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"..Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him". John 17:1-2 ESV

"And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophecy". Acts 2:17 ESV

These two scriptures give the phrase "all flesh" different contexts.

Do these contexts alter its meaning, or, does it retain the same meaning in both of them?

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  • I would suggest that this is a matter of headship. Headship of Adam over all his progeny. Headship of Christ over all his progeny. Comment only not an answer.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 11 at 18:59
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The phrase in both Acts 2:17 and John 17:2 is identical except for the word order, which makes no difference here. πάσης σαρκός (pases sarkos) = all flesh.

The matter at hand is to decide what πᾶς (pass) = "all" includes, as the maning in the Greek is rarely universal but actually means, "all" in the implied class of objects, see BDAG. For example:

  • Matt 1:17 - "all generations" are the generations from Abraham to David
  • Matt 2:3 - "all Jerusalem" means all the people in Jerusalem who knew about magi, etc.

In the case of John 17:2 -

For You granted Him authority over all flesh, so that He may give eternal life to all those You have given Him.

Jesus has authority universally, so "all flesh" is clearly universal in this case. However, in Acts 2:7 we have -

‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.

This is far from universal because the implied class of people is the people of Israel, spiritual Israel here (Rom 9:5-8), that is, Christians living in the "last days". That is, Acts 2:7 (quoting Joel 2:28-32) is a prophecy that God's Spirit will be given to all Christians.

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ESV Acts 2:

17 And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.

Did God pour out his Spirit on horses, snails, and such in the days of Acts? No. They had whatever spirit that they had before. This is hyperbole. NIV:

17“ ‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.

Let's restrict the translation to "people" instead of "flesh". Now the question became
Does "all people" in John 17:2 mean the same as "all people" in Acts 2:17?

In Acts 2, they were living in the last days but not every young man was seeing visions.
Even with this restriction, the phrase "all people" is still a hyperbole.

What does "all people" mean?

To me, it means certain Jewish and Gentile people.

On the other hand, John 17:

2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.

Here it literally means all people, Jews and Gentiles.

Do these contexts alter its meaning, or, does it retain the same meaning in both of them?

The contexts alter the meanings. Act 2 is hyperbole while John 17 is literal. However, both emphasize Jews and Gentiles.

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  • John 17:2 "authority over all people" I associate with Matthew 28:18 "All authority". i.e. not certain people but literally all.
    – C. Stroud
    Oct 11 at 17:16
  • Right. I changed the answer. Thanks :)
    – Tony Chan
    Oct 11 at 17:24
  • A very rare down-vote. Just saying 'hyperbole' when you wish to restrict something is really not good enough, sir.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 11 at 19:01

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