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"Who are you ?" The use, therefore, of this mode of expression corresponded to that reserve as to openly and explicitly avowing himself to be the Messiah, which the expectations and feelings of the Jews compelled him to maintain till the closing scenes of his ministry.*

In the next place, the verb eiuí is here to be understood as having the force of the perfect tense, that is, as denoting, literally or figuratively, a state of being, commenced at a distant time, and continued to the present. It is thus elsewhere used in St. John's Gospel. "Have I been [verbally, Am I so long with you, and yet have you not known me, Philip?"† But such is our use of language, that this meaning is here to be expressed in English by the imperfect tense, "I was." If we should say, "Before Abraham was born, I have been," the idea of uninterrupted continuance of being to the present time is so far from being conveyed, that it is rather excluded.

The full meaning of Jesus, then, was this: Be

* It may be objected to this account, that the Jews of Jerusalem are represented in the seventh chapter of John's Gospel as explicitly discussing the question, whether Jesus were or were not the Messiah. (See verses 26, 27, 31, 41, 42.) I answer, that it is not necessary to suppose that the caution of the Jews respecting the subject in question was always maintained. It might disappear in the heat of controversy, and it gave way, without doubt, to the excitement of strong feelings; as when the multitude wished to compel Jesus to place himself at their head, as their king (John vi. 15); and upon his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, just before his crucifixion. It is sufficient for the purpose of explaining our Saviour's language, if the mode of expression he adopted were common.

t John xiv. 9.

fore Abraham was born, I was the Messiah; that is, I was designated by God as the Messiah. The words cannot be understood verbally, because "the Messiah" was the title of one bearing an office which did not exist till it was assumed by Jesus on earth. Before Abraham, there was no Messiah except in the purpose of God. The language used by Christ is of the same figurative character with that which we find at the commencement of the prophecy of Jeremiah, as addressed to him by God (i. 5): "Before I formed thee in the womb, I knew thee; and before thou camest forth at thy birth, I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet to the nations."

We will now consider some passages of a different character. In his conversation with Nicodemus, our Saviour says (John iii. 12, 13): "If I tell you earthly things and you believe not, how will you believe should I tell you heavenly things? And no one has ascended to heaven, except him who has descended from heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven."

Heaven being considered by the Jews as the local habitation of the Deity, "to ascend to heaven" is here a figure used to denote the becoming acquainted with the purposes and will of God, with things invisible and spiritual, "heavenly things"; "to be in heaven" is to possess such acquaintance; and "to descend from heaven," or "to come from heaven," is to come from God.

In this sense the expression "to descend from heaven" is used by our Saviour in his discourse with the Jews, recorded in the sixth chapter of John's Gospel. The Jews, whom he had disappointed the day before in their attempt "to make him their king," or, in other words, to compel him to assume publicly the character of the Messiah, according to their conception of it, had now collected about him with very different feelings. They were disposed to disparage his miracles in comparison with those of Moses. He had fed five thousand men with a few loaves and fishes; but Moses, they said, quoting the Old Testament, "had given them," the Jews, "bread from heaven to eat." In what follows, this expression is used figuratively by our Saviour, to denote that his doctrine came from God, or, to express the same idea in other words, that he himself came from God. It was usual for him to draw his figures from something which had just been said, or some present object or recent event. "Moses," he says,


gave you not the bread from heaven"; meaning that Moses had not given them a religion like his own, adapted to supply all their spiritual wants; "but my Father," he continues, "is giving you the true bread from heaven; for the bread of God is that which is now descending from heaven and giving life to the world." By "the bread of God. which gives life to the world," our Saviour here means his doctrines, his religion; and with this, by

* John vi. 31.

† Verses 32, 33.

an obvious figure, common in the New Testament, he afterwards identifies himself. "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me will never hunger, and he who has faith in me will never thirst."* "I have descended from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me";† - that is, I who bring this religion from heaven have no other purpose but to perform the will of God.

The Jews, that is, some of the Jews, his enemies, carped, as usual, at his words. "Then the Jews murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which has descended from heaven. And they said, Is not this man Jesus, the son of Joseph? one whose father and mother we know? What, then, does he mean by saying, I have descended from heaven?" We have no reason to suppose that they understood him as meaning that he, being a man, had descended from heaven; or that he, being a pre-existent spirit, had assumed a human form. Their objection was to the absolute authority which this man, Jesus, the son, as they called him, of Joseph and Mary, claimed as the delegate of God. They had the same feeling as was shown by his fellow-townsmen of Nazareth, when they asked: "Is not. this man the carpenter, the son of Mary, and kinsman of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?"§

IN verse 62 of this chapter, there is a passage thus rendered in the Common Version: What

* John vi. 35.
Verses 41, 42.

† Verse 38.

§ Mark vi. 3.

and if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where he was before?" It has been thought to refer to his ascension to heaven, and to imply that he existed in heaven before his appearance on earth. In order to understand it, we must attend to its connection.

In the preceding part of the discourse, our Saviour had spoken of his religion as bread or food descending from heaven, and having figuratively identified himself with his religion, he describes this food as giving eternal life. "Truly, truly I tell you, He who puts his trust in me has eternal life. I am the bread of life; your fathers ate the manna in the desert and died; but if any one eat of this bread which is descending from heaven, he shall not die. I am the bread of life which has descended from heaven; if any one eat of this bread, he shall live for ever."* As food is the means of prolonging the natural life, so the religion of Christ was the means of enjoying eternal life. Metaphors of a similar kind, derived from taking food, and applied to the partaking of what is desirable, the being compelled to endure what is painful, or the experiencing the consequences, good or evil, of our own conduct, occur elsewhere in the Scriptures, and are probably common in most languages. In such metaphors, however, as well as in other figurative modes of speech, the Oriental style passes beyond the limits within which we are. confined. Thus in Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom is per

John vi. 47-51.

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