John 12

Jesus’ Anointing

Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom he
Grk “whom Jesus,” but a repetition of the proper name (Jesus) here would be redundant in the English clause structure, so the pronoun (“he”) is substituted in the translation.
had raised from the dead.
So they prepared a dinner for Jesus
Grk “him”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity and to conform with contemporary English style.
there. Martha
Grk “And Martha.” The connective καί (kai, “and”) has been omitted in the translation because it would produce a run-on sentence in English.
was serving, and Lazarus was among those present at the table
Grk “reclining at the table.”
1st century middle eastern meals were not eaten while sitting at a table, but while reclining on one’s side on the floor with the head closest to the low table and the feet farthest away.
with him.
Then Mary took three quarters of a pound
Or “half a liter”; Grk “a pound” (that is, a Roman pound, about 325 grams or 12 ounces).
of expensive aromatic oil from pure nard
Μύρον (muron) was usually made of myrrh (from which the English word is derived) but here it is used in the sense of ointment or perfumed oil (L&N 6.205). The adjective πιστικῆς (pistikēs) is difficult with regard to its exact meaning; some have taken it to derive from πίστις (pistis) and relate to the purity of the oil of nard. More probably it is something like a brand name, “pistic nard,” the exact significance of which has not been discovered.
Nard or spikenard is a fragrant oil from the root and spike of the nard plant of northern India. This aromatic oil, if made of something like nard, would have been extremely expensive, costing up to a year’s pay for an average laborer.
and anointed the feet of Jesus. She
Grk “And she.” Because of the difference between Greek style, which often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” and English style, which generally does not, καί (kai) has not been translated here.
then wiped his feet dry with her hair. (Now the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfumed oil.)
This is a parenthetical note by the author. With a note characteristic of someone who was there and remembered, the author adds that the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfumed oil. In the later rabbinic literature, Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7.1.1 states “The fragrance of good oil is diffused from the bedroom to the dining hall, but a good name is diffused from one end of the world to the other.” If such a saying was known in the 1st century, this might be the author’s way of indicating that Mary’s act of devotion would be spoken of throughout the entire world (compare the comment in Mark 14:9).
But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was going to betray him)
This is a parenthetical note by the author.
“Why wasn’t this oil sold for three hundred silver coins
Grk “three hundred denarii.” The denarius was a silver coin worth a standard day’s wage, so the value exceeded what a laborer could earn in a year (taking into account Sabbaths and feast days when no work was done).
and the money
The words “the money” are not in the Greek text, but are implied (as the proceeds from the sale of the perfumed oil).
given to the poor?”
(Now Judas
Grk “he”; the referent (Judas) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
said this not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief. As keeper of the money box,
Grk “a thief, and having the money box.” Dividing the single Greek sentence improves the English style.
he used to steal what was put into it.)
This is a parenthetical note by the author. This is one of the indications in the gospels that Judas was of bad character before the betrayal of Jesus. John states that he was a thief and had responsibility for the finances of the group. More than being simply a derogatory note about Judas’ character, the inclusion of the note at this particular point in the narrative may be intended to link the frustrated greed of Judas here with his subsequent decision to betray Jesus for money. The parallel accounts in Matthew and Mark seem to indicate that after this incident Judas went away immediately and made his deal with the Jewish authorities to deliver up Jesus. Losing out on one source of sordid gain, he immediately went out and set up another.
So Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She has kept it for the day of my burial.
Grk “Leave her alone, that for the day of my burial she may keep it.” The construction with ἵνα (hina) is somewhat ambiguous. The simplest way to read it would be, “Leave her alone, that she may keep it for the day of my burial.” This would imply that Mary was going to use the perfumed oil on that day, while vv. 3 and 5 seem to indicate clearly that she had already used it up. Some understand the statement as elliptical: “Leave her alone; (she did this) in order to keep it for the day of my burial.” Another alternative would be an imperatival use of ἵνα with the meaning: “Leave her alone; let her keep it.” The reading of the Byzantine text, which omits the ἵνα and substitutes a perfect tense τετήρηκεν (tetērēken), while not likely to be original, probably comes close to the meaning of the text, and that has been followed in this translation.
For you will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me!”
A few isolated witnesses omit v. 8 (D sys), part of v. 875), or vv. 7–8 ({0250}). The latter two omissions are surely due to errors of sight, while the former can be attributed to D’s sometimes erratic behavior. The verse is secure in light of the overwhelming evidence on its behalf.
In the Greek text of this clause, “me” is in emphatic position (the first word in the clause). To convey some impression of the emphasis, an exclamation point is used in the translation.

Now a large crowd of Judeans
Grk “of the Jews.” In NT usage the term ᾿Ιουδαῖοι (Ioudaioi) may refer to the entire Jewish people, the residents of Jerusalem and surrounding territory (“Judeans”; cf. BDAG 479 s.v. ᾿Ιουδαῖος 2.e), the authorities in Jerusalem, or merely those who were hostile to Jesus. (For further information see R. G. Bratcher, “‘The Jews’ in the Gospel of John,” BT 26 [1975]: 401-9.) Here the phrase refers to the residents of Jerusalem and the surrounding area who by this time had heard about the resurrection of Lazarus and were curious to see him.
Grk “knew.”
that Jesus
Grk “he”; normal English clause structure specifies the referent first and substitutes the pronoun in subsequent references to the same individual, so the referent (Jesus) has been specified here.
was there, and so they came not only because of him
Grk “Jesus”; normal English clause structure specifies the referent first and substitutes the pronoun in subsequent references to the same individual, so the pronoun (“him”) has been substituted here.
but also to see Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead.
10 So the chief priests planned to kill Lazarus too,
According to John 11:53 the Jewish leadership had already planned to kill Jesus. This plot against Lazarus apparently never got beyond the planning stage, however, since no further mention is made of it by the author.
11 for on account of him many of the Jewish people from Jerusalem
Grk “the Jews.” Here the phrase refers to the residents of Jerusalem who had heard about the resurrection of Lazarus and as a result were embracing Jesus as Messiah. See also the note on the phrase “Judeans” in v. 9.
were going away and believing in Jesus.

The Triumphal Entry

12  The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees
The Mosaic law stated (Lev 23:40) that branches of palm trees were to be used to celebrate the feast of Tabernacles. Later on they came to be used to celebrate other feasts as well (1 Macc. 13:51, 2 Macc. 10:7).
and went out to meet him. They began to shout,
Grk “And they were shouting.” An ingressive force for the imperfect tense (“they began to shout” or “they started shouting”) is natural in this sequence of events. The conjunction καί (kai, “and”) is left untranslated to improve the English style.
The expression ῾Ωσαννά (hōsanna, literally in Hebrew, “O Lord, save”) in the quotation from Ps 118:25–26 was probably by this time a familiar liturgical expression of praise, on the order of “Hail to the king,” although both the underlying Aramaic and Hebrew expressions meant “O Lord, save us.” As in Mark 11:9 the introductory ὡσαννά is followed by the words of Ps 118:25, εὐλογημένος ὁ ἐρχόμενος ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου (eulogēmenos ho erchomenos en onomati kuriou), although in the Fourth Gospel the author adds for good measure καὶ ὁ βασιλεὺς τοῦ ᾿Ισραήλ (kai ho basileus tou Israēl). In words familiar to every Jew, the author is indicating that at this point every messianic expectation is now at the point of realization. It is clear from the words of the psalm shouted by the crowd that Jesus is being proclaimed as messianic king. See E. Lohse, TDNT 9:682–84.
Hosanna is an Aramaic expression that literally means, “help, I pray,” or “save, I pray.” By Jesus’ time it had become a strictly liturgical formula of praise, however, and was used as an exclamation of praise to God.
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
A quotation from Ps 118:25–26.
Blessed is
Grk “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” The words “Blessed is” are not repeated in the Greek text, but are repeated in the translation to avoid the awkwardness in English of the ascensive καί (kai).
the king of Israel!”
14 Jesus found a young donkey
The author does not repeat the detailed accounts of the finding of the donkey recorded in the synoptic gospels. He does, however, see the event as a fulfillment of scripture, which he indicates by quoting Zech 9:9.
and sat on it, just as it is written,
15  Do not be afraid, people of Zion;
Grk “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion” (the phrase “daughter of Zion” is an idiom for the inhabitants of Jerusalem: “people of Zion”). The idiom “daughter of Zion” has been translated as “people of Zion” because the original idiom, while firmly embedded in the Christian tradition, is not understandable to most modern English readers.
look, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt!
A quotation from Zech 9:9.
16 (His disciples did not understand these things when they first happened,
Or “did not understand these things at first”; Grk “formerly.”
but when Jesus was glorified,
When Jesus was glorified, that is, glorified through his resurrection, exaltation, and return to the Father. Jesus’ glorification is consistently portrayed this way in the Gospel of John.
then they remembered that these things were written about him and that these things had happened
Grk “and that they had done these things,” though the referent is probably indefinite and not referring to the disciples; as such, the best rendering is as a passive (see ExSyn 402–3; R. E. Brown, John [AB], 1:458).
to him.)
The comment His disciples did not understand these things when they first happened (a parenthetical note by the author) informs the reader that Jesus’ disciples did not at first associate the prophecy from Zechariah with the events as they happened. This came with the later (postresurrection) insight which the Holy Spirit would provide after Jesus’ resurrection and return to the Father. Note the similarity with John 2:22, which follows another allusion to a prophecy in Zechariah (14:21).

17  So the crowd who had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead were continuing to testify about it.
The word “it” is not included in the Greek text. Direct objects in Greek were often omitted when clear from the context.
18 Because they had heard that Jesus
Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
had performed this miraculous sign, the crowd went out to meet him.
19 Thus the Pharisees
See the note on Pharisees in 1:24.
said to one another, “You see that you can do nothing. Look, the world has run off after him!”


20  Now some Greeks
These Greeks (῞Ελληνές τινες, Hellēnes tines) who had come up to worship at the feast were probably “God-fearers” rather than proselytes in the strict sense. Had they been true proselytes, they would probably not have been referred to as Greeks any longer. Many came to worship at the major Jewish festivals without being proselytes to Judaism, for example, the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:27, who could not have been a proselyte if he were physically a eunuch.
were among those who had gone up to worship at the feast.
21 So these approached Philip,
These Greeks approached Philip, although it is not clear why they did so. Perhaps they identified with his Greek name (although a number of Jews from border areas had Hellenistic names at this period). By see it is clear they meant “speak with,” since anyone could “see” Jesus moving through the crowd. The author does not mention what they wanted to speak with Jesus about.
who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and requested,
Grk “and were asking him, saying.” The participle λέγοντες (legontes) is redundant in contemporary English and has not been translated here.
“Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”
22 Philip went and told Andrew, and they both
Grk “Andrew and Philip”; because a repetition of the proper names would be redundant in contemporary English style, the phrase “they both” has been substituted in the translation.
went and told Jesus.
23 Jesus replied,
Grk “Jesus answered them, saying.” The participle λέγων (legōn) is redundant in contemporary English and has not been translated here.
“The time
Grk “the hour.”
has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
Jesus’ reply, the time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified, is a bit puzzling. As far as the author’s account is concerned, Jesus totally ignores these Greeks and makes no further reference to them whatsoever. It appears that his words are addressed to Andrew and Philip, but in fact they must have had a wider audience, including possibly the Greeks who had wished to see him in the first place. The words the time has come recall all the previous references to “the hour” throughout the Fourth Gospel (see the note on time in 2:4). There is no doubt, in light of the following verse, that Jesus refers to his death here. On his pathway to glorification lies the cross, and it is just ahead.
24 I tell you the solemn truth,
Grk “Truly, truly, I say to you.”
unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains by itself alone.
Or “it remains only a single kernel.”
But if it dies, it produces
Or “bears.”
much grain.
Grk “much fruit.”
25 The one who loves his life
Or “soul.”
Or “loses.” Although the traditional English translation of ἀπολλύει (apolluei) in John 12:25 is “loses,” the contrast with φυλάξει (fulaxei, “keeps” or “guards”) in the second half of the verse favors the meaning “destroy” here.
it, and the one who hates his life in this world guards
Or “keeps.”
it for eternal life.
26 If anyone wants to serve me, he must follow
As a third person imperative in Greek, ἀκολουθείτω (akolouqeitō) is usually translated “let him follow me.” This could be understood by the modern English reader as merely permissive, however (“he may follow me if he wishes”). In this context there is no permissive sense, but rather a command, so the translation “he must follow me” is preferred.
me, and where I am, my servant will be too.
Grk “where I am, there my servant will be too.”
If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

27  “Now my soul is greatly distressed. And what should I say? ‘Father, deliver me
Or “save me.”
from this hour’?
Or “this occasion.”
Father, deliver me from this hour. It is now clear that Jesus’ hour has come - the hour of his return to the Father through crucifixion, death, resurrection, and ascension (see 12:23). This will be reiterated in 13:1 and 17:1. Jesus states (employing words similar to those of Ps 6:4) that his soul is troubled. What shall his response to his imminent death be? A prayer to the Father to deliver him from that hour? No, because it is on account of this very hour that Jesus has come. His sacrificial death has always remained the primary purpose of his mission into the world. Now, faced with the completion of that mission, shall he ask the Father to spare him from it? The expected answer is no.
No, but for this very reason I have come to this hour.
Or “this occasion.”
28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven,
Or “from the sky” (see note on 1:32).
“I have glorified it,
“It” is not in the Greek text. Direct objects were often omitted in Greek when clear from the context.
and I will glorify it
“It” is not in the Greek text. Direct objects were often omitted in Greek when clear from the context.
29 The crowd that stood there and heard the voice
“The voice” is not in the Greek text. Direct objects were often omitted in Greek when clear from the context.
said that it had thundered. Others said that an angel had spoken to him.
Grk “Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” The direct discourse in the second half of v. 29 was converted to indirect discourse in the translation to maintain the parallelism with the first half of the verse, which is better in keeping with English style.
30 Jesus said,
Grk “Jesus answered and said.”
“This voice has not come for my benefit
Or “for my sake.”
but for yours.
31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world
The ruler of this world is a reference to Satan.
will be driven out.
Or “will be thrown out.” This translation regards the future passive ἐκβληθήσεται (ekblēqēsetai) as referring to an event future to the time of speaking.
The phrase driven out must refer to Satan’s loss of authority over this world. This must be in principle rather than in immediate fact, since 1 John 5:19 states that the whole world (still) lies in the power of the evil one (a reference to Satan). In an absolute sense the reference is proleptic. The coming of Jesus’ hour (his crucifixion, death, resurrection, and exaltation to the Father) marks the end of Satan’s domain and brings about his defeat, even though that defeat has not been ultimately worked out in history yet and awaits the consummation of the age.
32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people
Grk “all.” The word “people” is not in the Greek text but is supplied for stylistic reasons and for clarity (cf. KJV “all men”).
to myself.”
33 (Now he said this to indicate clearly what kind of death he was going to die.)
This is a parenthetical note by the author.

34  Then the crowd responded,
Grk “Then the crowd answered him.”
“We have heard from the law that the Christ
Or “the Messiah” (Both Greek “Christ” and Hebrew and Aramaic “Messiah” mean “one who has been anointed”).
See the note on Christ in 1:20.
will remain forever.
Probably an allusion to Ps 89:35–37. It is difficult to pinpoint the passage in the Mosaic law to which the crowd refers. The ones most often suggested are Ps 89:36–37, Ps 110:4, Isa 9:7, Ezek 37:25, and Dan 7:14. None of these passages are in the Pentateuch per se, but “law” could in common usage refer to the entire OT (compare Jesus’ use in John 10:34). Of the passages mentioned, Ps 89:36–37 is the most likely candidate. This verse speaks of David’s “seed” remaining forever. Later in the same psalm, v. 51 speaks of the “anointed” (Messiah), and the psalm was interpreted messianically in both the NT (Acts 13:22, Rev 1:5, 3:14) and in the rabbinic literature (Genesis Rabbah 97).
Grk “And how”; the conjunction καί (kai, “and”) has been left untranslated here for improved English style.
can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?”
35 Jesus replied,
Grk “Then Jesus said to them.”
“The light is with you for a little while longer.
Grk “Yet a little while the light is with you.”
Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you.
The warning Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you operates on at least two different levels: (1) To the Jewish people in Jerusalem to whom Jesus spoke, the warning was a reminder that there was only a little time left for them to accept him as their Messiah. (2) To those later individuals to whom the Fourth Gospel was written, and to every person since, the words of Jesus are also a warning: There is a finite, limited time in which each individual has opportunity to respond to the Light of the world (i.e., Jesus); after that comes darkness. One’s response to the Light decisively determines one’s judgment for eternity.
The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going.
36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become sons of light.”
The idiom “sons of light” means essentially “people characterized by light,” that is, “people of God.”
The expression sons of light refers to men and women to whom the truth of God has been revealed and who are therefore living according to that truth, thus, “people of God.”
When Jesus had said these things, he went away and hid himself from them.

The Outcome of Jesus’ Public Ministry Foretold

37  Although Jesus
Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
had performed
Or “done.”
so many miraculous signs before them, they still refused to believe in him,
38 so that the word
Or “message.”
of Isaiah the prophet would be fulfilled. He said,
Grk “who said.”
Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord
“The arm of the Lord” is an idiom for “God’s great power” (as exemplified through Jesus’ miraculous signs). This response of unbelief is interpreted by the author as a fulfillment of the prophetic words of Isaiah (Isa 53:1). The phrase ὁ βραχίων κυρίου (ho braciōn kuriou) is a figurative reference to God’s activity and power which has been revealed in the sign-miracles which Jesus has performed (compare the previous verse).
been revealed?
A quotation from Isa 53:1.
39 For this reason they could not believe,
The author explicitly states here that Jesus’ Jewish opponents could not believe, and quotes Isa 6:10 to show that God had in fact blinded their eyes and hardened their heart. This OT passage was used elsewhere in the NT to explain Jewish unbelief: Paul’s final words in Acts (28:26–27) are a quotation of this same passage, which he uses to explain why the Jewish people have not accepted the gospel he has preached. A similar passage (Isa 29:10) is quoted in a similar context in Rom 11:8.
because again Isaiah said,

40  He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their heart,
Or “closed their mind.”

so that they would not see with their eyes
and understand with their heart,
Or “their mind.”

and turn to me,
One could also translate στραφῶσιν (strafōsin) as “repent” or “change their ways,” but both of these terms would be subject to misinterpretation by the modern English reader. The idea is one of turning back to God, however. The words “to me” are not in the Greek text, but are implied.
and I would heal them.
A quotation from Isa 6:10.

41 Isaiah said these things because he saw Christ’s
Grk “his”; the referent (Christ) has been specified in the translation for clarity. The referent supplied here is “Christ” rather than “Jesus” because it involves what Isaiah saw. It is clear that the author presents Isaiah as having seen the preincarnate glory of Christ, which was the very revelation of the Father (see John 1:18; John 14:9).
Because he saw Christs glory. The glory which Isaiah saw in Isa 6:3 was the glory of Yahweh (typically rendered as “Lord” in the OT). Here John speaks of the prophet seeing the glory of Christ since in the next clause and spoke about him, “him” can hardly refer to Yahweh, but must refer to Christ. On the basis of statements like 1:14 in the prologue, the author probably put no great distinction between the two. Since the author presents Jesus as fully God (cf. John 1:1), it presents no problem to him to take words originally spoken by Isaiah of Yahweh himself and apply them to Jesus.
glory, and spoke about him.

42  Nevertheless, even among the rulers
The term rulers here denotes members of the Sanhedrin, the highest legal, legislative, and judicial body among the Jews. Note the same word (“ruler”) is used to describe Nicodemus in 3:1.
many believed in him, but because of the Pharisees
See the note on Pharisees in 1:24.
they would not confess Jesus to be the Christ,
The words “Jesus to be the Christ” are not in the Greek text, but are implied (see 9:22). As is often the case in Greek, the direct object is omitted for the verb ὡμολόγουν (hōmologoun). Some translators supply an ambiguous “it,” or derive the implied direct object from the previous clause “believed in him” so that the rulers would not confess “their faith” or “their belief.” However, when one compares John 9:22, which has many verbal parallels to this verse, it seems clear that the content of the confession would have been “Jesus is the Christ (i.e., Messiah).”
See the note on Christ in 1:20.
so that they would not be put out of
Or “be expelled from.”
the synagogue.
Compare John 9:22. See the note on synagogue in 6:59.
43 For they loved praise
Grk “the glory.”
from men more than praise
Grk “the glory.”
from God.

Jesus’ Final Public Words

44  But Jesus shouted out,
Grk “shouted out and said.”
“The one who believes in me does not believe in me, but in the one who sent me,
The one who sent me refers to God.
45 and the one who sees me sees the one who sent me. 46 I have come as a light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in darkness. 47 If anyone
Grk “And if anyone”; the conjunction καί (kai, “and”) has been left untranslated here for improved English style.
hears my words and does not obey them,
Or “guard them,” “keep them.”
I do not judge him. For I have not come to judge the world, but to save the world.
48 The one who rejects me and does not accept
Or “does not receive.”
my words has a judge;
Grk “has one who judges him.”
the word
Or “message.”
I have spoken will judge him at the last day.
49 For I have not spoken from my own authority,
Grk “I have not spoken from myself.”
but the Father himself who sent me has commanded me
Grk “has given me commandment.”
what I should say and what I should speak.
50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life.
Or “his commandment results in eternal life.”
Thus the things I say, I say just as the Father has told me.”
Grk “The things I speak, just as the Father has spoken to me, thus I speak.”

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