Many other things - Before his disciples, is added by two MSS. The Scholia in several MSS. intimate that this verse is an addition; but it is found in every ancient version, and in Origen, Cyril, and Chrysostom.
Could not contain, etc. - Origen's signification of the word χωρειν is to admit of, or receive favourably. As if he had said, the miracles of Christ are so many, and so astonishing, that if the whole were to be detailed, the world would not receive the account with proper faith; but enough is recorded that men may believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and that in believing they may have life through his name: John 20:31.
We have already seen that this apostle often uses the term world to designate the Jewish people only; and if it have this sense here, which is possible, it will at once vindicate the above exposition of the word χωρειν . As if he had said, Were I to detail all the signs and miracles which Jesus did among his disciples, and in the private families where he sojourned, the Jewish people themselves would not receive nor credit these accounts; but enough is written to prove that this Christ was the promised Messiah.
Bishop Pearce has a very judicious note here, of which what follows is an abstract, with a few additions.
Even the world itself, etc. This is a very strong eastern expression, to represent the number of miracles which Jesus wrought. But, however strong and strange this expression may seem to us of the western world, we find sacred and other authors using hyperboles of the like kind and signification. In Numbers 13:33, the spies who returned from the search of the land of Canaan say that they saw giants there of such a prodigious size that they were in their own sight as grasshoppers. In Daniel 4:11, mention is made of a tree, whereof the height reached unto the heaven; and the sight thereof unto the end of all the earth. And the author of Ecclesiasticus, in 47:15, speaking of Solomon's wisdom, says, Thy soul covered the whole earth, and thou filledst it with parables: so here, by one degree more of hyperbole, it is said that the world would not contain all the books which should be written concerning Jesus's miracles, if the particular account of every one of them were given. In Josephus, Antiq. lib. xix. c. 20, God is mentioned as promising to Jacob that he would give the land of Canaan to him and his seed; and then it is added, οἱ πληρουσι πασαν, ὁσην ἡλιος ὁρᾳ, και γην και θαλασσαν . They shall fill all, whatsoever the sun illuminates, whether earth or sea. Philo in his tract De Ebriet, T. i. p. 362, 10, is observed to speak after the same manner, ουδε γαρ των δωρεων ἱκανος ουδεις χωρησαι το αφθονον πληθος, ισως δ 'ουδ 'ὁ κοσμος . Neither is any one able to contain the vast abundance of gifts; nor is the world capable of it. And in his tract De Posterit. Caini, T. i. p. 253, l. 38, he says, speaking of the fullness of God, Ουδε γαρ εις (ει )πλουτον επιδεικνυσθαι βουληθειη τον ἑαυτου, χωρησαι αν, ηπειρωθεισης και θαλαττης, ἡ συμπασα γη . And should he will to draw out his fullness, the whole compass of sea and land could not contain it."
Homer, who, if not born in Asia Minor, had undoubtedly lived there, has sometimes followed the hyperbolic manner of speaking which prevailed so much in the east, as in Iliad, b. xx. he makes Aeneas say to Achilles: -
Αλλ 'αγε μηκετι ταυτα λεγωμεθα, νηπυτιοι ὡς,<-144 ἙϚαοτ 'εν μεσσῃ ὑσμινῃ δηΐοτητος.
ΕϚι γαρ αμφοτεροισιν ονειδεα μυθησασθαιΠολλα μαλ '· ουδ 'αν νηυς ἑκατονζυγος αχθος αροιτο.
Στρεπτη δε γλωσς 'εϚι βροτων, πολεες δ 'ενι μυθοι,Παντοιοι· επεων δε πολυς νομος ενθα και ενθα.π
Ὁπποιον κ 'ειπῃσθα επος, τοιον κ 'επακουσαις.
Iliad, xx. v. 244-250.
But wherefore should we longer waste the time
In idle prate, while battle roars around?
Reproach is cheap. With ease we might discharge
Gibes at each other, till a ship that asks
A hundred oars should sink beneath the load.
The tongue of man is voluble, hath words
For every theme, nor wants wide field and long;
And, as he speaks, so shall he hear again.
Few instances of any thing like these have been found in the western world; and yet it has been observed that Cicero, in Philip ii. 44, uses a similar form: Praesertim cum illi eam gloriam consecuti sunt, quae vix coelo capi posse videatur - "especially when they pursued that glory which heaven itself seems scarcely sufficient to contain." And Livy also, in vii. 25, Hae vires populi Romani, quas vix terrarum capit orbis - "these energies of the Roman people, which the terraqueous globe can scarcely contain."
We may define hyperbole thus: it is a figure of speech where more seems to be said than is intended; and it is well known that the Asiatic nations abound in these. In Deuteronomy 1:28, cities with high walls round about them are said to be walled up to heaven. Now, what is the meaning of this hyperbole? Why, that the cities had very high walls: then, is the hyperbole a truth? Yes, for we should attach no other idea to these expressions than the authors intended to convey by them. Now, the author of this expression never designed to intimate that the cities had walls which reached to heaven; nor did one of his countrymen understand it in this sense - they affixed no other idea to it, (for the words, in common use, conveyed no other), than that these cities had very high walls. When John, therefore, wrote, the world itself could not contain the books, etc., what would every Jew understand by it! Why, that if every thing which Christ had done and said were to be written, the books would be more in number than had ever been written concerning any one person or subject: i.e. there would be an immense number of books. And so there would be; for it is not possible that the ten thousandth part of the words and actions of such a life as our Lord's was could be contained in the compass of one or all of these Gospels.
There is a hyperbole very like this, taken from the Jewish writers, and inserted by Basnage, Hist. des Juifs, liv. iii. c. 1, s. 9. "Jochanan succeeded Simeon - he attained the age of Moses - he employed forty years in commerce, and in pleading before the Sanhedrin. He composed such a great number of precepts and lessons, that if the heavens were paper, and all the trees of the forest so many pens, and all the children of men so many scribes, they would not suffice to write all his lessons!" Now, what meaning did the author of this hyperbole intend to convey? Why, that Jochanan had given more lessons than all his contemporaries or predecessors. Nor does any Jew in the universe understand the words in any other sense. It is worthy of remark that this Jochanan lived in the time of St. John; for he was in Jerusalem when it was besieged by Vespasian. See Basnage, as above.
There is another quoted by the same author, ibid. c. v. s. 7, where, speaking of Eliezar, one of the presidents of the Sanhedrin, it is said: "Although the firmament were vellum, and the waters of the ocean were chanced into ink, it would not be sufficient to describe all the knowledge of Eliezar; for he made not less than three hundred constitutions concerning the manner of cultivating cucumbers." Now, what did the rabbin mean by this hyperbole? Why, no more than that Eliezar was the greatest naturalist in his time; and had written and spoken more on that subject and others than any of his contemporaries. This Eliezar flourished about seventy-three years after Christ. It is farther worthy of remark that this man also is stated to have lived in the time of St. John. John is supposed to have died a.d. 99.
Hyperboles of this kind, common to the east and to the west, to the north and to the south, may be found every where; and no soul is puzzled with them but the critics. The above examples, I trust, are sufficient to vindicate and explain the words in the text. It is scarcely necessary to add that the common French expression, tout le monde, which literally means the whole world, is used in a million of instances to signify the people present at one meeting, or the majority of them, and often the members of one particular family. And yet no man who understands the language ever imagines that any besides the congregation in the one case, or the family in the other, is intended.
Amen - This word is omitted by ABCD, several others; Syriac, all the Arabic, and both the Persic; the Coptic, Sahidic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Syriac Hieros., Vulgate, and all the Itala but three.
The word אמן amen, which has passed unaltered into almost all the languages of the world in which the sacred writings are extant, is pure Hebrew; and signifies to be steady, constant, firm, established, or confirmed. It is used as a particle of affirmation and adjuration. When a person was sworn to the truth of any fact, the oath was recited to him, and he bound himself by simply saying, אמן אמן amen, amen . See an instance of this, Numbers 5:22. In Deuteronomy 27:15-26, it is to be understood in the same sense; the persons who use it binding themselves, under the curse there pronounced, should they do any of the things there prohibited. It is often used as a particle of affirmation, approbation, and consent, examples of which frequently occur in the Old Testament. When any person commenced a discourse or testimony with this word, it was considered in the light of an oath; as if he had said, I pledge my truth, my honor, and my life to the certainty of what I now state.
Our Lord begins many of his discourses with this word, either singly, Amen, I say unto you; or doubled, Amen, amen, I say unto you; which we translate verily: as Christ uses it, we may ever understand it as expressing an absolute and incontrovertible truth. Instances of the use of the single term frequently occur: see Matthew 5:18, Matthew 5:26; Matthew 6:2, Matthew 6:5, Matthew 6:16; Matthew 8:10; Matthew 10:15, Matthew 10:23, Matthew 10:42, etc., etc.; but it is remarkable that it is doubled by St. John, see John 1:51; John 3:3, John 3:5, John 3:11; John 5:19, John 5:24, John 5:25; John 6:26, John 6:32, John 6:47, John 6:53; John 8:34, John 8:51, John 8:58; John 10:1, John 10:7; John 12:24; John 13:16, John 13:20, John 13:21, John 13:38; John 14:12; John 16:20, John 16:23; John 21:18; and is never found iterated by any of the other evangelists. Some have supposed that the word אמן is contracted, and contains the initials of נעמן מלך אדני Adonai Malec Neeman, my Lord the faithful King; to whom the person who uses it is always understood to make his appeal. Christ is himself called the Amen, ὁ Αμην, Revelation 1:18; Revelation 3:14; because of the eternity of his nature and the unchangeableness of his truth. In later ages, it was placed at the end of all the books in the New Testament, except the Acts, the Epistle of James, and the third Epistle of John, merely as the transcriber's attestation to their truth; and, perhaps, it is sometimes to be understood as vouching to the fidelity of his own transcript.
The subscriptions to this Gospel, as well as to the preceding Gospels, are various in the different versions and manuscripts. The following are those which appear most worthy of being noticed.
"The most holy Gospel of the preaching of John the evangelist, which he spake and proclaimed in the Greek language at Ephesus, is finished." - Syriac in Bib. Polyglott.
"With the assistance of the supreme God, the Gospel of St. John the son of Zebedee, the beloved of the Lord, and the preacher of eternal life, is completed. And it is the conclusion of the four most holy and vivifying Gospels, by the blessing of God. Amen." - Arabic in Bib. Polyglott.
"The four glorious Gospels, of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are completed." - Persic in Bib. Polyglott.
Other subscriptions are as follow: -
"The end of the holy Gospel of John - delivered thirty years - thirty - two years after the ascension of Christ - in the Isle of Patmos - in the Greek tongue at Ephesus - under the reign of Domitian - written by John when he was an exile in Patmos - under the Emperor Trajan - and delivered in Ephesus by Gaius the host of the apostles. John, having returned from his exile in Patmos, composed his Gospel, being 100 years of age and lived to the age of 120." - Suidas.
In an Ethiopic MS. in the royal library in Paris, at the conclusion of this evangelist are these words: - "Now the sum of all the clauses of the four Gospels is 9700. - By the grace of the Lord, here are ended the four Gospels. The sections of the four Gospels are 217. The clauses of the holy Gospel, even from its beginning to its end, namely, the writing of St. John, are completed."
It may be just necessary to inform the reader that the most ancient MSS. have scarcely any subscription at all, and that there is no dependence to be placed on any thing of this kind found in the others; most of the transcribers making conclusions according to their different fancies. See the concluding note of the preceding chapter; and see the preface to this Gospel, where other subjects relative to it are discussed.
Many other things - Many miracles, John 20:30. Many discourses delivered, etc.
I suppose - This is evidently the figure of speech called a hyperbole. It is a mode of speech where the words express more or less than is literally true. It is common among all writers; and as the sacred writers, in recording a revelation to men, used human language, it was proper that they should express themselves as men ordinarily do if they wished to be understood. This figure of speech is commonly the effect of surprise, or having the mind full of some object, and not having words to express the ideas: at the same time, the words convey no falsehood. The statement is to be taken as it would be understood among the persons to whom it is addressed; and as no one supposes that the author means to be understood literally, so there is no deception in the case, and consequently no impeachment of his veracity or inspiration. Thus, when Longinus said of a man that “he was the owner of a piece of ground not larger than a Lacedaemonian letter,” no one understood him literally. He meant, evidently, a very small piece of land, and no one would be deceived. So Virgil says of a man, “he was so tall as to reach the stars,” and means only that he was very tall. So when John says that the world could not contain the books that would be written if all the deeds and sayings of Jesus were recorded, he clearly intends nothing more than that a great many books would be required, or that it would be extremely difficult to record them all; intimating that his life was active, that his discourses were numerous, and that he had not pretended to give them all, but only such as would go to establish the main point for which he wrote that he was the Messiah, John 20:30-31. The figure which John uses here is not uncommon in the Scriptures, Genesis 11:4; Genesis 15:5; Numbers 13:33; Daniel 4:20.
This gospel contains in itself the clearest proof of inspiration. It is the work of a fisherman of Galilee, without any proof that he had any unusual advantages. It is a connected, clear, and satisfactory argument to establish the great truth that Jesus was the Messiah. It was written many years after the ascension of Jesus. It contains the record of the Saviour‘s profoundest discourses, of his most convincing arguments with the Jews, and of his declarations respecting himself and God. It contains the purest and most elevated views of God to be found anywhere, as far exceeding all the speculations of philosophers as the sun does the blaze of a taper. It is in the highest degree absurd to suppose that an unlettered fisherman could have originated this book. Anyone may be convinced of this by comparing it with what would be the production of a man in that rank of life now. But if John has preserved the record of what has occurred so many years before, then it shows that he was under the divine guidance, and is himself a proof, a full and standing proof, of the fulfillment of the promise which he has recorded that the Holy Spirit would guide the apostles into all truth, John 14:26. Of this book we may, in conclusion, apply the words spoken by John respecting his vision of the future events of the church: “Blessed is he that readeth and they that hear the words of this” book, “and keep those things which are written therein, for the time is at hand,” Revelation 1:3.