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John 12:32.. Jesus speaking here obviously, "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” (NASB)

Who or what are the referents for the "All" in this passage and what is the rationale/evidence behind that opinion?

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The word in the Greek for all here is πάντας (pantas) whose root is πᾶς (pas).

Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words says of πᾶς:

When used without the articles, it means, "every kind or variety." When used with the article, it means "whole or the totality of persons or things referred to."

Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament (Friberg) says:

without the article...with distributive significance, denoting each individual in a class

The word "all" in the verse has no article so it means "all kinds of men", so it isn't talking about every single man (universalism), it just denotes a broad spectrum.

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Good question! Most English translations take παντας as "all men," or "all people" simply because παντας is an adjective functioning substantively, and it makes sense to render it that way in English. Usually when we have a substantival adjective we want to look for an antecedent noun, but in this case there is no easily identifiable antecedent. Our theological choices might be 1) people, 2) elect/believers, or 3) things. The answer will depend on what Jesus means by "draw" (ἑλκύσω). The verb ἕλκω is used six times in the GNT, with five of those instances occurring in John and four of them having very physical meanings (e.g John 18:10, 21:6). Many times people try to conflate this instance of draw with John 6:44- "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him." There isn't a strong argument for that textually, however. I think a better argument is found in the comparison between Jesus reference to being lifted up from the earth here and his description of himself as the snake lifted up on the pole in John 3:14. Just as the snake was lifted up and all who looked to it were healed, so Jesus will be lifted up and all who look to him will be healed. This is the drawing. It is an effectual drawing which accomplishes that which the Son was sent to accomplish, one which glorifies the Father (12:28) by bringing many sons to glory.

That's a short answer.

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  • Thank you. Interesting answer. This is one of the verses often used as a proof of a sort of resistible prevenient grace that will visit all men. This "Drawing" grace that touches all men who can then choose to respond to that grace and the salvation offer behind it.. – Mike Walsh Nov 19 '13 at 14:19
  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange! This is a great answer, thanks! – Dan Dec 11 '13 at 1:18
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The previous verse talks about the imminent judgment of the world. Therefore, in this context, "all" in verse 32 is referring to all the judgment that the world deserves. Jesus, when lifted up (like the serpent) will draw all of our deserved judgment to himself. To say that Jesus will draw all men to himself is in contradiction to the verse that states that no man can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him.(John 6:44) There is no context clue indicating that the unstated antecedent of "all" is "men."

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    Susan - great comment!! Do you know how to hyperlink the verse reference you made? If you can hyperlink your verse references, folks will be able to check the verse for personal reference. (Finally, in the future, can you tie something from the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, to help to see any possible connections?) Thanks!!! – Joseph Apr 22 '15 at 0:39
  • I'm sorry, Joseph, but I don't know how to hyperlink verse references. Can you help please? Regarding your second point, do you mean to do something other than mention the serpent being lifted in the wilderness? – Susan Apr 23 '15 at 1:13
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Using John 6:37 “All that the Father gives to Me shall come", the All does not include everyone since not all come to Christ and no one comes unless drawn or dragged to Christ. John 6:44

Using John 6:39 “And this is the will of the Father sending Me that All that He has given Me, I shall not lose any of it", God loses not one that is given to Jesus Christ.

So, therefore, since all do not come and of all that come God loses none of them, then John 12:32 cannot mean God draws all individuals but only all kinds of people. Drawing has to be effectual since God loses none that he gives to Christ. The only persons drawn to Christ are the ones given and the ones he took on payment of their sin and imputes to them his righteousness for their salvation.

The KJ3 translation uses “draw all” to myself John 12:32 All being the subset of the same “All“ “that the Father gives” in John 6:37 – John 12:32 - KJ3. “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all to myself." In other words I’m the one responsible for drawing the “All” that come to me not anyone or anything else. Salvation is of the Lord Jonah 2:9

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John 12:32 - What/Who Does the “All” refer to?

ΚΑΤΑ ΙΩΑΝΝΗΝ 12:32 1881 (WHNU)

32 καγω εαν υψωθω εκ της γης παντας ελκυσω προς εμαυτον

John 12:32 (AMP)

"32 And I, if and when I am lifted up from the earth [on the cross], will draw all people to The Myself [Gentiles, as well as Jews].”

The Greek word "pantas"( παντας) in context of the verse means "all sorts of people " and ek tis ges" (εκ της γης) "from the earth", meaning people from all nations, regardless of race or social status.

Some translations render the Greek word "pas" as "all people", this is not quite correct as it indicates that all humans will be drawn to Jesus, this however is not in harmony with the scriptures.

Matthew 7:13 (NASB)

The Narrow and Wide Gates

13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it."

2 Thessalonians 1:9 (NASB)

9 "These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power."

Matthew 25:32,41 (NASB)

32 "All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats."

41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels."

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It says all, why on earth would He not draw all to Himself? How could He being God, being Love, do otherwise? It says all because anything else would not be worthy of the God who is “All in all”.

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Has anyone considering linking John 12:32 with Lev. 4:32-35; because Jesus was called the Lamb of God who has come to take away the sins of the world. Jesus, being the sacrificial lamb, had all the sins of the world laid on Him, thus "I will draw all sins unto me" not all men. Jesus died for the sins of mankind, not for men. It was given to every man once to die and after that the judgment. We all must die a physical death, but we who believe and are born again shall never die a spiritual death for our sins because Jesus took all our sin on the cross. He who knew no sin became sin for us. When Jesus became sin, the Father turned away from Him because He could not look upon sin, and Jesus felt the total separation from God the Father for us who believe.

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  • Hey, everybody. Is my face red! I reference the wrong scripture. I didn't mean Mark 11:22, but John 12:32. I apologize for the mistake. – G. Arnold Oct 21 '16 at 19:26
  • If you make a mistake, just click "edit" underneath your post to fix it! I have fixed this verse reference for you, but next time please edit it yourself. :) – curiousdannii Oct 23 '16 at 6:59

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