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John 5:9-11

Context
5:9 Immediately the man was healed, 1  and he picked up his mat 2  and started walking. (Now that day was a Sabbath.) 3 

5:10 So the Jewish leaders 4  said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and you are not permitted to carry your mat.” 5  5:11 But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat 6  and walk.’”

John 5:17

Context
5:17 So he 7  told 8  them, “My Father is working until now, and I too am working.” 9 

1 tn Grk “became well.”

2 tn Or “pallet,” “mattress,” “cot,” or “stretcher.” See the note on “mat” in the previous verse.

3 tn Grk “Now it was Sabbath on that day.”

sn This is a parenthetical note by the author.

4 tn Or “the Jewish authorities”; Grk “the Jews.” In NT usage the term ᾿Ιουδαῖοι (Ioudaioi) may refer to the entire Jewish people, the residents of Jerusalem and surrounding territory, the authorities in Jerusalem, or merely those who were hostile to Jesus. Here the author refers to the Jewish authorities or leaders in Jerusalem. (For further information see R. G. Bratcher, “‘The Jews’ in the Gospel of John,” BT 26 [1975]: 401-9).

5 tn Or “pallet,” “mattress,” “cot,” or “stretcher.” See the note on “mat” in v. 8.

6 tn Or “pallet,” “mattress,” “cot,” or “stretcher.” See the note on “mat” in v. 8.

7 tc ‡ Most witnesses (Ì66 A D L Θ Ψ Ë1,13 33 Ï latt co) have ᾿Ιησοῦς (Ihsou", “Jesus”) here, while generally better witnesses (Ì75 א B W {0141} 892 1241 pbo) lack the name. Although it is possible that Alexandrian scribes deleted the name due to proclivities to prune, this is not as likely as other witnesses adding it for clarification, especially since multiple strands of the Alexandrian text are represented in the shorter reading. NA27 places the word in brackets, indicating some doubts as to authenticity.

8 tn Grk “answered.”

9 snMy Father is working until now, and I too am working.” What is the significance of Jesus’ claim? A preliminary understanding can be obtained from John 5:18, noting the Jewish authorities’ response and the author’s comment. They sought to kill Jesus, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was also calling God his own Father, thus making himself equal with God. This must be seen in the context of the relation of God to the Sabbath rest. In the commandment (Exod 20:11) it is explained that “In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth…and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” Philo, based on the LXX translation of Exod 20:11, denied outright that God had ever ceased his creative activity. And when Rabban Gamaliel II, R. Joshua, R. Eleazar ben Azariah, and R. Akiba were in Rome, ca. a.d. 95, they gave as a rebuttal to sectarian arguments evidence that God might do as he willed in the world without breaking the Sabbath because the entire world was his private residence. So even the rabbis realized that God did not really cease to work on the Sabbath: Divine providence remained active on the Sabbath, otherwise, all nature and life would cease to exist. As regards men, divine activity was visible in two ways: Men were born and men died on the Sabbath. Since only God could give life and only God could deal with the fate of the dead in judgment, this meant God was active on the Sabbath. This seems to be the background for Jesus’ words in 5:17. He justified his work of healing on the Sabbath by reminding the Jewish authorities that they admitted God worked on the Sabbath. This explains the violence of the reaction. The Sabbath privilege was peculiar to God, and no one was equal to God. In claiming the right to work even as his Father worked, Jesus was claiming a divine prerogative. He was literally making himself equal to God, as 5:18 goes on to state explicitly for the benefit of the reader who might not have made the connection.



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