Here are 7 ways to divide a chapter.
John 8 is a complex “discourse” that involves an extended interaction between Jesus and both seekers and opponents.
John Talbert in Reading John (Crossroad, 1992), sees this pattern. In each of the five sections we have the following pattern
- Jesus makes a provocative statement
- Someone in the crowd replies or argues
- Jesus gives an answer.
- v. 12-20 – I am the light of the world
- v. 21-30 – I am going away
- v. 31-40 – The truth will set you free
- v. 41-50 – If God were your father
- v. 51-59 – …will not see death.
Leon Morris – The Gospel According to John – NICNT (Eerdmans, 1971). He notes that this seems to happen at the conclusion of the Feast of Tabernacles (ch 7) and involved Jesus and his opponents. (however note v. 30). He offers no reason for his breakdown except at v. 20.
- v. 12-20 – The witness of the Father
- v. 21-24 – Dying in sins
- v. 25-30 – The Father and the Son
- v. 31-47 – Slaves of Sin
- v. 48-59 – The Glory the Father gives the Son
Philip Comfort and Wendell Hawley – Opening the Gospel of John, (Tyndale, 1994) put the focus on seven “I am” statements. (This is to be distinguished from the Messianic “I AM” Statements in other chapters.)
- v. 12 – I am the Light of the World
- v. 16 – I am not alone
- v. 18 – I am the one who testifies for myself…
- v. 23 – I am from above
- v. 23 – I am not of this world
- v. 24, 28 – I am he (the Christ)
- v. 58 – I am!
Translations usually provide divisions with headings, this reflects a kind of commentary on the text.
NIV (i.e. New NIV)
- v. 12-20 – Dispute over Jesus’ Testimony
- v. 21-30 – Dispute over Who Jesus is.
- v. 31-47 – Dispute over Whose Children Jesus’ Opponents Are
- v. 48-59 – Jesus’ Claims about himself
NIV – 84 (i.e. Old NIV)
- v. 12-30 – The Validity of Jesus’ Testimony
- v. 31-41 – The Children of Abraham
- v. 42-47 – The children of the Devil
- v. 48-59 – Jesus claims about Himself
ESV – (Bible Gateway)
- v. 12-29 – I am the Light of the World
- v. 31-38 – The Truth will set you Free
- v. 39-47 – You are of your Father the Devil
- v. 48-59 – Before Abraham was, I Am
ESV – Literary Study Bible (Leland and Philip Ryken – Crossway, 2007). This version of the ESV does not give headings in the text. They provide a small box with notes before each section. Here they note that chapter 8 is a collection of stories, they divide the text into three sections
- v. 12-20
- v. 21-30
- v. 31-59
- Then they noted that one can “comb through the passage looking for the following motifs: 1. Jesus as controversialist, 2. evidence that Jesus is Divine, 3. The story line of hostility between religious leaders and Jesus, 4. teaching on sin and forgiveness and 5 the authority of Jesus. It is unusual that they do not attempt to discern a larger structure.
The ESV seems to agree with Talbert that the passages revolves around strong statements by Jesus, however they divide the text differently In my version of the ESV, there is a space added at v. 20.
The variety from this small sample shows how fluid this text is. Talbert is the most interested in internal grammatical structure. The NIV was on to the idea of this being a dispute, but they did not label the last section that way, which is odd because it ends with opponents wanting to throw stones at Jesus. The Old and New NIV’s did not agree on divisions or headings.
Talbert and Hawley’s seven “I am” statements give one a handle, but I am not sure they reflect the internal structure of the passage. It is also confusing with the more typically cited “I AM” statements that are claims to divine status.
The Rykens give little hope of finding a structure.
For a preacher this is too much to cover in one sermon – I plan to speak on verses 12-40