[11] Signs and Discourses 8: the Light of the World (8:12-59)




The first sentence of 8:1 in the Chinese translation actually is 7:53.

The passage was not found in the oldest manuscripts. When it appears, it is found in different positions, sometimes after 7:36, sometimes after 7:44, sometimes after the whole Gospel, sometimes after Lk 21:38. The language and style are also different from that of the disciple John. Further, 8:12 follows naturally after 7:52. The story, however, is probably authentic and actually did happen.


[C12]  8:12-59........... SIXTH Discourse - the light of the world

·         The witness of the Father (8:12-20)
·         Dying in sins (8:21-24)
·         The Father as the origin of the Son’s authority (8:25-30)
·         Slaves of sin (8:31-47)
·         The glory the Father gives the Son (8:48-59)


8:12     “I am” is in the style of deity. Perhaps the discourse draws attention to the ceremonies with lights at the Feast of Tabernacles. The light may also reminds the pillar of fire in the wilderness. Thus, with the manna in chapter 6, and the bread of life in chapter 7, all 3 discourses refer to the wilderness imagery. Jesus is the source of the world’s illumination, reminding us about the light in chapter 1.

The “light of life” can mean “the light that gives life” or “the light that is life” or “the light that springs from life” or “the light that illuminates life”. Perhaps it implies all of these.

The whole world, without the light, is in darkness.

“Follows” is in present participle, implying following Jesus continually and wholeheartedly. “Will have” also points to something that continues.

The darkness may also hint about the darkness of Satan.

8:14     In 5:31, Jesus admitted that the witness to oneself is not valid. Here, Jesus was comparing Himself to the Pharisees: He knew both His origin and His destination but the Pharisees did not. But in anycase, His testimony was supported by the witness of the Father (v.18).

8:15     The Pharisees judged (literally) “according to the flesh” hinting that the judgment was weak and incomplete. But Jesus did not set Himself up as a judge during His earthly life. At the same time, He made it clear that He will be the final judge.

8:16     In contrast, Jesus’ judgment will be “true” based on His close relationship to the Father.

8:17     Two witnesses would be sufficient to establish testimony (Dt 19:15).

8:19     It is possible to know the Father only as we know Jesus.

8:20     “The treasury” in the Temple was where people came to cast their offerings into the chests.


8:21     There is no note of time of the year between 7:37 (Feast of the Tabernacles) and 10:22 (Feast of the Dedication), with the interval of two months.

Jesus repeated 7:33-34. His death was set in contrast to theirs which is dying in sin, that is, dying with one’s sin unrepented and unatoned. The singular here (plural in v.24) points to the sin of all sins, that of rejecting Jesus.

8:23     The Jews belonged to the world where Satan is supreme.

8:25     The meaning of Jesus’ answer is not clear. In opposed to the common translation, Jesus’ reply may be regarded either as an exclamation or a question: “That I speak to you at all!” or “To begin with, why do I even speak to you?” Some other translation includes: “So we go back to our starting-point!” or “Anything I am saying to you is only the beginning.”

8:28     “Lift up” points to the cross but at the same time has a meaning of being exalted in glory.

8:29     Jesus is active in doing what pleases the Father, always.


8:31     True freedom is to be found in the liberty that Christ gives. In contrast, lack of freedom is the servitude to the Devil.

Jesus did not lay down a condition of discipleship but told them what discipleship consists of. When one abides in Christ’s word, one is a true disciple.

8:32     Truth is closely connected with the Person of Christ (1:17; 14:6). Knowledge of the truth is associated with being His disciple.

The meaning is not that truth in a philosophical sense exercises a liberating function. It does not mean that with intellectual insight, people are delivered from the bonds of ignorance.

Truth here is saving truth. It is the truth that saves people from the darkness of sin, not from the darkness of error.

8:33     The Jews claimed that as descendants of Abraham, they were a race with high privilege and never in bondage. But they disregarded the facts of being under the Romans (and the Egyptians in the past). Some suggest that it may mean: “We have never been in bondage to other deities.”

8:34     “Sins” is in continuous tense. Everyone who continues in sin is thereby a slave.

8:35     A slave has no rights and no security and can be sold away anytime.

8:36     Those given rights by the Son have rights and have a permanent heavenly home.

8:38     “Your father” probably refers to the Devil (also v.41) who was clearly referred to in v.44.

8:41     The Jewish response was possibly a slander against Jesus as being born out of wedlock. Later, they accused Jesus being a Samaritan, possibly referring to the Samaritans (v.48) as not legitimate Jews.

8:43     There is a contrast between “my speech” (the expression) and “my word” (the content). The sentence can be translated as: “Why do you not understand my language? Because you cannot comprehend my thought.” It is spiritual incomprehension.

8:44     “Desire” refers to strong evil desire. Satan murdered from the beginning because Satan’s temptation caused Adam to become mortal. Thus Satan is the murderer of the whole human race.

Satan’s habitat is falsehood. When he lies, he is at home.

8:45     Because the Jews are related to Satan, it is therefore impossible for them to accept truth.

8:47     The Jews did not belong to God and therefore could not accept what God says.


8:48     The accusation may mean: “you are no better than a Samaritan!”

8:50     Jesus disclaimed self-seeking. God’s judgment is in present tense, here and now.

8:52     The Jews misunderstood Jesus’ word about not dying.

8:56     “Rejoiced” is a wholehearted word, meaning “was overjoyed”.

“My day” probably refers to Jesus’ incarnation, not the common “Day of the Lord” or Judgment Day. Gen 12:3 held that Abraham rejoiced at the prospect of the Messiah being born from his descendants.

8:57     For Jews, fifty years represent the completion of a person’s working life and the entrance on to old age. It is the age at which the Levites completed their service (Nu 4:3).

8:58     Jesus claimed preexistence. “I am” is in the style of deity and points to eternity of being.

8:59     The Jews could interpret this only as blasphemy. “Hid himself” is really a passive, “was hidden” hinting God’s protection.