in the first instance, nor the little sheep (oviculas), as in the second instance, but the sheep; i.e. that having become more perfect himself, he should govern the more perfect.” Maximus says, in his discourse concerning SS. Peter and Paul, that the little sheep were commended to Peter, as also the sheep. Neither of these writers, indeed, reads in John 21:16, προβάτια, as Bellarmine contends in his B. I. concerning the Roman Pontiff, ch. 16., whilst seeking to find marvellous classes of sheep, subject to the Pope: but at all events those ancient writers acknowledged the gradation in the three sentences, which most delightfully accords with 1 John 2:13-14, “Fathers—young men—little children.” Between this discourse and the death of Peter there elapsed thirty-six years: and this discourse itself divides that space of time into almost three equal periods. During the first. Peter fed the tender age of the Christian Church, or in other words the lambs; the appellation of which is in consonance with that appellation which is found in Acts, viz. disciples, to which afterwards the appellation, brethren, succeeded. See on Matthew 10:1-2. [The Apostles were often called disciples before Pentecost; after it never, but apostles. In Acts, those who either had learned with, or were learning from the apostles, were called disciples. After Acts 6:1; Acts 21:16, the term disciples does not occur in the New Testament, but they are called brethren, Christians, believers, saints, etc.] In the second period, he brought to him, ruled, and gathered together, the sheep. In the third, he fed the Church collected out of Jews and Gentiles up to the time of his martyrdom.

[407] b has ‘oviculas.’ But ABacd support πρόβατα.—E. and T.

[408] yr. the Peschito Syriac Version: second cent.: publ. and corrected by Cureton, from MS. of fifth cent.

He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
John 21:17. Τὸ τρίτον, the third time) Comp. ch. John 13:38. The decisive number.—ἐλυπήθη, was grieved) In feeling so, his distress was with good reason.—καὶ εἶπεν, and he said unto Him) At this point, as it were wearied out, he pours out his whole self [in a one final appeal to His omniscience].—[Κύριε, σὺ πάντα οἶδας, Lord, Thou knowest all things) Peter in truth had most largely had proof of the OMNISCIENCE of the Lord Jesus, along with the rest of the disciples. Let us first collect the testimonies of it which occur in the Gospel of John. Jesus knew who Simon was, ch. John 1:42 : The mind and action of Nathanael, John 1:47-48 : What is in every man, ch. John 2:25 : The deeds of the woman of Samaria, ch. John 4:29 : What He Himself was about to do, ch. John 6:6 : The treachery of Judas and of others, ch. John 6:64; John 6:70 : The death of Lazarus, ch. John 11:11 : That His hour had come, ch. John 13:1 : The treachery of Judas, John 13:8 : The denial of Peter, John 13:38 : The disciples’ desire to question Him, ch. John 16:19 : And all things, John 16:30 : The several things which should come upon Him, ch. John 18:4 : And their consummation, ch. John 19:28. Furthermore He knew, according to the report of the rest of the Evangelists, the thoughts of men, Mark 2:6; Mark 2:8; Luke 6:8; Luke 7:47 (with which comp. John 19:39): Matthew 12:25; Matthew 16:8; Luke 9:47; Luke 11:17. Also what was the raiment of Solomon, Matthew 6:29 : What Sodom, Tyre, and Sidon would have done had they seen the works of Christ, ch. John 11:21; John 11:23. He predicted His Passion, Matthew 16:21; Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22, etc.: The destruction of Jerusalem, Luke 19:43; Matthew 23:35, etc., Matthew 24:2, etc; Luke 23:28, etc.: The circumstances which were about to accompany His entrance into the city and the Passover feast, Mark 11:2, etc., John 14:13; John 14:15; John 14:27 : And very many other things of that kind.—Harm., p. 609, 610.]

Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.
John 21:18. Ἀμὴν, ἀμὴν, verily, verily) Even after the Resurrection the Lord employed this most weighty formula.—νεώτερος, a comparatively young man) The comparative comprises the years of Peter, even as far as to the threshold of old age.—ἐζώννυες σεαυτὸν, thou didst gird thyself) as in John 21:7.—περιεπάτεις, and didst walk about) as in John 21:3, “I go a fishing.”—ὃπου ἤθελες, whither thou wouldest) So he had done in John 21:7.—γηράσῃς, thou shalt be old) Hereby it is indicated, that Peter would reach old age, 1 Peter 5:1, “I who am also an elder;” but not a great old age.—ἐκτενεῖς, thou shalt stretch forth) after the manner of those crucified, thine hands, so as that they may be made fast to the transverse beam of the cross.—σὲ ζώσει, shall gird thee) with a cord.—οἴσει, shall carry thee) to the stock of the cross, so as that thou mayest be fastened to it with thy whole body. They used to be bound to the cross, whilst the nails were fastened in. In antithesis to, thou didst walk about.—ὅπου, whither) namely, to the place where the cross is to be fastened into the ground. This passage must be so explained as not to apply to every kind of punishment [but to crucifixion only].—οὐ θέλεις, thou wouldest not) according to the prompting of nature [as contrasted with grace].

This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.
John 21:19. Σημαίνων, signifying) Such predictions are sometimes vouchsafed to those who excel in love and faithfulness.—ποίῳ, by what kind of death) John wrote his gospel before the death of Peter: and the event, in a few years after, corresponded to the prediction of the Lord recorded by John. Comp. ch. John 12:33 [referring to His own death].—δοξάσει, he was about to glorify) It is chiefly by suffering, not merely by doing, that the saints glorify God.—λέγει, He saith) forthwith.—ἀκολούθει μοι, follow Me) apart, by thyself: so as to hear what I have to do with thee alone; as also, that thou mayest undergo the suffering of the cross, John 21:18; John 21:22, ch. John 13:36. [This saying of the Lord, throughout the whole career of Peter’s life, secured his alacrity in following Christ.—V. g.] This following implied not so much the similarity of Peter’s death by the cross to that of Christ, which had already been intimated, as the fact of the death of Peter being separated from that of the Lord by a not exceedingly long interval, when compared with the lengthened stay of John. For there follows, What is that to thee? He had first of all said to the disciples, Follow Me (ch. John 1:43). The continuation of the beginning crowns the completion of Christianity.[409] This especially was the mind of Ignatius, to follow so as to attain to Christ.

[409] i.e. To follow Christ on to the last, as it is the first step, so it is the crowning of a disciple’s Christianity.—E. and T.

Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?
John 21:20. Ἐπιστραφεὶς, turning about) He had therefore begun to follow. No prediction is given to James, who was about to die before Peter and John; from which very fact he might have inferred his speedy consummation.—ὃς καὶ, who also) As before, at the last supper, so now also he was seeking the same place, and was leaning on Jesus’ breast almost with more familiarity than Peter liked.—ἀνέπεσεν ἐπὶ τὸ στῆθος, had leaned on the breast) An abbreviated phrase for, He had lain in the bosom of Jesus, and then in this position had turned towards His breast, ch. John 13:23; John 13:25.—ἐν τῷ δείπνῳ, at the supper) that memorable supper on the day before the passover supper.

Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?
John 21:21. Λέγει, saith) He was supposing that he alone has been ordered now to follow the Saviour.—τί, what) We find it easier to devote ourselves to the Divine will, than to lay aside curiosity respecting others, especially our equals, or those nearly so.

Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.
John 21:22. Λέγει, saith) The Divine counsels respecting believers are more concealed than respecting the ungodly. Comp. John 21:20, as to the traitor.—ἐὰν, if) Never did the Lord give an unmixed repulse to His friends, however unseasonable their question might be. For which reason, not even in this instance does He repress Peter with unmixed sternness, but intimates, under the exterior repulse, something of kindness: even as also the αὐτὸν, he or him, which is relative, is more gentle than if He had used τοῦτον, this person, which is demonstrative, in His reply to him. Therefore there is an ambiguity both weighty, and at the same time pleasing, in effect: For the conditional if does not affirm, if Jesus’ words are to be taken of the full completion of His second advent: His words hold good, even absolutely, if they are taken of the first beginnings of His advent. And, indeed, the brethren felt that the if was not altogether, in its rigid strictness, employed by the Lord: although they ought not to have set it aside wholly: John 21:23.—αὐτὸν, that He) So indicative of what was about to happen to Him is given to John, who was less forward to ask the question (for even on the former occasion he had not asked until he was prompted [by Peter] to do so [ch. John 13:24], John 21:20), but who, notwithstanding, wished to ask it. More is revealed to those who are less disposed to pry curiously.—θέλω, I will) Implying the power of Jesus as to the life or death of His people: Romans 14:9, “To this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and living.—μένειν, remain, tarry) ‘remain’ on earth. 1 Corinthians 15:6, “The greater part remain unto this present.” On the contrary, the dead are termed ἀπελθόντες, those who have departed. Augustine interprets it expectare, “to await:” expectation or awaiting no doubt follows as the consequence of remaining: but the notion of remaining continues without sacrifice of truth.—ἕως ἔρχομαι, until I come) i.e. until I shall in very deed be coming in glory, and so John will be able to testify of Me in this Present, Behold He cometh [Revelation 1:7]. The time of the Lord’s coming succeeds immediately after the destruction of Jerusalem: Matthew 23:39; Matthew 24:29, note: which advent John obtained the privilege of describing in the Apocalypse. The principal apostles of the twelve were the two, Peter and John: the former, laid the foundation; the latter, the crowning topstone: if a third is to be added, it is James, the first martyr of them, who, moreover, was present also at this feast, rather than at the conversation. The cross was promised in this place, to Peter; to John was promised in an enigmatical manner, that great Apocalypse. And as it were the middle point between this discourse of the Lord and the death of John, was the martyrdom of Peter: the years 30, 67, and 98 of the received era, claiming to themselves respectively these three important events. It is only in this point of view that the antithesis is more fully to be perceived: Peter by death follows Jesus in His departure out of the world: John 21:19, note: but John remains in the world, until He, the same, comes. In truth, the ministry of John, in writing and sending the Apocalypse, is equal [in point of patient suffering] to the cross endured by Peter, by reason of the very severe ordeal of trials to be endured by the former in the meanwhile: Revelation 1:17; Revelation 10:9-10. Nor was the writing of the Apocalypse less profitable to the Church, than Peter’s martyrdom. John, according to the prophecy, was about to remain in life, after having outlived all dangers, until the fit time should arrive, when, almost all his colleagues being long ago dead, the Jewish state overthrown, and the Christian Church established, he was to be the minister of the Apocalypse, the beginning and ending of which is that constantly recurring and solemn expression, He cometh, I come, Come, ch. Revelation 1:7, Revelation 22:20, etc. For it was becoming that the Apocalypse should not be published sooner, and yet that it should be published by an apostle. Wherefore the promise which was formerly given to John, in conjunction with others, Matthew 16:28, (where see the note on the different succession steps of the coming), is now in this passage confined to John alone, in a remarkable, preeminent, and unprecedented manner. Often a thing is said then to come to pass, when it is vividly presented before us as about to be: see note on Acts 13:33. [God said this at the time that the Psalm was composed, speaking of it as a thing then present, because it was then represented as about to be]: for which reason the Lord is said to come in that most vivid, prophetical, and apocalyptical representation. And not only in vision, but in the eyes and feeling of John, and thenceforward after that most solemn denunciation, and most especially at the actual time of John’s death, and subsequently, He is in actual fact rather coming, than about to come. For whilst John remained, the fulfilment began to come to pass, the trumpet having been given even to the seventh angel himself, Revelation 11:15, note. And just as all the forty days after the Resurrection were days of Ascension (John 20:17, note), so at a very brief interval after the Ascension is the time of the Coming to judgment, inasmuch as no other step interposed between, Acts 1:11 [wherein the second coming is joined immediately with the Ascension]: For the sitting at God’s right hand does not differ from the Ascension, except in so far as the actual state differs from the act. Therefore Christ expects, and is ready, Hebrews 10:13; 1 Peter 4:5. In the mention of His coming, all the events on this side of it which the Apocalypse contains, are included. There is one last hour, upon which also the coming of Antichrist falls, 1 John 2:18. Immediately after the Apocalypse, John departed and died (Comp. Luke 2:26; Luke 2:29, Simeon), after great afflictions, by a natural death; as Daniel did, ch. John 12:13; with whom John had much in common. In fine, that sentiment, until John shall write the Apocalypse, could be put forward in these words with as much truth and literal strictness as characterized John at the time when, in writing the Apocalypse, he wrote that the Lord comes. Thus both the forerunners and messengers of the coming of the Lord, His first and His second, were of the one name, John the Baptist and John the Apostle. The history of the Old Testament is arranged by the lives of the patriarchs and kings, and by the weeks of Daniel: whilst the Apocalypse has predicted the periods of the New Testament history, which was about to follow after. The whole of the golden chain is completed in the middle, first by the life of Jesus Christ, then next by the remaining of John, who also alone of the Evangelists has recorded all the Passovers and the years intervening between the baptism of Christ and the time of this discourse: He alone of all has acted the part of a chronologer of all the times of the New Testament. See how great was the dignity conferred on the beloved disciple.—τί πρός σε; what is that to thee?) This brings back the curiosity of Peter to order; but at the same time it much more intimates, that his course would be already ended, whilst John was still doing his work, and was subserving the advent of the Lord. The martyrdom of Peter was consummated several years before the destruction of Jerusalem: that destruction had the Lord’s advent subsequent to it.—σὺ, thou) A weighty and merciful command.—ἀκολούθει μοι, follow Me) The future is contained in the Imperative: Give all thy attention to that which belongs to thee: leave to him (that disciple) what belongs to him. Similarly the Lord’s words concerning John, intimated not only what the Lord wishes to be done, but what is about to be.

Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?
John 21:23. Ὁ λόγος, the saying) See how much more trustworthy is the written letter than a saying. The saying, even among the brethren, was without any fraudulent intention, interpolated: the hand (writing) of the apostles, applies the remedy, and the benefit of it is preserved to us even to the present day. The patrons of traditions are themselves at war both with the ancient and new books of Scripture.—ἀδελφοὺς, brethren) viz. those Seven mentioned in John 21:2, and the remaining brethren of that age, or rather those who were living when John wrote. Otherwise there would have been no need to refute the error at so late a period [as when the apostle wrote this Gospel]: the error seems to be confirmed by the fact of the apostle’s continuing to live so long. They learned the appellation, Brethren, from ch. John 20:17.—ἐκεῖνος, that disciple) This pronoun has the effect of amplifying (giving distinction or eminence to one).—οὐκ ἀποθνήσκει, doth not die) They substitute this for different words, omitting ἐὰν, ἓως, if—until, and extending (straining) too much the antithesis between the following (‘Follow’) and the remaining (‘tarry’). However they recognised the fact, that at the actual coming of the Lord, all mortality shall be abolished. This affords a specimen of the weakness of understanding which remained in the disciples before the coming of the Paraclete; nay more, a specimen of the universal want of dexterity, on the part of men, in understanding the words of Christ, especially those in the Apocalypse, of which there is given in this place a contraction.—καὶ οὐκ, and not) John carefully obviates the explanation, as foreign to the purpose and erroneous, lest an utterance should be attributed to Christ, which was not really His. For when John was dead, one thing might seem to have been foretold to him by the Lord, and a different thing to have come to pass. In the Divine words, all the points are to be precisely held fast; and we must especially guard against making any addition to them: Revelation 22:18. [For by a very slight change of the words, and such a change as may seem to be of no consequence, the genuine sense may be wrested.—V. g.] Such care did John and the other Evangelists employ in reporting the words of Christ, They have not reported all things in just so many and identically the same words; but yet altogether according to the mind (sentiment) of the Lord, so that they may be and ought to be regarded exactly the same as if they had employed just so many and identically the same words.

This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.
John 21:24. Οὗτος, this) Therefore at that time, as yet the disciple was remaining, and his remaining showed the truth of the Lord’s words, after so many years had elapsed, and the power of His will [“If I will”].—ὁ μαρτυρῶν) He who was testifying) viz. in his words, as yet surviving. The γράψας, he who wrote, corresponds to this.—καὶ οἴδαμεν, and we know) John himself may have prescribed this clause to the Church, which accordingly would, with no unwillingness, read it in public, and acknowledge it as obligatory with believing assent. But if the Church has added this, it does not derogate from the authority of the work, any more than that little verse which Tertius interwove with the Epistle to the Romans: or, if I may add this, than the little clause added to the Commentaries of Sleidanus concerning his death, and which was perhaps begun by himself and finished by a friend.

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.
John 21:25. Ἔστι, there are) The Present. They were present to the mind of John; and there is no doubt but that he was wont to narrate many such things in his conversations.—καὶ ἄλλα, other things also) The interests of Christianity suffer no loss in consequence, because some things which the apostles wrote are not extant in the present day: for not even is this prejudicial to it, that many of those things which Jesus did and said have not even been recorded.—καθʼ ἕν, every one, in detail, particularly) as concerns the facts and their several attendant circumstances.—οἶμαι, I think) By this word the amplification [the largeness of the statement as to the world not being able to contain the books] is softened down. The Singular number shows that John wrote this verse.—τὸν κόσμον, the world) John had a most exalted (august and grand) opinion of the multitude of Christ’s miracles.—χωρῆσαι, contain [comprehend]) This is not to be taken of geometrical, but of moral capability of containing. Believers would be capable of comprehending: for them, however, enough has been written: ch. John 20:31. The world would only perplex itself further [if more had been written]: it is therefore its interest that is consulted by the very fact of the duly regulated brevity which has been adopted. Such books as this which John has written would of themselves be equal to many libraries: (but how much less would the world be capable to comprehend books as to the other things which Jesus did when He was exalted); and very many copies of the books would have existed: and the critics and commentators would have considered that much more trouble was given to them. Already at that time, the officiousness of many in multiplying transcripts, seems to have given John occasion to add this Epiphonema [An Exclamation subjoined after a narration. See Append]: as also the pious admiration of believers, expressed in the 24th verse: so as that he should say, “Your admiration would be much I ‘greater,’ if you knew not only these things which I have written, but also all the other things. I have not told you all.”[410]

[410] Bengel, J. A. (1860). Vol. 2: Gnomon of the New Testament (M. E. Bengel & J. C. F. Steudel, Ed.) (A. R. Fausset, Trans.) (389–509). Edinburgh: T&T Clark.

Gnomon of the New Testament by Johann Bengel

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