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What does πάντα (all things) mean in John 13:3?

εἰδὼς ὅτι πάντα ἔδωκεν αὐτῷ ὁ πατὴρ εἰς τὰς χεῖρας (NA27)

knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands (John 13:3 ESV)

While the full verse is:

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God,… (John 13:3 ESV)

This seems to be too much of an absolute statement for Jesus being anyone other than God. What does all things mean?

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  • Having looked at your training seems like you could answer this. Feb 25 '19 at 4:55
  • I would answer it based on my theology. I'm trying to see how someone with a different theology will answer it. Note when I've asked questions like this before, I don't vote people down for disagreeing with me. It gives insight into how valid my own answer is.
    – Perry Webb
    Feb 25 '19 at 10:06
  • @PerryWebb We might start with removing 'going back' or 'returning' as some have it in John 16:5,28, 13:1,3, 20:17, 14:28 These are additions to the Greek text. He was never IN heaven to start with.
    – steveowen
    Jun 28 '20 at 22:32
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As has been discussed on this site many times, "panta" means all things in a class or category. Unfortunately, John 13:3 does not have an implied class or category. So we must rely on closely related references in an attempt to infer such.

The verb "ἔδωκεν" (= has given) is Aorist Indicative Active - 3rd Person Singular. The aorist tense means we must proceed with caution because it does not necessarily imply a completed act (as the English often implies.)

As with Perry Webb's previous question on this topic, let me restate that I firmly believe in the divinity of Christ, but agreeing with the caution of Paul (1 Cor 4:6) not to go beyond what the Bible actually says, let us examine other parallel passages.

  • "All Things" cannot mean that Jesus was then (1st century) victor over all the enemies of God as Heb 10:13 and 1 Cor 15:25 imply that is still future
  • It might mean that Jesus was now head of the "church" (Eph 1:22)
  • Even Phil 2:9-11 says that the point when "every knee will bow" was, then, still future and is obviously still not yet true.
  • It probably (at least) includes Jesus later statement that same night that He "had overcome the world" (John 16:33) - spoken before Jesus was executed as though victory was certain while not yet (then) in hand.

In my view, this final reference, a common theme in the NT is the key. Jesus had been placed in charge of "all things" as all enemies would be placed under His feet. This "now but not yet" tension that runs through the NT is displayed here. Only Jesus will rule over "all things" in an uncategorical sense meaning absolutely all things.

However, I am not so sure that this is an evidence of Jesus' divinity as others are given similar gifts by the Father (Rev 3:21).

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  • I'm not sure who the Good New Bible got this translation. Maybe they thought "authority" was too advanced a word: "Jesus knew that the Father had given him complete power; he knew that he had come from God and was going to God." American Bible Society. (1992). The Holy Bible: The Good news Translation (2nd ed., Jn 13:3). New York: American Bible Society.
    – Perry Webb
    Feb 25 '19 at 21:22
  • That would be a connection to Matthew 28:18 except GNB/TEV uses "authority" there.
    – Perry Webb
    Feb 25 '19 at 21:27
  • This statement is also important: πάντα ὅσα ἔχει ὁ πατὴρ ἐμά ἐστιν· διὰ τοῦτο εἶπον ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ ἐμοῦ λαμβάνει καὶ ἀναγγελεῖ ὑμῖν. Nestle, E., Nestle, E., Aland, B., Aland, K., Karavidopoulos, J., Martini, C. M., & Metzger, B. M. (1993). The Greek New Testament (27th ed., Jn 16:15). Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft.
    – Perry Webb
    Feb 26 '19 at 1:10
  • Good comment Perry Webb. However, I do not see John 16:15 is quite same light as I see v33. However, they are definitely related as another example of the promise of future things.
    – user25930
    Feb 26 '19 at 3:40
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John often writes as if 'what will be' 'already is'. The other gospels offer a more present tense message that looks forward to what will be.

For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world 3:13

and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man 5:27

Obviously this judgement would commence at a later time, but John writes as if Jesus has already supremely accomplished his mission and the next stages are already unfolding.

Jesus fully understood what his mission was under the loving and righteous hand of his Father and God. He understood the glory that would be his and how he would glorify the Father when he succeeded the final test. He knew that he would be given great authority and nothing would be left outside of his domain.

The 'all things' are that prize of doing the Father's will against all power to draw him into sin. No doubt, this buoyed Jesus as he faced every temptation and bowed to the Father's will on every occasion - even if he did waver at the final hours before a terrifying death.

This is nothing to do with Jesus being God. If he was God, he wouldn't need to 'inherit all things' as they were already his!

Heb 1:2 ‘in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world’ (no, he didn't make the world, it should be 'ages'. Just as he wasn't 'returning' to the Father, as he was never IN 'heaven' to begin with)

That he was 'appointed' heir, speaks volumes of his subordinate relationship with God, as do many other texts that how Jesus is certainly not = with the Father/God.

Got to watch out for all those added/mistranslated words

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Suppose someone has a large dilapidated house [fallen universe] and they are infinitely powerful and able. They could spend months employing master craftsmen to renew it or even have the satisfaction of doing it themselves. If all things are in their hands then that and every other choice is theirs. They could make a gradually unfolding story or they could complete the New Heavens and the New Earth instantaneously, being out of time they see the completed whole either way. The Father sent the Son into time, 1000,s of years after Adam and Eve walked this earth because of God's timing.

God does whatever He wills including timing. All things in His hands means that He has a holy motive behind everything that happens. When His story requires obedience or disobedience He gives or withholds grace to make it happen.

If God chooses to let it look as if the Devil is getting away with things then, if that is the story God is constructing, if the story line is His alone then all things are in His hands.

If God lets it look for 7000 years as if the Devil was autonomous because that suits His story line, and, if the final acts recorded in the last four chapters of the Bible have not happened but will happen because it is His choice that they happen then all things are in His hands absolutely, not partially.

For me all things are in His hands but God appears to delight in making it appear that the opposite is true. Thus giving the opportunity for His promises and the faith He gives us to be proved against appearances.

This is a brief overview of how a Christian hard-determinist might see "all things in His hand".

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