In the Gospel of John there are conflicting descriptions of the Jews. For example: How can Jews be both the children of the devil (John 8:44) and provide salvation (John 4:22)?:

[Jhn 8:44 ASV] (44) Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father it is your will to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and standeth not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father thereof.

[Jhn 4:22 ASV] (22) Ye worship that which ye know not: we worship that which we know; for salvation is from the Jews.

  • I don’t know if this is significant but the only ones he said were children of the devil were the Pharisees. – Nihil Sine Deo Jul 10 '19 at 13:54
  • The scope of the sayings are relevant. – Decrypted Jul 11 '19 at 2:02

"Salvation is from the Jews" doesn't mean that Jews give salvation to everyone. The word "from" (εκ) here is used in the sense that salvation arises from among Jews, and not the Samaritans, of which this woman He was speaking with was.

And it's obvious in context that the unbelieving from among Christ's fellow Jews being called sons of the devil refers to their enmity with God and amity with the devil by said unbelief, not to what it is to be a Jew so that it precludes salvation arising from one (Christ).

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  • 2
    Well done - and succinct. +1. – user25930 May 12 '19 at 22:10

What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much in every way! Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. Romans 3:1 and 2 KJV.

God had chosen a people, in Abraham. He gave them a law. He demonstrated, in artefact and ritual, the testament yet to come (the New Testament in the blood of Christ) in a covenant made with the children of Isra-el.

Of the Jews, came Christ, himself.

Salvation, indeed, is of the Jews. And to a Samaritan, which people departed from the accuracy of that divinely given covenant (and therefore erred in understanding the New Testament) Jesus says :

Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. John 4:22 KJV.

But of those Jews who did not receive the first covenant in a way of faith (seeing through it to the New Testament) Paul says :

For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? Romans 3:3 KJV

For not all of Israel are the true Israel of God.

Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Romans 9:6 KJV.

And to those who, though rulers among the people, withstood John the Baptist's ministry of repentance and then further withstood Jesus' ministry, even to the point of (at the time of the quotation) plotting to murder him, he says :

Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. John 8:44 KJV.

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In John 8:44, Jesus is not speaking to or of all Jews in general, but specifically to the Jews that had believed in Him (8:31; RSV, ESV). The Greek word used here is πεπιστευκότας (pipisteukotas), the perfect participle of the verb πιστεύω (pisteuō) - believe (or, equivalently, have faith in; there is no distinction in Greek).

Verse 31 is in contrast to verse 30:

So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.” As he spoke thus, many believed in him (John 8:28-30).

One modern commentary explains here:

In the two verses 30 and 31, in which forms of pistevō, "believe," are found (the first, epistevsan, aorist, and the second, pepistevkotas, perfect participle), "believed" is the translation of both in the KJV.1 . There seems to be, however, a subtle difference between them. The first, being an aorist or past, has to do with the Jews initial reaction to the Lord's words. The second, being a perfect participle, might better be rendered as "had believed," hinting at a waver in their belief. This conclusion is supported by the dialogue in the verses that follow, 33-392

They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham, and have never been in bondage to any one. How is it that you say, ‘You will be made free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not continue in the house for ever; the son continues for ever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me, because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do what Abraham did

This chastisement continues through verse 44.

So here the sequence was that there were some Jews that believed in him (v.30); Jesus, however knew that their hearts had turned to doubting and sought to bring them back (v. 31); those particular Jews took offense at Jesus' claim that He could make them free (v.32), not understanding that he was speaking spiritually and not carnally (v.33-36); and so forth. As the aforementioned commentary explains:

Those Jews who had some inclination to believe on the Lord because of His words, have now been offended at the intimation that they have need of being set free. In their mind, fleshly descent from Abraham guaranteed their freedom, at least of spirit, in spite of their physical enslavements of the past. What they have not understood is that their slavery was spiritual, because they had become servants of sin.3

Augustine comments here:

And now what answer did they give Him? For they began somewhat to realize that the Lord was not speaking of carnal generation, but of their manner of life. And because it is the custom of the Scriptures, which they read, to call it, in a spiritual sense, fornication, when the soul is, as it were, prostituted by subjection to many false gods, they made this reply: Then said they to Him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. Abraham has now lost his importance. For they were repulsed as they ought to have been by the truth-speaking mouth; because such was Abraham, whose deeds they failed to imitate, and yet gloried in his lineage. And they altered their reply, saying, I believe, with themselves, As often as we name Abraham, he goes on to say to us, Why do ye not imitate him in whose lineage ye glory? Such a man, so holy, just, and guileless, we cannot imitate. Let us call God our Father, and see what he will say to us.4

1. As he spake these words, many believed on him. Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed.
2. Dmitry Royster, The Holy Gospel According to Saint John: A Pastoral Commentary (St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2015), p.233-34.
3. Ibid., p.235
4. Tractate XLII, Homilies on the Gospel of John

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Jesus cannot be meaning "all Jews" when he speaks of "Jews" in these quotes, because Jesus was himself both Jewish and not a "child of the devil", neither was he claiming that each one of his Jewish believers were diabolically born in nature.

So he is speaking non-literally and/or non-specifically in your first quote - either that some specific Jews (but not all) are literally "children of the devil", or that some (but not all) Jews are poor or bad in their behaviour/faith/belief and the phrase is used for emphasis/effect rather than literality.

This doesn't conflict with your second quote, which asserts that salvation arises from within the Jewish people (which has at least two plain readings) - because that is the People to whom God revealed the divine presence and some of his nature, or because that is the People from whom and within whom Jesus was born on earth.

It is a truism that in principle, Judaism - even in Roman times - demands higher standards and sets more demands on its own people (many laws) than on others (just 7 Noachic laws). We see that Jesus was consistently far more critical and much harsher towards those given laws who breached them (e.g. money changers and hypocrites) than those not directly shown such laws (non Jewish peoples). In that context, a harsh condemnation of the lack of required conduct/belief and hypocrisy by some in the Jewish community, especially those in authority who should lead by example, is indeed expected, and should not surprise us. They are led astray, which is one way that the expression "child of <whatever>" is used in those times. (Interestingly we still use the expressions such as "Sister of Mercy" or "son of a bitch" even in modern times in a similar way, to emphatically describe others' conduct as a relationship to some principle - mercy, godliness, or subhumanity). But being led astray and acting poorly without faith and belief, does not mean that salvation cannot arise there, and take root, as shown by Jesus himself and many of those who followed Him.

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It is necessary to remember that the English “Jew” is of late innovation, from French, and subject to imprecision. The Greek Ioudaios means “Judean”, and historically, the descendants of those who returned from Babylonian exile: of Judah, Benjamin,and Levites. The idea of “10 lost tribes” militates against the idea that Ioudaios refers to all Jacob’s descendants. (I will here detain my fingers from creeping the OP’s query.)

Wiki Jew describes fairly well the issue I raise. This article from a modern Jewish perspective also gives us reason to ponder "Jew". Did Jesus say, rather, that "Salvation is of the Judeans"? Here in the past few days, we have politician saying that Jesus was not a Jew but a "Palestinian", introducing two anachronistic terms at once! I've noticed anti-Jewish "christian" websites will sometimes offer articles along the same lines, that "Jesus was not a Jew", based very loosely on the problem of the inventive, and late, English word "Jew". The topic should be treated more seriously than many commenters have done. It is akin, though maybe less serious, than the error of translating YHWH as "the Lord/LORD" in English translations, in deference to the Masoretes and Pharisees who REJECTED the Lord Jesus to begin with!

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  • I think you are on the right track with the referent of Judean but you seem to be more exploring the issue than coming to a conclusion. Am I correct about that? – Ruminator Jul 10 '19 at 13:11
  • Yes. My original post lacked supporting info and I wanted to provide that. It is a big topic. – Richard7 Jul 12 '19 at 15:59

In John 4 Jesus is speaking with a Samaritan woman so it appears that he's distinguishing her ethnic, northern tribe, northern kingdom, northern temple, northern capital from the Judeans, ethnically Jewish, southern tribes, southern kingdom, southern capital, southern temple, etc.. Jesus unapologetically sides with the Judeans because the northern kingdoms were not in covenant and their temple was not authorized by God.

[Jhn 4:22 ASV] Ye worship that which ye know not: we worship that which we know; for salvation is from the Jews.

In John 8 Jesus is speaking with the Judean leaders. Jesus compares them to Cain who in tradition is the spawn of Satan:

Rabbinical Literature: ...Cain was also viewed as a type of utter perverseness, an offspring of Satan (Pirḳe R. El. xxi.), "a son of wrath" (Apoc. Mosis, 3), a lawless rebel who said, "There is neither a divine judgment nor a judge" (Midr. Leḳaḥ Ṭob and Targ. Yer. to Gen. iv. 8), whose words of repentance were insincere (Sanh. 101b; Tan.), whose fleeing from God was a denial of His omnipresence (Gen. R. xxii.), and whose punishment was of an extraordinary character: for every hundred years of the seven hundred years he was to live was to inflict another punishment upon him; and all his generations must be exterminated (Test. Patr., Benjamin, 7, according to Gen. iv. 24; Enoch, xxii, 7). For him and his race shall ever be "the desire of the spirit of sin" (Gen. R. xx., after Gen. iv. 7). He is the first of those who have no share in the world to come (Ab. R. N. xli., ed. Schechter, p. 133).

[Jhn 8:44 ASV] Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father it is your will to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and standeth not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father thereof.

Cain was a murderer and lied by denying that he knew his brother's whereabouts. I don't know that he was suggesting physical lineage but rather who they served.

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Because there are righteous and unrighteous Jews. When Jesus says that salvation is of the Jews he means the righteous among the Jews. The Jews that Jesus is speaking about in John 8:44 weren't righteous Jews.

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