"Come and See": A Web Commentary on the Gospel of John: Section 7 Jesus and the Passover

Section 7.4: Reaction of the Disciples and The Twelve (Jn 6.60-71)


This verse is elliptical. The 'if' clause is expressed, but the 'then' clause is not. It must be supplied from the sense of the passage. I take Jesus' words to mean that if these disciples are muttering now over this teaching, they will truly be troubled, and in trouble, when they see the Son of Man going up again to the Father (another reference to what was said to Nicodemus in Jn 3.13-15: see the Comments above). See also Brown 1966 p 296.

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Verses 63-5 make more clear that the eating and drinking of the Son's flesh and blood referred to in verses 50-8, the source of the disciples' trouble, is not to be taken literally. It is concerned with Jesus' sayings, that is, his teachings, and the response that people bring to them and to him. The juxtaposition between spirit and flesh in v63 harkens back to Jn 3.6-8, rather than having any reference to the combination of flesh and blood in vv53-6.

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There are not many references to the Twelve in this gospel. We have proposed in the Introduction that the Evangelist was not John the Apostle, brother of James, who was a member of the Twelve, but John the Elder, and that the Elder was a Jerusalem-based disciple who was linked with the priestly aristocracy (see the authorship discussion in the Introduction). If so he would likely have different memories and traditions than those that belonged to the Twelve. It is also possible that, as some have theorised, the importance of the Twelve within the community waned as the eschatological events, such as the coming judgement, in which they were to play a major role, receded. [[GET REFS]]

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The meaning of the name "Iscariot" is disputed. Here and in Jn 13.2 it applies to Simon, the father of Judas, whereas elsewhere (both in John and in the Synoptic Gospels) it applies to Judas himself. On the basis of these two verses it seems to have been, or at least to have functioned as, a family name, though scholars have treated these verses as mistakes in the translation of an Aramaic name or adopted the readings of other manuscripts when it seemed necessary to defend their favoured interpretation.

The two most popular theories among commentators are 1) that it is a toponymic, or name derived from a placename, and indicates "man from Kerioth" or 2) that is represents an attempt to render the Latin word "sicarius", which means "knife man" or "bandit". The problem with the first theory is both the form of the word, which does not seem to fit well with the way such Aramaic expressions are otherwise rendered in Greek, and our lack of knowledge of any place in Palestine at the time of Christ that was called "Kerioth". The problem with the second theory is also twofold: it does not seem to follow any of the rules or forms observed when Latin words are taken over into Greek or Aramaicised Greek and there is no hint elsewhere that Judas fell into any group that might be described as knife men or bandits, even if we take "bandits" as meaning revolutionaries like the later Zealots.

From Charles Torrey, who wrote in 1943, to Joan Taylor, who wrote in 2010, there seems agreement among scholars, even those with favourite theories such as Torrey and Taylor offer, that no-one has yet put forward a completely satisfactory theory about the significance of this name. All we can say for certain then is that this is a name or nickname by which the Judas who betrayed Jesus was known in order to distinguish him from the Judas who was a brother of Jesus (named in Matt 13.55 and Mark 6.3) and Judas son of James, another other member of the Twelve, also known as Thaddeus. see Appendix 4 for a discussion of this passage in the context of the other "Satanic" references

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