Is the Gospel of John Anti-Semitic?

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15th May, 2018 Day 135

John 8:31-59

Is the Gospel of John Anti-Semitic

The Gospels are filled with Jesus’ battle of words and deeds with Jewish leaders. Liberal commentators argue that today’s reading is the climax of antisemitism and must have been written later when battles between Jews and Christians were hotter and the gospel was edited to demonise Jews in general. Demonising Jews in general is anti-Semitic, but that is not at all what John is doing.

In v. 47 Jesus in effect accuses the Jewish religious leaders of being children of the devil. But Jesus was a Jew, reaching out to Jews first and so most of His interactions recorded in the Gospels were with Jewish religious leaders who were rejecting Him. Of course the Jewish Scriptures, our Old Testament, are full of stories of the earlier  Jewish people also rejecting God.

If Jesus was reaching out to Muslims, Buddhists, or Moonies there would have been similar reactions. The Gospel is not being anti-Semitic. Jesus is dealing with sinful nature, which is common to all ethnicities and backgrounds.

There are three self-justifications being used here, that would be common to anyone opposing Jesus whatever their race or religious background, then and now.

Ethnic Justification, v. 33

“We are a children of Abraham.” Jesus points out that if that was true they would act like Abraham’s children, but they weren’t. We might say ‘I was born in Britain, a Christian country. I’m a Christian.’

Jesus is teaching that true Judaism isn’t a bloodline, it’s faith and obedience v. 39-40. Paul echoes that in Rom 9:6-8

Religious Justification v. 41-42

Next they argue, ‘We have one Father — even God.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here’.

First they tried their ethnic connection with Abraham to justify themselves. Now they go for their religion, their God. “We are the children of God!” they said. And Jesus says (just like Paul in Romans 9:8), “No, you aren't. You need to be set free from slavery to sin like anyone else” (v. 34, paraphrased). The sinful nature and slavery to sin is common to all men and women of whatever nationality.

Lastly they go for Moral Justification v. 41

“We were not born of sexual immorality.” Why did they bring that up? No-one had accused them of that. They were mocking Jesus by  accusing Him of being born of adultery – “Look Jesus, we are not bastards. If anyone is enslaved it is you.” His mother was pregnant before marriage and that gives them moral superiority. So they think!

No self-justification works – not ethnic justification, not religious justification and not moral justification. Being born in the UK (or insert any other country) doesn’t save you, going to church doesn’t make you a Christian (just as going to MacDonalds doesn’t make you a hamburger) and being a good person won’t get you to heaven either.

You are/were a slave to sin. If that’s present tense still, come to Jesus so He can set you free and make you a son, living in the light.

Andy Moyle






Andy planted the Gateway Church in Sept 2007. He and Janet love to gather different nations together to grow in Christ while eating good food! He also helps to shape and serve a couple of Relational Mission's church plants in mainland Europe. Andy and Janet run regularly, largely to offset the hospitality eating! He also runs a popular WordPress plugin Church Admin