5

John 6:64 (NIV) reads:

Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him.

I'm not exactly sure what Jesus means by believe here. The context is about eating the flesh and drinking the blood, yet it looks like here believe is more than simply not believing this particular saying of Jesus.

Does this mean Judas never really believed Jesus to be the Son of God?

1
  • 1
    The interpretation of one of my theology teachers was that Judas may have belonged to the zealot movement and expected Jesus to confront with the Romans if he had no other way out. This was however not in line with Jesus' teachings, thus the "do not believe." Commented May 28 at 12:20

4 Answers 4

2

Earlier in John 6:28-30

28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” 29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” 30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? (NIV)

In John's gospel, we find a deliberate selection of seven signs, two of which occurred just prior to that speech. Despite witnessing such extraordinary event of the miraculous "Feeds the Five Thousand", some people still asked for further signs (John 6:30).

Jesus convey a crucial point: it is not the signs or miracles that make one believe, rather, it is the work of God enable them. As His statement in John 6:65 emphasizes;

He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” (NIV)

Therefore when Jesus speaks of "belief", He refer to acknowledging Him as the one sent by God.

Regarding Judas, John 6:64 is evidently referred to him, the one who later betrayed Jesus. From John's perspective, Judas is one who do not believe in Jesus, nor acknowledge He was sent by God.

64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him.

Only Matthew's gospel provides an account of Judas final moments. His last words, "I have sinned, for I have betrayed innocent blood" (Matthew 27:4 NIV), encapsulate a stark admission of guilt. Yet, even in this moment of remorse, Judas still fails to recognize he has betrayed the Son of God.

1

Very likely, yes, Judas never believed in Jesus, even though he was a disciple.

Let’s give some definitions first.

A ‘disciple’ is a person who attaches himself or herself to a Rabbi for the purpose of adopting the Rabbi’s view of life. The Rabbi defines for the disciples who God is, who a human being is, how a person is to relate to other people, basically, how they are to live and how they are to think about the stuff of life. He imparts life’s wisdom. He defines ‘righteousness’.

Notice that a prerequisite of a disciple really isn’t one of ‘belief’. You’re actually there to just learn. However, a true disciple will make the commitment inherent in belief. He or she will make a commitment that then entails trust, believing what the Rabbi says even though what has been said might not be fully understood; it involves faith in that person. [Note: I’m using ‘Rabbi’ in its relationship to ‘disciple’, not to limit my view of who Christ Jesus is.]

So, ‘disciple’ and ‘faith’ are really two separate things, and yet the expectation is that the two would be combined. However, they weren’t combined for Judas.

The answer to your question is then brought to the forefront by John 6:65, which presents an interesting hermeneutical and translation challenge.

And He was saying, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” (NASB)

καὶ ἔλεγεν· Διὰ τοῦτο εἴρηκα ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐδεὶς δύναται ἐλθεῖν πρός με ἐὰν μὴ ᾖ δεδομένον αὐτῷ ἐκ τοῦ πατρός.

I basically agree with the NASB translation choices, with one notable exception. I’ll also first make a couple of comments for clarification.

The phrase, 'διὰ τοῦτο', generally means "...that fact leads to..." So, it rather strongly connects what goes after to what goes before. Jesus had just said, in verse 64, “But there are some of you who do not believe.” John’s parenthetical explanation of why he said that is inserted right after Jesus’ statement. It's for emphasis. But, as far as what Jesus was saying, verse 65 follows immediately after the first part of verse 64. This connection, between what Jesus said in verse 64 and what he says in verse 65 is strengthened by the nature of the imperfect active ἔλεγεν (he was saying). To bring this out, and to clearly communicate the force of “that fact leads to”, I’d probably translate ἔλεγεν as, “Jesus continued by saying...”

The next interesting word is ἐλθεῖν. A very common word, but the meaning strikes the English speaker as odd. It means “to come” or “to go”. NigilJ has mentioned that these types of verbs (called ‘deponent’) are reflexive in nature. It’s an unusual viewpoint, but it captures quite well how this word works. It basically means, “to move oneself”. In English, if you move yourself away, you go; if you move yourself toward, you come. In English, we don’t say, “I moved myself to the store to buy bread.” In Koine Greek, that’s what you would have said. The NASB, as well as a lot of translations, choose to translate as “to come.” Christians immediately associate “coming to Jesus” with belief. That's actually us adding meaning to the text. I don’t think that is the reference here in this sentence. But, let me explain another word that is used here first to bring further clarity to my point.

This movement is described as πρός με (toward me). But the preposition πρός has some nuance that needs considered. Jesus could have used another preposition, εἰς (towards, into) which is a more general preposition for motion towards. Danker’s Concise Lexicon defines εἰς as “cental meaning with focus on entrance, ‘into’, then freq. with direction and limit, ‘to’.” He goes on to say, “marker of extension relating to a goal or place.” So, Jesus could have easily used εἰς here to refer to movement towards him. But he used πρός. And πρός has a nuance that should be brought out here in translation.

Abbot-Smith (another lexicon) mentions that πρός can be used in situations that are “hostile or otherwise,” and points to both Luke 23:12 and John 6:52 (the later being in our immediate context). The former talks about Herod and Pilate being enemies; the later talks about the Jews arguing with each other. The idea behind this preposition is one of “movement toward a facing position” as opposed to εἰς which carries the idea of movement into. But, since it’s ‘facing’, the preposition can easily be used in both friendly and conflicting situations. We English people use the expression “they faced off” in negative situations. That can be the idea of πρός. Please note though that πρός is frequently used in positive relationships, too. John 1:1 is a very good example. But, the idea is that of “moving toward with the purpose of facing.”

So, I ask the rhetorical question: Does movement towards facing someone convey the idea of belief in someone? I think that’s an interesting question when one considers that John uses the preposition εἰς with πίστις (faith, belief, trust, commitment). That is, he uses the expression, “believe into”. That question reminds me of Jesus reply to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan."

Let’s put this altogether to answer your question.

Here’s how I would translate verse 65, noting that the movement towards is actually hostile, taking up where verse 64 leaves off:

Jesus continues by saying, “That is the reason I’ve told you that no one has the ability to come against me unless it is granted to him by the Father.”

So, Jesus ties the unbelief and betrayal of verse 64 to the fact that the Father grants such a confrontation. It couldn’t happen otherwise. I think this understanding of verse 65, especially with its strong connection to verse 64 (Διὰ τοῦτο), seals the deal on Judas never committing to Jesus in the believing sense. He was against Jesus, and the Father granted to Judas what he (ie Judas) intended. I think one can understand this as Judas continued to be committed to a view of the Messiah that the Jewish leadership had. He believed the Jewish leadership, not Jesus. That view was of a Messiah that presented militant superiority and power. Judas never committed to the view of a suffering servant. He never believed that.

Lastly, and as an aside to the topic, while I think this verse can’t be used to directly support the Reformed doctrine of Election, I think there are other texts that support the depravity and utter helplessness of the human condition, and which support a robust doctrine of the Sovereignty of God. I suggest verse 65 supports this depraved condition with the Father standing firmly in control. Here I'm just turning off certain assumptions.

1

We always have to be careful to take passages like this in context.

In the second half of Matthew 6 Jesus attempts to guide the large crowd away from “free food-ism” and the sensationalism of his miracles into understanding his message and his mission. We also have to avoid the error of eisegesis, reading later doctrines and religious practices into what Jesus did and said. However, we do need to understand the context of the culture, including how, in the time of Moses, the Israelites were fed manna from heaven.

“Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” – John 6:27 ESV

Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” – John 6:29 ESV

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” – John 6:35 ESV

What does "believe" mean in this context?

His listeners needed to (1) trust that Jesus was sent from the Father, and (2) that Jesus is the “bread of life” that “endures to eternal life.”

What did they NOT believe? Jesus gives us this clue:

Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? – John 6:62 ESV

This provides a prophetic contrast to Jesus descending from (being sent from) heaven, which is what they didn’t believe, but simply wanted free food and to see amazing miracles. Jesus goes on to say (as you pointed out)

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) – John 6:63-64 ESV

We know from history that Judas betrayed Jesus, and the writer of John tells us that Jesus knew that it would be Judas all along. Jesus also knew that many people in the massive crowds didn’t believe that he was sent from heaven by the Father and who these people were.

This is why Jesus made several horrifying statements to make it sound like he was advocating cannibalism and drinking blood. But all Jesus wanted was to get rid of the unbelievers in the crowd, which he did. He purposely hid the truth behind symbolism, allegory, and parables.

1

The answer depends on whether one looks an the immediate context or the literary context. In other words, was Jesus talking to the people of his own time (who knew nothing about the eucharist yet) or was John, the author, addressing the people of his time? A note in the NABRE explains:

These verses seem to be addressed to members of the Johannine community who found it difficult to accept the high christology reflected in the bread of life discourse.

By "high christology" the NABRE refers to such phrases as "I came down from heaven" and the idea of Jesus' pre-existence as the Word, which is synonymous with God. Jewish Christians were more comfortable with a messiah who is not God Himself and teaching (found in the synoptic gospels) that eternal life comes from such things as loving God on loving one's neighbor as oneself (Lk. 10:27). For John, sacramental union with Christ is a main emphasis of Jesus' ministry from the beginning, long before the Last Supper.

Conclusion: this did not mean that Judas never believed that Jesus was the messiah. But it does mean he never faithfully partook in the sacrament of Communion. Indeed, John's Gospel indicates that even baptism and faith in Jesus' atoning death are not sufficient for attaining eternal life. Holy Communion is a pre-requisite to salvation in John's Gospel. John used the "bread of life" discourse to drive this point home.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.