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John 7:20-24

20. The multitude answered, and said, Thou hast a devil; who seeketh to kill thee? 21. Jesus answered, and said to them, I have done one work, and you all wonder. 22. Therefore Moses gave you circumcision, not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers, and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man. 23. If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you offended at me, because I have completely cured a man on the Sabbath? 24. Judge not according to the appearance, but judge right judgment.


20. Thou hast a devil. The meaning is, “Thou art mad;” for it was a customary phrase among the Jews, who had been trained to the doctrine that, when men are excited to rage, or when they have lost sense and reason, they are tormented by the devil. And, indeed, as gentle and moderate chastisements are God’s fatherly rods, so when He treats us with greater harshness and severity, He appears not to strike us with his own hand, but rather to employ the devil as the executioner and minister of his wrath. Again, the multitude reproach Christ with simplicity; for the common people were not acquainted with the intentions of the priests. Those foolish men, therefore, ascribe it to madness, when Christ complains that they are endeavoring to put him to death. We learn from it that we ought to be exceedingly cautious not to form an opinion about subjects which we do not understand; but, if it ever happens that we are rashly condemned by ignorant men, mildly to digest such an affront.

21. I have done one work. Now, leaving their persons, he begins to speak of the fact; for he proves that the miracle which he performed is not inconsistent with the Law of God. When he says that he has done one work, the meaning is, that it is only of a single crime that he is held guilty, or that it is only for a single work that he is blamed, which is, that he cured a man on the day of Rest; 188188     “An jour de Repos.” but that they, on every day of Rest, do many works of the same, or a similar description, and do not reckon them criminal; for not a day of Rest passed on which there were not many infants circumcised in Judea. By this example he defends his action, although he does not merely argue from what is similar, but draws a comparison between the greater and the less. There was this similarity between circumcision and the cure of the paralytic, that both were works of God; but Christ maintains that the latter is more excellent, because the benefit of it extends to the whole man. Now if he had merely cured the man of bodily disease, the comparison would not have been applicable; for circumcision would have greater excellence as to the cure of the soul. Christ, therefore, connects the spiritual advantage of the miracle with the outward benefit granted to the body; and on this account he justly prefers to circumcision the entire cure of a man.

There might also be another reason for the comparison, namely, that the sacraments are not always attended by power and efficacy, while Christ wrought efficaciously in curing the paralytic. But I prefer the former exposition, that the Jews maliciously and slanderously blame a work, in which the grace of God shines more illustriously than in circumcision, on which they bestow so much honor that they think the Sabbath is not violated by it. And you all wonder The wonder, of which he speaks, means that what Christ had done caused this murmur, because they thought that he had ventured to do more than was lawful.

22. Therefore Moses gave you circumcision The particle therefore appears to be unsuitable; and, accordingly, some take διὰ τούτο (on this account, or therefore) in the sense of διὰ τούτο, (because;) but the Greek syntax is unfavourable to their opinion. 189189     The difficulty is obviated by reading the words διὰ τούτο, (with Scholz, Bloomfield, and others,) as the conclusion of the 21st, and not as the commencement of the 22nd verse; καὶ πάντες Θαυμάζετε διὰ τούτο, and you all wonder at it, or, on this account Our Author, with his usual sagacity, has, in this instance, also anticipated the results of modern criticism; for his French version, which contains his latest views, runs thus: “J’ay fait une oeuvre, et vous en estes tous emerveillez, ou, et vous estes esmerveillez de cela Moise vous a donne la Circoncision.” — “I have done one work, and you are all astonished at it, or, and you are all astonished at that Moses gave you Circumcision.” It is remarkable that, while a modern French version copies Calvin’s rendering very closely, et vous en etes tous etonnes, (and you are all astonished at it,) the translator has overlooked the force of διὰ τούτο, for en (at it) is marked by him in Italics, as a supplement. — Ed. I explain it simply as meaning, that circumcision was enjoined in such a manner that the practice of that symbolical rite was necessary even on the Sabbath-day Therefore, says he; that is, it has in this manner been sufficiently demonstrated to them, that the worship of the Sabbath is not violated by the works of God. And although Christ accommodates the instance of circumcision to the present subject, yet he immediately makes use of a correction, when he says, that Moses was not the first minister of circumcision. But it was enough for his purpose, that Moses, who so rigidly demanded the keeping of the Sabbath, commanded that infants should be circumcised on the eighth day, even though it should fall on the day of Rest 190190     “An jour de Repos.”

24. Judge not according to the appearance. Having concluded his defense, he likewise administers a reproof on this ground, that they are carried away by wicked dispositions, and do not form a judgment according to the fact and the matter in hand. Circumcision was properly held by them in reverence; and when it was performed on the Sabbath-day, they knew that the Law was not violated by it, because the works of God agree well with each other. Why do they not arrive at the same conclusion as to the work of Christ, but because their minds are preoccupied by a prejudice which they have formed against his person? Judgment, therefore, will never be right, unless it be regulated by the truth of the fact; for as soon as persons appear in public, they turn their eyes and senses on them, so that the truth immediately vanishes. While this admonition ought to be observed in all causes and affairs, it is peculiarly necessary when the question relates to the heavenly doctrine; for there is nothing to which we are more prone than to dislike that doctrine on account of the hatred or contempt of men.

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