the Sea of Galilee, or Tiberias: The Sea of Galilee was sometimes called the Sea of Tiberias—after the city on its western shore that was named for Roman Emperor Tiberius Caesar. (Joh 6:23) The name Sea of Tiberias occurs here and at Joh 21:1.—See study note on Mt 4:18.
Have the people sit down: Or “Have the people recline.” Here “people” translates a form of the Greek word anʹthro·pos, which often includes both men and women. The occurrence of “men” in this verse translates a form of the Greek word a·nerʹ, which in view of Mt 14:21 included only adult males in this context.—See study note on Mt 14:21.
the men sat down there, about 5,000 in number: Only Matthew’s account adds “as well as women and young children” when reporting this miracle. (Mt 14:21) It is possible that the total number of those miraculously fed was well over 15,000.
the Prophet: Many Jews in the first century C.E. expected that the prophet like Moses, mentioned at De 18:15, 18, would be the Messiah. In this context, the expression come into the world seems to refer to the expected appearance of the Messiah. Only John recorded the events mentioned in this verse.—See study note on Joh 1:9.
to make him king: Only John recorded this incident. Jesus resolutely refused to get involved in the politics of his homeland. He would accept kingship only in God’s way and in God’s due time. Jesus later emphasized that his followers were to take the same position.—Joh 15:19; 17:14, 16; 18:36.
about three or four miles: About 5 or 6 km. Lit., “about 25 or 30 stadia.” The Greek word staʹdi·on denotes a linear measurement that equaled 185 m (606.95 ft), or one eighth of a Roman mile. Since the Sea of Galilee is about 12 km (8 mi) wide, the disciples may have been in about the middle of the lake.—Mr 6:47; see study note on Mt 4:18 and App. A7 and B14.
Tiberias: A city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, about 15 km (9.5 mi) S of Capernaum and just N of some hot springs that were famous in ancient times. It was built by Herod Antipas sometime between 18 and 26 C.E. as his new capital and residence. He named the city in honor of Tiberius Caesar, Roman emperor at the time, and it is still called Tiberias (Hebrew: Teverya). Though it was the largest city in the region, this is the only mention of it in the Scriptures. It is never stated that Jesus visited Tiberias, perhaps because of its strong foreign influence. (Compare Mt 10:5-7.) According to Josephus, the city of Tiberias had been built on the site of tombs; therefore, many Jews had been reluctant to move there. (Num 19:11-14) After the Jewish revolt in the second century C.E., Tiberias was declared cleansed and became the leading city of Jewish scholarship and the seat of the Sanhedrin. The Mishnah and the Palestinian (Jerusalem) Talmud were compiled here, as well as the Masoretic text that was later used for translating the Hebrew Scriptures.—See App. B10.
food that perishes . . . food that remains for everlasting life: Jesus understood that some people were associating with him and his disciples solely for material advantage. While physical food sustains people day by day, “food” from God’s Word will make it possible for humans to stay alive forever. Jesus urges the crowd to work . . . for “the food that remains for everlasting life,” that is, to put forth effort to satisfy their spiritual need and to exercise faith in what they learn.—Mt 4:4; 5:3; Joh 6:28-39.
Our forefathers ate the manna: The Jews wanted a Messianic King who could supply them with material food. As a justification, they reminded Jesus that God had given their forefathers manna in the wilderness of Sinai. Quoting from Ps 78:24, they referred to the miraculously provided manna as bread [or, “grain”] from heaven. When requesting “a sign” from Jesus (Joh 6:30), they may have had in mind the miracle he had performed just the day before when he multiplied five barley loaves and two small fish into enough food to feed thousands.—Joh 6:9-12.
the world: In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the Greek word koʹsmos generally refers to the world of mankind or a part of it. (See study note on Joh 1:10.) At Joh 1:29, Jesus as the Lamb of God is said to take away “the sin of the world.” At Joh 6:33, Jesus is described as the bread of God, Jehovah’s channel of life and blessings to mankind.
the bread of life: This expression occurs only twice in the Scriptures. (Joh 6:35, 48) In this context, life refers to “everlasting life.” (Joh 6:40, 47, 54) During this discussion, Jesus refers to himself as “the true bread from heaven” (Joh 6:32), “the bread of God” (Joh 6:33), and “the living bread” (Joh 6:51). He points out that the Israelites were given the manna in the wilderness (Ne 9:20); yet, this divinely provided food did not sustain their lives forever (Joh 6:49). By contrast, Christ’s faithful followers have available to them heavenly manna, or “bread of life” (Joh 6:48-51, 58), which makes it possible for them to live forever. They ‘eat of this bread’ by exercising faith in the redeeming power of Jesus’ flesh and blood that he sacrificed.
I should resurrect them on the last day: Jesus states four times that he will resurrect people on the last day. (Joh 6:40, 44, 54) At Joh 11:24, Martha too refers to “the resurrection on the last day.” (Compare Da 12:13; see study note on Joh 11:24.) At Joh 12:48, this “last day” is associated with a time of judgment, which will apparently include the Thousand Year Reign of Christ when he will judge mankind, including all those resurrected from the dead.—Re 20:4-6.
everlasting life: On this occasion, the expression “everlasting life” is used four times (Joh 6:27, 40, 47, 54) by Jesus and once (Joh 6:68) by one of his disciples. The expression “everlasting life” occurs 17 times in the Gospel of John compared with 8 times in the three other Gospels combined.
draws him: Although the Greek verb for “draw” is used in reference to hauling in a net of fish (Joh 21:6, 11), it does not suggest that God drags people against their will. This verb can also mean “to attract,” and Jesus’ statement may allude to Jer 31:3, where Jehovah said to his ancient people: “I have drawn you to me with loyal love.” (The Septuagint uses the same Greek verb here.) Joh 12:32 (see study note) shows that in a similar way, Jesus draws men of all sorts to himself. The Scriptures show that Jehovah has given humans free will. Everyone has a choice when it comes to serving Him. (De 30:19, 20) God gently draws to himself those who have a heart that is rightly disposed. (Ps 11:5; Pr 21:2; Ac 13:48) Jehovah does so through the Bible’s message and through his holy spirit. The prophecy from Isa 54:13, quoted in Joh 6:45, applies to those who are drawn by the Father.—Compare Joh 6:65.
Jehovah: In this quote from Isa 54:13, the divine name, represented by four Hebrew consonants (transliterated YHWH), occurs in the original Hebrew text. Existing Greek manuscripts of the Gospel of John use the word the·osʹ here (perhaps reflecting the term used at Isa 54:13 in copies of the Septuagint), which explains why most translations say “God.” However, in view of the Hebrew Scripture background of this quotation, the divine name is used in the main text.—See App. C.
life in yourselves: At Joh 5:26, Jesus said that he was granted “life in himself” just as his Father has “life in himself.” (See study note on Joh 5:26.) Now, about a year later, Jesus uses the same expression regarding his followers. Here he equates having “life in yourselves” with gaining “everlasting life.” (Joh 6:54) Rather than denoting the power to impart life, in this context the expression “life in oneself” seems to refer to entering into the very fullness of life, or being fully alive. Anointed Christians become fully alive when they are resurrected to immortal life in heaven. Faithful ones with an earthly hope will be fully alive after they pass the final test that will occur right after the end of the Millennial Reign of Christ.—1Co 15:52, 53; Re 20:5, 7-10.
feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood: The context indicates that those who feed and drink do so in a figurative sense by exercising faith in Jesus Christ. (Joh 6:35, 40) Jesus made this statement in 32 C.E., so he was not discussing the Lord’s Evening Meal, which he would institute a year later. He made this declaration just prior to “the Passover, the festival of the Jews” (Joh 6:4), so his listeners would likely have been reminded of the impending festival and the significance of the lamb’s blood in saving lives on the night that Israel left Egypt (Ex 12:24-27). Jesus was emphasizing that his blood would likewise play an essential role in making it possible for his disciples to gain everlasting life.
in union with me: Or “in me.” This expression indicates close association, harmony, and unity.
a synagogue: Or possibly, “public assembly.” The Greek noun sy·na·go·geʹ used here literally means “a bringing together; an assembly.” In most occurrences in the Christian Greek Scriptures, it refers to the building or place where Jews assembled for Scripture reading, instruction, preaching, and prayer. (See Glossary, “Synagogue.”) Although the term in this context could be used in a broader sense to refer to any type of gathering that was accessible to the public, it most likely refers to “a synagogue” where Jesus was addressing a Jewish audience who were under the Mosaic Law.
Does this stumble you?: Or “Does this cause you to take offense?” or “Does this cause you to believe no longer?” In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the Greek word skan·da·liʹzo refers to stumbling in a figurative sense, often with reference to falling into sin or causing someone to fall into sin. Depending on the context, stumbling may involve breaking one of God’s laws on morals, losing faith, accepting false teachings, or taking offense.—See study notes on Mt 5:29; 18:7.
the spirit: Apparently referring to God’s holy spirit. Jesus adds that in contrast with the power and wisdom that God grants through his spirit, the flesh is of no use at all. This indicates that the power as well as the wisdom of humans, as reflected in their writings, philosophies, and teachings, cannot lead to everlasting life.
the flesh: This expression seems to refer broadly to things connected with the limitations of a fleshly or human existence, including human reasoning and achievements. The sum total of human experience and wisdom, all its writings, philosophies, and teachings, are of no use at all as a means to gain eternal life.
are spirit and are life: The Greek word rendered “are” (e·stinʹ) may here have the sense of “mean,” so this phrase could be rendered “means spirit and means life.” (See study notes on Mt 12:7; 26:26.) Jesus is apparently indicating that his sayings are inspired by holy spirit and that these sayings are life-giving.
Jesus knew . . . the one who would betray him: Jesus was referring to Judas Iscariot. Jesus spent the entire night in prayer to his Father before selecting the 12 apostles. (Lu 6:12-16) So at first, Judas was faithful to God. However, Jesus knew from Hebrew Scripture prophecies that he would be betrayed by a close associate. (Ps 41:9; 109:8; Joh 13:18, 19) When Judas started to go bad, Jesus, who could read hearts and thoughts, detected this change. (Mt 9:4) By use of his foreknowledge, God knew that a trusted companion of Jesus would turn traitor. But it is inconsistent with God’s qualities and past dealings to think that Judas had to be the one who would fail, as if his failure were predestined.
from the beginning: This expression does not refer to Judas’ birth or to his being selected as an apostle, which happened after Jesus had prayed the entire night. (Lu 6:12-16) Rather, it refers to the start of Judas’ acting treacherously, which Jesus immediately discerned. (Joh 2:24, 25; Re 1:1; 2:23; see study notes on Joh 6:70; 13:11.) This also shows that Judas’ actions were premeditated and planned, not the result of a sudden change of heart. The meaning of the term “beginning” (Greek, ar·kheʹ) in the Christian Greek Scriptures is relative, depending on the context. For example, at 2Pe 3:4, “beginning” refers to the start of creation. But in most instances, it is used in a more limited sense. For instance, Peter said that the holy spirit fell on the Gentiles “just as it did also on us in the beginning.” (Ac 11:15) Peter was not referring to the time of his birth or to the time when he was called to be an apostle. Rather, he was referring to the day of Pentecost 33 C.E., that is, “the beginning” of the outpouring of holy spirit for a specific purpose. (Ac 2:1-4) Other examples of how the context affects the meaning of the term “beginning” can be found at Lu 1:2; Joh 15:27; and 1Jo 2:7.
a slanderer: Or “a devil.” The Greek word di·aʹbo·los, most often used with reference to the Devil, means “slanderer.” It is rendered “slanderers” (2Ti 3:3) or “slanderous” (1Ti 3:11; Tit 2:3) in the few other occurrences where the term does not refer to the Devil. In Greek, when used about the Devil, it is almost always preceded by the definite article. (See study note on Mt 4:1 and Glossary, “Definite Article.”) Here the term is used to describe Judas Iscariot, who had developed a bad quality. It is possible that at this point Jesus detected that Judas was starting down a wrong course, one that later allowed Satan to use Judas as an ally in having Jesus killed.—Joh 13:2, 11.