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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

John 21



Other Authors
Verse 1

Manifested himself (επανεροσεν εαυτονephanerosen heauton). First aorist active indicative of πανεροωphaneroō with the reflexive pronoun (cf. John 7:4; John 13:4). For the passive see John 1:31; John 21:14. Jesus was only seen during the forty days now and then (Acts 1:3), ten instances being recorded. The word πανεροωphaneroō is often used of Christ on earth (John 1:31; John 2:11; 1 Peter 1:20; 1 John 1:2), of his works (John 3:5), of the second coming (1 John 2:28), of Christ in glory (Colossians 3:4; 1 John 3:2).

At (επιepi). By or upon.

Of Tiberias
(της Τιβεριαδοςtēs Tiberiados). As in John 6:1 instead of the usual “Sea of Galilee.” Tiberias, the capital city of Galilee, gave this epithet to the Sea of Galilee. This is not the appearance in Galilee prearranged by Jesus (Mark 16:7; Matthew 28:7, Matthew 28:16).

Verse 2

There were together (ησαν ομουēsan homou). These seven (Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, the sons of Zebedee, and two others). We know that the sons of Zebedee were James and John (Matthew 4:21), mentioned by name nowhere in John‘s Gospel, apparently because John is the author. We do not know who the “two others of his disciples” were, possibly Andrew and Philip. It seems to me to be crass criticism in spite of Harnack and Bernard to identify the incident here with that in Luke 5:1-11. There are a few points of similarity, but the differences are too great for such identification even with a hypothetical common source.

Verse 3

I go a fishing (υπαγω αλιευεινhupagō halieuein). The present active infinitive αλιευεινhalieuein expresses purpose as often. It is a late verb from αλιευςhalieus (fisherman) and occurs in Jeremiah 16:16, in Philo, Plutarch, and one papyrus. Peter‘s proposal was a natural one. He had been a fisherman by practice and they were probably waiting in Galilee for the appointed meeting with Christ on the mountain. Andrew and Peter, James and John were fishermen also. Peter‘s proposition met a ready response from all.

They took (επιασανepiasan). First aorist active indicative of πιαζωpiazō Doric form for πιεζωpiezō to catch.

Verse 4

When day was now breaking (πρωιας ηδη γινομενηςprōias ēdē ginomenēs). Genitive absolute and note present middle participle (dawn coming on and still dark). In Matthew 27:1 the aorist participle (γενομενηςgenomenēs) means that dawn had come. For “beach” (αιγιαλονaigialon) see Matthew 13:2.

Was (εστινestin). Present indicative retained in indirect assertion.

Verse 5

Children (ΠαιδιαPaidia). Diminutive of παιςpais and used here alone by Jesus in addressing his disciples. It is a colloquial expression like “my boys.” The aged Apostle John uses it in 1 John 2:13, 1 John 2:18.

Have ye aught to eat? (μη τι προσπαγιον εχετεmē ti prosphagion echete). The negative answer is expected by this polite inquiry as in John 4:29. The rare and late word προσπαγιονprosphagion from the root παγphag (εστιωesthiō to eat) and προςpros (in addition) was used for a relish with bread and then for fish as here. So in the papyri. Nowhere else in the N.T.

Verse 6

The right side (εις τα δεχια μερηeis ta dexia merē). Jesus knew where the fish were. For “net” (δικτυονdiktuon) see Matthew 4:20, here alone in John.

Were now not able to draw it (ουκετι αυτο ελκυσαι ισχυονouketi auto helkusai ischuon). Imperfect active picturing the disciples tugging at the net.

Verse 7

It is the Lord (ο κυριος εστινho kurios estin). John‘s quick insight appears again.

Girt his coat about him (τον επενδυτην διεζωσατοton ependutēn diezōsato). First aorist middle (indirect) indicative with which note διεζωσεν εαυτονdiezōsen heauton in John 13:4. Apparently Peter threw on the upper garment or linen blouse (επενδυτηνependutēn) worn by fishers over his waistcloth and tucked it under his girdle.

Verse 8

In the little boat (τωι πλοιαριωιtōi ploiariōi). Locative case of πλοιαριονploiarion (diminutive) for the larger boat (πλοιονploion John 21:3, John 21:6) could come no closer to shore. But the words seem interchangeable in John 6:17, John 6:19, John 6:21, John 6:22, John 6:24.

About two hundred cubits off (ως απο πηχων διακοσιωνhōs apo pēchōn diakosiōn). For πηχυςpēchus cubit, see Matthew 6:27 and for ως αποhōs apo see John 11:18.

(συροντεςsurontes). Present active participle of συρωsurō for which see Acts 8:3.

Verse 9

Got out (απεβησανapebēsan). As in Luke 5:2.

They see (βλεπουσινblepousin). Vivid historical present.

A fire of coals
(αντρακιανanthrakian). See John 18:18 for this word. Cf. our “anthracite.”

(κειμενηνkeimenēn). Lying as placed, present middle participle of κειμαιkeimai

(οπσαριονopsarion). As in John 6:9, John 6:11, like προσπαγιονprosphagion above.

Laid thereon
(επικειμενονepikeimenon). So broiling with bread ready (toast).

Verse 10

Which (ωνhōn). Ablative case by attraction from αha to agree with οπσαριωνopsariōn They had caught the fish by Christ‘s direction.

Verse 11

Went up (ανεβηanebē). Into the little boat or dinghy.

Drew (ειλκυσενheilkusen). Same verb as ελκυσαιhelkusai in John 21:6. Peter now did what they had failed to do.

(τριωνtriōn). The addition “three” to the “hundred and fifty” looks as if they were actually counted these “large” (μεγαλωνmegalōn) fish. It was a great fish story that John recalls vividly.

Was not rent
(ουκ εσχιστηouk eschisthē). First aorist passive indicative of σχιζωschizō to split (our word “schism”).

Verse 12

Break your fast (αριστησατεaristēsate). First aorist active imperative of αρισταωaristaō from αριστονariston first to breakfast, as here and then later to dine as in Luke 11:37. What a delightful breakfast of fresh broiled fish just caught (John 21:10) with the hush of joyful surprise in the presence of the Risen Lord.

Durst (ετολμαetolma) Imperfect active of τολμαωtolmaō The restraint of silence continued.

Verse 13

Taketh the bread, and giveth them (λαμβανει τον αρτον και διδωσιν αυτοιςlambanei ton arton kai didōsin autois). Vivid presents again. Jesus acts as host at this early breakfast, his last meal with these seven faithful followers.

Verse 14

Now the third time (το ηδη τριτονto ēdē triton). “To the disciples” (apostles) John says, the two others being told by him (John 20:19, John 20:26) on the two Sunday evenings. There were four other appearances already (to Mary Magdalene, to the group of women, to the two on the way to Emmaus, to Peter).

Verse 15

Lovest thou me more than these? (αγαπαις με πλεον τουτωνagapāis me pleon toutōn). Ablative case of comparison τουτωνtoutōn (disciples) after πλεονpleon Peter had even boasted that he would stand by Christ though all men forsook him (Mark 14:29). We do not know what passed between Jesus and Peter when Jesus first appeared to him (Luke 24:34). But here Christ probes the inmost recesses of Peter‘s heart to secure the humility necessary for service.

I love thee (πιλω συphilō su). Peter makes no claim here to superior love and passes by the “more than these” and does not even use Christ‘s word αγαπαωagapaō for high and devoted love, but the humbler word πιλεωphileō for love as a friend. He insists that Christ knows this in spite of his conduct.

Feed my lambs
(οσκε τα αρνια μουBoske ta arnia mou). For the old word βοσκωboskō (to feed as a herdsman) see Matthew 8:33. Present active imperative here. ΑρνιαArnia is a diminutive of αρνοςarnos (lamb).

Verse 16

Lovest thou me? (αγαπαις μεagapāis me). This time Jesus drops the πλεον τουτωνpleon toutōn and challenges Peter‘s own statement. Peter repeats the same words in reply.

Tend my sheep (ποιμαινε τα προβατιαpoimaine ta probatia). Present active imperative of ποιμαινωpoimainō old verb from ποιμηνpoimēn (shepherd), “shepherd my lambs” (προβατιαprobatia diminutive of προβατονprobaton sheep).

Verse 17

Lovest thou me? (πιλεις μεphileis me). This time Jesus picks up the word πιλεωphileō used by Peter and challenges that. These two words are often interchanged in the N.T., but here the distinction is preserved. Peter was cut to the heart (ελυπητηelupēthē first aorist passive of λυπεωlupeō to grieve) because Jesus challenges this very verb, and no doubt the third question vividly reminds him of the three denials in the early morning by the fire. He repeats his love for Jesus with the plea: “Thou knowest all things.”

Feed my sheep (βοσκε τα προβατιαboske ta probatia). Many MSS. both here and in John 21:16 read προβαταprobata (sheep) instead of προβατιαprobatia (little sheep or lambs).

Verse 18

Thou girdest thyself (εζωννυες σεαυτονezōnnues seauton). Imperfect active of customary action of ζωννυωzōnnuō old verb, in N.T. only here and Acts 12:8. So as to περιεπατειςperiepateis (walkedst) and ητελεςētheles (wouldest), two other imperfects of customary action.

When thou shalt be old (οταν γηρασηιςhotan gērasēis). Indefinite temporal clause with οτανhotan and the first aorist active subjunctive of γηρασκωgēraskō old verb to grow old, in N.T. only here and Hebrews 8:13, “whenever thou growest old.”

Verse 19

By what manner of death (ποιωι τανατωιpoiōi thanatōi). Undoubtedly John, who is writing long after Peter‘s death, seems to mean that Peter was to die (and did die) a martyr‘s death. “Whither thou wouldest not.” There is a tradition that Peter met death by crucifixion and asked to be crucified head downwards, but that is not made plain here.

Verse 20

Turning about (επιστραπειςepistrapheis). Second aorist passive participle of επιστρεπωepistrephō old verb, here a sudden turning round (ingressive aorist). For the simplex verb στρεπωstrephō see John 20:14, John 20:16.

Following (ακολουτουνταakolouthounta). Following both Jesus and Peter, perhaps having heard the graphic dialogue above.

Verse 21

And what shall this man do? (ουτος δε τιhoutos de ti). Literally, “But this one … what?” The abrupt ellipsis is intelligible.

Verse 22

If I will (εαν τελωean thelō). Condition of the third class with εανean and the present active subjunctive of τελωthelō

Till I come (εως ερχομαιheōs erchomai). Literally, “while I am coming” (εωςheōs and the present indicative, not εως ελτωheōs elthō (second aorist active subjunctive).

What is that to thee?
(τι προς σεti pros se). A sharp rebuke to Peter‘s keen curiosity.

Follow thou me
(συ μοι ακολουτειsu moi akolouthei). “Do thou me keep on following.” That lesson Peter needed.

Verse 23

That that disciple should not die (οτι ο ματητης εκεινος ουκ αποτνησκειhoti ho mathētēs ekeinos ouk apothnēskei) (present active indicative), because Peter or others misunderstood what Jesus meant as John now carefully explains. He was rebuking Peter‘s curiosity, not affirming that John would live on till the Master returned. John is anxious to set this matter right.

Verse 24

That is (ουτος εστινhoutos estin). The one just mentioned in John 21:20, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”

And wrote these things (και ο γραπσας ταυταkai ho grapsas tauta). Here there is a definite statement that the Beloved Disciple wrote this book.

We know
(οιδαμενoidamen). The plural here seems intentional as the identification and endorsement of a group of disciples who know the author and wish to vouch for his identity and for the truthfulness of his witness. Probably we see here a verse added by a group of elders in Ephesus where John had long laboured.

Verse 25

If they should be written every one (εαν γραπηται κατ ενean graphētai kath' hen). Condition of the third class with εανean and present passive subjunctive of γραπωgraphō “If they should be written one by one” (in full detail).

I suppose (οιμαιoimai). Note change back to the first person singular by the author.

Would not contain
(ουδ αυτον τον κοσμον χωρησεινoud' auton ton kosmon chōrēsein). Future active infinitive in indirect discourse after οιμαιoimai This is, of course, natural hyperbole, but graphically pictures for us the vastness of the work and words of Jesus from which the author has made a small selection (John 20:30.) and by which he has produced what is, all things considered, the greatest of all the books produced by man, the eternal gospel from the eagle who soars to the very heavens and gives us a glimpse of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on John 21:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

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