The Life of the Lord Jesus Christ

By Johann Peter Lange

Edited by Rev. Marcus Dods







Jesus begins to announce the contrast between the old testament symbols of the temple, and the reality of new testament salvation in himself. his testimony respecting the living fountain in contrast to the fountain of siloah on the last day of the feast of tabernacles. the frustration of the purpose of the Sanhedrim to take him prisoner

(Joh 7:37-52)

On the last day of the feast of Tabernacles, Jesus stood forth in the temple, with a loud voice proclaiming words designed to disclose to the people how the symbols of this feast were in His life to find their accomplishment.

This ‘last, great day,’ of which the Evangelist speaks, was without doubt the eighth day of the feast, which probably, formed a marked contrast to the other days, and the signification of which must (we doubt not) be drawn from the consideration of this contrast.1

The seven feast-days noted the pilgrimage of the people of Israel in the wilderness, which was represented by dwelling during those days in booths. The eighth day seems, therefore, by necessary consequence, to have acquired a reference to the entrance into Canaan. This explains its being said by the Rabbins,2 that on the eighth day of the feast the Hallelujah was not to be sung as on the other days, because we ought not to rejoice too much over the defeat and destruction of our enemies. The same reference lay in the fact, that on this day everybody returned to their usual place of abode (Joh 7:53). It follows, that on the seven days it would be symbolically set forth, how, during the wandering of the people in the desert, Jehovah had opened miraculous springs of water for them. But if the eighth day set forth their entrance into Canaan, where the Israelites found springs of water in abundance, then we may be sure the drawing of water would be omitted on this day. This inference is, moreover, confirmed by the testimony of the Rabbins, that the drawing of water took place only on the seven regular days of the feast.3 It is true Rabbi Judah, on the contrary, asserted that the libation took place on the eighth day as well. But the meaning of the ceremony enables us to understand how there might have gradually crept into its observance a degree of wavering and inconsistency. For under the guiding influence of the theocratic Spirit, this drawing of water grew by degrees into a symbol of that Spirit, or that life of salvation, whose fountains Jehovah designed to open for His people. Isaiah contrasted the miraculous wells out of which Israel had drawn in its first wandering through the desert with these wells of salvation out of which the people was to draw in its second journey through the desert, when returning from their captivity (Isa 11:12-16; Isa 12:1-3). But when once this blessing of water had become a symbol of the Divine Spirit, the genuine children of the theocracy would feel that Israel’s real entrance into the promised land had not yet come, or that to the land itself the true fountains were yet wanting in any complete fulness. Under these circumstances, minds were struck by the fact that the temple of Moriah itself had no fountain, but only the temple-hill outside the walls which enclosed the sanctuary; and that in consequence the water needed to be fetched to the temple from the holy well called Siloah. In this fact they saw a sign, that even to the priesthood and the sacrificial cult the true Spirit of life was yet wanting; that the refreshing life of the Spirit needed to be brought to the stiff, external service of the temple from the softly gushing and often despised fountain which in Israel was at the side of and beyond the barriers of the hierarchical fence,—the fountain of the prophetical spirit, which the well Siloah represented (see Isa 8:6).

Since then the prophets regarded the absence of fountains in the temple as a symbol of the absence of the Spirit in the old temple-service, it would naturally follow, that to their view the divine promise, that at some time the Spirit of God would be poured out in full measure over their sanctuary, was exhibited in the image that at some time a large fountain was to be expected to gush forth in their temple, from which there should issue forth a mighty stream. In the most general sense the promise ran, that a great blessing of waters would come upon the thirsty land of the people (Isa 44:3); then, that the people itself should be as a watered garden, yea, like a spring of water (Isa 58:11). A prophet as early as Joel promised more definitely a living spring to the temple (Joe 3:18). Ezekiel pictures very graphically the mystic river of water, how it breaks forth under the threshold of the temple, and how as it flows it grows ever wider and wider (Ezek. 47.) The prophet Zechariah represents the city of Jerusalem in general as the source of those streams of blessing which should flow forth throughout the world (Zec 14:8).

The eighth day of the feast was then the day which, according to its symbolical meaning, had to represent this time of the streaming life of the Spirit. Wherefore the eighth day could claim to be put on a footing even with the feast of Pentecost: not merely as the close of the festal celebration, as a proper festal Sabbath, but also on account of its reference to the time of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, it might be rightly extolled as the good, the great, the glorious day. Nay, we might venture to suppose that, as being the feast of In-Gathering, it was designed to point to that gathering together of the nations at Jerusalem to take part in the service of Jehovah, which was to be brought about through Israel’s baptism with the Spirit (Isa 66:18); particularly if we take into consideration the circumstance, that in the seven days the sacrifices of Israel’s intercession for the seventy heathen nations had been all of them fully offered.

When, therefore, the Israelites on this day again assembled in the temple, and the ceremonial of drawing water, practised up to that day, was omitted, without that fountain making its appearance which was to take the place of those extraordinary gifts of water which Jehovah had bestowed, there would arise the feeling of a want which would lead the children of the Spirit to pray for the blessing of the Spirit of God, but which with the bondmen of ceremony would perhaps prove the occasion of their bringing into the festal observance that wavering inconsistency above spoken of. They might, perhaps, at times recur to the drawing of water; and to this the exceptional testimony of the Rabbi Judah may be referred that the rite of drawing water took place on the eighth day as well.

This feeling of want, which on the eighth, the glorious day, could not fail to arise in the minds of the festal celebrants, is the very point to which Jesus attached the announcement which He made. He cries aloud, ‘If any man thirst, let him come to Me and drink! Whoso believeth in Me, in him shall the word of Scripture (relating to the streamings of water which were predicted) be fulfilled; rivers of living water shall go forth out of his very body.

So He spoke, not merely (we may apprehend) with a skilful adaptation to the custom of drawing water, but because it was in Him that that prophetic symbol was to find its accomplishment In Him was to be given to the people of Israel that miraculous fountain of the eighth day, for the breaking forth of which out of the temple the people was hoping.

It follows also, that this proclamation of Jesus suited, with perfect propriety, the celebration which took place in the temple on the eighth day.4

Thus, also, the promise of Christ is illustrated and explained by its correlative,—the Israelitish expectation with which He had to deal. In the strongest words He declares that He is the living Temple-fountain. They should come with that thirst of theirs, which the water libations of the seven days had not slaked, to Him, and drink. Then, not only will their thirst be allayed, but they shall have the promised fountain. And not merely in the temple, or outside of themselves;—they shall themselves become well-heads through their fellowship in life with Him. And not some little rivulets shall they be;—rivers shall go forth from them. And these rivers shall not flow barely from the hours of their highest consecration in devotional rapture, but from their body (the κοιλία) itself, even as the streaming forth of the temple issues forth not from its building, but from its corporeal foundation (κοιλία), the hill on which the temple was built.5 Their new human nature itself shall become the seat of that fountain from which these waters shall issue. Moreover, these streams shall not be streams of common water, but of living, life-giving water.

John adds in illustration: ‘But this He spake of the Spirit, which they who believed on Him should receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet (given6), because Jesus was not yet glorified.’

There can be no doubt that John has interpreted the words of Jesus rightly. Even if the water here mentioned denotes primarily eternal life, yet eternal life is identical with life in the Spirit of God. But here the point referred to is not merely the water of life in itself, but its character as issuing from an original spring, as streaming from a well-head; and this is simply a figurative description of the Spirit, the free Divine Life which produces itself.7 This life of the Spirit, no doubt, even now issued forth from Jesus at once upon the believers who came to Him, so far as it allayed their thirst, that is, in the measure of a draught; but as creative life in the measure or in the measurelessness of a fountain, it could only at a future time flow forth from them (ῥεύσουσιν), after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which presupposed the fulfilment and glorification of the life of Jesus Himself.8

The Holy Ghost, viewed in its essential being, is as eternal as that eternal clearness of divine self-consciousness which interpenetrates the fulness of God’s being, the deeps of the Godhead (1Co 2:10). And so, as being the Eternal One, it comprises all forms of the Spirit which pertain to the revelation of God. But viewed in its manifestation in the world, it is the Spirit of that last and highest revelation of God in the world which has perfected itself in the perfected life of Jesus, and which is therefore the glorification of His life. And in this sense the Spirit ‘was not yet,’ was not yet operative. Not till Christ was glorified was that reconciliation of God with mankind completed, through which the consciousness of believers could be entirely restored to oneness with God, and thus become a well-head of divine life.

This word of Jesus, the Evangelist relates, made upon many persons a very deep impression. These, no doubt, were they who recognized the fact that His word had suddenly thrown light upon their feeling of unsatisfiedness, upon the painful longing which, just on this glorious day of the feast, woke up into lively consciousness the sense that, with the temple, the true well-spring was yet wanting. Some said, ‘ Of a truth this is the Prophet,’—asseverating it solemnly, as if concentrating their minds against the impression of hostile gainsayings. Others said right out, ‘This is the Christ.’ These last felt that He not only could point out their unsatisfied longing as the Prophet, but also satisfied it as the Christ.

But forthwith against these confessors of Jesus there stepped forth others in decided opposition, who sought to crush them by reference to Scripture. The circumstance that Jesus came originally from Galilee, they chose to make into a presumption that He was Galilean-born ; so away they argued: ‘Shall Christ come out of Galilee? Hath not the Scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, David's home?’ In consequence of these conflicting views, there arose a strong party-division (σχίσμα) among the people;—a sign fore-announcing the future division between believing and unbelieving Jewry. Some of the gainsayers would again fain muster resolution to take Him, probably in connection with the officers who had for some while been dispatched for that object. But this time they were not only opposed by the spiritual power with which Jesus confronted them, but also by the intimidating resistance of a company of decided adherents, and the design once more still remained unaccomplished. Quite disheartened, the officers came back to the members of the Sanhedrim, who had sent them; and when asked, ‘Why have ye not brought Him?’ they openly declared, ‘ Never spake man like this Man.” Therewith they not only expressed in a most naive manner how greatly they were affected with the power of Jesus’ words and bearing, but they also, by thus speaking, affronted in the highest degree the ecclesiastical body in whose service they were. Such words as Jesus spake they had never (so they unconsciously gave them to understand) had the opportunity of hearing even from any one of these high spiritual dignitaries themselves. The latter, however, seem also, with equal unconsciousness, disposed forthwith to ratify the strange judgment expressed by their ecclesiastical servants, before whom they were wont to show themselves in their undress. ‘Are ye also deceived’ (such people as ye are, office-bearers of the temple)? ‘Does any one of the rulers or of the Pharisees believe on Him?’ Thus they sought to take hold of the temple-servants by their weak side, by that pride of station which subordinate officials are so ready to share with their superiors in dignity, especially the servants of the high hierarchy. They will fain secure these men to themselves, by prompting them to share more than ever before in their secret contempt for the people (the populace, whom they declared ‘ accursed’). We do not imagine that in those words they pronounced any formal sentence of excommunication upon the followers of Jesus. We must distinguish the curses which these high ecclesiastical personages pronounced in private from their official sentences of excommunication. But, however, very soon was their rash declaration, that no one of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on Jesus, which they probably threw out with a consciousness of its falsehood, to be put to the blush. For Nicodemus, being present at their inciting, was compelled, at least in some measure, to protest against what they had said, if he would not sit there a renegade to his own convictions. He therefore made the counter-observation, ʻDoes our law condemn a man, when it has not’ (in its representatives) ‘first heard him, and in a legal manner ascertained what he does?’ In the gentlest manner, and only indirectly, he reproved their condemnation of Jesus, showing them that hitherto they were allowing themselves to pronounce that sentence only in an illegal form, and that, by doing this, they stood themselves condemned as transgressors of the law. But even this soft whisper, proceeding from the most extreme circumspection, was much too strong for the vehemently excited passions of this tribunal. They saw also therein a decided declaration that Nicodemus would fain be a disciple of Jesus, and reproached him with it, using that word of contempt, which thenceforward was to throw contempt on all disciples of Jesus: ‘Art thou also of Galilee?’ And then in derision they added, ‘Look and see, out of Galilee ariseth no prophet!’ The word cut two ways; if was meant to annihilate alike Nicodemus and the Man whom he was vindicating. If thou art a Galilean (thus it ran), then thou surely art just as little a prophet as He is: for how can a Galilean be a prophet?

We cannot help being in the highest degree struck by seeing that in our own times the circumstance that the prophets Elijah, Jonah, and perhaps also Nahum and Hosea,9 were of Galilee, has been urged for the purpose of throwing suspicion upon the genuineness of this passage, on the ground that it is unlikely that the learned court to whom this objection is ascribed should not have been aware of those facts. This critical argument is a proof how profound Rabbins all over the world hang together, and will suffer nothing to assail any others of their number. To be sure, in answer to this critical observation, the circumstance has been pointed out, that at the time of those prophets, Galilee had not as yet formed the contrast to Judea that it afterwards did.10 Also, attention has been drawn to the distinction between Upper and Lower Galilee, by which the number of the Galilean prophets will perhaps be brought down to one, Jonah.11 But all such endeavours to lessen the dimensions of the difficulty have no place here; for, like the assaults on the credibility of the narrative themselves, they would simply have the effect of breaking off from the story a sharp-pointed fact of much historical interest, and of universal significance. Impartial inquiry can feel absolutely no occasion whatever for endeavouring to save the learned infallibility of a body of men speaking under such passionate excitement and exasperation as animated: this Sanhedrim. ‘This is the very point now before the writer; this it is that the historian, or rather that the history itself, will show—that a passion of hatred, especially of hatred against such an one as Jesus, can so utterly bereave of their senses even the venerable college of lawyers and priests, that in the ebullition of their excited feelings, they cannot help committing the grossest offences against sacred learning, or perhaps commit these offences even of set purpose. Our critics have not once thought of the possibility of the latter case. And yet, if they had chosen, they might have made such a possibility in some measure clear to their minds, by recollecting how the forged Decretals of Pseudo-Isidorus had been introduced into the ecclesiastical law of Rome. How many cases might be found of an ignoring of historical facts, which are at least very like that now before us, in the history of more recent Scripture learning? We see the irony of Divine Providence in dealing with the members of this Spirit-bereft college, that they themselves are guilty of the very greatest offence against Scripture-learning, whilst they are endeavouring to crush the disciple of Jesus to the earth with an authoritative dictum of such learning. And the same relation as Nicodemus held to his colleagues, do the maintainers of the genuineness of the Gospel, in the present instance, hold to its assailants. Nicodemus noted the learned sentence which his colleagues delivered, and treasured it up in his remembrance with, no doubt, a peculiar smile. Very probably this dictum had its part in emancipating him from the authority of the Sanhedrim. And so also can the vindicator of this record note the exclamation of our critics, ‘ Art thou also one of the uncritical ? Search and look !

Such a blunder could no Jewish doctor be guilty of, who, together with the Old Testament, was a student of much other literature besides ; but, at best, a Christian doctor of the first centuries, who can be supposed to have confined himself to the Holy Scriptures alone much more than the Rabbins had done. And if the blunder must needs appear anywhere, it could hardly in an unlucky moment have escaped those doctors in the ebullitions of passion ; but if a Christian in the first times of the Church, with serene, tranquil spirit, applied himself to write a gospel, we can very well suppose, that in a season when he was calmly recalling the past, and meditating on the word of God, he might much sooner than they happen upon such a mistake.’ We smile with just as much unconcern at this college of critics as Nicodemus did at his colleagues; and we have our own especial thoughts in reference to so singular a style of erudition.

‘Out of Galilee ariseth no prophet!’ This was their argument, their sheet-anchor ; like the comfort on which Macbeth leaned

‘I will not be afraid of death and bane,

Till Birnam Forest come to Dunsinane.’

Birnam Wood came, and he was lost. And so it behoved also soon to seem to these doctors, that exactly the most mighty Prophet of all was come out of Galilee.



1. Von Bauer justly observes in the treatise already referred to (Ueber die Composition, &c., p. 108), in reference to the manner in which Jesus deals with his opponents, according to the 7th chap. of St John, that here the dialectics of unbelief were exposed in their entire worthlessness. ‘If only they might continue in their unbelief, they take refuge in the most untenable objections, and shrink from no inconsistency.’ The voucher for this is found in a criticism which, in controverting the authenticity of this Gospel, observes, that it was impossible for Jewish doctors to fall into the mistake of asserting that no prophet ariseth from Galilee, and then immediately after assumes that Christian doctors could very easily full into the same mistake while inventing the scene in which it occurs, V. Bauer, to be sure, tries to obviate the inconsistency by the observation, that ‘the Evangelist has palpably no interest of a historical kind.” But this ‘ palpableness’ appertains wholly to our critic, to whom generally what is historical seems to transform itself into a gaudily painted picture-book, manufactured for the illustration of abstract schoolmasters’ theses. In the present case, however, he has overlooked the fact, that the author, who according to him has fashioned the fourth Gospel to exhibit by examples the dialectics of evangelical faith, would seem not merely to have been devoid of historical interest, but to have been led by an anti-historical interest to falsify history.

2. On the remarks of Weisse and Bruno Bauer on the 7th chap. of St John, comp. Ebrard, 309.

3. The arrogance of the Jewish hierarchs and Rabbins developed itself into an ever-increasing contempt for the unlearned. hey nicknamed them the people of the earth, ‘The Talmudists go so far in their folly as to assert that it is only the learned that will rise again.’ See Lücke, ii. p. 239; Tholuck, p. 211.



1) The Rabbins regarded this day as a separate festival. See Lücke, ii. 224.

2) See Sepp, iii. 54.

3) See Lücke, ii. 226.

4) Lücke expresses the opinion, that if we cannot make up our minds to follow the exceptional notion of the Rabbi Judah, that the libation took place on all the eight days alike, we have nothing left, except either to understand the last great day of the feast to have been the seventh, or else to suppose that if the proclamation of Jess was made on the eighth day, it alluded to something else, and not to the pouring out of the water (see Lücke, ii. 228), But surely from what has now been said as to the import of the symbol as viewed by the prophets in general, the conclusion has been fairly arrived at, that our Lord’s words fit in most properly to the temple-ceremonial of the eighth day.

5) We thus agree with Gieseler (see Lücke, ii, 229) in referring this expression to the temple-hill. Out of the bellies of the pitchers, which Bengel thought were referred to, there flowed no well-streams. Besides, the festal water-pitcher is no longer at hand on the eighth day.

6) Lachmann has the addition δεδομένον, following certain original authorities, But we must admit that it is not sufficiently authenticated.

7) This with reference to Lücke’s observations on John’s interpretation.

8) Comp. my work, Der Osterbote, init.

9) See Lücke, ii, 241.

10) Ebrard, 310.

11) Yon Ammon, ii. p. 386.