John 5:37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form

But then we have the following incidences:

Matthew 3:7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?

16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Matthew 17:5 a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified.

How should we interpret John 5:37?

  • 1
    See also John 1:18, 6:46, and 14:7-9.
    – Lucian
    Jul 25, 2020 at 18:06

3 Answers 3


Your first verse, John 5:37, Jesus is talking to the Pharisees. And he often lamented that they don’t hear - because they can’t!

MAT 13:13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.

MAT 13:15 For this people's heart is waxed gross, and [their] ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed

However your second verse, MAT 7:5 Jesus is talking to his disciples, whose ‘heart’ was towards him.

And, as for ‘no man has ever seen God’, God was only ever ‘seen’, or ‘heard’ through someone, or something representing him (“representation’ is a very Hebraic feature - and needs understanding!). Gods representative being Jesus, or ‘thunder’, or a ‘cloud’ (Shekinah Glory.)

  • My thought was the same when I first saw the question. I had it in mind to answer but you have done it already. I am not so sure about the last paragraph, however. I reserve judgment on that. +1 for the first four paragraphs.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 25, 2020 at 20:32
  • Not so much in defence, but for consideration - John 14:9 ... [Snip] * he who has seen me has seen the Father. * Understanding how [early] Hebrews ‘saw’ Representation is is at the least fascinating, and can help understanding. A unique ‘Hebrew’ literary technique to get to grips with. So, for example, in the Old Testament, if [say] a prophet ‘slew’ someone, it was assumed that God ordained it, so if then if a scribe penned that event, they would write it as if God slew that person.
    – Dave
    Jul 26, 2020 at 0:29
  • To me, that is a tenuous way to read scripture. I read what is before me, knowing that God, the Holy Spirit, breathed the words on to the page (through chosen vessels). Fishermen wrote these words, Peter and John. They weren't literary academics. They hauled nets for a living. But God breathed words through them. Nor am I a literary expert. These words are for everyone. These words are for faith to lay hold upon. God hath hidden these things from the wise and the prudent. He reveals them unto babes.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 26, 2020 at 0:45
  • 1
    Yes, totally agree, all scripture is inspired - but, for example, who did Moses write to? Who was Torah for? Jews? his people? or us westerners? Each have different interpretations. Whose right? But, we are entering a minefield .... so I’ll stop
    – Dave
    Jul 26, 2020 at 2:26

In Barne's Notes, commenting on John 5:37:

Ye have neither heard his voice - This difficult passage has been interpreted in various ways. The main design of it seems to be clear - to reprove the Jews for not believing the evidence that he was the Messiah. In doing this he says that they were indisposed to listen to the testimony of God. He affirmed that God had given sufficient evidence of his divine mission, but they had disregarded it. The first thing that he notices is that they had not heard his voice. The word "hear," in this place, is to be understood in the sense of "obey" or listen to. See the notes at John 5:25. The voice of God means his commands or his declarations, however made; and the Saviour said that it had been the "characteristic" of the Jews that they had not listened to the voice or command of God. As this had been their general characteristic, it was not wonderful that they disregarded now his testimony in regard to the Messiah. The voice of God had been literally heard on the mount. See Deuteronomy 4:12; "Ye heard the voice of the words."

(italics mine)

  • I don't think the passage can be read without reasoning what he said they had not heard with what he said they had not seen, which suggests something of the ultimate message in the Gospel not found in the law, though it were prophesied.
    – user21676
    Jul 26, 2020 at 3:24

This passage, John 5:37, is made more difficult to understand than it should be. Note carefully what Jesus is actually saying:

  • "The Father HAS witnessed about me" (John 5:37a). Therefore, Jesus is not saying that God has not spoken.
  • "You have never heard His voice" must be understood as per Jesus' remarks in Matt 13:13, "This is why I speak to them in parables: "Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand." See also V14 and V 16, "ears that hear", ie, do not ignore what is heard. See also Mark 4:11, Luke 8:10.

Thus, Jesus was NOT literally saying that God's voice had not been heard because it clearly had. Jesus was saying that when God had spoken, eg, literally and in the OT, the people had ignored that message and thus and never really heard/listened to the voice of God.

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