And why did the Jews think Jesus was saying that he had seen Abraham when Jesus just spoke of Abraham seeing his day (and therefore him)?

John 8:56-57 (ESV)

56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”

57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”

What is the logical progression here? Is there a translation issue?

I'm looking for how the Jews leaped to questioning that Jesus had seen Abraham rather than questioning how Abraham had seen this day. If you can show how they would be fine with the latter, you still need to solve why they think Jesus is claiming to have seen Abraham (and not the other way around). Or said differently, how did Abraham seeing Jesus's day also mean or necessitate that Jesus had seen Abraham?

The main question remains how and/or when did Abraham see Jesus' day, but I want to make sure your answer then informs our understanding of the Jew's response.

  • @Joshua, This small observation might be of help. Luke 20:38 is the simplest explanation confirmed by visions like in Matthew 17:3 which affirm that these righteous ancients lived on after they passed, and being in a realm of 'powers', therefore still are aware of what happens in the earth. This is Abraham himself demonstrating that reality in Luke 16:19-31, especially in; Luke 16:25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented
    – Witness
    Aug 14, 2016 at 15:18
  • If Iooked really young and I came and said to you, ''as I was speaking to a friend, I saw Hitler in His convoy coming out of a basement parking of a hotel,'' The fact that I saw the infamous Hitler would be a simple brush, compared to the laceration of the shock from the impression that such a young age should lay claim to antiqity. This was the root for the Jews' leaping to questioning His age rather than focusing on how Abraham came to know about His day. Because if it's not true that He actually saw Abraham it invalidates His claims,
    – Witness
    Sep 4, 2016 at 13:08
  • @Witness but that's just it. Jesus doesn't say he saw Abraham, he says Abraham saw his day. It's the other way around.
    – Joshua
    Sep 4, 2016 at 13:11
  • @ Joshua, If you are Christian then I know you cannot doubt what He says, but not so with the Jews, they rejected even what they were aware of as being true, which the fellow that came to Him at night, and was one of them, confessed. Remember He said He was both on earth and in Heaven, John 3:13, and He who is in heaven has access to these righteous saints because He is the son of God.
    – Witness
    Sep 4, 2016 at 13:22

5 Answers 5


Your key question - which differs a little form your title question - is why did not the Jews challenge Jesus' reference to "my day".

One answer, given for example by Theophylact in his Explanation of the Gospel According to St. Matthew, is simply that by this time the Jews were flabbergasted and were no longer following some logical chain in their questioning. I think that there might be some merit in this explanation.

These verses are part of a longer passage where Jesus disputes with those Jews who had begun to believe in Him (v. 31). Their faith was fragile, though, and collapsed almost immediately when He attacked their pride at being Jews (e.g. We are Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man, v. 33). From verse 33 onwards, Jesus criticizes them very harshly:

  • He disputes their claim that Abraham is their father (v. 39-40)
  • He argues that their father is actually the devil and that they are not of God (v. 42-47)
  • He tells them, albeit in a somewhat veiled form, that He is greater than Abraham (v. 51)

Although they continue to try to dispute with Him on each point He raises, their patience is very thin by the time Jesus speaks of Abraham rejoicing. They allow Him one more response to their questions (v. 57-58) and then finally, completely exasperated, took up stones to cast at Him (v. 59).

  • My main question is how or when did Jesus mean that Abraham had seen his day. Secondary is ensuring that answers to that question can then inform the matter of the Jew's response. So you have pointed out some good things here, but have not addressed how even Jesus thought Abraham had seen his day. I think there's a rather simple solution to that, and to the Jews response. I just haven't had the time to give it a full treatment.
    – Joshua
    Sep 3, 2016 at 21:39
  • OK, but this is the opposite of what you indicated in your post, I think: "I'm really looking for how the Jews leaped to questioning that Jesus had seen Abraham rather than questioning how Abraham had seen this day." Did I misinterpret?
    – user15733
    Sep 3, 2016 at 22:53
  • I understand that is a bit misleading. However if you read on you see everything is still hinging on there being an explanation for how Jesus thought Abraham saw it. I will edit.
    – Joshua
    Sep 3, 2016 at 22:56

Jesus claimed that Abraham rejoiced seeing his day. [For Abraham's to see Jesus it implies that Jesus seeing Abraham] They exclaimed - is it possible that you could see Abraham? Their question presumed it was impossible for Jesus to have seen Abraham because he is not even fifty year old.

In other words Jesus spoke of Abraham as a contemporary not an ancestor which would presume they were of the same time and within a certain age range of each other. They then questioned Him (in a very sarcastic tone) since they knew they obviously could not question Abraham knowing he was no longer physically alive.


This passage is puzzling to us because Jesus said Abraham saw Jesus’ day, but the Jew understood what Jesus said to mean Jesus also saw Abraham’s day. It was even difficult for some in the early centuries. A few texts read Ἀβραὰμ ἑώρακέν σε instead of Ἀβραὰμ ἑώρακας. (“Abraham saw you” instead of “you saw Abraham”) [Metzger, B. M., United Bible Societies. (1994). A textual commentary on the Greek New Testament, second edition a companion volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th rev. ed.) (p. 193). London; New York: United Bible Societies.]

Some commentators point out:

Jewish tradition emphasized that Abraham had been shown the future kingdoms that would oppress Israel and the messianic era beyond them.

Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Jn 8:56). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

While this could be what Jesus meant, it does not make sense as far as what the Jews understood. Either textual variation implies Jesus being in Abraham’s presence.

Another commentator gets a little closer to explaining the response of the Jew:

His words imply a relationship with Abraham as if he personally witnessed the patriarch’s gladness when God gave Abraham foresight of the future Messiah.

Bryant, B. H., & Krause, M. S. (1998). John (Jn 8:54–56). Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co.

But the Jews question meant that they could not see how Jesus could have possibly had any visual contact with Abraham. [Blum, E. A. (1985). John. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 306). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.]

While the part of verse 56, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day (ESV),” seems to refer to Abraham’s foresight to the Messiah when Abraham was alive, “He saw it and was glad” could possible refer to Abraham seeing Jesus after he was in heaven. Another possibility based on the theology of some is that the appearances of the Lord in human form as in Genesis 18:1 was Jesus Christ appearing to them. Jesus seeing Abraham in heaven would make the most sense because there Abraham would have a full understanding of Jesus (1 Corinthians 13:12).

  • @ Perry Webb: In view of what Jesus said; "No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man." (John 3:13) Neither, Abraham, Moses, Noah or any other person is in heaven when Jesus said those words. Paul in Hebrews chapter 11:8-10,13 says, that those men of faith are awaiting the promise of resurrection to life on earth. (John 5:28-29) Jun 2, 2019 at 7:41
  • @ Ozzie: How do you interpret this passage? >And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 22:31–32). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
    – Perry Webb
    Jun 2, 2019 at 19:18
  • Jesus was speaking to the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection and replied to them ( read Matthew 5:31-32). Jesus was making reference to the conversation between God and Moses(Exodus 3:1-6). God said "I am" not "I was" indicate that the resurrection promise is certain to be fulfilled. God spoke as if those three dead patriarchs were still alive.Yes, in the eyes of God these patriarchs are as good as being alive, for he will resurrect them , "those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life "(John 5:28-29) Jun 2, 2019 at 20:39

When did Abraham see Jesus' day? John 8:56-57

John 8:56-58 (NASB)

56 "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham [b]was born, I am.”

Abraham believed in God' promise and looked forward to the arrival of Jesus. Why?

Abraham and Sarah were old and advanced in age, well past the age of reproduction,( Gen. 18:9-11) but God miraculously restored their ability to reproduce.

Hebrews 11:11-12 (NASB)

11 "By faith even Sarah herself received [a]ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants as the stars of heaven in number, and innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore."

God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, then about 25 years old, when just about to strike Isaac dead,God' angel intervened and said: "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”(Gen. 22:12 NASB)

Abraham considered that God was able to raise Isaac from the dead; and from there he receive him back , in an illustrative way.

Hebrews 11:17-19 (NRSV)

17 "By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, 18 of whom he had been told, “It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you.” 19 He considered the fact that God is able even to raise someone from the dead—and figuratively speaking, he did receive him back."


Abraham believe in the resurrection through the promised seed ,(Genesis 22:16-18) that all nations on earth will be blessed,he is still dead in the grave awaiting for the resurrection to life on earth, (Hebrews 11:8-10,13 John 5:28-29)

When all these events were happening Jesus was with His father in heaven, (Proverbs 8:30-31) and from his prehuman vantage point, noted Abraham's faith, and so he was able to tell the Jews: "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”

The TLB renders 8:58 as follows :

" Jesus: “The absolute truth is that I was in existence before Abraham was ever born!”


All these things they gave us for an inheritance, saying, Keep the commandments of God until the Lord shall reveal His salvation to all nations. Then shall you see Enoch, Noah, and Shem, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, arising on the right hand in gladness. Then shall we also arise, each one over our tribe, worshipping the King of heaven, who appeared upon the earth in the form of a man of humility. And as many as believed on Him on the earth shall rejoice with Him; and then shall all men arise, some unto glory and some unto shame. Testament of Levi 18:14

More information in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Testaments_of_the_Twelve_Patriarchs

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