During the trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin:

John 18:19 [NIV] ~ Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. 20 “I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. 21 Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.”

The word for "secret" here is κρυπτῷ, from Strong's 2927, usage:

hidden, secret; as subst: the hidden (secret) things (parts), the inward nature (character) (see here)

Clearly Jesus did teach often in the synagogue and in the temple, public places. But at first glance it seems that Jesus did teach in more private (secretive?) ways as well, such as:

  • The Mount of Transfiguration
  • The lengthy discourse to His closest associates (just completed) from John chapters 13-17
  • Private instruction to the apostles on other occasions (e.g. when they ask Him to explain a sermon)
  • The layered meanings of parables, as discussed in this related question: In John 18:20 is Jesus' defense disingenuous?

What is meant here by secret? Is Jesus saying:

  • He never taught in private settings? OR
  • His teachings in private were the same as those in public? OR
  • His meaning (regardless of setting) was plain?
  • Unlike the hypocritical Pharisees, He was not a two-faced person, teaching in private the opposite of what He preached in public.
    – Lucian
    Commented May 9, 2021 at 10:54

2 Answers 2


He means that He taught all those things, for which He is now held answerable before the Sanhedrin as a blasphemer, openly. What are those things? That He is the promised Messiah (Luke 4:21); that He is Savior of not only Jews, but the world (John 12:47; Matthew 28:19); that He has the same dignity and authority as God the Father (John 5:23), for He is His unique Son (John 3:16), to the effect that He can act miracles on His own authority (Luke 11:19) and forgive sins likewise (Matthew 9:5); - all those things Jesus Christ did and said openly. Thus, in the “everything” of His response to the high priest He implies “everything that is of interest to you, o high priest, in the framework of your present forensic questioning”.

  • Another superb and succinct answer - many thanks. +1.
    – Dottard
    Commented May 8, 2021 at 23:10
  • @Dottard Thanks! Commented May 9, 2021 at 4:39

Jesus was making a distinction between himself and the false messiahs who were politically subversive wanting to drive the Romans out of Judah. He taught openly in the Temple, where Roman soldiers watched his every move.

The temple area is about thirty-five acres. At that time, around three sides of that large enclosure there was a long, covered walkway. The best English word we have for this is cloister. Connected to this walkway on the north end of the temple area, Herod the Great had constructed a large military fort. He knew that civil unrest often began in the temple enclosure, so he insured that there was access from the fort both to the temple area and to the roof of this covered walkway. Josephus, a Jewish historian of the first century, records that during feast days Roman soldiers would patrol along that walkway and through the crowds, keeping a sharp eye out for any unrest. He wrote, “a Roman legion went several ways among the cloisters, with their arms, on the Jewish festivals, in order to watch the people, that they might not there attempt to make any innovations.” The entire scene unfolding around Jesus was under Roman observation, and everyone was conscious of this armed military presence. -- Bailey, K. E. (2008). Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels (pp. 232–233). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.

Jesus had no secret plans to overthrow Roman occupation. Their reason for arresting Jesus was for what he taught out in the open in the temple area. What he taught in the temple was what they questioned him about. So, he asked why they weren't asking the people who heard. In a sense he questioned their arresting him at night in secret because they feared the people who were his witnesses.

  • Good comparison vs false Messiahs, thanks! Commented May 8, 2021 at 20:12

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