From The 16th Century Calvinism To The 1st Century St. John’s Teachings (john 6.37-41)

37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.

Calvin Jewish Studies for Christians When reading the Bible, we can easily read modern theological meanings into the ancient text that were in many ways foreign to the first century context. John especially is often read in this way, particularly against the background of 16th century Catholic-Protestant theological debates that eventually spilled over into inter-Protestant discussion and debate. Please, allow me to explain.

If you have spent time in Christian circles, you have probably encountered the 5 points of Calvinism that Calvin’s disciples systematized from the teachings of this beloved Swiss Reformer and a truly great man of God (in my opinion). If you have done any theological studies, especially within a Protestant context, then you are familiar with the terms 4 point and 5 point Calvinism. These terms are shortcuts for very complex theological constructs. Some accept only 4 out of 5 points affirmed, and so on.

One of the key teachings of Reformed Christian theology (a direct heir of the Protestant Reformation) when it comes to salvation is the doctrine of the “perseverance of the saints.”  In other circles it is also, and less accurately, called – “eternal security.”

Basically, the question is, can a believer in Jesus ever lose his or her personal salvation already gained through belief in Christ? Once person is “saved” (using evangelical lingo), is he saved forever? Or is it possible that he can step into the darkness and never come back? Debates continue to rage to this day.  However, the reason I am raising this issue is not that I arrogantly think I can settle this age old debate. I do so rather because vs. 39 is a supporting verse for this doctrine. It, along with many others, from the Gospel of John, is often quoted. In this verse, Jesus states that he will not lose anything that was given to him by his Father to preserve (vs. 29).

While I do think that personal application may be in order here (that is to say that I do not dislike Calvinism), I also think reading this passage in purely personal ways is a serious interpretive mistake. This mistake is often committed by interpreters of the Holy Bible, particularly by those from the Protestant Christian tradition. Please, let me continue. If we consider a wider context for the Gospel of John, we notice that this same passage, if read on the national (and not on a personal) level, will affirm a very different message. Follow me here for a moment.

The Judean Temple authorities (and their followers) accused Jesus of seeking approval from the Galilean Jewish People of the Land (Am HaAretz). They also accused him of being a Samaritan (an incorrect charge, but the kind strangely enough he does not deny). Given this background, it is possible that this verse does not refer to a personal experience of salvific power of God at all, but to Jesus’ royal commitment to the salvation of “all Israel,” which would include other Israelites like the Israelite Samaritans.

This is not the first time something like this happens in the Bible. For example, the author of the books of Chronicles in contrast to the author of the books of Kings essentially retells more or less the same stories, but from a very different perspective and with a different goal in mind. The Chronicler, for example, makes all his points in the context of unification language, constantly bringing up one message that God is concerned with “All Israel,” the entire people of God, while the writer of Kings has a different purpose and therefore a different emphasis.

So, imagine the same Jesus who told the Samaritan woman that he was the Messiah, expected by all the ancient Israelite movements, who now says to the representatives of the Jerusalem Temple authorities in Galilee – I will not lose anything my Father has entrusted me – not any group under the Ancient Israelite umbrella. In a sense he is saying,  “I have not come only for Judeans, or only for Samaritans, or only for Essenes or exclusively for any other single Jewish/Israelite group.  I have come as a true King of Israel to reunite and lead ‘all Israel’ out of exile to the long awaited redemption.”

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40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”  41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”

Bread and wine jewish studies jesusThe words of Jesus in this discourse become increasingly more provocative and intense. This is so, because more and more he is showing those who follow him that he is not just another Messianic candidate that the Jerusalem authorities can simply accept or reject. He is Israel’s King, the one anointed by Israel’s God. He is God’s Logos/Memra, who has come from heaven to the Ancient Israelites to meet all their needs and unite them in the coming redemption.

Therefore, Jesus here underscores a point that is nothing less than scandalous – unless Jesus is really who he says he is. We read in vs. 40: “… everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” Jesus claimed the power to give life. In ancient Israelite theology, such a claim was rightfully reserved for Israel’s God alone.

What is surprising, as we carefully read the text, is not that hoi Ioudaioi objected to Jesus’ words – but to which words in particular did they object? Notice, that it would have been more logical for them to object to the words – “I will raise him up on the last day” (vs.40). Instead, we read that they objected to the earlier words of Jesus “I have come down from heaven” (vs. 38).

“Why is this so?” you should be asking just about now. The answer is, simply that there is not much difference here between the two statements. If one is true, so is the other.

Jesus being the bread of life, sustaining life by coming from heaven, is the same Jesus who is the source of life, giving life to the dead. We will see more of this, as very soon Jesus will speak the most difficult words that the disciples and others would ever hear from his mouth. Many will leave him at just that point. Those who had ears to hear would stay, but more about this in the later chapters of this study.

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© By Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, Ph.D.

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  1. Marie Devine

    No reformer corrected the errors of Christianity that proceeded from the Catholic Church. Jesus said to live by every word out of the mouth of God; he confirmed what Moses said. (Matthew 4:4, Luke 16:31, Deuteronomy 4:2; 8:3; Exodus 20:8-11)

    John 6:37-40.
    37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. (JESUS IS THE WORD OF GOD FROM THE FATHER; THOSE WHO COME TO THE WORD OF GOD, HE WILL NEVER CAST OUT) 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

    39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. (THE WORD OF GOD SHOULD LOSE NOTHING OF ALL THAT HAS BEEN GIVEN TO HIM OF THE FATHER; THOSE WHO REALLY BELIEVE; THESE HE SHALL RAISE UP.

  2. GSmit

    I believe the Gospel were written for the Jews primarily and then for those who have come to Christ. I like to prove Scripture with Scripture. John 17:9 “I am praying for them, I am NOT praying for the world, but for those You have given Me, for they belong to You.”
    who? – the people surrounding Jesus at the time – the Jews.
    verse 14 ” I have given and delivered to them Your word and the world has hated them, because they are NOT of the world, just as I am not of the world.”
    Does the world not still hate them? – anti-Semitism is rife!
    verse 16 proves this further – “They are not of the world, as I am not of the world.”
    The Jews are the chosen race- we need to accept that. Why do you think the evil one has always tried to get rid of the Jews? Simply because they are God’s beloved.
    THEN verse 20 speaks about the ‘calling in’ of the others. “Neither for these alone do I pray, but ALSO for all those WHO WILL EVER come to believe in Me through THEIR WORD AND TEACHING.
    this tells me we need to learn through the word and teaching of Israel. ie: get back to the word in the original language. Understand the Bible from a Jewish perspective. Lets not take the word out of context and shape it to suit our beliefs.
    verse 21 “That they may be ONE as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You, that they also may be one in Us, so that the WORLD MAY BELIEVE AND BE CONVINCED that You have sent Me.” – that is the verse pointing to mission.
    Lets check verse12 “While I was with them, I kept and preserved them in Your Name. Those You have given Me I guarded and protected, and not one of them has perished or is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture may be fulfilled.” –
    What was the comment about once saved always saved? I do not know at what point we may become ‘unsaved’ – but I do not want to find out!
    Dr Eli – I enjoy the posts- they make us think. We have followed others blindly. I believe God is opening our eyes through the Jews. I know I am very simplistic in my beliefs. Jesus said – ‘believe as a child’ – that’s how I do it. If Jesus said it – then it is. Simple faith – I make no excuse for it. Blessings

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Shalom, Gail. Well I am not sure we want to simplistic, especially when things are complicated. But! I agree that we need to be simple 🙂 so this is probably what you mean too. You are reading ahead of me in John 17, I am still stock on Chapter 6! (just finished treating the body and the blood issue, will update the site soon). Perhaps, this is the way the trajectory should run. Before I say ye or ney I want to read and study slowly all the way to John 17. Remind me when we get there, OK? But yes, we have all followed blindly those who taught us. I don’t think it could have been otherwise. its part of life, we believe those we love and those who care for us.

  3. Geoffrey Atkinson

    I think that it it pertinent to modify Dr Eli’s initial submission, which tends to equate Calvinism with Protestantism.

    The five points of Calvinism, so called, was not the systemisation of Calvin’s teaching by his disciples, but the final result of contest in The Netherlands between Franciscus Gomarmus and Jacobus Arminius in their competing theologies. Both were professors at Leiden University.
    At the Hague Conference in 1610 the followers of Arminius asserted the following teaching:

    1. The partial depravity of humanity.
    2. The election of Christians on the basis of forseen faith.
    3. Christ died to make atonement for all.
    4. Grace is resistible.
    5. There is a possibility of lapse from grace.

    In 1618 at the instigation of Goramus, Prince Maurice of the Netherlands called a synod to be held at Dordrecht, now known as the synod of Dort. Ostensibly this was to be an opportunity for the Arminians and the Goramists to debate their opinions, but Goramus invited only delegates from many countries, whom he knew to be in agreement with him.
    After the first few sittings they decided to arrest some known Arminians and charge them with heresy. The Arminians were then invited to join provided they did not defend the “heretics”. This effectively kept the Arminians from taking part. After more than five months of deliberations they came up with a negation of the five points of Arminianism.

    Three months before the synod Prince Maurice had arrested two of the leading Arminians, Johanus Oldenbarnvelt, the advocate general of Holland and Friesland, and Hugo Grotius, known later as the father of international law. At the end of the synod Prince Maurice had Oldenbarnvelt executed on a trumped up charge and Grotius was condemned to life imprisonment. All Arminian Dutch ministers were ejected and some sent into exile.
    William Perkins of Cambridge equated these five points to Calvinism, and this has been largely accepted by the reformed community. (see R.T.Kendal, Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649 Oxford 1979 P.51)
    However Calvin taught the Christ died for all. (See his commentary on Mark 14:24 where he says:”It is incontestable that Christ came to die for the sins of the whole world.”)
    On Mat 13:20 Calvin says:”those with a temporary faith have a promise of faithfulness from the outset, and embrace the Gospel greedily, but soon after fall away”.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Geoffery, I concur. Thank you for this clarification to the readers. There so much people don’t know about Calvin. All kinds of facts, such as that he ran one of the largest missionary schools in Europe out of Geneva. That he was not granted citizenship there until shortly before his death. He was also the engineer of Geneva’s sewage systems. His wife had to beg him before her death to swear to her that he will take care of their kids well. He hid the Jews in Geneva and did not have a hand in the heretical execution of the non-Trinitarian often attributed to his influence. I like Calvin a lot :-). I feel he is a friend of mine. 🙂

  4. Kat Hobaugh

    Dr. Eli, my faith in God and the Holy Scripture remains strong and dependent on Him. Thank goodness His work in me is not dependent on me. LOL I will continue in deep prayer, fellowship, and Bible study. I trust God,I am just surprised at my experience. See you in the next article.

  5. Kat Hobaugh

    I was expecting to learn something new in this study. I wasn’t expecting what I already knew and believed to be “revealed truth” to be influenced. How I unravel the “work of God” in my life is changing my understanding of scripture. I have not experienced this before and it is a bit unsettling. I’m praying to hold on to the truth and sticking around in my uncomfortableness.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Kat, I hope that your faith in the Holy Scripture and its main author would not be compromised. I certainly have retained mine one piece. However, it is also true that to build a stronger structure the weaker structure needs to be fully demolished. Deep yourself in prayer, fellowship and Bible Study. And I promise you that you will be fine. He is faithful. Dr. Eli

  6. RamonAntonio

    If I follow Dr. van der Berg correctly, and I may not, he is suggesting that before or at least parallel to proceed to a hermeneutical exegesis of John to the detail that we are attempting under your guidance, we should “paint” a broad picture of the whole scene that we are being described by the author of John. And to “paint” that broad picture we must insert ourselves in the discussion of the whole meaning of salvation that Jesus is proposing, according to John, even before dipping ourselves in the extent of interpretation that one such as John Calvin proposed. Thus, to start interpreting Calvinism salvation stance within John we should first state salvation as declared by Jesus according to John. If this following of Dr. van der Berg is correct, I fully agree.
    From my Catholic standpoint and according to Catholic teaching as reflected in reading the Bible, interpreted by the Magisterium and reflected in the Cathechism the “whole picture of salvation” (and I’m framing this exposition based on Dr. Phillip Madre excellent explanation in his book, “Curation and Exorcism: How to Discern, pgs. 98-101 Spanish translation from the French original, San Pablo Editors”) may be explained as follows:
    • We must abandon the focus of personal salvation and adopt an understanding of salvation of man as creatures of God, that is, beyond the individual and framed in all of us as his creatures, which would be, all of mankind.
    • By abandoning the personal-individual realm, we focus on the whole act of Creation by God and we embrace the framework of the original sin as an act that even attributed to a single individual or a collective generation, affects all of mankind therefore. Thus from the beginning we have a framing problem of the problem of salvation with Calvin and calvinism. We part from diverging origins and framing of salvation and in fact we are not talking of the same salvation from the beginning.
    • By adopting this frame we then will comprehend that salvation is related to original Sin but in a complex way because of the immensity of God’s original making of man.
    • God creates then mankind, that is “us” in a state of “Original Grace or Original Justice” (Catholic Cathecism 399) which entails two “Supernatural Gifts”:
    o “Sanctifying Grace” which is supernatural in respect to its essence, and it entailed mankind to be transformed in God by participating in His nature and capacities of action
    o “Integrity Grace” which is supernatural in respect to its mode and which completed human nature to receive in its plenitude 3 distinct dispositions of the original human nature:
     Infused Science which was a natural capacity to know anything needed to know just by exercising his will to know.
     Absolute Self Dominion which entailed us to dominate passions, needs and appetites which may deviate us into sin. (Also called a dominion against concupiscence).
     Corporal Immortality which made us to live eternal health and life and thus don’t suffer death.
    Because and as a direct consequence of the Original Sin, which as I said, the Church defines as an act of a single man but with consequences to all mankind, we lost our state of Original Grace or Original Justice, that is, we lost our original created nature with the consequence of losing Sanctifying Grace and Integrity Grace. And it is important to state that we, descendants of Adam did not committed personally the original sin but we suffer its consequences as part of creation of mankind by God. This is a second significant difference with Calvin.
    Jesus Act of Sacrifice, an Act by one single man, restored in full the Sanctifying Grace but not the Integrity Grace. This is the key difference with Protestantism. Salvation restored the capacity of mankind to receive the Presence of God in us (the Habitation of God in Man through Sacraments) and the possibility of accessing to His Presence at death. That is Salvation by Jesus and it is a full concession of salvation. Without this Sacrifice, God is outside our reach by the original sin.
    Why then Jesus did not restore the Integrity Grace in full by Himself once and for all? Simply because God the Father promised to restore it with our participation through the Holy Spirit that HE Commanded Jesus to deliver to us as the Paraclite. St Augustine said clearly: “He who created you without you, will not save you without you”.
    Then, as Dr. van der Berg suggests, we must first consider this whole act and frame within it our efforts because if not we will enter a never ending diversion of definitions and positions possibly losing ourselves in the mess. Why I propose adopting this scheme? Simply because from it was the divergence, that is, all protestant definitions departed from this position. I propose then that we should first examine if this proposal corresponds to John’s recount of Jesus offer of Salvation.

    1. Drs. Charles van den Berg

      Theology is the effort to understand and to define in dogma ‘s Gods revelation .
      In the history protestant and catholic theology are reflecting and responding to each other ,
      sometimes to define their particular identity, sometimes to found their collective identity.
      It is like thesis and antithesis resulting in a lot of different synthesis ‘s . All the processes and results affect our hermeneutics . I think this is not the right way to come to an understanding of Gods revelation, even not to come to a right identity . Theology had to reflect and respond on Scriptures.
      You can’t have a thesis and antithesis relation with the Scriptures , when you believe it is the source of your efforts and the source of Gods revelation. So I think we have to point our theology again on the Scriptures where it has it’s start. In my personal opinion , catholic theology has in this case a longer way to go than protestant theology , because I think protestant theology is in his hermeneutics more sound in his basics: sola scriptura.

      1. RamonAntonio

        I tend to agree with your remark and clarification. However, the problem between Catholic and Protestantism is precisely a different understanding of the Scripture and in some areas a different “reading” of same or different scripture. The issue is problematic and complex to the utmost. One thing is to agree in wording, another to agree in reading and another to agree in meaning. We have to agree in three different aspects to even then start to lay an area for discussion.
        So its not sola scriptura the answer. Which scriptura, which rendition and which meaning. Then, and only then, which theology.
        What I find appealing in this series of readings of the JEwish Samaritan tradition is that the text, FOR NOT BEING CATHOLIC NEITHER PROTESTANT, is almost neuter and frees of all to digg deep in it, in the text. And that , for me, is revealing a fresh look at a Jesus I am more than familiar with. A live one.

        1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

          I think your observations are correct. This is purposely neither catholic not protestant (nor may I add eastern Orthodox), but purposely friendly to all, welcoming truth where ever it may be found and whatever it may yet do to our own theologies. 🙂 Thanks you, Ramon.

        2. Drs. Charles van den Berg

          Thanks Ramon, thanks Eli.
          I am totally in agreement with you both.

  7. jefferis peterson

    Hi Eli, I appreciate contextual and historical interpretation, but I am not sure I agree with the theological, historical intent of John as you have portrayed it. John was written for a Greek audience. And in fact, it seems that the pivotal verses in the entire Gospel are John 12:20-23, where Greeks (Gentiles) seek to meet Jesus, and Jesus replies that now his “hour” has come, and from that point on he sets his face towards the Cross. Knowing that John’s intent is to show that Jesus came for the “whole world” and not just the children of Abraham, even the selection of sayings and verses have a cross cultural purpose. John’s use of “whosoever” and “any one” are standard linguistic elements in John’s writings to be inclusive of all who might read the book and come to know the Savior of the whole world.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Dear Jeff, hi.

      I will be brief. I think you are terribly wrong about John’s Gospel and its audience :-). I think that instead of engaging into a lengthy debate over it right now, it would be better if you first read this article, write me back and we can then pick up this conversation further if you wish.

      I agree to 2/3 of it :-), but find it to be an excellent summary that can help you a lot (I learned new things to as I read while I was in the hospital last week). You can click here to get to its original sources –

      Trust you will find it helpful.

      1. jefferis peterson

        Thanks Eli, the article by Robinson was very convincing in one way: that Jesus was sent to gather the lost sheep of Israel, but I’m not fully convinced that John did not have the broader missionary vision of the Israel of God being a “light unto the Gentiles,” esp. because of phrases like this: The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
        The world in Greek is used to encompass all of humanity and the creation. Likewise John 3:16 and following. Even if the Gospel was written primarily to the Diaspora, it has this purpose of defending the greater missionary vision.
        So thoroughly was John steeped in Greek culture that John 9 follows perfect format of Greek tragedy, which is an odd feature if he were writing to only the Diaspora, don’t you think?

        1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

          Jeff, I personally thought that the selection of Robinson’s arguments (it’s a selection from a book) was like you very helpful, but not fully convincing 🙂 He lost me in the end a bit. I just thought you it would give you a head start for you.

          The fact that Psalms for example have strong Missions motive throughout does not mean that they were written for Gentiles. It simply means that they had a strong theology of Israel being Light to the nations. In other words the psalms were very Jewish in its theology :-), the Jews always believe in conversion of all the Gentiles to Israel’s God. (I mean non-Christian Jews).

          Now let me respond to your other issues. First, I will treat your last question. First of all following a particular format like Greek tragedy is a tricky business indeed. I am amazed over the years how many texts could be fit in into all kinds of formulas, sometimes fully contradictory to each other (chaisms can be often read into the texts without shame, see my sections on chiasms in John 5). So I am a skeptic (read also comments).

          However, let me say this to me it is not threatening at all that (let us for the sake of argument say that it could be proven conclusively) John 9 follows a Greek tragedy, why? Because I believe Judaisms of Jesus day to be so Hellenized that it would fit just fine! 🙂 So were by the way the Samaritans! Everyone spoke Greek and breathed the Hellenistic culture. If you come to Israel/Palestine/Jordan you can see what it was really like when you look at the archeology discovered here. There is not only the LXX but also the Samaritikon of course that survives to tell its stories. So the fact that something written in Greek using some or a lot of Greek structures along side of Israelite and Jewish ones does not pose any problem at all to what I am saying. Read this post also

          Now about the world. I think you are afraid what that which I am saying could do to your theology of missions. I did too :-), so do many others. Fear not :-). You will be fine. I do not think that one must think that John was written for Gentiles to hold strong to commitment to universal missions. (Actually, and this may not bother you since you are not Jewish, but if John actually wrote to Gentiles and used the kind of anti-Jewish language that he used, he was at best extremely irresponsible person and at worse… I better stop here!!!!!

          It may take you some time to realize, but I think you will that we historically went from John’s Gospel, to anti-Jewish church fathers (not all of them of course), to anti-Judaism in middle ages, then to reformation, then to Jewish holocaust. So, I think you not even realizing the kind of problems that “this is written to Gentiles” idea brings with itself. If, however, John did not write to Gentiles then the meaning of the entire Gospel and “the Jews” in this Gospel would be very different indeed. To understand my argument you should read the commentary on my blog from the beginning. If this means anything to you, do take the time to follow the argument before you reject it. I think all together it is about 90 pages. It is becoming a book, so yes I am counting the pages :-).

          You say that the world in John is used to encompass whole humanity. Well yes and no, no and yes! It’s not that simple (so that you know my theology does not have any problem with what you are saying John is saying :-). For example in John 7 the world is used ONLY in the sense of Judea! 🙂 Now, I am not saying that the world in John means that, but only that it is more complex that you realize.

          1. jefferis peterson

            I was convinced a long time ago by Geza Vermez that John spoke of the Judeans (the Jews) in contrast to the Galileans, so that anti-Semitic interpretations are not really an issue for me, nor would they color my interpretation of John. So I guess what I’m saying is I would not want o relate this investigation to the misuse of John to justify replacement theology, which should have no place among Christians, or worse: anti-Semitism, which is just plain evil. But I don’t think the missionary impulse of John can be contradicted by the historical misuse of the text by people with an agenda. In other words, you don’t need to find exclusivism in the text to fight this battle properly.

          2. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

            I read this post before :-). Thank you. By the way the Jews are not really Judeans… let me rephrase it they are not only Judeans and sometimes they are not judeans at all :-). You know that Geza Vermez passed away a month ago, right? Big loss.

          3. jefferis peterson

            Yes I saw he passed away. It has been a tough issue to deal with the translations. I wish that the English translators used Judeans every time the word Jew was used, because then it would make a lot more sense of the inner conflict with “Judaism” at the time. It is our modern generic use of this word that now supposedly includes all “Jews” which makes the historical context more difficult to represent.

          4. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

            See I am sure that the solution is not simply to translate the Judeans instead of the unfortunate “Jews”. I think John uses hoi Ioudaioi differently from Paul and others, again because of whom he is writing for. But to buy that you need to read my intro at least 🙂

          5. Drs. Charles van den Berg


            Although I do not agree with Jeff. Certainly is: he will keep you sharp.


          6. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

            🙂 Iron sharpens iron. Look, Charles. I kept on thinking that one day someone has to write something like this. Jeff is not alone. There are hundreds of thousands of Christians that think like him. I mean it respectfully. eli

          7. Drs. Charles van den Berg

            That hundreds of thousands say something, does ’n t mean that something is true.
            Let’s always keep thinking on (new) facts. At the same time I realize and understand that it’ s not always easy to change your opinion when something is not that what we always had thought it was.