John 8:31-30 and Waldenström's Commentary

by Paul Peter Waldenström and translated by Tommy Carlson

Verse 31 — Then Jesus said to those Jews1 that had become believers in him: If you2 remain in my word3 so are you my disciples in truth4.

  1. Among those who had become believers, were some Jews, that is to say, members of that Jewish party that was vigorously hostile toward Jesus (see comments to chapter 1: 19 below). It is to these believers that Jesus is talking. He felt how false and unreliable their belief was. His words to them also caused that their hearts soon turned against him again (vs. 33ff).
  2. It is, in the original text, a strong emphasis on the word YOU.
  3. Now they had in some regard accepted the word, but their belief is not of the right kind. If they wanted to be his disciples in truth, they had to remain in his word, so that his word was like an element in which their inner and outer life moved. This is similar to another expression that the Savior uses when he talks about THE WORD REMAINING IN THE INDIVIDUAL (Chap. 5:38, 5:7). When the word remains in the individual as its determining power, it then becomes that element in which the whole life moves.
  4. In truth and reality, not in pretense and for the moment.

Verse 32 — And you shall understand the truth1 and the truth shall make you free2. Compare Romans 6:16.

  1. The divine truth constitutes the substance of Christ's word. To learn to know that can only happen whereby one in faith accepts and remains in the word. Moreover, it must be noted that here (as elsewhere in John) with the knowledge of truth is intended not only knowledge of the intellect but also the living experience of the heart. It is first through this that the truth becomes the individual's real property.
  2. Namely from the slavery of sin (vs 34). Where the individual in its heart acquires the truth, them the truth becomes the whole life' s determining power. Thereby every other domination is abolished. This is true freedom.

Verse 33 — They1 answered him: Abraham's seed are we2 and we have never been slaves to anybody3. How is it you say then: You shall be free?

  1. Those Jews he talked to according to verse 31.
  2. It was the Jews' pride that they were Abraham's seeL To Abraham's seed world dominion (hegemony) was decreed (Gen. 17:16, 22:17 ff.). (Notice Waldenström's interpretation of the blessing. Eds.) And now the Lord speaks to them like they were slaves and had to be free. This was hard for them to understand.
  3. 3. That their ancestors had been slaves in Egypt and Babylon was true. But here these Jews are talking about themselves and not about the people of Israel in general, as the Lord had talked to them personally. And THEY had never been anybody's slaves. Though the Romans for the moment were lords of the land, the Jews' freedom was not completely abolished. The pretense of freedom at least remained. The existing Jewish council was still the supreme authority in the land as far as the peoples' internal affairs were concerned.

Verse 34 — Jesus answered them: I say to you: Each and everyone1 that sins is a slave to sin. Compare Romans 6:16, IIPeter 2:19.

  1. 1. without distinction. You are not an exception, however much you boast of your freedom and your descendancy from Abraham.

Verse 35 — But the slave shall not remain in the house for eternity1, the Son shall remain for eternity2.

  1. Verbatim: to the end of the age. A slave can be sold, traded, ejected (Gen. 21:10, Gal. 4:30). He has no remaining place in the house.
  2. The son in comparison with the slave has a place in the house forever. This verse comes from a common thesis derived from the then existing bourgeois conditions.

Verse 36 — If therefore1 the Son makes you free2 so shall you really be free3.

  1. In the preceding verse a general thesis was declared about the different standings of the slave and the Son. The Lord here applies this to himself and those he is talking to. Here is the Son who shall remain in God's house for eternity, then the slaves, even if they for the moment belong to God's house (God's people) they shall likewise, when God's house is finished in the future Messianic kingdom, be thrown out (compare Matt. 8:12) unless prior to that they have been made free by the Son.
  2. The power to make slaves free belongs to the Son as the only begotten, and as such, installed by the Father as the Lord over everything (Chapter 17:2, 1Cor. 8:6).
  3. All other freedom is only pretense. See Romans 8:35, 1Cor. 6:4. If you are truly free, then you will receive your inheritance and an eternal place in God's house and kingdom.

Comment to Chapter 1:19

In the Gospel of John the word Jews is used with two different meanings. Sometimes it indicates the Jewish people as a nation distinct from other nations (Chapter 2:6,13; 3:1; 4:22; 5:1; 18:33,35 and others), In this context the evangelist himself is a Jew. In other places, however, the evangelist represents with this word Jews a hostile religious party which is against Jesus and his congregation. In this context John was (like every other believing Israelite) no longer a Jew. To the nation he was and continued to be a Jew, but to the religion he quit being a Jew the moment he became Christ's disciple. (Note: Waldenstr6m assumes that not being of the Jewish party that "vigorously opposed" Jesus means not to claim to be Jewish at all. However, it appears that the followers of Jesus initially practiced Judaism faithfully. See Acts 2:46. Eds.) It is in this last meaning that the evangelist here and in other places (for example chapter 5:15; 9:22; 18:12 etc.) uses the word Jew. As the situation shows, he does not refer to the Jews in general, but the leading men, the councillors in Jerusalem in whom the old Judaism had its foremost representatives