John 21
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Chap. 21. The Epilogue or Appendix

This Epilogue to a certain extent balances the Prologue, the main body of the Gospel in two great divisions lying in between them; but with this difference, that the Prologue is part of the original plan of the Gospel, whereas the Epilogue is not. It is evident that when the Evangelist wrote John 20:30, he had no intention of narrating any more ‘signs’ The reason for adding this appendix can be conjectured with something like certainty: the Evangelist wished to give a full and exact account of Christ’s words respecting himself, about which there had been serious misunderstanding. In order to make the meaning of Christ’s saying as clear as possible, S. John narrates in detail the circumstances which led to its being spoken.

The whole of the chapter is peculiar to S. John’s Gospel. It falls into four parts. 1. The Manifestation to the Seven and the Miraculous Draught of Fishes (1–14). 2. The Commission to S. Peter and Prediction as to his Death (15–19). 3. The misunderstood Saying respecting the Evangelist (20–23). 4. Concluding Notes (24, 25).

After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself.
1–14. The Manifestation to the Seven and the Miraculous Draught of Fishes

1. After these things] This vague expression (see on John 5:1, John 6:1, John 19:38) suits an afterthought which has no direct connexion with what immediately precedes.

shewed himself] Better, manifested Himself. The rendering of this verb (phaneroun), which is one of S. John’s favourite words [1], should be kept uniform, especially here, John 2:11, John 7:4, John 17:6, where the active voice is used. Comp. John 1:31, John 3:21, John 9:3, John 21:14; 1 John 1:2; 1 John 2:19; 1 John 2:28; 1 John 3:2; 1 John 3:5; 1 John 3:8; 1 John 4:9. In the other Gospels the word occurs only Mark 4:22; [John 16:12; John 16:14], in all cases in the passive form.

again] This (as John 21:14 shews) points back to the manifestation to S. Thomas and the rest (John 20:26).

sea of Tiberias] See on John 6:1. S. John alone uses this name [2]. The return of the disciples from Jerusalem to Galilee is commanded Matthew 28:7; Mark 16:7. They returned to Jerusalem soon, and remained there from the Ascension to Pentecost (Acts 1:4). S. Matthew notices only the appearances in Galilee, S. Luke [and S. Mark] only those in Jerusalem. S. John gives some of both groups.

on this wise shewed he] Better, He manifested on this wise. This repetition is S. John’s style [3].

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.
2. There were together] Probably all seven belonged to the neighbourhood; we know this of four of them.

Thomas] See on John 11:16, John 14:5, John 20:24. All particulars about him are given by S. John [4].

Nathanael] See on John 1:45 : the descriptive addition ‘of Cana of Galilee’ occurs here only. S. John alone mentions Nathanael [5].

the sons of Zebedee] If one of the sons of Zebedee were not the writer, they would have been placed first after S. Peter, instead of last of those named [6]. The omission of their names also is in harmony with S. John’s reserve about all closely connected with himself [7].

two other] Some conjecture Andrew and Philip; but if so, why are the names not given? More probably these nameless disciples are not Apostles.

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.
3. Simon Peter] As so often, he takes the lead. In the interval of waiting for definite instructions the disciples have returned to their usual employment. Once more we have precise and vivid details, as of an eye-witness.

We also go] Rather, we also come.

went forth] From the town or village, probably Capernaum or Bethsaida.

into a ship] Better, into the ships. ‘Immediately’ must be omitted on decisive evidence.

that night] Better, in that night. ‘That’ perhaps indicates that failure was exceptional; or it may mean ‘that memorable night’ (comp. John 19:31; John 20:19). Night was the best time for fishing (Luke 5:5).

they caught nothing] Failure at first is the common lot of Christ’s fishers. His Presence again causing success after failure might bring home to them the lesson that apart from Him they could do nothing (John 15:5).

The word here used for ‘catch’ does not occur in the Synoptists, but besides John 21:10 is found six times in this Gospel (John 7:30; John 7:32; John 7:44, John 8:20, John 10:39, John 11:57), and once in Revelation (John 19:20) [8]. Elsewhere only Acts 3:7; Acts 12:4; 2 Corinthians 11:32.

But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.
4. morning was now come] The better reading gives, dawn was now breaking.

stood on the shore] Literally, stood on to the beach, i.e. He came and stood on the beach.

but] Nevertheless, or howbeit (mentoi, a particle rare in N.T. outside this Gospel); implying that this was surprising. Comp. John 4:27, John 7:13, John 12:42, John 20:5.

knew not] See on John 20:14.

Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No.
5. Then Jesus] Jesus therefore; because they did not recognise Him.

Children] Perhaps a mere term of friendly address (paidia); not the affectionate term used John 13:33 (teknia). Paidia occurs 1 John 2:14; 1 John 2:18; teknia occurs 1 John 2:1; 1 John 2:12; 1 John 2:28; 1 John 3:7; 1 John 3:18; 1 John 4:4; 1 John 5:21.

meat] The Greek word (prosphagion) occurs here only. It appears to mean something eaten with bread, especially fish. Perhaps we should translate, Have ye any fish?

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.
6. They cast therefore] Perhaps they thought the stranger saw fish on the right side. Fish are at times seen “in dense masses” in the lake.

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.
7. Therefore that disciple] The characteristics of the two Apostles are again most delicately yet clearly given (comp. John 20:2-9). S. John is the first to apprehend; S. Peter the first to act [9].

Now when Simon Peter heard] Simon Peter therefore having heard.

fisher’s coat] The Greek word (ependutes) occurs here only. It was his upper garment, which he gathered round him “with instinctive reverence for the presence of his Master” (Westcott). ‘Naked’ need not mean more than ‘stripped’ of the upper garment. “No one but an eye-witness would have thought of the touch in John 21:7, which exactly inverts the natural action of one about to swim, and yet is quite accounted for by the circumstances.” S. p. 267.

cast himself] with his habitual impulsiveness.

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.
8. in a little ship] Rather, in the boat, whether ‘the ship’ of John 21:3 or a smaller boat attached to it, we cannot determine.

two hundred cubits] About 100 yards.

As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.
9. As soon as … they saw] Better, When thereforethey see.

a fire of coals] See on John 18:18 : the word occurs only there and here in N.T. [10]. ‘There’ is literally laid.

fish laid thereon, and bread] Or possibly, a fish laid thereon and a loaf. But the singulars may be collectives as in the A. V. The word for fish (opsarion) is similar in meaning, though not in derivation, to the one used in John 21:5. (See on John 6:9.) In John 21:11 yet another word is used (ichthus), which means ‘fish’ generally, whether for eating or not.

Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.
10. fish] The same word as in John 21:9, but in the plural.

caught] See on 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.
11. went up] Better, with the best texts, went up therefore: the meaning probably is ‘went on board’ the vessel, now in shallow water. The details in this verse are strong evidence of the writer having been an eye-witness: he had helped to count these ‘great fishes’ and gives the number, not because there is anything mystical in it, but because he remembers it.

The points of contrast between this Draught of Fishes and the similar miracle at the beginning of Christ’s ministry are so numerous and so striking, that it is difficult to resist the conclusion that the spiritual meaning, which from very early times has been deduced from them, is divinely intended. Symbolical interpretations of Scripture are of three kinds: (1) Fanciful and illegitimate. These are simply misleading: they force into plain statements meanings wholly unreal if not false; as when the 153 fishes are made to symbolize Gentiles, Jews, and the Trinity. (2) Fanciful but legitimate. These are harmless, and may be edifying: they use a plain statement to inculcate a spiritual lesson, although there is no evidence that such lesson is intended. (3) Legitimate and divinely intended. In these cases the spiritual meaning is either pointed out for us in Scripture (Luke 5:10), or is so strikingly in harmony with the narrative, that it seems reasonable to accept it as purposely included in it. Of course it requires both spiritual and intellectual power to determine in any given case to which class a particular interpretation belongs; but in the present instance we may safely assign the symbolism to the third class.

The main points are these. The two Miraculous Draughts represent the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant. The one gathers together an untold multitude of both good and bad in the troubled waters of this world. Its net is rent with schisms and its Ark seems like to sink. The other gathers a definite number of elect, and though they be many contains them all, taking them not on the stormy ocean but on the eternal shore of peace.

Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.
12. Come and dine] The meal indicated is not the principal meal of the day (deipnon) which was taken in the afternoon, but the morning meal (ariston) or breakfast. See on Luke 11:37.

And none] Omit ‘and.’ There is a solemn simplicity in the narrative. The sentences from John 21:10 to John 21:14 have no connecting particles: comp. chap. 15 and John 20:13-19.

none durst ask … knowing] A mixture of perplexity, awe, and conviction. They are convinced that He is the Lord, yet feel that He is changed, and reverence restrains them from curious questions. Comp. Matthew 2:8; Matthew 10:11. The writer knows the inmost feelings of Apostles (comp. John 2:11; John 2:17; John 2:22, John 4:27; John 4:33, John 6:21, John 9:2, John 20:20) [11].

Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.
13. Jesus then cometh] Omit ‘then.’ They are afraid to approach, so He comes to them. ‘Bread’ and ‘fish’ are in the singular, as in John 21:9, but with the definite article, which points back to John 21:9; ‘the bread’ and ‘the fish’ which had been mentioned before. Of course this is not the fish that had just been caught, and nothing is told us as to how it was provided. The food is a gift from the Lord to His disciples.

This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.
14. This is now the third time] We have a similar construction 2 Peter 3:1. The two previous manifestations are probably those related John 20:19-23; John 20:26-29 : but we have not sufficient knowledge to arrange the different appearances in chronological order. See on Luke 24:49.

shewed himself] Manifested Himself: see on John 21:1.

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.
15–19. The Commission to S. Peter and Prediction as to his death

15. dined] See on John 21:12.

saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas] For ‘Jonas’ read John here and in John 21:16-17, as in John 1:42. Note that the writer himself calls him Simon Peter, but represents the Lord as calling him ‘Simon son of John.’ This is not only in harmony with the rest of this Gospel, but with the Gospels as a whole. Although Jesus gave Simon the name of Peter, yet, with one remarkable exception (see on Luke 22:34), He never addresses him as Peter, but always as Simon. Matthew 16:17; Matthew 17:25; Mark 14:37; Luke 22:31. The Synoptists generally call him Simon, sometimes adding his surname. S. John always gives both names, excepting in John 1:41, where the surname just about to be given would be obviously out of place. Contrast in this chapter John 21:2-3; John 21:7; John 21:11 with 16, 17. Should we find this minute difference observed, if the writer were any other than S. John? [12] This being the general usage of our Lord, there is no reason to suppose that His calling him Simon rather than Peter on this occasion is a reproach, as implying that by denying his Master he had forfeited the name of Peter. That S. John should add the surname with much greater frequency than the Synoptists is natural. At the time when S. John wrote the surname had become the more familiar of the two. S. Paul never calls him Simon, but uses the Aramaic form of the surname, Cephas.

lovest thou me] The word for ‘love’ here and in the question in John 21:16 is agapân (see on John 11:5). S. Peter in all three answers uses philein, and our Lord uses philein in the third question (John 21:17). The change is not accidental; and once more we have evidence of the accuracy of the writer: he preserves distinctions which were actually made. S. Peter’s preference for philein is doubly intelligible: (1) it is the less exalted word; he is sure of the natural affection which it expresses; he will say nothing about the higher love implied in agapân; (2) it is the warmer word; there is a calm discrimination implied in agapân which to him seems cold. In the third question Christ takes him at his own standard; he adopts S. Peter’s own word, and thus presses the question more home.

more than these] ‘More than these, thy companions, love Me.’ The A. V. is ambiguous, and so also is the Greek, but there cannot be much doubt as to the meaning: ‘more than thou lovest these things’ gives a very inadequate signification to the question. At this stage in S. Peter’s career Christ would not be likely to ask him whether he preferred his boat and nets to Himself. S. Peter had professed to be ready to die for His Master (John 13:37) and had declared that though all the rest might deny Him, he would never do so (Matthew 26:33). Jesus recalls this boast by asking him whether he now professes to have more loyalty and devotion than the rest.

Yea, Lord; thou knowest] “We have once more an exquisite touch of psychology. It is Peter’s modesty that speaks, and his sense of shame at his own short-comings … He has nothing to appeal to, and yet he is conscious that his affection is not unreal or insincere, and He trusts to Him who searches the hearts.” S. pp. 268, 9. Not only does he change the word for ‘love’ from agapân to philein, but he says nothing about ‘more than these:’ he will not venture any more to compare himself with others. Moreover he makes no professions as to the future; experience has taught him that the present is all that he can be sure of. The ‘Thou’ in ‘Thou knowest’ is emphatic. This time he will trust the Lord’s knowledge of him rather than his own estimate of himself. Can all these delicate touches be artistic fictions?

Feed my lambs] Not only is he not degraded on account of his fall, he receives a fresh charge and commission. The work of the fisher gives place to that of the shepherd: the souls that have been brought together and won need to be fed and tended. And this S. Peter must do.

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.
16. lovest thou me?] Jesus drops the ‘more than these,’ which the humbled Apostle had shrunk from answering, but retains His own word for ‘love.’ S. Peter answers exactly as before.

Feed my sheep] Better, Tend, or shepherd, My sheep. The word rendered ‘feed’ in John 21:15; John 21:17 (boskein) means ‘supply with food.’ Comp. Matthew 8:30; Matthew 8:33; Mark 5:11; Mark 5:14; Luke 8:32; Luke 8:34; Luke 15:15 (the only other passages where the word occurs in N.T.) of the feeding of the herd of swine. The word used here (poimainein) means rather ‘be shepherd to.’ It is used literally Luke 17:7; 1 Corinthians 9:7; and figuratively Matthew 2:6; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2. Comp. Judges 12; Revelation 2:27; Revelation 7:17; Revelation 12:5; Revelation 19:15. Tending implies more of guidance and government than feeding does. The lambs, which can go no distance, scarcely require guidance, their chief need is food. The sheep require both.

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.
17. the third time] He had denied thrice, and must thrice affirm his love. This time Jesus makes a further concession: He not only ceases to urge the ‘more than these,’ but He adopts S. Peter’s own word, philein. The Apostle had rejected Christ’s standard and taken one of his own, about which he could be more sure; and Christ now questions the Apostle’s own standard. This is why ‘Peter was grieved’ so much; not merely at the threefold question recalling his threefold denial, not merely at his devotion being questioned more than once, but that the humble form of love which he had professed, and that without boastful comparison with others, and without rash promises about the future, should seem to be doubted by his Lord.

thou knowest all things; thou knowest] Once more we have two words for ‘know’ in the original and only one in the A. V. (Comp. John 7:27, John 8:55, John 13:7, John 14:7.) The first ‘knowest’ (oidas) refers to Christ’s supernatural intuition, as in John 21:15-16 : the second ‘knowest’ (ginôskeis) to His experience and discernment; Thou recognisest, perceivest, seest, that I love Thee. See on John 2:24-25.

Feed my sheep] It is doubtful whether we have or have not precisely the same word for ‘sheep’ here as in John 21:16. The Greek word here according to the best authorities is undoubtedly a diminutive (probatia, not probata); in John 21:16 the evidence is pretty evenly balanced between probatia and probata (‘little sheep’ and ‘sheep’). One is tempted to adopt S. Ambrose’s order in John 21:15-17—‘lambs,’ ‘little sheep,’ ‘sheep’ (agnos, oviculas, oves), which seems also to have been the reading of the old Syriac: but the balance of evidence is against it. But without counting the possible difference between ‘little sheep’ and ‘sheep,’ there are three important distinctions obliterated in the A. V.,—the two words rendered ‘love,’ the two rendered ‘feed,’ and the two rendered ‘know.’

S. Peter seems to recall this charge in his First Epistle (John 5:2-3), a passage which in the plainest terms condemns the policy of those who on the strength of this charge have claimed to rule as his successors over the whole of Christ’s flock.

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.
18. Verily, verily] This peculiarity of S. John’s Gospel (see on John 1:51) is preserved in the appendix to it [13].

wast young] Literally, wast younger than thou art now. He was now between youth and age.

stretch forth thy hands] For help.

shall gird thee] As a criminal.

whither thou wouldest not] To death. This does not mean that at the last S. Peter will be unwilling to die for his Lord, but that death, and especially a criminal’s death, is what men naturally shrink from.

The common interpretation that ‘stretch forth thy hands’ refers to the attitude in crucifixion, and ‘gird thee’ to binding to the cross, is precarious, on account of the order of the clauses, the taking to execution being mentioned after the execution. But it is not impossible; for the order of this group of clauses may be determined by the previous group, and the order in the previous group is the natural one. The girding naturally precedes the walking in the first half; therefore ‘gird’ precedes ‘carry’ in the second half, and ‘stretch forth thy hands’ is connected with ‘gird’ rather than ‘carry’ and therefore is coupled with ‘gird.’ Or again ‘carry thee &c.’ may possibly refer to the setting up of the cross after the sufferer was bound to it: in this way all runs smoothly.

18, 19. This high charge will involve suffering and even death. In spite of his boastfulness and consequent fall the honour which he once too rashly claimed (John 13:37) will after all be granted to him.

This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.
19. This spake he] Now this He spake.

signifying by what death] Signifying by what manner of death. This comment is quite in S. John’s style (comp. John 12:33, John 18:32) [14]. It will depend on the interpretation of John 21:18 whether we understand this to mean crucifixion or simply martyrdom. That S. Peter was crucified at Rome rests on sufficient evidence, beginning with Tertullian (Scorp. xv.), and that he requested to be crucified head downwards is stated by Eusebius (H. E. iii. i. 2) on the authority of Origen.

he should glorify] Literally, he shall glorify.

Follow me] Perhaps the literal meaning is not altogether to be excluded; and it appears from S. Peter’s ‘turning about’ (John 21:20), that he understood the words literally and began to follow. But no doubt this command here, as elsewhere in the Gospels, is to be understood figuratively, the precise shade of meaning being determined by the context. Comp. John 1:43; Matthew 8:22; Matthew 9:9; Matthew 19:21. In the present case there is probably a reference to John 13:36-37; and the ‘following’ includes following to a martyr’s death, and possibly the precise death of crucifixion.

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?
20–23. The Misunderstood Saying respecting the Evangelist

20. Peter, turning about, seeth] Omit ‘then.’ The graphic details are those of an eyewitness.

leaned] Better, leaned back. The allusion is to the momentary change of posture (John 13:25) in order to ask who was the traitor, not to the position which he occupied next our Lord throughout the meal (John 13:23).

Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?
21. Peter seeing him] Peter therefore seeing him. Once more we see the intimacy between these two Apostles. When S. Peter is told to follow, S. John does so also unbidden; and S. Peter having received his own commission asks about that of his friend. Comp. John 18:15, John 20:1 [15].

and what shall this man do?] Literally, but this man, what? Not so much ‘what shall he do?’ as ‘what about him?’ What is the lot in store for him. The question indicates the natural wish to know the future of a friend, all the more natural after having been told something about his own future. Hence the ‘therefore’ at the beginning of the verse. As usual, S. Peter acts on the first impulse.

Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.
22. If I will] Christ died and rose again that He might become the Lord and Master both of the dead and the living (Romans 14:9). He speaks here in full consciousness of this sovereignty. For the use of ‘I will’ by Christ comp. John 17:24; Matthew 8:3 and parallels, Matthew 26:39. While the ‘I will’ asserts the Divine authority, the ‘if’ keeps the decision secret.

that he tarry] Better, that he abide; it is S. John’s favourite word which we have had so often (John 1:32-33; John 1:39-40, John 2:12, John 3:36, John 4:40, &c., and twelve times in chap. 15) [16]. S. Peter’s lot was to suffer, S. John’s to wait. For ‘abide’ in the sense of remain in life comp. John 12:34; Php 1:25; 1 Corinthians 15:6.

till I come] Literally, while I am coming. The words express rather the interval of waiting than the end of it. Comp. John 9:4; Mark 6:45. This at once seems to shew that it is unnecessary to enquire whether Pentecost, or the destruction of Jerusalem, or the apocalyptic visions recorded in the Revelation, or a natural death, or the Second Advent, is meant by Christ’s ‘coming’ in this verse. He is not giving an answer but refusing one. The reply is purposely hypothetical and perhaps purposely indefinite. But inasmuch as the longer the interval covered by the words, the greater the indefiniteness, the Second Advent is to be preferred as an interpretation, if a distinct meaning is given to the ‘coming.’

what is that to thee?] The words are evidently a rebuke. There is a sense in which ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ is a safeguard against curiosity and presumption rather than a shirking of responsibility.

follow thou me] ‘Thou’ is emphatic, contrasting with the preceding ‘he,’ which is emphatic also.

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?
23. Then went this saying] This saying therefore went.

abroad among] Literally, forth unto: comp. Matthew 9:26; Mark 1:28; Romans 10:8.

the brethren] This phrase, common in the Acts (John 9:30, John 11:1; John 11:29, John 15:1; John 15:3; John 15:22-23, &c.), is not used elsewhere in the Gospels for believers generally; but we see the way prepared for it in the Lord’s words to the disciples (Matthew 23:8), to S. Peter (Luke 22:32), and to Mary Magdalene (John 20:17).

should not die] Literally, doth not die; so also ‘shall not die’ in the next clause. The mistake points to a time when Christians generally expected that the Second Advent would take place in their own time; and the correction of the mistake points to a time when the Apostle was still living. If this chapter was added by another hand after the Apostle’s death it would have been natural to mention his death, as the simplest and most complete answer to the misunderstanding. The cautious character of the answer given, merely pointing out the hypothetical form of Christ’s language, without pretending to explain it, shews that the question had not yet been solved in fact. Thus we are once more forced back within the limits of the first century for the date of this Gospel.

This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.
24. which testifieth] Better, which beareth witness. Whether ‘these things’ refers to the whole Gospel, or only to the contents of chap. 21 cannot be determined.

wrote] Note the change from present to aorist. The witness still continues at the present time; the writing took place once for all in the past.

we know] Because S. John uses the singular, ‘he knoweth,’ in John 19:35, it does not follow that he would not use the plural here. It would have been out of place in the middle of his narrative to add the testimony of the Ephesian elders to his own as to details which he saw with his own eyes at the foot of the cross. But it is not unnatural that at the close of his Gospel he should claim them as joint witnesses to the fidelity with which he has committed to writing this last instalment of evangelical and apostolic traditions. Comp. 1 John 5:18-20; 1 John 5:15; 1 John 3:14; 1 John 1:1; 3 John 1:12.

24, 25. Concluding Notes

Again the question of authorship confronts us. Are these last two verses by the writer of the rest of the chapter? Are they both by the same hand? The external evidence, as in the case of the preceding verses, is in favour of their being both by the same hand, and that the writer of the first twenty-three verses, and therefore S. John. No MS. or version is extant without John 21:24, and all except the Sinaitic, have John 21:25 also; nor is there any evidence that a copy was ever in existence lacking either this last chapter or John 21:24.

The internal evidence is the other way. The natural impression produced by John 21:24 is that it is not the writer of the Gospel who here bears witness to his own work, but a plurality of persons who testify to the trustworthiness of the Evangelist’s narrative. So that we possibly have in this verse a note added by the Ephesian elders before the publication of the Gospel. The change to the singular in John 21:25 would seem to imply that this verse is an addition by a third hand of a remark which the writer may have heard from S. John.

But the internal evidence is not conclusive, and the impression naturally produced by the wording of the verses need not be the right one. The aged Apostle in bringing his work a second time (John 20:30-31) to a conclusion may have included that inmost circle of disciples (to whom he had frequently told his narrative by word of mouth) among those who were able to guarantee his accuracy. With a glance of affectionate confidence round the group of devoted hearers, he adds their testimony to his own, and gives them a share in bearing witness to the truth of the Gospel.

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.
25. every one] Literally, one by one.

I suppose] The Greek word (oimai) occurs nowhere else in N.T. excepting Php 1:17; James 1:7. The use of the first person singular is very unlike S. John.

If this verse is an addition by an unknown hand it appears to be almost contemporary. The wording seems to imply that it would still be possible to write a great deal: additional materials still abound.

could not contain] The bold hyperbole (which may be S. John’s, though added by another hand) expresses the yearnings of Christendom throughout all ages. The attempts which century after century continue to be made to write the ‘Life of Christ’ seem to prove that even the fragments that have come down to us of that ‘Life’ have been found in their many sidedness and profundity to be practically inexhaustible. After all that the piety and learning of eighteen hundred years have accomplished, Christians remain still unsatisfied, still unconvinced that the most has been made of the very fragmentary account of scarcely a tenth portion of the Lord’s life on earth. What would be needed to make even this tenth complete? What, therefore, to complete the whole?

Amen] The addition of a copyist.

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John 20
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