Who Are “the Jews” In The Gospel Of John?

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hroughout Christian history, the Gospel of John has stood among the most favorite books of the Bible, alongside perhaps only the Psalms, Isaiah and the book of Romans. This gospel has also been a source of debate. One of the main reasons for this is its “anti-Jewish” rhetoric. The problem here is that the harsh words to “the Jews” were not addressed to a particular Jewish group as in other Gospels. After all, harsh rhetoric is also present in the so-called “most Jewish” of all the four gospels, the gospel of Matthew (Matt. 23) and is consistent with the standards of speech that were acceptable for the Israelite prophetic tradition (Is.1:2-4). However, in Matthew, as well as in Mark and Luke, in most cases it can be clearly seen that Jesus argued with Jewish groups like Scribes and Pharisees, but not with all Jews. It is peculiar that only in the Gospel of John is the un-nuanced “the Jews” (in most English translations) used repeatedly, usually referring to the opponents of Jesus who were often seeking to kill him (5:18; 7:1-10; 8:1-22, 8:40; 10:29-33; 11:8; 18:14; 18:28). Most-strikingly, it is to “the Jews” who initially followed him in this Gospel alone that Jesus said: “Your belong to your father, the devil.” (8:31) So, are Christian Bibles translating the Greek words “Hoi Iudaioi” accurately as “the Jews” in today’s sense of the word?

It looks like the Gospel author is operating within a context of intra-Jewish factional dispute, although the boundaries and definitions themselves are part of that debate. It is beyond doubt that once the Fourth Gospel is removed from that original context, and the constraints of that context, it could and was easily read as an anti-Jewish polemical document. However, the difficulty, with this Gospel, is not that it is the most “Anti-Jewish” Gospel, when it comes to the rhetoric used, but that it is also most Jewish of all the four gospels as well. For example, it is only in this Gospel, that Jesus says that “Salvation is from the Jews” (Jn.4:22) and that Jesus was buried as a Jew (Jn.19:40). So, yes as you can see, it’s complicated.

One example that illustrates the insufficiency of today’s terminology to understand the context surrounding the Gospel of John can be seen in John 11:53-54. There we are told that upon a threat on his life, Jesus withdrew to a village called Ephraim for fear of the people the author calls – Hoi Iudaioi:

“So from that day on they plotted to take his life. Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the Jews. Instead he withdrew to a region near the desert, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.”

From this text it is clear that unless we acknowledge we are currently operating with labels and categories that were foreign to the evangelist, we cannot possibly make sense of the use of the term “the Jews” in this Gospel. Think about it, if we continue to interpret this Gospel using traditional translation terminology, this verse would totally confuse us: The “Jewish” Jesus moved away from “the Jews,” into a “Jewish” village Ephraim, with his “Jewish” disciples.

Our point is simple: the Bible does not need to be re-written, but it needs to be re-read.

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© By Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, Ph.D.

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  1. Jesiel Monteiro de Miranda

    Enjoyed your article, “Who are the Jews in the Gospel of John.” I had already realized that there is indeed a distinction between John and the other Evangelists when he says “Jew.” It is very evident that the distinction of Jew is generally presented as an adversary of Jesus. But one should consider that Jesus speaks about salvation come from the Jews.
    In fact John is the most Jewish gospel all of them can talk about what is wrong between their and that is good.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Invite you to explore my Jewish-Samaritan Journey through the Gospel of John (you can find it on every page of the blog). Dr. Eli

  2. Andreas Stutz

    I’ll try to write in English even though it isn’t my native language. 🙂 I found the Article very interesting. While reading it, anouther thought came up in my mind. Since the Gospel of John is written later than the other Gospels and the Schisma between Rabbinic Judaism and Messianic Judaism became stronger – isn’t it possible that John isn’t using the Term “the Jews” in a religious-polemic way, so it would simply mean the Oppnents of Jesus? The Adjective “jewish” would then still remain neutral, since it is used unpolemic (e.g. specifying Places or Customs).
    תודה על תשובתך

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Before I can get to part two of your point. I have to object! 🙂 I do not think we know anything about the date of John’s composition. It could be the earliest or the latest of the Gospels. Please, read introduction to the commentary. Let’s keep thinking together. And, Andreas, welcome to our group. It is good to have you with us! Dr. Eli

  3. […] were from Nazareth, the village where Jesus’ family resided after returning from Egypt. The Hoi Ioudaioi asked how was it possible that Jesus came down from heaven, since they knew his parents from […]

  4. Jane Neal

    Interesting comment from Ruth on Aug 13. We have not by any means taken over, and should remember, we are merely grafted in to the Root, as wild olive branches. However, this is an interesting discussion, as I see it from a very simple perspective, that the Jews referred to as being “of the devil” or anti Christian and definitely the ones referred within the context of the story of the Raising of Lazarus, and Mary realising that they were reporting them to the authorities, were the authorities of the Synagogues at the time, the Pharisees and the Saducees. I have always thought that these were indeed the people with whom Judas dealt, in his act of selling out Jesus to them, and the High Priest Caiaphas being the leader. In some versions we are told that they even incited the crowds at Jesus’ Trial and subsequent crucifixion. Maybe I am wrong, and have got my contexts in the above discussion a bit skewed, and apologise if so, but is this a valid point? God bless and this is so interesting.

  5. Ruth

    “if we continue to interpret this Gospel using traditional translation terminology, this verse would totally confuse us: The “Jewish” Jesus moved away from “the Jews,” into a “Jewish” village Ephraim, with his “Jewish” disciples.”

    This is so obvious, yet so much a part of the Christian reading. So I wonder if the problem lies with Christianity dejudaizing all of the “good guys”?

  6. […] how hoi Ioudaioi (translated normally as “the Jews”) are clearly portrayed as not simply Judeans, but as the members of Judean authorities. They were […]

  7. […] he came to the feast hoi Ioudaioi did not recognize him. Either Jesus’ looks were so “average” that people could not tell him […]

  8. Joan Mohammed

    Very interesting article.

    I’m thinking that one must read this with the mind of the writer and not with a 2013 mindset, and submit oneself to the direction of the Holy Spirit who will make all things clear.

  9. […] 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 […]

  10. […] a careful reader wonder. Jesus was in Jerusalem in John 5, but by the time he finishes his talk with hoi Ioudaioi by the very beginning of chapter 6 we find that he was already on one of the shores of Galilean Sea, […]

  11. eeore

    The problem inherent in this issue is at what point does Jesus become a Christian? Or Abraham, or David etc. And by extension, at what point do they become Muslim, Protestant, Mormon, or whichever tradition adopts them.

    And it is worth considering when looking at John 8, that “the Jews” accuse Jesus of being a Samaritan, which is exactly the same form of name calling.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Yes. Some even though that perhaps John’s Gospel (since Jesus does not reject the accusation of being Samaritan there, while rejecting the accusation that he has a demon) is of Samaritan origin. I do not think that this is true, I simply think that the Gospel sought to reach an audience where Samaritans were a dominant group. That is a settle difference.

      1. eeore

        But equally “the Jews” do not reject the accusation that the devil is their father. Which following your logic would suggest that the gospel was written for an audience of devils.

        Which brings us back to the inherent name calling within this passage of the Bible, which is perhaps understandable given that the story being told is of “the Jews” trying to trap Jesus.

        You yourself engage in this to a degree with your reference to the ‘”Jewish” Jesus’, which in one sense is a statement of the mortal nature of Jesus the man, in opposition to the Christian teaching of his role within the trinity.

        Which brings me back to my more substantive point regarding the adoption of Biblical figures within differing religious traditions. Because the Christian Jesus is clearly different from the Jewish or Muslim Jesus, and the Catholic Jesus is different from the Jesus of the Jehovah’s Witness’ for example.

        In modern terms this becomes problematic because of ‘political correctness’. As “the Jews” in John, in the literal historical sense are Jews, but they are equally Methodists, Buddhists, Atheists, Catholics, Anglicans, Unitarians, Orthodox, or whoever, to someone of a differing tradition.

        1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

          But equally “the Jews” do not reject the accusation that the devil is their father. Which following your logic would suggest that the gospel was written for an audience of devils.

          A.: My logic had nothing to do with John 8, please, see introduction section (http://iibsblogs.wpengine.com).

          Which brings us back to the inherent name calling within this passage of the Bible, which is perhaps understandable given that the story being told is of “the Jews” trying to trap Jesus.

          A.: 🙂

          You yourself engage in this to a degree with your reference to the ‘”Jewish” Jesus’, which in one sense is a statement of the mortal nature of Jesus the man, in opposition to the Christian teaching of his role within the trinity.

          A.: Not at all. Christian teaching about Trinity does not in any way reject his manhood as a Jew.

          Which brings me back to my more substantive point regarding the adoption of Biblical figures within differing religious traditions. Because the Christian Jesus is clearly different from the Jewish or Muslim Jesus, and the Catholic Jesus is different from the Jesus of the Jehovah’s Witness’ for example.

          A.: Yes. But I think they are still legitimate as long as we all understand that those things are meant to highlight certain points, aspects, perspectives, etc and are not part of conclusive/final definitions.

          In modern terms this becomes problematic because of ‘political correctness’. As “the Jews” in John, in the literal historical sense are Jews, but they are equally Methodists, Buddhists, Atheists, Catholics, Anglicans, Unitarians, Orthodox, or whoever, to someone of a differing tradition.

          A.: See my previous point. Thanks for your comments. Is Eeore your first name?

  12. Moses

    I also read with great fascination what Dr Eli has to say. Its educational. Today the areas of Samaria is not really called that it is called Yehyda ve Shomron. Judea and Samarea. As I stated in previous post people in the time of Yeshua called by name of the residence. We know who was The Galilean because of Nazareth that was in Galilee. Like some one today is called Texan because they are from Texas. So people from Judea called Judeans but in other languages they summed all of them in to Jews. Even the Samarians who lived in Judea.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      You are pointing out important things. But its far more complex than what you make it to be. Let’s keep on thinking together. Dr. Eli

  13. […] their strong negative language, expressing their intent to kill him, be explained?  We read that hoi Iudaioi  (normally translated as “the Jews”) sought to kill Jesus (vs.18). It is known that in […]

  14. […] is named here as ruler of the Hoi Iudaioi. While we cannot know this for sure, it is probable that Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin, […]

  15. […] came to Jesus at night, and in John 7.50-52 we read that when he questioned his own fellow Hoi Iudaioi about Jesus’ arrest, he was questioned for loyalty: “Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and […]

  16. […] to do what he does and to say what he says. As we are considering the way in which the author uses hoi Ioudaioi (the Jews) there is something else of importance for us as we move through the […]

  17. […] part of which were Israelite Samaritans. It may also explain why the author uses the Greek word Hoi Ioudaioi (translated usually as simply “the Jews”) in the way he does. To Israelite Samaritans, the […]

  18. Ruth Hirt

    The Jews whom Jesus and the Gospel (Jewish)writer(s) referred to as the negatively named ‘the Jews’ were simply the unbelieving Jews. And to that, I believe Jesus was most indignant over the learned unbelieving Jews whom He got in contact with.

    The Gospel so un-Jewish? It was just a matter of the Jews’ failure to recognize what covenantly belongs to them. (Isaiah 6:9-10) (Acts 28:25, 26, 27, 28)

    Please include me among your updates-subscribers. Thank you very much.

    1. Snowball

      God made the Pharaoh of the times of the Exodus stubborn so that he could bring about His plans there.
      Jesus(pbuh) said that Pilot could have no power unless God gave it to him, and that he had to go through with God’s plans. Jesus even had Iscariot go out and do what he had to do at the right time. So the crucifixion wasn’t a failure on anyone’s part, and I make that point because the subject here is a sensitive one touching on these things.
      Some people did believe in Jesus and the Gospels make that clear. However, those in charge who opposed him and what he was saying were put their by the regional leaders and were very much their men. If God had wanted Jesus to be king at that point, he would not have put him there when the Romans had banned rulership by anyone in the bloodline that the Messiah had to come from.
      Now for where you are right. Although God intended the crucifixion, you are right about a failure to recognise what covenantly belonged to them.
      When Jesus wept for those in Jerusalem, he said that, after all of the expectation that the Messiah would reveal all, resulting in tens of thousands finding him in the desert to hear what he had to say, it would remain hidden from them.
      This is why Isaiah and Daniel(pbut) and the biblical book of Revelation all referred to a book that is sealed, and that people cannot see and perceive – yet. All three say you will see it.
      Job 33:14 says that God says more than one thing at the same time, and that is why Jesus said that he was revealing things hidden from the beginning of time, in accordance with Prophecy that he would.

  19. Raul Maldonado

    I am very interested in receiving this blog for, learn about the connection of the biblical text with Christianity. I appreciate that you can receive the information they have available even for English speakers.

    Estoy muy interesado en recibir este blog para, aprender acerca de la conexión del texto bíblico con el cristianismo. Le agradezco que pueda recibir la información que tienen disponible aun para los hablantes en lengua inglesa

  20. Ryan Ruckman

    The author of the Gospel of John was, himself, a Jew. Jesus was a Jew, He is the King of the Jews, salvation is of the Jews, and believing Jews are disciples who continue in His Word. The Gospel of John is replete with evidence for a pro-Jewish, redemptive faith in the Messiah while maintaining an anti-religio unbelief stance. Taken in the context of the entire book, all the references to the “Jew” in the ancient Gospel are not anti-Jewish.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Ryan, it is not that simple. But you are right it is NOT anti-Jewish in terms of today’s meaning of the word anti-Jewish.

  21. daniel makumbe

    please update me on your next publication.
    what do we call the people of Israel, are tey Israelis,jews, please help for I am a little bit confused?

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Its complicated. There are different meanings for different shades of this term.

  22. Luis Reinaldo Bernal

    Very interesting your point of view on the Gospel of John, and the differences continue to lie in the training acquired by the Jews that Jesus was a spiritual training with demonstration of power, and those who misjudged, together with authorities, they expected a Messiah to lead them to freedom earthy yet supported groups were reduced or that Jesus was persecuted, not the Jewish people.
    Salvation comes from the Lord and his Spirit to the Jews and Gentiles, Jesus and his 11 disciples revolutionaries. Now 2012 – 2020, the salvation of the Jews who receive it will materially and spiritually, just a few days by the same Jew who left and leave the history and comes to judge the nations and churches that have been enemies of his people.
    With love Luis

    Muy interesante su punto de vista sobre el evangelio de Juan, y las diferencias siguen radicando en la formación que adquirieron los Judios al lado de Jesús que fué una formación espiritual con demostración de poder, y los que juzgaron mal, en unión de autoridades, ya que esperaban un mesías que los condujera a la libertad terrenal; no obstante fueron reducidos grupos que apoyaron a Jesús o que lo persiguieron, no el pueblo Judio.
    La salvación viene de Jehova y su Espiritu a los judios y gentiles, por Jesús y sus 11 discípulos revolucionarios. Ahora 2012 – 2020, la salvación de los Judíos que lo reciban, vendrá material y espiritualmente, a muy pocos días, por el mismo judio que partió y partirá la historia de la humanidad y viene a juzgar a naciones e iglesias que han sido enemigas de su pueblo.
    Con amor Luis

  23. sirley

    great article, our christian church need to teach to their member things like that.
    l am looking forward to reading more things like this.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      You can promote this among your spheres of influence as well! 🙂

  24. Irene Maxwell

    Rabbi, it is interesting to me that we still, after all these centuries, argue the toss about whether one is a ‘Jew’, a gentile, a Samaritian…when Jesus strove his whole life to overcome these artificial, and indeed,nonsensical divisions – and to emphasize the unity of a God-given life.
    can’t we at least begin to see the unity in God’s manifest kingdom?
    As Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well – ‘there will come a time, and that time is now, when we will worship God neither on the mountain, nor in the temple, but in spirit and truth…’

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Dear Irene,

      The distinctions are necessary, I am afraid because without them we loose the basic meaning and therefore create our own – a meaning that was not intended first by the authors of the original Gospel manuscripts.

      Usually when a verse is quoted that in Christ there is neither Jew or Gentile, it usually intended to mean that in Christ there is no longer a Jew. :-).

      1. Wolf Paul

        Hello Dr Lizorkin-Eyzenberg,
        coming to this discussion rather late I hope my comment is still welcome.
        Can I clarify your second paragraph above in your response to Irene?
        Are you saying that
        — the NT authors intended the statement that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile to mean that in Christ there is no longer a Jew, or that
        — modern Christians quoting these verses intend to imply that there is no longer a Jew?
        In other words, do you think that “supercessionism”, the notion that the church has replaced Israel as God’s people, is inherent in the New Testament writings, or do you see it as a largely post-4th century BCE mis-interpretation due to the increased “gentilization” of the church and the growing anti-semitism?

        1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

          Wolf, hi. No, you are not too late :-). I reread it and in the words of Jack Sparrow you right what is said “is even more than unhelpful” :-).

          NT writers are not guilty of this I don’t think. Later theological reflection of many Christians is to be blamed for it.

  25. Ted

    Interesting. In all my reading of the Gospel of John, the phrase “the Jews” has never come to the forefront. but now that I think about it it is obvious.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Its amazing how many evangelical Christians simply do not think there is a problem with anti-jewish statements in John :-). My only conclusion that they don’t read it careful enough and that their are no my-in-large no sensitive enough to the Anti-Judaism in general.

      1. Rafael

        I don’t know if you are using a translator, but that last paragraph makes no sense. Or perhaps my brain is tired.

  26. fabian francisco videla

    Thank you. Excellent commentary on John. Only in its Jewish context the term “Jews” can be understood in this Gospel.

  27. James DeFrancisco, PhD

    I read with great interest your “‘The Jews’ in the Gospel of John.”

    Very nice commentary as well as blog comments. Please keep these ideas coming on John and other parts of the Christian Scriptures. Your commentary is vitally needed to share ideas and create bridges between Jews and Christians. Since the majority of Jesus’ disciples were “Jews” in the national sense, it seems to be obvious that “the Jews” as used in the gospel of John is a prejorative term related to Jewish authorities in Jerusalem that were hostile to Jesus and his followers. However, rather than making a dogmatic statement to that effect I look forward to your work and the comments in this blog. Thank you for this wonderful work.

  28. katherine

    Keep writing and I am understanding more and more why I have always been drawn to the Jewish faith, though raised Christian.

  29. Faye


  30. Laila Klaszus

    Thank you for your insights.

  31. Valter da Silva Reis

    Very interesting and appropriate placement of the word “Jews,” I have observed in some sermons, which does not explain who these “Jews” leading many people to understand that we all were to see Jesus crucified were Jewish and who consented to his death. These people who preach without knowing, often do so driven by emotion and not they measure the results, thank you for this opportunity to assist in multiplying the understanding that a serious and deep study, which collaborate to grow in grace and knowledge.

    thank you

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Dear Valter, I am privileged and honored to help the Christian community at large to grow in this area of their biblical study. Unfortunately, it is not only the lack of passion that is responsible for this, there is a lot of passionate miss-preaching that goes on as well.

      1. Snowball

        You are so right. Some Christians have openly acknowledged that preachers in the past have been rabble rousers. It is shocking to see that it happened, and it follows that I completely understand why this subject is so important.
        One point that I like to make when anyone says anything sounding anti-Jewish is that Jesus(pbuh) was Jewish, and that it can only be the case that anyone who uses the term “the Jews” as though they have a problem with Jewish people as a whole, must also have a problem with Jesus.
        Since both Moslems and Christians are waiting for his return, it tends to silence that kind of talk.
        Any suggestion that anyone murdered Jesus meets the response that he repeatedly said that he had to make sure that it happened, and even stopped someone who attempted to defend him with a weapon, pointing that out to him again.
        Clearly, if any Christian could travel back in time now and try to stop Jesus from being crucified, Jesus himself would be telling them off, just like he did where there was any objection, or attempt to stop it from happening.
        Of course, if people read the book properly, it wouldn’t be necessary to point things like this out.

  32. Scott Janney

    I worked at a Catholic hospital with a Jewish woman who was the Director of Annual Giving. Once we attended a special Mass together & she left – feeling very upset – because of all of the very negative references to “the Jews” in the Gospel lesson from John.

    Although you don’t suggest rewriting, but rereading, in your piece, I’ve always wondered if “the Judeans” would be a better translation and description of what John is saying in his context. Not perfect, but since Jesus was regionally a Galilean, and religiously a Jew in the way we use that word, it makes some sense.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      I think what happened at that mass is that she had a very hard time (and rightfully so) reconciling your love and acceptance of her, with the anti-Jewish message (albeit misunderstood) of John’s Gospel in today’s translation with newly invested meaning of Hoi Iudaioi as the Jewish People.

      I agree with that using Judeans as many have done makes a lot of sense and, boy, it would help solve major community problems! 🙂 The difficulty, however, can be seen in at least several passages that hoi Iudaioi are also located in Galilee.

      I, therefore, conclude that though helpful there seems to be either another main factor or at least other factors/aspects that would have to define the hoi Iudaioi in this Gospel more accurately. I approach the Gospel as anti-current-shepherds-of-Israel polemic by the followers of the Good/True Shepherd of Israel. I also understand that a major part of the audience in this Gospel may have been Israeli Samaritans (see my posts in appendix of the Gospel) Therefore, those who are in Diaspora and in Jewish Galilee are under their system umbrella. They are, therefore, their affiliates.

  33. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

    I will address it at some point in the introduction some time in the future. But the short answer is – we do not know for sure. It is usually assumed that because the Gospel is so anti-Jewish it already reflects the Christian-Jewish divide. But this logic is circular, because it is based on a particular interpretation of who the Jews in John are. (Then it is assumed that it is anti-Jewish because it was written later when there was already (presumably) such a divide). I do not know when it was written and where it was written (the Gospel). I could have the fourth, third, second or first Gospel to be written.

    There is no doubt that Gentiles were around, but I think it is clear that Jesus was always hanging out and talking with and to other Jews like himself. Gentiles are highlighted as exception to the rule in the Gospels. The example with Mary you provided is excellent, because there we see that “the Jews” went to Pharisees.

    I think Paul does not use the Jews in the same way that John does. Its one book now, but it was not so in the first century. We’ve got to take into the account! Keep your comments coming they good and thoughtful ones.

  34. Margaret Comstock

    In discussing what John meant when he used the term “the Jews” it would be helpful to know just when this gospel was written. Was it near the end of his life, in the 90’s CE or was it earlier, even before the destruction of the Temple as some claim? If later in life, after his exile, he would almost certainly have developed a more articulated theology. However, since we will probably never know for sure, I have taken a more simplistic approach (maybe too simplistic) to the question of what did he really mean when he referred to “the Jews.”

    In examining the various references given I find that there is usually a crowd of people around Jesus. I speculate that this crowd would consist of both Jews and gentiles. If so , He was probably referring to the reaction of the Jews in the crowd. In the incident at the pool where the cripple was healed, Jesus also “…called God his Father, making himself equal with God” which would probably not have bothered the Gentiles, but would certainly have horrified the Jews who would have wished that He be put to death.

    Similarly, when Lazarus was raised some of the Jews who had been there with Mary believed, but others went to the priests and Pharisees who took it to the Council. In that passage it is clearly the Council who plotted His death.

    Similar episodes happened with Paul, who used his Hebrew name Saul until he stopped even trying to convert the Hebrews in his travels. Some Jews believed – some didn’t.

    Does this approach to understanding make sense? It does to me……. (Personal note: I am not used to this kind of research. My experience has been in mathematics and the teaching of mathematics. In teaching issues I have preferred an ethnographic approach rather than a statistical approach.)

  35. Cecil Price

    Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg,

    Thanks for your responses.

    Is Jesus referring to the same group who believed in Him in John 8:31, who He refers to their father being the devil in John 8:44? If so, true believers would have God as their Father instead of the devil.


    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      It is my humble (or not so humble opinion) 🙂 that we are approaching this ancient text through the lenses of 2000 of inner-Christian theological debates. In this case it seems eternal debate (though naturally is not) between the Calvinists and Armenian. What we should try to do as much as possible (and its not possible to do it fully).

      All of this is to say that we read 1st century John and we think Calvin, Luther vs. others. 🙂 The Reformers ought to be viewed in their own context, John in his own. Since John lived before these debated I think that he is very simplistic in his reasoning. Jesus called these people – children of the Devil, but he was addressing the group that “early believed in him”. So, what is going on? I think Jesus calls hoi Ioudioi system/domonion and therefore those who take part in that system are also – the children of the Devil. So in this case some could be for a time or at the time believe in Jesus on some level, but still part of the system that makes them in some way – the children of the devil in Jesus terminology. (Just to clarify I do not mean here Judaism vs. Christianity). I know that this answers sounds like Eli is thinking out load. I agree. 🙂

      1. Rafael

        The whole debate between Calvinists and Armenian disappears completely when you understand time. God created time when he created the space-time continuum. But God is not limited by his creation, not even time. He is omnipresent throughout the space-time continuum. It is difficult to get away from the boundaries of temporal terms. But God exists simultaneously in our future and in our past (not to mention our present). Today, I choose Him. After I do this, He then has a relationship with me. Since He also exists simultaneously before the foundation of the earth, he (back then) already knows me intimately, before I exist. How can that be written in simple temporal terms? He foreknew me. He didn’t just know about me. He had intimate knowledge of me long before I was even conceived. All this Calvin vs Armenian debate, and many other debates are rendered moot when we understand that God is timeless, and not limited to its boundaries, except where He chooses to be, such as when He says that He inhabits eternity, and when He sheds His power to become bound by time in a temporal body.

  36. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

    Well put.

  37. Bishop Betao

    There’s no citizenship when we come to talk about spiritual opposition.
    Unfortunatelly many tradionally christians have develop prejudices against races,colours,backgrounds.
    Jesus was just preventing that his time to die come in the right moment thru the right hands. We may never condem Jews or no one else about persecuting Jesus,although we may discern motivations and choices as individuals concerning Jesus life.

  38. Judson Stone

    This morning reading in Jeremiah 32:12 I came across “and all the Jews.” It made me think of the debate about the Gospel of John’s references to ‘the Jews.’

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      The key question to ask is not what does the word mean today, but what it meant when the author wrote it down? Then you can go back and see the original meaning and ONLY then applying for today.

      1. festus im darlington

        The real christians are the blacks hebrews, not those who does’t knew their colour, I believe in Jesus christ, (Jesus says in Romans 3:29
        For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. who you thinks, he is talking to

  39. Jeffrey Feinberg

    Inspiring commentary on the book of John. Please keep the blogs coming!

    You might find that the translation of the Tree of Life New Covenant (Destiny Image, 2011) offers helpful perspective on the rendering, in context, of Ioudaioi (as “Judeans,” “Judean leaders,” and even as an alternative “Galileans” in a footnote to Jn. 6:41).

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Yes, I think its complicated, but certainly various Israelite (we would say in today’s language – Jewish – groups) were all in the mix. Galileans – certainly, Samaritans-no doubt, Essene, etc. One can not simply say as was suggested before that hoi Iudaioi are the Judeans, simply because they are also found in Galilee. Question is what are they doing there and what is their relationship to the Jerusalem power structure of the day.

  40. Dr. Greg Waddell

    Great article but it left me hanging. So, how was John using the term? 🙂

  41. Dr. Lawrence Cameron

    Yes, yes and more yes! Thank you. See my blog at blog.claritycentral.com

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Thank you.

  42. Dr. Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

    Dear Dr. Bivin. Thank you for writing and thank you for your contribution to the field in starting and leading the Jerusalem School of Synaptic Research! I tend to agree with Buth’s theory as you are describing it.
    However, one day you will have to explain to me something. I am obviously failing to see – the importance of teaching Koine Greek as a living language vs. how it is usually taught in Seminaries.
    I am still not sure as to why I should be able to tell you in Koine Greek: “May I please have a glass of water with sirup?” If I simply want to be able to read and understand the Scriptures.
    Please, point me in the right direction with my no doubt faulty logic here.

    1. Cheryl Durham

      I agree with your response. Would it not be better to teach how GREEK was used in the LXX and the connection to Hebrew? It seems that there are so many words and phrases that were altered to accommodate the differences in Worldview that it hardly seems necessary to understand Greek. It seems more efficient to understand Hebrew and find those words and phrases used in Greek to articulate the Hebraic concepts.

      1. shelly

        I agree.

    2. Dr. Sheri Klouda

      I appreciate your insights. I visited a Jewish Theological Seminary in NYC several years ago and had the opportunity to attend a class where it became very clear to me that the portrayal of “Jews” as those who singlehandedly crucified Jesus in contemporary films was wholly inaccurate, and caused a great deal of worry to Jewish students, who were concerned that movies like this would cause a resurgence in persecution. It was enlightening to me, and I seek to convey to my primarily Christian students the pervasive Jewish-ness of the gospels and Jesus’ reliance on the Hebrew Bible as his authority.

      1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

        Dear Dr. Sheri Klouda, welcome to Jewish Studies for Christians. Thank you very much for your comment. I think what is amazing (and telling) to what degree most Christians today are not even aware of the Anti-Jewish problem in New Testament interpretation. There is so much love for Israel and the Jews today (uncharacteristic for Church history as a whole) that when confronted with the white big elephant it is hard to get Christians to admit that even have a problem here. I personally think that it can and must be resolved, but at least I am aware that this an issue for anyone who reads the Gospels (especially John) carefully enough. Yours, Eli

        1. Rafael

          I began attending a messianic synagogue in San Diego almost two years ago. A few months ago, I learned that my own father believed that the NT had replaced the OT, and that the church had replaced Israel. He asked me, in light of that, why I would want to convert to judaism. I told him that I wasn’t converting at all, but enriching my understanding of the Jewish roots and heritage of the NT and of christianity.

          I told him that Jesus Himself stated quite emphatically that not even the tiniest little mark in the entire OT would pass away until ALL be fulfilled. And I told him that if there’s even just one prophecy in the OT yet unfulfilled, then according to Jesus, the OT cannot pass away. I then told him that the OT has prophecies regarding the millennial kingdom, such as the lion eating straw like an ox and sleeping next to lambs, children with bears on a leash, infants playing with adders, and a man of a hundred years being considered to be a child. I asked him when have these things ever been commonplace.

          But because my response had not dealt specifically with his charge that the church has replaced Israel, I later sent him a text message stating the prophecy of Zechariah 14:16-21, and asked him several questions:
          – can God lie?
          – can God be wrong?
          – can God make a prophecy that does not come to pass?
          – and how can the OT be dismissed, contrary to the words of Jesus, if it still has prophecies not yet fulfilled?
          – and when has the church ever observed the feast of sukkot?
          – and why would it ever start?
          – and this prophecy says that the defeated enemies of Israel would go up yearly to Jerusalem, but if the church has replaced Israel, then where is the Jerusalem mentioned here?

          I never got a response from my father about that message. Months have passed. I don’t know if the topic will ever come back up. Time will tell.

  43. David N. Bivin

    I read with great interest your “‘The Jews’ in the Gospel of John.”

    Nice writing! And nice thinking!

    Please keep writing on John. I’m very interested in your commentary, not because John helps me very much in reconstructing the Hebrew behind the synoptic gospels, but because I’ve become fascinated by the gospel as I’ve read and reread John for the last 3 years as a way of gaining fluency in Koine Greek. According to Dr. Randall Buth, the simple Greek of John’s gospel may be the result of it having been penned in spoken Koine Greek, as opposed to literary Koine (the style used by Paul). Whether or not Buth’s suggestion is correct, the gospel is certainly very repetitive, thus its use as the basis for many introductory Greek courses in seminaries and Bible colleges.

  44. Dr. Harrison

    Thank you very much for your posts, I enjoy them a lot. Keep it up!