John 8

33They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

34Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.

Their ancestors were slaves in Egpyt. Why does Jesus not correct them?

  • I suppose that Jesus Christ's main concern was His Israelite countrymen's acceptance of His Messianic role as Lord & Saviour, and their repentance as sinners, therefore, their status as actual slaves to the Ancient Egyptians is relatively really a minor concern May 24, 2021 at 15:50
  • 1
    I don't think they were thinking in those terms, since they were primarily speaking about themselves in Jerusalem(the translation may also be affecting the interpretation).
    – user21676
    May 24, 2021 at 17:28
  • (1). Their ancestors were slaves in Egpyt. - Maybe, but they weren't. (2). Why does Jesus not correct them? - He does, though not in the way you'd expect.
    – Lucian
    May 24, 2021 at 23:44

3 Answers 3


That would sidetrack the point Jesus made that they were slaves to sin. Jesus wasn't wanting to argue. He was making a point. Jesus was expecting their response. With it Jesus captured their attention for making his point.

  • 1
    Not only that, but they seemed just as oblivious to Christ's sayings as His Own disciples. +1.
    – Xeno
    May 25, 2021 at 2:46

Just remember to pay attention to the whole context or passage instead of getting lost by one sentence. The context makes it clear, they were referring to themselves in pride & privilege by saying we are Abraham's seed. They were not referring to the whole Israelites from history. Their own generation was not living in slavery despite being under the Roman rule. They were later massacred and sold as slaves after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 BCE.

[NASB John 8:31-44] 31So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, [then] you are truly disciples of Mine; 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." 33They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, 'You will become free '?" 34Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. 35"The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36"So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. 37"I know that you are Abraham's descendants; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. 38"I speak the things which I have seen with [My] Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from [your] father." 39They answered and said to Him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you are Abraham's children, do the deeds of Abraham. 40"But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do. 41"You are doing the deeds of your father." They said to Him, "We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God." 42Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me. 43"Why do you not understand what I am saying? [It is] because you cannot hear My word. 44"You are of [your] father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own [nature], for he is a liar and the father of lies.

The corrupt Jews were very proud and arrogant on their religious heritage, being confident of themselves due to their religious ancestry, similarly to what many Christians might be today for their religious status in abandoning the true meaning and spirit of religion. This encounter with John the Baptist reveals a similar exchange.

[NASB Matt 3:7-9] 7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8"Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; 9and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.


Unlike the Zadokite High Priests, "Perushim" פְּרוּשִׁים‎ Pharisee sages descended from the sons of Matityahu HaKohen ben Yochanan מַתִּתְיָהוּ הַכֹּהֵן בֶּן יוֹחָנָן‎ whose Levitic line of Aharon passed down through יהוֹיָרִ֖יב Yehoyariv "Jehoiarib" : 1 Maccabees 2:1 > [1 Chronicles 24]. * This 1st priestly division was assigned to יהוֹיָרִ֖יב Yehoyariv "Jehoiarib" : מִבְּנֵ֥י אֶלְעָזָ֖ר "from the Sons [of] Eleazar".

The Pharisees were descendants of Levi. Levites were not slaves in 'Egypt', like the other tribes.

Understand [Exodus 5:4] 'But the king of Mitsrayim said to them, "Why, Moshe and Aharon, [do you disturb the people from their work]? Go to your own labors." ' (וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֲלֵהֶם֙ מֶ֣לֶךְ מִצְרַ֔יִם לָ֚מָּה משֶׁ֣ה וְאַֽהֲרֹ֔ן תַּפְרִ֥יעוּ אֶת־הָעָ֖ם מִמַּֽעֲשָׂ֑יו לְכ֖וּ לְסִבְלֹֽתֵיכֶֽם ) If Moshe & Aharon were slaves in Egypt, why would Paroh פַּרְעֹ֔ה allow the two Levites to speak in his court?

The Pharisees (descendants of Avraham & Levi) like Moshe & Aharon were not servants to Paroh in Mitsrayim. This is why the Pharisees in John 8:33 spoke correctly in regards to their tribe in Egypt.

  • Very interesting!
    – Dave
    May 24, 2021 at 19:21
  • 3
    What evidence do you have for these two assertions: (1) Levites were not enslaved, and (2) Pharisees were descendants were descendants of Levi? Moses and Aaron were simply leaders - Moses had come from outside the country!
    – Dottard
    May 24, 2021 at 21:46
  • I subscribe to Dottard's Question & Criticism :) (It is easy to get caught in one's own riddles ...) May 25, 2021 at 11:11
  • @Dottard - See update for validation of Perushim Sages' Levitic ancestry to Aharon through Eleazar's descendants. May 25, 2021 at 13:39
  • Except that Saul/Paul said of himself: (Phil 3:5) circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; This contradicts your claim.
    – Dottard
    May 25, 2021 at 20:59