Were "the Jews" in John 10:19-21 the same group of people or a different group than the ones mentioned in 10:24-39?

Some in vs 21 seem on the verge of believing in Him, while the ones in the second group of verses are ready to stone and arrest him. Since the Gospel of John often refers to "the Jews," how does the reader know specifically whom is being referred to? This is seen throughout the Gospel of John.

  • 1
    Hi and welcome to hermeneutics.stackexchange. If you have not already done so, please take the tour and see what kinds of questions work well on this site. As it stands, your question may be deemed too broad to apply hermeneutic techniques. It would help if you identify one or two of John's typical references to the 'Jews', even if you are after a wider understanding. This way we can identify exactly what you want to know and provide answers based on your examples. Nov 15, 2016 at 1:12
  • Awesome! So clear and simple seen this way, and Judeans is of course so much preferable to the "Jews." I can also go back and verify by context in all those places where this word occurs. Thank you very much!
    – user17480
    Nov 17, 2016 at 8:02
  • this is even better link christianthinktank.com/ajews.html
    – Michael16
    Nov 17, 2016 at 10:49
  • Added a related question. Might have similar answers : In Nehemiah - Who are the Jews? Apr 25, 2017 at 22:59
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    It is almost certainly not a reference to Judeans in the "Geographical sense". Jesus was Judean. But, the writer of John certainly did not consider Jesus as one of "The Jews". Many of the "common people" Jesus spoke to were Judean. But still, Jesus pointed certain people out - as "Judeans". There is a very big distinction, in context, between "a Geographical Judean", and "One of the Jews" - even if the underlying Greek is the same. Apr 25, 2017 at 23:05

6 Answers 6


Gerald L. Borchert (in John 1–11, vol. 25A, of The New American Commentary, page 126) identifies and summarizes well the adversarial nature of "the Jews" in the gospel of John.

The use of the term “Jews” here, as in most of the Gospel, belies immediately an adversarial thrust to these persons. While there is an affirmation at 4:22 that salvation is from the Jews, the major use of the term “Jews” in this Gospel seems to be connected with officials of the temple and synagogue. They are portrayed by the writer as the opponents of Jesus.

It is fairly certain that "the Jews" must refer to a subset of Israelites, since there are many others, contrasted to them, who are ethnic Jews. For instance, Mary and Martha are Jewish, yet at the mourning of Lazarus' death, it is significant that some of "the Jews" were in attendance (John 11:19, 31, 33). Mary and Martha were distinct from "Jews" in that narrative.

Apparently, the term signified a social or religious status, a term to refer to the (self-styled?) "real" Jews - the serious ones. It can be likened to the term "Americans." All who live in the United States are 'Americans' but only a few were part of the "American" party in Utah in the early 1900's.

Another clue as to the identity of "the Jews" is that they somehow controlled who was allowed to participate in the synagogue and who was not (John 9:22).

What we can not do is simplify this by saying all Israelites who rejected Jesus were called Jews, and those who were open to him were not called Jews. That assumption would wreak havoc with the interpretation of John.

Now to the question. Were the "Jews" of John 10:19-21 the same group of people or a different group than the ones mentioned in 10:24-39?

There seem to be no contextual cues that the groups are different. It does appear that Jesus was able to speak in such a way to this hardened group, a group predisposed to reject him, that he convinced some to believe in him.

Even after "the Jews" as a group decided to oppose all who trusted in Jesus (John 9:22), some of their own had second thoughts (John 10:19-21), and some would even believe (John 12:45). But as a whole, they continued to oppose Jesus vehemently (John 10:24-39).

  • Excellent answer. Up-voted (+1).
    – Nigel J
    Oct 19, 2020 at 1:46

John is to the New Testament what Moses is to the Old Testament: a simple and plain writer, and a distant, lofty, and unbiased historian. He has a birds-eye view, and was viewed as the "Eagle" among the four living creatures (which traditionally symbolize the four Evangelists). The beloved disciple.

"The Jews" are the Jews qua a people among other peoples: the majority of them rejected Jesus as the Messiah. It may also be a way of John (himself a Jew) distancing himself from his race in order to more fully associate with Messians (or Christians in Greek)—people who without respect to race or culture embrace the Anointed of God, who was prophesied to be sought by the Gentiles, and of whom the Gentiles would be made "priests instead of the Levites." John viewed himself a Christian first, and a Jew second. Just as a Catholic might say, "the Catholics at Rome allowed pagan idols to be worshiped," whereas idolatry is a mortal sin according to Catholicism (the First Commandment).

By the point of writing (any time after the Ascension), John (himself a Jew) could safely point to, "the Jews" in general as a people who rejected God in the flesh (Acts 2:36), without implying that every Jew did so (again, Himself a Jew, and the Messiah a Jew), just as one could point to a nation who had more or less given up its Christian heritage as not Christian, despite its remaining faithful adherents to Christianity.


Since the Greek word Ἰουδαῖος can refer to both Judeans and Jews, we have to get the meaning from context. The same word can refer to different people in different places, so the answer to your question is from context and not from a dictionary. Some translations help the readers by saying "Jewish leaders" where this is clear from context. Not all leaders opposed Jesus, but exceptions were few like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.

The context will often point to a group of Jewish leaders, either Sadducees or Pharisees or both, who oppose Jesus. Most of these opponents were from Jerusalem (an in 1:19) and could therefore be called Judeans, but to always understand Ἰουδαῖος as Judeans is not supported by the contexts. It is unfortunate that the BDAG dictionary has decided to use the word Judeans as a translation.

When Jesus spoke in public, especically in the Temple courtyard, he would be surrounded by a small group of Jewish leaders who opposed him and a larger group of common Jews who were more positive. In 10:19 the disagreement between the two groups is obvious. The Pharisees (John 8:13) who opposed Jesus said that he had a demon (8:48; 10:20), but the common people disagreed.

In 10:24 the opposing leaders again gathered around Jesus wanting him to say that he was the Messiah so that they could take him to their court and accuse him of blasphemy. Jesus responds that they do not believe in him. They are not part of his "flock" (v. 26).


I agree with asking the question, for it is a perplexing one and one that troubled me in my younger days. John's book is about seven signs that, if believed, will result in one obtaining eternal life. But in the book there is revealed a false faith, also.

Many believed - something or other, apparently - but afterwards followed Jesus no more. In your quotes, I understand one party to be a part of the other party. Later, there is a a separation as true faith and false faith reveal themselves.



What basis is there for taking them as different? Jesus was a Messiah very different from what the Jews expected through tradition. Jesus and his disciples were Jews and usually the people he taught were Jews. The Jews, even Jesus' disciples, were often perplexed by Jesus' teachings. You would expect those who were not close followers of Jesus to swing back and forth on what they though about Jesus.


they formed a militia of low clergy, willing to defend the political interests of the ruling Jewish class in Jerusalem. The Sense is sociological.

  • What evidence do you have for this?
    – DThornton
    Oct 17, 2020 at 21:36

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