The Life of the Lord Jesus Christ

By Johann Peter Lange

Edited by Rev. Marcus Dods







the sudden public appearance of jesus in the temple at jerusalem during the feast of tabernacles. he charges his enemies before all the people with seeking his death, and announces his departure from the jewish people

(Joh 7:10-36)

The Israelites celebrated the feast of Tabernacles (חַג הַסֻּכּוֹת, σκηνοπηγία), or also the feast of Water, in remembrance of the time when their fathers were marching through the Arabian desert and lived in tents and booths (Lev 23:42), when they were also repeatedly supplied with water out of miraculous fountains which God opened for them in the dry and thirsty land. In the course of time, with this historical festival had connected itself the feast of the completion of harvest in the gathering in of the vintage. The festival was one of the three great yearly feasts of the Israelitish nation. Its celebration continued through seven days; and on the eighth day it was closed with an after-celebration, which was greater than any of the days which had preceded it. It began with the 15th day of the seventh month (Tisri), falling therefore in the autumn: this year, according to Wieseler (p. 484), it commenced on the 12th of October. This feast was the especial national rejoicing of the Jewish people. They lived in booths constructed of boughs with the fresh leaves on them; and with these booths, the streets, the open places, the courts, and the battlements of the city were thickly dotted, so that a merry-making forest-town almost hid the real city, and the height of Zion seemed transformed into a migratory camp. It belongs to the exalted spirit which characterizes the theocracy of Israel, that it exhibited the commemoration of the sad years of wandering—the nation’s pilgrimage—in the form of a joyous celebration, and not one of mourning. The Israelites made merry in their booths; they marched about in processions, bearing branches of fruit-trees, especially of palms and citrons, as if they were on a pilgrimage, and were eating of the trees they met with on their way. All felt so much the more cheerful and merry, because the solemn Great Day of national atonement had been celebrated a very short time (five days) before, and the nation, in its members, felt itself more than at other times freed from the sense of guilt. The full pacification and happiness of their spirits expressed itself in hilarious banquetings.

Even the services of the temple wore a peculiar character, and pointed back, with very significant symbols, to that time of wandering in the desert. The feast was distinguished by an especial celebration both morning and evening, besides the proper sacrifices.1 On every morning after the morning sacrifice, the priest went with a large golden beaker to the fountain of Siloah, on the side of the hill on which the temple was built, and drew water: this was brought in festive procession through the Water Gate, where the procession was saluted with the sounding of trumpets, into the courts of the temple; here the priest stepped to the altar, and poured the water into a silver dish, which was perforated, so as to let the fluid escape through tubes. Into another dish he at the same time poured the appointed drink-offering of wine. The assembled multitude shouted their plaudits, sang the hallelujah, and festal music enhanced the joy.2 Without question, the drawing of water referred as a historical reminiscence especially to the miraculous gift of water which the children of Israel had received in the wilderness. Therewith was then naturally joined thanksgiving for the blessing of springs, and generally for every blessing of refreshment which Israel owed to God’s goodness in the promised land; this is shown by the drink-offering of wine which was joined to that of water. To this were then added, in prospect of the future, prayers for a rich blessing of water in copious rains, for the coming season. Hence we read in the Rabbins:3 ‘Offer a drink-offering of water on the Water-feast, that the year’s rains may be blessed unto thee.’ It is to be added, however, that this celebration of the natural blessing of water was a symbol of those streams of the Spirit which Jehovah had promised to His people. Reminiscence was had of this promise in the words of the prophet Isaiah (12:3): With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation. It is a debated question, whether this ceremony of the drawing of water also took place on the eighth day of the feast—a question to which we shall have by and by to recur.

But as Jehovah had opened to their fathers in the dry desert the refreshing springs of miraculous water, so had He in the night-time given them the light of the assuring pillar of fire, scaring away the nightly horrors of the desert. And we may venture to conjecture, that it was with reference to this bright light which had cheered the camp of their wandering fathers, that the Jews had an evening celebration appointed for the close of the second day,4 which, according to Maimonides, was repeated every evening of the feast.5 In the court of the women two large golden lamp-stands were erected; these were lighted, and threw their light from the temple-hill down over the whole city of Jerusalem, whilst in the magical illumination of the darkness a choir of men danced around the lights with singing and music.

At the present time, then, was again come round the festival of national rejoicing. But there was a thought in the minds of the people, which allayed the joy of the riper-minded among them: Jesus had not appeared at the feast. He was missed, both by the enemies who would destroy Him, and by the friends who would fain see His exaltation. A great ‘murmuring’ was going round among the various groups—a disputing for and against. The favourably disposed said, ‘He is a good man,’ and therefore a teacher to be relied upon; His enemies said, He deceiveth the people.’ We notice, in the indefinite expression of the former, now the acknowledgment of Jesus on the part of the favourably disposed, was already getting intimidated and repressed, through the influence of the hierarchical party. A weight of heavy embarrassment was already pressing upon all public expression of feeling concerning Him. No one dared to express himself openly and frankly concerning Him, ‘for fear of the Jews.’

Thus the middle of the feast had arrived, when Jesus suddenly made His appearance publicly: He went up into the temple, stepped forward into view in the midst of the people, and taught. It might perhaps seem as if by this step He were passing over from the extreme of caution to the extreme of daring. But even in this new mode of presenting Himself He maintains His character as the great Master in the knowledge of men. Henceforward, in Judea and Galilee, He could only show Himself in safety by suddenly stepping into a great assemblage of the people, and exercising His ministry there. In such situations, the spirit of reverence which animated the people towards Him still for a while sheltered Him against His enemies. He thus made the crown or surrounding circle of the crowd to be a body-guard of faithful ones, so long as the better Messianic sentiments of the people beheld in Him the Son of David. He stepped forward, confronting His enemies, adorned with the garland of popular veneration, until also this garland faded under the poisonous breath of their enmity, and fell in pieces.

On His coming forth at the feast before all the people as a teacher holding so high a position, the Jews expressed their surprise that He should ‘know,’ or claim to know and interpret, ‘the writings’ (of those learned in the Scriptures), or Scripture-learning,6 when yet He had received no regular education. They disallowed His having the character of a Rabbi, and disputed His qualification to teach. They meant to prejudice with the people His standing up in public as an act of culpable assumption, saying in effect, that He was no regularly licensed Rabbi-scholar, but was teaching out of His own head. Jesus, in answer to this, assured them, that surely He did not get His doctrine from Himself, but from Another; that therefore He was assuredly, according to their requirement, perfectly well licensed; that, to wit, He had His doctrine from ‘Him that sent Him;’ and that ‘any one who would only do His will,’ the will of God, to the best of His knowledge (as antecedently to, and independently of, the circle of His doctrine, a man might be able, even viewed generally as a man, but especially as an Israelite, in some measure to know the will of God),7—such an one ‘would also become satisfied respecting His doctrine, whether it was of God, or whether He spake of Himself,’ from invention and imagination of His own, and so without consecration, mission, and authorization. They had declared He was an autodidact, a self-educated man, in a bad sense; He appealed to the testimony which the experience of all who feared God could not help giving Him, that He was a theodidact, a God-taught man in the highest sense, whose essential dignity as Rabbi came from the eternal, most high Master Himself. And now He gave them a characteristic by which one might know the unauthorized autodidact. Such an one seeks his own glory; he wishes to shine through himself, in himself, and for himself, as opposed to shining out of in, and for God. From this characteristic He knows Himself to be wholly clear and free. ‘But’ (He says), ‘whoever in his aims purely seeks only the glory of Him who hath sent him,’ such an one will also not be led by any inward beguilement of vanity to distort his doctrine. Since, then, He Himself seeks with perfect sincerity the honour of His Father, derives everything from Him, does everything in Him, and leads everything back to Him, they must acknowledge that He is also in His doctrine true, and to be depended upon; and for this reason, because there is in Him no heart’s-trick of ‘unrighteousness,’ of false moral self-direction (ἀδικία). Thus He builds the orthodoxy, the purity of His doctrine, and His rank as doctor, the licensing to teach, entirely upon the pure state of His heart, and upon the wholly pure, unadulterated, perfect learnedness, which goes along with such a pure state of the heart.8 With the perfectness of His endeavour to glorify the Father, the perfectness of His doctrine is decided, and therewith the completeness of His rank as teacher,—that rank of Master which in the most proper sense is His own.9 Thereupon He passed on to attack the truth of their own rabbinical position. It should appear how ill things stood with their law-knowledge, and consequently with their rank as Rabbins, with their divinity. What kind of teachers of the law (He seems to mean) are ye? ‘Moses has given you the law; but none of you keepeth the law,’ else ye would not ‘go about to kill Me!’

It was not merely a dark impulse of deadly enmity stirring in the bosom of His nation that Jesus was thus dragging forth into the light. There were standing over against Him, no doubt, individuals belonging to the party who already, at His last visit to Jerusalem, had sought to arraign Him capitally, because He had healed the lame man on the Sabbath-day (Joh 5:16). It is a bad secret with these men, that they have sworn His death-a secret which they do not just yet wish to see brought out before the people. But it quite corresponds with the position which Jesus now holds to the hierarchy, that He names the secret counsels of His enemies publicly before the people by their right name.10

But His opponents evaded His attack. They sought to stop Jesus’ reminiscence of that proceeding, and to represent His accusation of them as ridiculous. They therefore now charged Him with being plagued by the demon of melancholy, pretending that it was a fixed idea with Him that He believed people were aiming to take His life. This charge proceeded (it is true) from the crowd; but His opponents appear to have guided the multitude to make it, for to them He continued still to address Himself, even after the crowd had expressed its ridicule of the charge which He made against them. The opportunity was a very favourable one for decrying Him as suffering from melancholy. The triflers in the crowd would be easily brought to the notion that Jesus was disposed, like a gloomy mar-peace, to spoil the joys of the national festival. And thus His opponents asked Him—those conscious of guilt with the audacity of hypocrisy, the others with an unapprehensive levity, but with a tone of equal surprise—‘Who goeth about to kill thee?’

Jesus, however, is not put out. In clear terms He set forth the old subject of contention, which many of the priestly party had endeavoured to make into a capital charge against Him (see above, p. 228). He showed how strange it was that they, one and all, the entire priestly party, should have been so much moved at a single work of healing which He had done (on the Sabbath-day). Once more He vindicates that work. Before this, He had vindicated it before the learned Sanhedrim with the highest arguments (one might say, arguments of a speculative kind); now before the people He alleges a popular reason, which we may regard as one of canonical law in the practical sense. He shows by an example, how the law of circumcision stood higher than the law of the Sabbath, on the ground that it belonged to the original laws of Monotheism, which had been handed down from the fathers before Moses’ time, and which by Moses had been only confirmed. For the Israelites invariably performed the rite of circumcision on the eighth day, even when that day fell upon the Sabbath. From this He drew the conclusion: If it is then an established principle, if strict law can itself render it obligatory, that the law of the Sabbath should be regarded as done away by the ordinance of circumcision, ‘how can ye be angry at Me because I have made the entire man whole on the Sabbath-day?’ We may plainly gather from this passage, that circumcision was regarded in Israel as a partial healing of a man. Viewed in its religious aspect, circumcision was a symbol of regeneration; but yet its having this meaning did not exclude the purpose of the law to care likewise for his bodily health.11 The foreskin was regarded as an organic circumstance, which through particular relations of the country and people had become a faulty attribute, an element of untamedness, of hurtfulness, of disease. Consequently, circumcision was a partial (surgical) healing. But since circumcision, as being such, had the power to suspend the law of the Sabbath, it followed, that much more must the healing of the entire man, an organic healing as contrasted with a surgical, or an entire healing as contrasted with a partial, be allowed on the Sabbath-day. And then Jesus dismissed His gainsayers with the exhortation, ‘Judge not according to appearance’ (as the matter falls outwardly under the eye),’ but judge according to the principles of righteous judgment’ (according to the relations of right in the inner, essential relations of things).

Immediately upon this, however, it was plainly disclosed by ‘some Jerusalemites’ that the purpose of killing Jesus was certainly entertained by the ruling party, and that it could only have been with great audacity that they could have denied this intention before the people. They said, ‘Is not this He whom they seek to kill? and see, He speaks openly, and they say nothing to Him. Indeed, it seems as if our superiors had recognized this man to be the Messias. But however’ (they added, with the proud contempt of the inhabitants of a capital), ‘we know well whence this man is; but of the Messias, when He shall come, no man knoweth whence He is.’ It is true there existed, through the orthodox interpretation of the celebrated passage in Micah (5:1), the expectation that the Messias would be born in Bethlehem; and thus soon after voices were heard even here bringing forward the circumstance, that the Messias should come out of Bethlehem, for the purpose of controverting the Messianic authority of Jesus, who, as they deemed, had come from Galilee (Joh 7:42). But it was possible to leave that passage and its interpretation untouched, and yet to form, in reference to the appearing of the Christ, a more or less mystic and fantastic expectation. Later the view appeared completely developed, that the Messias would remain fully unknown to the people till the prophet Elias had pointed Him out by anointing Him to His calling.12 In reference to the origin of the Messias, there came up even the notion, that He would rise up among men, without father or mother, appearing by an immediate incarnation, or as an angel, as many supposed likewise in reference to Melchizedek and Elias, some also in relation to the prophets Haggai and Malachi.13 So likewise there arose the expectation, that the Messias would first show Himself to the people, and then hide Himself again.14 Thus much is clear, that these Jerusalemites reject Him on account of the meanness of His origin.

But Jesus cried to them in the temple with a loud voice: ‘Well ye know all that, as well who I am as whence I am!’ With the calmest, purest self-consciousness, He thus of His own accord spoke in the temple, with an especial purpose raising the tone of His voice, in reference to His earthly origin, because those empty men imagined that that must humble Him. He even treated with a certain cheerful irony the supposition that therewith they knew His real essential origin. Yes, well know ye all that (He said), who and whence I am. But He then added, with equal steadiness of consciousness: ‘and yet—I am not come of Myself, but the True One’ (the true sender of the Messias, not that legendary outward heaven, from which ye expect a legendary procession of the Messias), ‘He it is that hath sent Me, and Him ye know not.’ That He came from the Father—this was most properly His own whence,—His essential origin, which to them was altogether unknown. And just as unknown to them was His proper character, which He described with the words: I know Him, and indeed because I am from Him and because He hath sent Me. They therefore, in fact, did not know whence Christ was come; yet in a wholly different sense from that in which they deemed (ver. 27), they were not to know. The energetic manner in which Jesus sought to put back and to humble the pride of these people, reproaching them with knowing nothing aright of God, exasperated them to such a pitch, that they sought to take Him. ‘They forgot the part they were playing. Proud as was the contempt they had expressed for Him, ironically as they had now expressed themselves in reference to their superiors, yet now, in their thirst for vengeance, they would fain have made themselves the bailiffs, to hand Him over to the authorities. But ‘no one dared to lay hands on Him’—such a spell did His majesty throw over their minds ! And therewith those very people, who had scorned Him on account of His origin, were the most suitably punished. John, however, in relating this cireumstance, that they did not dare to seize Him, with profound wisdom and piety refers the fact to its last and highest reason—to the overruling power of God ; for he adds the remark : because His hour was not yet come.’

But as the decided gainsayers of Jesus, together with those who held the position of proud neutrals, expressed themselves more and more strongly against Him, so also His numerous adherents came forward more and more decidedly in His favour. His own superiority of spirit as contrasted with His enemies emboldened them.

They appealed to His many miracles ; they extolled the greatness of these miracles; they even proposed the question, whether Christ, when He came, would be able to do more miracles than this man did? That was significant enough. The Pharisee party, and the chief priests, through whom that party was compelled to act, were made very uneasy by the accounts which they heard of these sentiments among the people. Accordingly, the Sanhedrim, which held its sittings close by, in the ‘stone chamber, between the court of the Gentiles and the inner court,ʼ15 sent officers of justice with the distinct charge ‘to seize Him.’ Upon their appearing before Him, He immediately saw their object; but confidently told them it was not yet the time. He spoke to them and to the crowd around with a heavenly tone of pensive cheerfulness, with a heavenly calmness which completely disarmed them: ‘Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto Him that sent Me: ye shall seek Me, and shall not find Me; and where I am, thither ye cannot come.’ This word, for its main import, announces to them with mysterious significance, that they would, at any rate, not as yet be able to put any violence upon His freedom. And if at some future time they should seize Him, yet then (He implies) it would come to pass through His own free self-surrender,—that at that very time He should go away from them, vanish from their reach, more than ever : When He once should be gone to His Father, then with all their arts they would no more be able to touch Him; neither discover Him,*nor reach Him. How strongly in this declaration is expressed the heavenly superiority of Jesus over officers and judges, over prisons and fetters! His words have, no doubt, also a background of prophetic meaning. The Jews since that time have unconsciously been seeking Him everywhere and have not found Him: through their guilt they have been, as it were, under a sentence of excommunication, forbidding them from recognising His throne, from coming near Him. And so even now the Jewish-minded amongst the bystanders were unable to hit the true sense of His mysterious word. ‘Whither then is He going ?’ (they said.) ‘ Whither, that we shall not find Him?’ They no doubt imagine that they would be able to find Him out anywhere in the world. ‘ Will He go (we wonder) amongst the far-off dispersion’ (the diaspora of the Jews among the Greeks or the heathen) ‘and teach the Greeks?’16 Thus they made as though in mockery they would fain send Him off to the heathen, as being only good enough for them; whilst unconsciously they were already in their words prophesying their own self-rejection. It is, no doubt, with deep inward reflection that John mentions this remarkable word of theirs; in their infatuation they wholly missed the true sense of what Jesus had said, whilst yet they are seen exactly to hit the truth as soon as we give their words a higher interpretation. For Jesus has, in fact, left the Jews, and gone in His Spirit into the far-off world among the Greeks, in order to teach the heathen. The Evangelist, moreover, finds it remarkable that the Jews were not able to get over the enigmatical saying of Jesus : “Ye shall seek Me, and not find Me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come,” It was as if they dimly felt that the words implied some grave mystery in reference to themselves. Of the officers for a while we read nothing further. The more they approached Him, the longer they went after Him and heard Him, the more they felt themselves bound in spirit so as to be unable to lay hand upon Him,

Thus the utterances of Jesus’ enemies, and in general the judgments of the world concerning Him, traversed each other. Some affirmed that a spirit of melancholy inspired Him with: the apprehension that His life was sought ; while others marveled at His bold appearance in public, and that the rulers did not immediately seize Him, wishing as they did to kill Him. 'The former were requiring that He should stand forth in public as a properly licensed teacher, as a Rabbi, that is, regularly brought up in the schools of the country; the latter, that if He would fain be the Messias, He should step forth out of some most mysterious concealment as if out of heaven itself. Thus their utterances concerning Him resolved themselves into contradictions. But they one and all agreed together in this, that they affected to despise Him, and yet were continually and with the intensest anxiety occupying themselves with Him, cowering before Him with terror and awe. And this was the sharpest judgment of God upon them, that with no apprehension of the reality, their verdicts upon Him condemn their own selves and glorify Him. One party acknowledged that He knew the Scriptures without having been trained in the schools as they had been; another, that they knew no other ground to allege against His being the Messias except His origin; a third, that it might perhaps come to this, that He would turn from them, and go away to the Greeks as a teacher of the nations. And repeatedly they one and all were constrained to make apparent their powerlessness against Him, in that they would have been glad to seize; Him and yet were’ not able to accomplish it, their plans being frustrated by the power of His word and the majesty of His being.



1. The feast of Tabernacles had such an air of merry-making, and the usages of the feast, particularly in reference to the gathering in of the vintage and the blessing of the year, were of such a kind, that Plutarch was led to suppose that it was a feast of Bacchus.17 See Winer, R.W.B.; Sepp, iii. p. 56.

2. It is a radical misconception of the character of the Hebrew religion (which really is historical, and is a positive institution founded upon a theocracy) to regard the Israelitish feasts as being originally feasts of nature; to regard, for example, the feast of Tabernacles as a feast of the vintage (cp. Winer, it. p. 7, the note), or the drink-offering of water in the feast as a ceremony drawn from the water libations of the heathen. As we cannot refer the Christian feasts to occasions of the life of nature, so neither can we any more the Hebrew; for the fundamental character of both is alike historical. But that gradually the celebration of certain circumstances of the natural life of the year blended with the feast is consonant with the spirit of the theocracy, which finds in nature, as in a mirror, the image which reflects the spirit.



1) On the first day there were sacrificed thirteen oxen, on the second, twelve, and so on in diminishing progression; on the seventh, seven—altogether, therefore, seventy oxen;—moreover, every day fourteen lambs, according to the ritual for the atonement of the seventy nations of the earth. On the eighth day, or at the close of the feast, there were offered only one steer and seven lambs, but by a priest chosen for the particular function by lot.’—Sepp, iii. p. 54.

2) [So that it became a common proverb, "He that never saw the rejoicing of drawing water, never saw rejoicing in all his life." Jenning's Jewish Antiq., p. 495.—ED.]

3) See Sepp, iii, p. 57.

4) ʻPostridic primi fcsti illius solennitatis.ʼ—Mishna. Therefore not on the evening of the first day of the feast, as Winer gives it. But also not on the eighth day, as Sepp (iii. 69) assumes, who confounds the observation which the Jews took of the quarter to which the smoke inclined, and which observation was taken on that day, with the lighting of the lamps, which surely would make no especial smoke.

5) See Lücke, ii. p. 281.

6) Γράμματα without ἱερά (cp. 2 Tim. iii. 15) are not the Holy Scriptures; these are always called ὴ γραφή; but literature (learning). Comp. Acts xxvi. 24.—Lücke, ii. 197.

7) Lücke, ii 193.

8) See Olshausen in loc., and the revised form of his Commentary (proceeding from Fr. von Rougemont) in the Commentaire Biblique, p. 184.

9) We cannot urge in objection, that surely often times a good will to teach may go along with a very considerable incapacity. In proportion as a man is chargeable with incapacity, so is he chargeable also with presumption, and consequently is morally contaminated, The perfect purpose (absicht) is one with the perfect insight (Ansicht).

10) Here is to be observed, that the fact to which He refers had taken place, not a year and a half before, but in the spring of the same year ; and that it did not consist in their having merely thrown out reproaches against Him, but in their purposing to kill Him,—a purpose which was still held to.

11) See Winer's R. W. B., article Beshneidung. [But see also Meyer in loc., who thinks the theocratic soundness and purity was here contemplated rather than any curative effect on the body. Herodotus (ii. 37), speaking of circumcision among the Egyptians, ascribes only the object, ʻκαθαριότητδς ἔινεκε.ʼ—ED.]

12) Justin, Dial c. Tryph. [226, A.] See Lücke, 212. Comp. Tholuck, John, p. 204

13) See Sepp, iii. 51.

14) Lücke, ii. 213.

15) See Tholuck, John, p. 206.

16) Comp. Sepp, iii, 52.

17) [The passage of Plutarch is in the Symposiacs, iv. 6. They bring out tables, and furnish them with all kinds of fruit; they sit under tents or booths, made chiefly of vine branches and ivy wreathed together; and this they call the feast of Tabernacles; and then a few days after they celebrate another feast openly and directly in the name of Bacchus. Plutarch here probably refers to the last day of the feast; and he goes on to tell how they enter into the temple to the sound of music and with ivy branches like Bacchanalians. ED.]