John 12 is the twelfth chapter of the Gospel of John in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It narrates an anointing of Jesus' feet (and hair-wiping), attributed to Mary of Bethany, as well as a version of the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem.[1] The author of the book containing this chapter is anonymous, but early Christian tradition uniformly affirmed that John composed this Gospel.[2]


The original text was written in Koine Greek. This chapter is divided into 50 verses.

Textual witnesses

Some early manuscripts containing the text of this chapter in Koine Greek are:


Events recorded in this chapter refer to the following locations:

Old Testament references

New Testament references


The anointing at Bethany (12:1–8)

Verse 1–3

Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead.[8]

The narrative suggests that Jesus and His disciples travelled to Bethany from Ephraim, where Jesus had been staying to avoid the Jewish leaders who were plotting to kill him (John 11:53-54). He dined with Lazarus, Martha and Mary, a family well known to Jesus (John 11:1-3). This family group had been introduced to the readers of John's Gospel in chapter 11, with Mary being described in John 11:2 as "that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair", the event recounted in John 12:3.

Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.[9]
New Testament scholar[citation needed]s have sought to explain how the story of Mary of Bethany was probably composed.

Verse 12:3 is curiously foretold in verse 11:2, and shows many striking similarities with, but also differences from, various traditions narrated in the other canonical gospels, which has created much scholarly controversy.[10] New Testament scholars try to establish how John's narrative of the raising of Lazarus and the subsequent feet-anointing of Jesus by Mary of Bethany (John 11:1–12:11,17) was composed by seeking to explain its apparent relationships with the older textual traditions of the Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke). The author of John seems[citation needed] to have combined elements from several – apparently originally unrelated – stories into a single narrative. These include the unnamed woman's head-anointing of Jesus in Bethany (Mark 14, Matthew 26), the sinful woman's feet-anointing (and hair-wiping) of Jesus in Galilee (Luke 7; these first two may have a common origin, the Lukan account likely being derived from Mark), Jesus' visit to Martha and Mary in the unnamed Galilean village (Luke 10), Jesus' parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16), and possibly others involving Jesus' miraculous raising of the dead (the raising of Jairus' daughter and the raising of the son of the widow of Nain). Meanwhile, other elements were removed[citation needed]or replaced; for example, Simon the Leper/Simon the Pharisee was replaced[citation needed] by Lazarus as the host of the feast in Jesus' honour, and Bethany in Judea was chosen as the setting, while most elements of John's narrative correspond to traditions that the Synoptics set in Galilee. Scholars[citation needed] pay particular attention to verse John 11:2 (and verse John 11:1), which may represent an effort by the author or a later redactor to stress a connection between these stories that is, however, not found in the older canonical gospels.[11][12][13][14] They further argue that the actual anointing will not be narrated until verse 12:3, and that neither Mary, nor Martha, nor the village of these sisters, nor any anointing is mentioned in the Gospel of John before this point, suggesting that the author (or redactor) assumes the readers already have knowledge of these characters, this location and this event, and wants to tell them that these were connected (which he apparently knew the readers did not commonly know/believe yet) long before giving the readers more details.[10][11] Elser and Piper (2006) posited that verse 11:2 is evidence that the author of the Gospel of John deliberately mixed up several traditions in an 'audacious attempt (...) to rework the collective memory of the Christ-movement.' According to Esler, the author did not strive to give a historically accurate account of what had happened, but instead, for theological purposes, combined various existing narratives in order to construct Lazarus, Mary and Martha of Bethany as a prototypical Christian family, whose example is to be followed by Christians.[11]

Verses 4–6

Judas Iscariot, described as "one of [Jesus'] disciples" and "Simon’s son, who would betray Him", asks “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii (Greek: δηναρίων τριακοσίων) and the money given to poor people (or the poor)?” The New International Version, New King James Version and New Living Translation all equate this amount to a year's wages. In Mark 14:5 the oil is also valued at three hundred denarii; in Matthew 26:9 it could have been sold for "a high (but unspecified) price". H W Watkins computes that, since in John 6:7, two hundred denarii would purchase food for 5,000, three hundred denarii would have fed 7,500 people.[15]

John's Gospel is the only one which observes that Judas was responsible for the disciples' "common fund" or "money box", both here in verse 6 and again in John 13:29. The word το γλωσσοκομον (glōssokomon) "means literally "a case for mouthpieces" of musical instruments, and hence any portable chest. It occurs in the Septuagint texts of 2 Chronicles 24:8 and 11.[16]

Verse 7

But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial.[17]

The New Revised Standard Version, differing from other translations, reads "She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial".[18]

The plot to kill Lazarus (12:9–11)

A great many of the Jews came to Bethany, "not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus" (John 12:9-11). Augustine comments on "the folly of the priests — as if Christ could not raise Lazarus a second time!" [19] The plot to put Lazarus to death may be read alongside the developing plot to kill Jesus (John 10:31, 39; John 11:53) as if there were parallel plots "to kill Lazarus as well as Jesus",[20] or even to kill Lazarus first - as Albert Barnes suggests: "as it was determined to kill Jesus, so they consulted about the propriety of removing Lazarus first, that the number of his followers might be lessened, and that the death of Jesus might make less commotion".[21] But the observation that "on account of [Lazarus] many of the Jews went away (from the Pharisees) and believed in Jesus (John 12:10) could indicate that in the early church Lazarus was influential in converting many Jews to the belief that Jesus was the Messiah.

Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem (12:12–19)

John 12:12 states that on "the next day", a great multitude who had come to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, "heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem", and so they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him. John 12:1 presents Jesus in Bethany "six days before the Passover", so His entry into Jerusalem can be understood as taking place five days before the Passover, on "the tenth day of the Jewish month Nisan, on which the paschal lamb was set apart to be 'kept up until the fourteenth day of the same month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel were to kill it in the evening'.[22]

"‘On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man’s need you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month" (Exodus 12:3–6).

Greek pilgrims in Jerusalem (12:20–36)

Some Greeks (Greek: Ἕλληνές) had also made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the feast (John 12:20). Jesus' interest in teaching the Greeks of the diaspora has already proved a matter of some intrigue in chapter 7 (John 7:35). Bengel's Gnomen notes that "it is not clear that they were circumcised: certainly, at least, they were worshippers of the One God of Israel" - they were present in Jerusalem "that they might worship at the feast (Greek: ἵνα προσκυνήσωσιν ἐν τῇ ἑορτῇ). John uses the same word, προσκυνειν, literally to kneel and kiss the ground,[23] in John 4:20-24 in relation to the Jewish-Samaritan debate over the sacred place "where one ought to worship" (John 4:20, NKJV translation), where He announces that "the hour is coming when you will [worship] neither on this mountain (Mount Gerizim), nor in Jerusalem".

The Expanded Bible and Meyer's New Testament Commentary state that these pilgrims were "gentiles". They had presumably "heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem" on the same basis as the Jewish multitude mentioned in John 12:12, although Meyer raises the possibility that "they came to Philip accidentally".[24] The evangelist raises the question of whether they can see (meet) [25] (or believe in) [26] Jesus (John 12:21). "They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, 'Sir, we wish to see Jesus'. Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus. The evangelist repeats the information already provided at John 1:44, that Philip came from Bethsaida in Galilee, which was "also the city of Andrew and Peter". Both Philip and Andrew have Greek names. Watkins considers it "a striking coincidence, and perhaps more than this, that the Greeks thus came into connection with the only Apostles who bear Greek names".[15]

Watkins thinks that the coming of the Greeks is mentioned "not for the sake of the fact itself, but for that of the discourse which followed upon it":[15]

Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.[27]

Jesus' reply, set out in John 12:23-27, leaves readers "in doubt as to the result of the Greeks’ request":[16]

"The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain (or kernel) [28] of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honour. Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. 'Father, glorify Your name'.”

The evangelist addresses directly the issue that the Messiah had died: "Strange as it may seem to you that the Messiah should die, yet this is but the course of nature: a seed cannot be glorified unless it dies".[16] Paul refers to the same idea in 1 Corinthians 15:36: "What you sow does not come to life unless it dies".

Theologian Harold Buls suggests that the grain of wheat which "falls into the ground and dies" (John 12:24) refers to Jesus alone, whereas the teaching that "he who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life" (John 12:25) applies "to all people, Jews and Gentiles".[29] The Greek: ἀπολλύει, apollyei (loses) is written as ἀπολέσει, apolesei (will lose) in the Byzantine Majority Text, but Watkins argues that the present text has "slightly more probability":

"the loss of life is not in the future only, but that in the present, in every moment when a man loves and seeks to save his own life, he is then, and by that very seeking, actually losing it".[15]

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges notes that in John 12:25, two Greek words, ψυχὴν, psychēn and ζωὴν, zōēn, are both translated into English as "life": "in the first two cases (ψυχὴν), 'life' means the life of the individual, in the last (ζωὴν), life in the abstract. By sacrificing life in the one sense, we may win life in the other".[15] This work also comments that Matthew 10:39, Matthew 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24 and Luke 17:33 all express the same idea, and that a "comparison of the texts will show that most of them refer to different occasions, so that this solemn warning must have been often on [Jesus'] lips".[15] The Living Bible makes the distinction clearer by paraphrasing ζωὴν as "eternal glory".[30]

Fulfilment of the prophecies of Isaiah (12:37–43)

The evangelist relates Jesus' teaching and its reception to two passages taken from the prophet Isaiah, whose words Jesus had also used in the synoptic gospels at the commencement of Jesus' public ministry (Luke 4:18). The two passages quoted are Isaiah 6:10 and 53:1, both relating to belief and resistance:

He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them
Lord, who has believed our report (or message)? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

Meyer identifies these words with "the close of the public ministry of Jesus", a point at which there is an assessment of the results of His teaching "in respect to faith in Him".[24]

Closing observations (12:44–50)

Verses 44-50 represent the close of Jesus' public ministry. He "cries out" (verse 44), a phrase which the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges says "implies public teaching".[31] Verse 36 ("These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them") indicate that the final verses of the chapter act as an "epilogue and recapitulation",[32] "a sort of summary and winding up of His whole testimony",[33] or "the thoughts of St. John as he looked back on the unbelief of Judaism".[15]

The evangelist summarises Jesus' mission: he was sent by God the Father to offer eternal life (verse 50). "With this the first main division of the Gospel ends. Christ’s revelation of Himself to the world in His ministry is concluded. The Evangelist has set before us the Testimony to the Christ, the Work of the Christ, and the Judgment respecting the work, which has ended in a conflict, and the conflict has reached a climax".[16]

See also


  1. ^ Halley, Henry H. Halley's Bible Handbook: an Abbreviated Bible Commentary. 23rd edition. Zondervan Publishing House. 1962.
  2. ^ Holman Illustrated Bible Handbook. Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee. 2012.
  3. ^ Aland, Kurt; Aland, Barbara (1995). The Text of the New Testament: An Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism. Erroll F. Rhodes (trans.). Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. p. 96. ISBN 978-0-8028-4098-1.
  4. ^ Kirkpatrick 1901, p. 840.
  5. ^ Kirkpatrick 1901, p. 838.
  6. ^ Mark 14:34 Greek,
  7. ^ Kirkpatrick, A. F. (1895). The Book of Psalms: with Introduction and Notes. Books II and III: Psalms XLII-LXXXIX. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. Vol. 16. Cambridge: At the University Press. pp. 229–230. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  8. ^ John 12:1 NKJV
  9. ^ John 12:3 New International Version.
  10. ^ a b "John 11:2 Commentaries". 2011. Retrieved 10 January 2021.
  11. ^ a b c Esler, Philip Francis; Piper, Ronald Allen (2006). Lazarus, Mary and Martha: Social-scientific Approaches to the Gospel of John. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. pp. 49–60. ISBN 9780800638306.
  12. ^ Ehrman, Bart D. (2006). Truth and Fiction in The Da Vinci Code: A Historian Reveals What We Really Know about Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Constantine. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 199. ISBN 9780199924127. Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  13. ^ Ehrman, Bart D. (1999). Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 189. ISBN 9780199839438.
  14. ^ Flader, John (2010). Question Time: 150 Questions and Answers on the Catholic Faith. Taylor Trade Publications. pp. 79–81. ISBN 978-1-58979594-5.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g Ellicott's Commentary for Modern Readers on Matthew 26, accessed 1 June 2016
  16. ^ a b c d Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges on John 12, accessed 2 June 2016
  17. ^ John 12:7: NKJV
  18. ^ John 12:7: NRSV
  19. ^ Quoted in Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges on John 12, accessed 2 June 2016
  20. ^ Pulpit Commentary on John 12, accessed 2 June 2016
  21. ^ Barnes' Notes on John 12, accessed 2 June 2016
  22. ^ Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary on John 12, accessed 3 June 2016
  23. ^ Strong's Concordance, 4352: proskuneó
  24. ^ a b Meyer's NT Commentary on John 12, accessed 10 June 2016
  25. ^ Expanded Bible, note at John 12:21
  26. ^ The interplay between seeing and believing is often referred to in John's Gospel: see verses 44-45 in this chapter, and also John 6:30, 6:40, 20:8 and 20:29a)
  27. ^ John 12:24
  28. ^ New International Version and NET Bible translations
  29. ^ Buls' Notes on John 12, accessed 11 June 2016
  30. ^ The Living Bible translation of John 12
  31. ^ Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges on John 12, accessed 2 June 2016 - emphasis in original
  32. ^ Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament on John 12, accessed 14 June 2016, also Welsey's Notes on John 12, accessed 14 June 2016
  33. ^ Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary on John 12, accessed 14 June 2016


External links

Preceded by
John 11
Chapters of the Bible
Gospel of John
Succeeded by
John 13