What is the scope of the bread of life discourse in John? I have always, along with most commentators I've read, thought it was universal because of terms "world" (33, 51), "he who" and "anyone" (35, 37, 40, 45, 47, 50, 51), and "no one" (vs. 44). However, I've read some comments that when Jesus talks about folks coming to and believing him in this passage, he is not referring to new followers or humanity in general, but only to God-fearing Jews and Gentiles at that time period, before his crucifixion, who God was pointing toward Jesus. Does that argument have weight or should we refute it on some hermeneutical premise? So, there is a general question behind my specific one: how does one exegete scope and applicability? Thanks-
The scope and application would be, as you alluded,universal to the whole world.Yes, He is referring also to new followers in the future, such as Paul was.
The scripture says in John 10:35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Also in John 17:20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
The Bread is offered unto all men, but it must be mixed with faith. There were many that heard: John 6:66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
One reason that you are hearing opposite opinions all boils down to the long debate of Calvinism versus Armenianism.
If it was not meant for the whole world, then there would be no basis of punishment for not believing.
I realize that I am alone in this but I believe John uses the word κόσμος 78 times to refer to the then contemporary Jewish theocracy aka Israel, God's chosen "People":
[Amo 3:1-2 KJV] 1 Hear this word that the LORD hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying, 2 You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.
Amos the prophet, like all the prophets speaks of God's coming visitation on Jerusalem, the temple and the Jews:
[Amo 3:1 KJV] 1 Hear this word that the LORD hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying, [Isa 46:3 KJV] 3 Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne [by me] from the belly, which are carried from the womb: [Hos 4:1 KJV] 1 Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because [there is] no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. [Hos 5:1 KJV] 1 Hear ye this, O priests; and hearken, ye house of Israel; and give ye ear, O house of the king; for judgment [is] toward you, because ye have been a snare on Mizpah, and a net spread upon Tabor. [Jer 31:1 KJV] 1 At the same time, saith the LORD, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. [Jer 33:24-26 KJV] 24 Considerest thou not what this people have spoken, saying, The two families which the LORD hath chosen, he hath even cast them off? thus they have despised my people, that they should be no more a nation before them. 25 Thus saith the LORD; If my covenant [be] not with day and night, [and if] I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth; 26 Then will I cast away the seed of Jacob, and David my servant, [so] that I will not take [any] of his seed [to be] rulers over the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: for I will cause their captivity to return, and have mercy on them. [Amo 2:10 KJV] 10 Also I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and led you forty years through the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorite. [Amo 3:2 KJV] 2 You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.
The time of their visitation was the time of Messiah, in the first century:
[Isa 10:3 KJV] 3 And what will ye do in the day of visitation, and in the desolation [which] shall come from far? to whom will ye flee for help? and where will ye leave your glory? [Jer 8:12 KJV] 12 Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore shall they fall among them that fall: in the time of their visitation they shall be cast down, saith the LORD. [Jer 10:15 KJV] 15 They [are] vanity, [and] the work of errors: in the time of their visitation they shall perish. [Jer 11:23 KJV] 23 And there shall be no remnant of them: for I will bring evil upon the men of Anathoth, [even] the year of their visitation. [Jer 23:12 KJV] 12 Wherefore their way shall be unto them as slippery [ways] in the darkness: they shall be driven on, and fall therein: for I will bring evil upon them, [even] the year of their visitation, saith the LORD. [Jer 46:21 KJV] 21 Also her hired men [are] in the midst of her like fatted bullocks; for they also are turned back, [and] are fled away together: they did not stand, because the day of their calamity was come upon them, [and] the time of their visitation. [Jer 50:27 KJV] 27 Slay all her bullocks; let them go down to the slaughter: woe unto them! for their day is come, the time of their visitation. [Jer 51:18 KJV] 18 They [are] vanity, the work of errors: in the time of their visitation they shall perish. [Hos 9:7 KJV] 7 The days of visitation are come, the days of recompence are come; Israel shall know [it]: the prophet [is] a fool, the spiritual man [is] mad, for the multitude of thine iniquity, and the great hatred. [Mic 7:4 KJV] 4 The best of them [is] as a brier: the most upright [is sharper] than a thorn hedge: the day of thy watchmen [and] thy visitation cometh; now shall be their perplexity. [Luk 19:44 KJV] 44 And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation. [1Pe 2:12 KJV] 12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by [your] good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.
The fourth gospel is a Jewish account of the Jewish messiah interacting with the doomed Jews of his generation, just like the other gospels.
[Mat 23:33-38 KJV] 33 [Ye] serpents, [ye] generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? 34 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and [some] of them ye shall kill and crucify; and [some] of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute [them] from city to city: 35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. 36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. 37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, [thou] that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under [her] wings, and ye would not! 38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.
Or as Peter said:
[Act 3:24 YLT] 24 and also all the prophets from Samuel and those following in order, as many as spake, did also foretell of these days.
So no, the bread of life account in John 6 is not about "the Church" (the faith without works body of Christ that Paul was sent to found by the risen Christ.
So what is John 6 actually about? John is comparing the Jerusalem Jews (except for the elect Jews) to the Jews who died in the wilderness because of unbelief and did not enter the promised land:
[Heb 3:15-19 NKJV] 15 while it is said: "Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion." 16 For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, [was it] not all who came out of Egypt, [led] by Moses? 17 Now with whom was He angry forty years? [Was it] not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
He came unto his own but his own did not receive him. But, as Paul says, an elect remnant did receive their messiah:
[Rom 11:7 NKJV] 7 What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded.
Israel was born when they were delivered from Egypt. Israel's rebirth was when the messiah led out "the Israel of God", the new covenant Jews who were miraculously raised from spiritual death by the outpouring of God's spirit in the last days.
So like all of the law, the prophets and the writings prior to Paul (including the Jewish letters of the NT) the gospels are about the Jews rejecting their messiah and incurring the wrath of God end the end of their unique relationship to God.
When you read Paul's writings they are speaking to the believing saints, elect Jews and gentiles.
Considering the purpose John gives for his gospel:
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30–31, ESV)
and John's additional statement:
Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. (John 21:25, ESV)
John has a specific reason for what he included in his gospel. Given John's reason, why would he include the discourse in 6:31-51 if it didn't have a universal application?