Jesus accuses the Pharisees that if they believed Moses, they wold have believed him as Moses wrote about him in John 5:46-47

46For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. 47But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

Jesus also accuses the Pharisees that they are children of the devil in John 8:44

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

If the Pharisees said to Jesus "okay, you were able to persuade us, and we believe that you are the Messiah", then what would have happened? Who would have killed Jesus? His mission would not have been accomplished.

So, from one hand, the Pharisees must not believe in Jesus in order to get him killed, on the other hand he is accusing them that they didn't believe in him. And as they didn't repent, it is logical to assume that they were sent to hell.

Isn't this a violation of the free will of the Pharisees from God's side? Seems that the Pharisees never had a chance to believe in Jesus, as this would have failed Jesus's mission.

  • 1
    Question was edited, thank you for the suggestion!
    – CuriousGuy
    Commented May 3, 2023 at 23:51
  • @CuriousGuy "free will of Pharisees". You assume free will exists and as you did not define it you assume that we all know what it is. "Choose you this day" Joshua 24:15.. We choose. We are free to express our choices. But what do we base our choices on? We base them on who we are. But we do not choose who we are. Who we are depends upon our nature and nature which we do not choose. Children are not responsible for how, when and that they come into the world. Being born is up to those who parent us. inc' being born again coming from God our Father.
    – C. Stroud
    Commented May 4, 2023 at 16:50
  • what is the basis for believing that Jesus is speaking to "the Pharisees" in John 8:44? In fact he seems to be addressing "those Jews who believed in him" (8:31) but who objected to his seeming to call them slaves. Commented May 5, 2023 at 15:31

4 Answers 4


The OP asks a very theoretical question about what might have happened if history were different. Such questions are unanswerable - God's complete fore-knowledge was aware that men's sinfulness would drive them and their spiritual blindness to kill Jesus.

John 9:39-41 - Then Jesus declared, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind may see and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard this, and they asked Him, “Are we blind too?” “If you were blind,” Jesus replied, “you would not be guilty of sin. But since you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”

This perfectly illustrates the point Paul makes in Rom 3:10-18 that men's sin blinds them to spiritual realities despite the urgings of the Holy Spirit (John 16:1-14).

  • Rom 3:11 - There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.
  • Acts 7:51 - You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, also do you.
  • 1 Thess 5:19 - Do not quench the Spirit.
  • Eph 4:30 - And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Thus, while God wants all to be saved, some deliberately resist the Holy Spirit's promptings and commit great evil. There are many places where this is taught, see appendix below.

Thus, God did not force anyone to sin - that was always a personal choice of the people concerned. God knew that a tide of sinfulness would crucify Jesus because that is the baleful result of sin.

APPENDIX - God's will can and is resisted by some evil people

  • Matt 6:10 – “God’s will be done on earth”; we know this often not the case. See also Luke 11:2.
  • Matt 18:14 – “In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.” However, we know that some will perish because all grow up to be sinners.
  • Mark 3:35 – “For whoever does the will of God is My brother and sister and mother.”” This means that many do not do the will of God.
  • John 7:17 – “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.” This specifically allows for our wills to be different from God’s will.
  • Eph 5:17 – “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” That is, many do not do the will of God.
  • 1 Thess 4:3 – “For it is God’s will that you should be holy: You must abstain from sexual immorality”. However, we know that many do not.
  • 1 Peter 2:15 – “ For it is God’s will that you should be holy: You must abstain from sexual immorality;” Again, this is not always the case.
  • 1 Peter 4:2 – “Consequently, he does not live out his remaining time on earth for human passions, but for the will of God.” That is, we have a choice as to whether we follow human will/passions or God’s will.
  • 1 John 2:17 – “The world is passing away, along with its desires; but whoever does the will of God remains forever.” That is, we choose whether to do God’s will or not.

Why only Pharisees? Not only Pharisees - and not all Pharisees for that matter desired and affected the murder of Christ, but also Sadducees, also ordinary Jewish people (a part of them) both poor and rich, also Romans of different ethnicities, why to reduce all of them to Pharisees?

As to the question about the Lord’s mission, - it was to save mankind and had mankind en masse believed in Him, He, in principle, would have gladly saved mankind without being crucified to be sure.

Take an analogy: if the entire class is cheat and plagiarized at all exams, then a decent, conscientious guy coming to this class with a mission to teach his classmates decency, will know that he will be beaten up and made a cripple by those goons and scoundrels, but also that his loss of health and embracing courageously unhappiness for the sake of truth, will inspire many students and attract them to a decency and non-plagiarism.

Of course such a student would be happy to know that his sacrifice is not necessary because the pupils are attracted by his words alone, but he also knows almost certainly that this is highly improbable at this level of depravity of other classmates.

The same with the Lord Jesus Christ: He did not want His beloved nation - Pharisees and Sadducees included - to reject His Messiahship (Matthew 23:37) and would be happy to be accepted by all, yet He also knew that this virtual possibility was never to be realized due to people’s love of this transient world and its values.

Therefore no injustice is inflicted upon Pharisees and Sadducees, but they inflict depravity on their own selves by their stupid recalcitrance that leads them to the greatest murder ever committed in the history of mankind - the murder of God.


Consider two possibilities:

  • Some people were incorrigible, God knew that they would never accept his salvation, and he nudged the progress of history so that they would end up becoming this group of Pharisees at the appropriate time.
  • The Pharisees were ordinary people, not significantly worse or better than everyone else, and God chose them to be part of his plan, and either by himself or through Satan, caused them to do what they did.

Dottard's Answer covers the first case. This Question ("isn't this a violation of the free will of the Pharisees from God's side?") asks about the second case, so we'll consider that to be the actual situation.

That leaves three indisputable facts:

  • The Pharisees' actions were God's will.
  • "And as they didn't repent, it is logical to assume that they were sent to hell." — OP question
  • "The Lord is … is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." — 2 Peter 3:9

These facts seem to form a contradiction.

The key to this problem is what is meant by "sent to hell".

The OP (and most readers) will think that "hell" means the world where sinners live forever, being tortured and tormented for all eternity. But that definition of hell, as popularized in fiction by Dante's famous novel, is not the hell of the Bible.

The word "hell" is the Elizabethan English translation of the Hebrew and Greek words for "grave". "Hell" simply means the hole in the ground where dead bodies are buried. So yes, the Pharisees died and were buried (sent to hell).

As the OP says, "[It] seems that the Pharisees never had a chance to believe in Jesus.", yet we know that God is a god of love and forgiveness, and this is a problem.

But if it is a problem that the Pharisees lost their chance of salvation as a result of doing God's will, then isn't is a much worse problem that billions of other people died and went to hell without being given a chance, having never even heard the name Jesus? ("Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." — Acts 4;12)

How can the image of a loving and forgiving God, who wants all to come to repentance, be reconciled with consigning billions of people to hell, which even if it isn't Dante's horrific version, is still permanent death and non-existence?

The answer is that the grave isn't permanent. The Book of Revelation talks of two resurrections of the dead:

  1. All those that were offered salvation and accepted God's spirit during this age will rise as immortal spirits and join Jesus when he returns (1 Corinthians 15:50–). They will rule the Kingdom of God with him here on Earth for a thousand years during the Millennium.
  2. Everyone else, except for those few that were offered salvation but refused to accept God's holy spirit (the unforgivable sin). At the end of the Millennium they will be resurrected in mortal physical bodies, will live in the Kingdom, will be educated and trained in God's way of life, and will be given their first (and only) chance of salvation.

The first group will consist of a relatively small number of individuals selected by God for this purpose (God is not trying to save the world during this current age). The second group will include the vast majority of mankind that has ever lived.

The Pharisees that were used by God to implement his plan of salvation will certainly be part of this second resurrection.

So yes, it's true that "God forcefully [made] the Pharisees to not believe in Jesus", but like most people, they will eventually be given their chance of salvation, by a loving and forgiving God (unlike the sadistic psychopath that some denominations preach).

See also the "Judas" section of my related answer to Could Peter's denial be classified in the same level as the betrayal of Judas?.


Not Pharisees in John 8:31

The OP says that it is the Pharisees that Jesus accuses of being "of their father the devil." However in context, Jesus seems to address those Jews who believed in him but were confused about his characterizing them as needing to be set free:

30 Because he spoke this way, many came to believe in him. 31 Jesus then said to those Jews who believed in him, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will become free’?

Pharisees are mentioned earlier in the chapter but here it is "Jews who believed in him" but objected that they were children of Abraham, not slaves.

Some Pharisees were believers in Jesus

Also, the Gospels indicate that some of the Pharisees did believe in Jesus. One of them, Nicodemus, is named. John 3 he relates:

1 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.”

Note his use of the first person plural, "we." He was not speaking for himself alone but indicated that there were others of his party who also believed in Jesus as "a teacher who has come from God." How deeply he believed is uncertain, but he defended Jesus in the Sanhedrin (John 7:50) and also attended and helped pay for his burial (John 19:18-40). Given the context, in which the other believers in Jesus, even his chief disciple Peter, had been unwilling to publicly stand with him, Nicodemus' action as a public personage here, was significant.

38 After this, Joseph of Arimathea, secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus. And Pilate permitted it. So he came and took his body. 39 Nicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds. 40 They took the body of Jesus and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices, according to the Jewish burial custom.

Joseph of Arimathea is not named as a Pharisee, but he may indeed have been one. In any case, his supposed "fear of the Jews" points up an issue in the Gospel of John that underlies the OP's question: namely that "the Jews" and "the Pharisees" are generalizations that are sometimes not entirely accurate. That Joseph was afraid of "the Jews" seems unlikely see he himself was, like Nicodemus, a "ruler of the Jews."

John depicts "the Jews" and "the Pharisees" as opposing Jesus, but we know that all of the disciples were actually Jews themselves and that at least some of the Pharisees were believers. We don't know the actual numbers but we do see that many of them came to believe after the Resurrection, among them both Paul and those who remained "zealous for the Law." (Acts 15:5; Acts 21)

In any case, it is clear that not all of the Pharisees were unbelievers in Jesus during his lifetime. Therefore God did not generally force them as a group to disbelieve. We may be laboring under a misunderstanding if we take "the Pharisees" to mean "all of the Pharisees."

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