23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man [περὶ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, about humanity], for he himself knew what was in man [τί ἦν ἐν τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ, what was in humanity]. (John 2:23–25, ESV, additions enclosed in square brackets)

This precedes some were strong conflicts with Jewish leaders.

  • 1
    Yes it's definitely can refer to all men. The Israel people showed that even with the leading of God throughout their nation's history, they still have the same deceitful heart that all men have. We see a few verses later that Jesus is telling Nicodemus that they need to be born a new.
    – Sherrie
    Commented Dec 23, 2022 at 15:09
  • 1
    It will interesting to get an answer coming from somebody belonging to the Jewish faith regarding this question. Commented Dec 23, 2022 at 23:39
  • @Alex, it doesn't address this question, but you might be interested in The Jewish Gospel of John Discovering Jesus, King of All Israel < Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg Israel Study Center Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, Eli. The Jewish Gospel of John: Discovering Jesus, King of All Israel . Jewish Studies for Christians. Kindle Edition.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Dec 23, 2022 at 23:52

5 Answers 5


Of the numerous literary features that characterize the Gospel of John, two are pertinent to this question, namely

  1. There are numerous metaphors that constantly confuse the Jews but that Jesus uses to teach great spiritual; lessons - see appendix below
  2. Each "section" contains a short introduction: John 2:23-25 is a perfect introduction for which John 3:1-12 is a perfect illustration - Jesus understood humanity better than humanity does.

Therefore, the answer to the OP's question is, "Yes" - sin is a human problem (not just Jewish) and Jesus came that we might be born again/from above with a new human nature.

APPENDIX - Metaphors in the Gospel of John

  • 1:1-14 – Jesus is the “Word” (Greek: “logos” means idea or principle)
  • 1:29, 36 – Jesus is the Lamb of God (see Gen 22:8)
  • 1:51 – Jesus is the ladder between earth and heaven (Gen 28:12)
  • 2:19-21 – Jesus’ body is the temple that was to be destroyed and raised in 3 days
  • 3:3-12 – Jesus’ disciples must be born from above
  • 3:13, 14 – Jesus is the bronze serpent in the wilderness (also 8:27, 12:34 & Num 21:9)
  • 4:13, 14, 7:38 – Jesus’ message becomes a fountain/river of living water flowing out of His disciples. (See Eze 47:1-12, Rev 22:1, 2)
  • 4:32 – Jesus’ food was not of this world, ie, conversions to discipleship (recall Manna of Ex 16)
  • 4:35-38 – Jesus’ disciples must reap the “harvest” of the Gospel
  • 5:13, 14 – Our work is to labour for “manna” or “food” that endures (also, 6:27)
  • 5:35 – John the Baptist was a lamp preparing for the greater light
  • 6:35, 41, 48, 50, 51 – Jesus said, “I am the bread of life” (See Ex 16 about Manna)
  • 6:53-58 – we must eat Jesus’ flesh and drink His blood
  • 8:12 (and 1:4, 9, 12:46) – Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (see Ps 27:1, 18:28, Micah 7:8, Isa 60:19)
  • 8:38-47 – Jesus’ disciples are Abraham’s children and children of God, whereas, His enemies are children of the devil.
  • 9:39-41 – converted disciples are not blind but those who will not see are blind
  • 10:1-18 – Jesus said, “I am the good Shepherd” (v11, 14) and the disciples are sheep (see Psalm 23:1; Eze 34:11ff, Isa 40:11)
  • 10:8 – Jesus said, “I am the gate/door to the sheep”
  • 11:25 – Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and life”
  • 12:24 – Jesus compares his life to a seed that must die to produce more life
  • 14:6 – Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life”
  • 14:26 – Holy Spirit is called an advocate (Greek: “parakletos”) (see also 15:26ff)
  • 15:1-5 – Jesus said, “I am the vine and you are the branches” (see Isa 5:1ff, Jer 12:10)
  • 16:21, 22 – troubles of this life compared to child birth
  • 18:11 – Jesus’ trials likened to a “cup”
  • 21:15-17 – Jesus’ followers likened to lambs and sheep (see also 10:1-18)

John’s entire gospel account is there to tell all humanity “that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ [the Jewish Messiah], the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” (John 20:31) The Jewish people were the first to be given the privilege of having Jesus revealed to them as their expected Messiah, and John the Baptist came to prepare the Jewish people to receive Jesus as such. Many did heed John’s preparatory ministry, repented and were baptised, without which they would not see Christ as the Messiah. (John 1:15-34) That is why there was conflict between Jesus and most of the Jewish religious leaders.

They refused to acknowledge Jesus as the foretold Messiah. They wanted to be convinced by obtaining proofs that they deemed to be proof. They wanted signs from Jesus on top of the miraculous signs he kept displaying. So, there was “a Jewish problem” in that sense. The Jewish people had to be prepared to receive Jesus as Messiah. Those who were, did not have conflict with Jesus, nor he with them. But those whose hearts remained hardened to the seed of the gospel (which included some religious leaders and some ‘ordinary’ Jews) were conflicted about Jesus, and ended up rejecting him as the Messiah.

However, the verses in question do, indeed, show that there is a human problem at back of all this; it’s not “just” a Jewish problem, for all humanity is called to believe in Jesus’ name – to put faith in him, to trust what he has done as the Messiah. That is why the verses you quote do not restrict their language to “just” Jewish people.

Verse 24 shows that even though many believed in his name at that particular Passover celebration, due to seeing the miracles he did, Jesus “did not commit himself to them, because he knew all men.” All men, not just those who professed belief in him. He knew that not all of those professed believers would turn out to be trust-worthy. They might trust him (at that time) but he could never trust them, and events leading up to his crucifixion at the last Passover he celebrated proved why he was wise not to trust them. The crowds who greeted him riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, hailing him with enthusiasm, were soon screaming “Crucify him!”

Verse 25 shows that Jesus did not need the support or confirmation of any human; his authority was from above, and he exercised the divine prerogative of reading mens’ hearts and minds. When he knew at Capernaum that some of his followers were grumbling at what he’d said / taught in the synagogue, another truth he declared was, “But there are some of you that believe not.” And then we learn that “Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.” (John 6:61-64) This gives an example of what the two verses in question mean. Yet although this was about Jewish men, at that time, this is the constant problem afflicting humanity from the start of sin entering the world, to this day, incorporating people of every nation, language and tribe.

When it comes to genuine belief (faith) in the name of Jesus, compared with only outward profession based on seeing or hearing wonderful things about Jesus, the determining factor is what John 2 verse 22 says:

“When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.”

The key to believing faith that is genuine, and acceptable to Christ, is in his resurrection from the dead. Before that happened, his genuine followers took his word for that, in faith, even though they didn’t understand what he meant. Once he had risen from the grave, then they understood! But most of the Jewish religious leaders no more believed in his resurrection than they believed in his teachings and miracles. Not that such unbelief was restricted to the Jewish religious leaders; most of the Jewish populace likewise retained hardened hearts that had not been prepared to receive the Messiah by faith.


I agree that this is a human problem, and the clue is in the logic of the combination of the two statements, that men trust in Jesus and Jesus does not trust in men, taking the past tense statements as permanent truths. In short, Jesus does not reciprocate. This could be taken in two senses.

a) Men NEED to know Jesus by trust, because of our imperfect direct knowledge. As the remainder of the second sentence points out, Jesus had (and has) the direct knowledge of us that makes "knowing by trust" unnecessary.

b) There is the more depresssing option, which probably needs to be at the back of our minds, that Jesus did not (and does not) trust men because he knows us TOO well, and understands that we are untrustable. God is "faithful" (e.g. 1 John ch1 v9) in the sense of being trustable. Man is not, fundamentally.


Though the answer is "Yes", I believe John was conveying a message far more important than identified a problem. As verse 24 tells, "Jesus would not entrust himself to the people, who believed in his name by seeing the signs Jesus was performing".

John illustrated this sharply in his later account of Thomas, who at first didn't believe that Jesus was risen from dead. Jesus told Thomas;

John 20:29 - Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (NIV)

Knowing a human problem doesn't make the problem solved, to most of us, it is often a self-reconciliation, that let things settled as is. The new testament call out for faith, as Hebrews explained;

11:1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (NIV)

Back to John 2:24, Jesus did not mean He does not trust human nature, if it was, we have no hope of salvation. More correctly speaking, he does not trust those who believed in Him by seeing, or in our time, by believing what he did in the scripture. For many of them will lost their blessing in the end.

It calls for faith, that "blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed".


Yes, a human problem, but nothing about "this and not that". However, we could get "this and not necessarily that".


First, let's review some of our Greek.

The issue is about "entrusting" (ἐπίστευεν αὑτὸν / episteuen hauton from πιστεύω αὐτός / pisteuo hautos - lit. "believe himself [in them]"). "Entrust himself to them" is a very accurate translation, noting that "trust" from "entrust" is synonymous with "faith" and "belief", all from the same Greek word "πιστεύω/pisteuo". "Himself" is a reflexive pronoun in the accusative case, as we would expect for a reflexive object.


As for pericopes, the paragraph does begin in v23; the previous paragraph began in v13, the cleansing of the temple. The location and occasion is the same: Jerusalem at the Passover.

Thematic timeline

Remember this is John's Gospel, and the timeline was out of order for the sake of theme-based teaching. Traveling to Capernaeum in v12, then arriving at Jerusalem in v13 is hardly a time-driven narrative. Moreover, we didn't have such a massive following of Jesus at a Passover before he meets the woman at the well in John 4 since she was the first he revealed himself to as the Christ. So, this is a flash-forward. John is setting the previous paragraph in the same larger pericope as having a thematic relationship to this, but as part of the same "flash forward" in which occurs all of that contextual conflict of this question.

So, the question's point about previous conflicts is indeed relevant.

Jesus is still in Jerusalem at the feast of v13 in v23. So, we can consider conflict with Jewish leaders—in the very Temple itself—as not merely conflict with Jewish leaders, but the greatest conflict of all with Jewish leaders. This certainly is part of the conflict.

Jesus not entrusting himself to the masses in v23, however, has an explanation from vv24-25, so we do not need to rely solely on a contextual explanation for v23.

Yes, it's an inherent problem in humanity, even surpassing sin since Jesus knew this problem first hand while not having sin; it wasn't a problem about the immediately preceding conflict. That conflict was just part of a much larger problem.


But, the text doesn't say all of this categorically.

We can't derive the specific categorical "and not a Jewish problem" from this because John doesn't mention "the Jews" in a way for that purpose. But, we can certainly get "and not a Jewish problem specifically—nor any other specific problem for that matter—, but a human problem specifically".

Style of this statement

Moreover, we can see the context of the pericope as further reason for this broader, human problem as the main reason.

With all this conflict in the context, attentive readers will surely ask if that is the reason for v23. But, to remove all doubt, John does what he often does in his narrative and makes a direct explanation in vv23-25. He does this on a larger scale in 20:30-31 as his direct explanation for the entire book.

John 20:30-31 (NASB)

30 Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

...clearly explaining his purpose in 20:30-31 is the same type of direct statement as 2:23-25, which this question is about.

The application

The main issue here is almost a lesson by Christ's example for social media "influencers" who have the tendency to lose themselves in the limelight of fandom, as is often the case with any celebrity for that matter.

Having just cleansed the temple, this is supposedly Passion Week, just after his triumphal entry—again, John uses an out of order timeline for thematic purposes.

So, while he is quite the celebrity, he doesn't let it go to his head! After all, he himself knew first hand how humans have desires for personal ambition. While they all lauded him, he knows they will kill him a week later.

Even if we buy the "two-temple cleansing" interpretaion based on a non-synoptic Gospel, it won't change the conclusion, but seeing this as a flash-forward helps set the context even better.

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