And the Father himself, which has sent me, has borne witness of me. You have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Hath borne witness of me.—The marginal reference interprets this testimony of the Father by the voices from heaven spoken at the Baptism and on the Mount of Transfiguration Both are indeed illustrations, and are naturally suggested by the imagery of voice and shape in the latter half of the verse; but one was at this moment in the future, and the other was a definite event which would have required a more definite reference. The Greek, indeed, distinguishes between the Incarnation at a definite point in time and the witness which was continued—And the Father Himself which sent Me (not “hath sent Me”) hath borne witness of Me.
“His voice” and “His shape” are both general, and the “at any time” extends over the whole duration of previous revelation. Literally the clause is, Voice of Him ye have not at any time heard, nor shape of Him have ye seen. The reference to the revelation of the Old Testament Scriptures is, moreover, demanded by the immediate context, while the voice at the Baptism and the Transfiguration are not only absent from the present circle of thoughts, but also from St. John’s Gospel. Jesus is answering a charge of breaking God’s law, and of making Himself equal with God because he has claimed God’s fatherhood in word for Himself, and has manifested it in life-power for man. That charge was but an example of their unreceptive spirit. Through the whole history of the nation. He had been revealing Himself to them. Through the chief knowledge-giving senses, eye and ear, they should have learnt in that past history to see God in the act of mercy, to hear Him in the word of love. They jealous for God’s honour! Ah! it was then as it had been ever. Voice of God they could not hear. Vision of God they could not see.
1. By the miracles which Jesus had performed, and of which he was conversing.
2. At the baptism of Jesus, where he said, "This is my beloved Son," Matthew 3:17.
3. In the prophecies of the Old Testament. It is not easy to say here to which of these he refers. Perhaps he has reference to all.
Ye have neither heard his voice - This difficult passage has been interpreted in various ways. The main design of it seems to be clear - to reprove the Jews for not believing the evidence that he was the Messiah. In doing this he says that they were indisposed to listen to the testimony of God. He affirmed that God had given sufficient evidence of his divine mission, but they had disregarded it. The first thing that he notices is that they had not heard his voice. The word "hear," in this place, is to be understood in the sense of "obey" or listen to. See the notes at John 5:25. The voice of God means his commands or his declarations, however made; and the Saviour said that it had been the "characteristic" of the Jews that they had not listened to the voice or command of God. As this had been their general characteristic, it was not wonderful that they disregarded now his testimony in regard to the Messiah. The voice of God had been literally heard on the mount. See Deuteronomy 4:12; "Ye heard the voice of the words."
At any time - This has been the uniform characteristic of the nation that they have disregarded and perverted the testimony of God, and it was as true of that generation as of their fathers.
Nor seen his shape - No man hath seen God at any time, John 1:18. But the word "shape," here, does not mean "God himself." It refers to the visible "manifestation" of himself; to the "appearance" which he assumed. It is applied in the Septuagint to his manifesting himself to Moses, Numbers 12:8; "With him will I speak mouth to mouth, 'even apparently;'" in Greek, "in a form" or "shape" the word used here. It is applied to the visible symbol of God that appeared in the cloud and that rested on the tabernacle, Numbers 9:15-16. It is the same word that is applied to the Holy Spirit appearing in bodily shape like a dove, Luke 3:22. Jesus does not here deny that God had "appeared" in this manner, but he says they had not seen - that is, had not "paid attention to," or "regarded," the appearance of God. He had manifested himself, but they disregarded it, and, in particular, they had disregarded his manifestations in attestation of the Messiah. As the word "hear" means to obey, to listen to, so the word "see" means "to pay attention to, to regard" 2 John 1:8; 1 John 3:6, and thus throws light on John 14:9; "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." "I am a 'manifestation' of God - God appearing in human flesh, as he appeared formerly in the symbol of the cloud; and he that 'regards me,' or attends to me, regards the Father."
neither heard his voice, &c.—never recognized Him in this character. The words are "designedly mysterious, like many others which our Lord uttered" [Stier].Hath borne witness of me; not only in my baptism, and at my transfiguration by an audible voice from heaven, but by the voice of his prophets, by whom he spoke to your fathers.
Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape; you have no knowledge of him, nor any acquaintance with him. It is expounded, John 5:38, Ye have not his word abiding in you: for though indeed God appeared to the Jews in no shape or similitude; yet they (that is, their forefathers) had heard his voice, Deu 4:12, speaking out of the midst of the fire, John 5:33. God, being an incorporeal Being, hath no such organs of speech as we have, by which we declare our minds unto others; but God had formed an audible voice, by which he revealed his will unto the Jews; so as it could only be said of the Jews of that generation and their forefathers, from the time of giving the law, that they had not heard his voice; for, Exodus 20:19, they then desired that Moses might speak to them, and that God would speak no more immediately. Accordingly, he did by the prophets speak to them; but they would not believe them, no, not when he spake to them by his Son, who knew his will, Hebrews 1:1,3.
hath borne witness of me; not only in the writings of Moses, and the prophecies of the Old Testament, but by an audible articulate voice from heaven, at the time of Christ's baptism, Matthew 3:17; which was a full testimony of the sonship of Christ, and of the Father's well pleasure in him; and which was repeated at his transfiguration on the mount, Matthew 17:5; and the sonship of Christ is the grand thing which the three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, testify of, 1 John 5:7;
ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape; for the voices that were heard, and the forms that were seen under the Old Testament dispensation, from the first of this kind in Eden's garden, to the incarnation of Christ, which are ascribed to God, or to a divine person, were either by the ministry of angels, or they were voices uttered by the Son of God, or forms assumed by him, who often appeared in an human form, as a prelude of his incarnation; so that it was unusual, and wonderful, and remarkable, that the Father should bear a testimony to the sonship of Christ by a voice from heaven; and which therefore ought to be attended to, and received as a sufficient and valid testimony.And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)John 5:37. From the works which testified that He was the Sent of God, He now passes to the witness of the Sender Himself; therefore from the indirect divine testimony, presented in the works, to the direct testimony in the Scriptures. And the Father Himself, who hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. The subject, which is placed at the beginning of the sentence, the independence (immediateness) expressed by αὐτός, together with the Perfect μεμαρτ., unite to prove that there is no longer any reference here to the previous testimony, that of the works, by which God had borne testimony (against Augustine, Grotius, Maldonatus, Olshausen, Baur, and most others). Quite arbitrary, and in opposition to the account of the baptism given by John, is the view which others take, that the divine witness given in the voice at the baptism, Matthew 3:17 (but see rather John 1:33), is here meant (Chrysostom, Rupertius, Jansen, Bengel, Lampe, Paulus, Godet). While Ewald (Johann. Schr. I. 216) includes together both the baptism and the works, Hengstenberg adds to these two the witness of Scripture likewise; others, again, “the immediate divine witness in the believer’s heart, by means of which the indirect testimony of the works is first apprehended” (De Wette, B. Crusius, Tholuck), the “drawing” of the Father, John 6:14, comp. John 6:45, John 8:47. But there is not the slightest indication in the text that an outward, perceptible, concrete, and objective witness is meant; nay more, in the face of the following connection (φωνήν … εἶδος). The only true interpretation in harmony with the context is that which takes it to mean the witness which God Himself has given in His word, in the Scriptures of the O. T. (Cyril, Nonnus, Theophylact, Euthymius Zigabenus, Beda, Calvin, Kuinoel, Lücke, Lange, Maier, Luthardt). In the O. T. prophecies, God Himself has lifted up His voice and revealed His form.
οὔτε φωνήν, κ.τ.λ.] Reproach of want of susceptibility for this testimony, all the more emphatic through the absence of any antithetic particle. Neither a voice of His have ye ever heard, nor a form of His have ye ever seen. With respect to what God had spoken in the O. T. as a testimony to Christ (μεμαρτύρ. περὶ ἐμοῦ), or as to the manner in which, with a like purpose, He had therein given His self-manifestation to the spiritual contemplation (He had made known his δόξα; comp. μορφὴ θεοῦ, Php 2:6),—to the one ye were spiritually deaf, to the other ye were spiritually blind. As the first cannot, conformably with the context, be taken to mean the revealing voice of God within, vouchsafed to the prophets (De Wette), so neither can the second refer merely to the Theophanies (in particular, to the appearances of the Angel of the Lord, Hengstenberg) and prophetic visions, but to the entire self-revelation of God in the O. T. generally, by virtue of which He lets Himself be seen by him who has eyes to see;—a general and broad interpretation, which corresponds with the general nature of the expression, and with its logical relation to μεμαρτ. π. ἐμοῦ. The Jews could not have heard the voice at the baptism, nor could they have seen the form of God as the Logos had seen it, John 1:18, John 3:13; and for this reason neither the one meaning nor the other can be found in the words (Ewald). Every interpretation, moreover, is incorrect which finds in them anything but a reproach, because Jesus speaks in the second person, and continues to do so in John 5:38, where the tone of censure is still obvious. We must therefore reject the explanation of B. Crusius: “never hitherto has this immediate revelation of God taken place;” and that of Tholuck: “ye have not received a more direct revelation than did Moses and his cotemporaries (Numbers 12:8; Deuteronomy 4:15; Deuteronomy 5:24), but ye have not received within you the witness of the revelation in the word,”—an artificial connecting of John 5:37 with John 5:38, which the words forbid. Paulus and Kuinoel (comp. Euthymius Zigabenus) likewise erroneously say that “Jesus here concedes, in some degree, to the Jews what they had themselves wished to urge in objection, viz. that they had heard no divine voice, etc. Comp. Ebrard (in Olshausen), who imports the idea of irony into the passage.
 Jesus could not reproach His opponents with not having received prophetic revelations, such as Theophanies and Visions, for these were marks of distinction bestowed only on individuals. This also against Weiss, Lehrbegr. pp. 104, 105.John 5:37. But over and above the evidence of the works καὶ ὁ πέμψας με πατήρ, αὐτὸς μεμαρτύρηκε, “And the Father who sent me has Himself also testified”. Where and how this testimony of the Father’s separate from the works has been given, is explained, John 5:38; John 5:40 But, first, Jesus states how it has no been given: οὔτε φωνὴν αὐτοῦ … ἑωράκατε. It is not by coming into your midst in a visible form and speaking as I speak that the Father has testified. “His voice you have never heard: His form you have never seen.” It is not by sensible sights and sounds the Father has given His testimony. [This interpretation is however ignored by most: by Meyer, who thinks the reference is to their insensibility to the revelation of God in Scripture; by Westcott, who says “the Jews by their disbelief of Christ failed to hear and see Him”; by Godet, who finds “a declaration of man’s natural impotence to rise to the immediate and personal knowledge of God”. Reference to the baptism is put out of the question by πώποτε. The reference to the two chief forms of prophetic revelation (Weiss) is too remote.]37–40. The connexion of thought in the next few verses is very difficult to catch, and cannot be affirmed with certainty. This is often the case in S. John’s writings. A number of simple sentences follow one another with an even flow; but it is by no means easy to see how each leads on to the next. Here there is a transition from the indirect testimony to the Messiahship of Jesus given by the works which He is commissioned to do (John 5:36), to the direct testimony to the same given by the words of Scripture (John 5:37-40). The Jews were rejecting both.
which hath sent me, hath borne witness] There is a difference of tense in the Greek which should be retained: the Father which sent Me (once for all at the Incarnation) He hath borne witness (for a long time past, and is still doing so) of Me.
Ye have neither, &c.] These words are a reproach; therefore there can be no allusion (as suggested in the margin) to the Baptism or the Transfiguration. The Transfiguration had not yet taken place, and very few if any of Christ’s hearers could have heard the voice from heaven at the Baptism. Moreover, if that particular utterance were meant, ‘voice’ in the Greek would have had the article. Nor can there be any reference to the theophanies, or symbolical visions of God, in O.T. It could be no matter of reproach to these Jews that they had never beheld a theophany. A paraphrase will shew the meaning; ‘neither with the ear of the heart have ye ever heard Him, nor with the eye of the heart have ye ever seen Him, in the revelation of Himself given in the Scriptures; and so ye have not the testimony of His word present as an abiding power within you.’ There should be no full stop at ‘shape,’ only a comma or semi-colon. Had they studied Scripture rightly they would have had a less narrow view of the Sabbath (John 5:16), and would have recognised the Messiah.John 5:37. Αὐτός) Himself [independently of, and, in weight of testimony] beyond the works.—μεμαρτύρηκε, hath borne witness) Past time. That testimony is recorded ch. John 1:32-33, “Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining on Him, the same is He,” etc.—οὔτε, neither) In the beginning of verses 36 and 37 is described [the Father’s] testimony concerning Jesus Christ: at the close of 37 and in 38 is described the unbelief of the Jews.—εἶδος αὐτοῦ, His appearance) This corresponds with the first chapter of Ezekiel, where there is described at large “the appearance of the likeness of the glory of God” [John 5:28], seen by Ezekiel, who presently after also heard the voice of God. And that whole chapter was the Haphtara [portion, or lesson of the Prophets, appointed for the day] of the feast mentioned in the first verse. [They had not seen or heard Him at any time, as the prophets (for instance Ezekiel 1:28), much less as the Christ had. Comp. John 1:17, “Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ;” John 6:46, “Not that any man hath seen the Father, save He which is of God, He hath seen the Father.”—Not. Crit. and V. g.]Verses 37, 38. - The witness of the Father further elucidated. (See ver. 32.) Verse 37. - And the Father (himself), who sent me. (he) hath borne witness concerning me. If the "himself" be the genuine reading (and it is defended by Godet, M'Clellan, and Meyer), there would seem to be a special or direct and additional form of the Father's testimony. And several ancient and modern critics (Chrysostom, Bengel, Paulus, Godet) have seen in it a reference to the special "voice and shape" which were heard and teen by John and Jesus at the baptism, when heaven was opened, when a voice from heaven proclaimed him to be the well beloved and only begotten Son of God, and when the Spirit of God descended as a dove and abode upon him. This testimony was only given to the world through the consciousness and word of John, who, after receiving it, bore record that this was the Son of God. Meyer and many others, rather following the suggestion of De Wette that the inward drawing of the Father to the Son was that to which the Lord referred, would thus complete the testimony of the "works." This testimony, then, which is cited against the challenge, "Thou bearest witness concerning thyself," would be a purely subjective one. Westcott thinks it refers to the whole of the Old Testament ministry and prophetic and typical anticipation of the Christ, culminating in John the Baptist. This particular series of testimonies is referred to in vers. 39 and 47, etc. Moulton, who rejects the αὐτὸς sees no new, no direct, testimony in addition to that of the works, but the assertion that they are the voice of the Father - in a sense the very form of the Father, for the conviction of those who might if they would come to him. If the αὐτὸς must be retained, I think that we must suppose our Lord referring to the whole of those objective manifestations of the Father's will and mind concerning Christ which were outside of his own act or work; and all that shining through his face, that whispering through his word of what was the eternal Father's face and voice, and plainly distinguished from the work of the Son; e.g. the angels' song, the miraculous providence which protected his childhood, the opening of heaven at his baptism, the Divinity which attended him and which made his ministry so strange and strong an influence. Nor could he who had the whole of his life before him fail to be conscious of further testimonies from heaven and from Providence which, though unrecorded, would continue to set their seal upon his character and work. We must never forget that our Lord himself was a revelation of the Son. But the revelation of the Son in his ἔργα was accompanied throughout with another manifestation - that of the Father. The glory of the Lord shone round about him. Nevertheless, a difficulty is conceded as arising out of the unsusceptibility and limited opportunities of his hearers. Never have ye heard a voice of him, or seen a form of him. These voices and these sounds need opened ears and unsealed eyes. You (says Christ) have not heard that which you might have heard. You have not seen that which you might have seen. On a subsequent occasion he said to one of his disciples, "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father. How sayest thou, then, Show us the Father?" So that there was, indeed, the condition of adequate revelation of the Father provided for the disciples in the life of Christ, in the ministry of the Son of the Father. Moreover, it far exceeded the vision of God which was granted to patriarchs and prophets under the Old Testament dispensation. Doubtless the voice of Jehovah had been heard (Exodus 20:19; Deuteronomy 4:12), the face of Jehovah had been seen (Genesis 32:30; Exodus 24:10; Numbers 12:8; Deuteronomy 5:4, 24). Isaiah saw the glory of the Angel of the Lord (6; cf. John 12:41), and Ezekiel likewise by the river of Chebar (Ezekiel 3:23). Nevertheless, the evangelist, on the credit of the great utterance before us, has laid down, as the very climax of the prologue, "No man hath seen God at any time (πώποτε); the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." This language of the prologue shows that the true revelation of the Father's heart was not even granted to the noblest of the seers and patriarchs. Such manifestations as the visions of the Old Testament saints were not the veritable voice or form of the Father. Should mankind ever obtain vision or audition of the Father, it must be through the presence among them of him who had been forever in the bosom of the Father. Though these captious critics were in a position to have received this revelation of the Highest, they had not done so. "Ye have neither heard a voice of him, nor seen a form of him. You might have seen and heard and handled if you had chosen, but You will not come to me, you will not believe me, you will not yield to my claims as One sent to you from the Father!"
The best texts substitute ἐκεῖνος, he; reading, "the Father which sent me, He hath born witness." So Rev.
Voice - shape
Not referring to the descent of the dove and the voice from heaven at Jesus' baptism, but generally and figuratively to God's witness in the Old Testament Scriptures. This is in harmony with the succeeding reference to the word.
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