Friday, August 31, 2007

Bad Cop…I Guess?

Perry has responded. (Acolyte4236, actually. I believe that is Perry…?)

First off, thank you for the charitable reply. If you decide to post another reply and you don’t see anything back from me, then that means that I’ll let you have the last word. I have no intention of continually exchanging 10 page Word documents.

Secondly, I am not a professional theologian, and so, you’ll have to excuse my occasional imprecision in my use of theological language.

“One reason is v. 38 which is curiously left out or relegated to some insignificant or trivial meaning.”

I didn’t relegate it. I simply assumed that those who read my post would understand that vv.37 and 38 are a unit. My purpose in explaining vv.37, 39, and 40 was to show what the will of the Father is for the Son. V.38 simply states that v.37 is the Father’s will. Yes, I know that you want to deal with the Christology in this passage. However, the focus of my exegesis of John 6 was not on Christology. Nevertheless, I shall endeavor to include v.38 in my exegesis by correcting that post.

“Secondly, given that the Trinity and Incarnation are the two core doctrines of Christianity, the hinge upon which allother doctrines turn, I can’t see what the problem is.”

Forgive me. I meant the nitty gritty aspects of the Incarnation: the two wills, the two natures, etc. I am NOT saying that Scripture doesn’t teach these things clearly. It does. What I am saying is that these things have limits upon what you can *infer* from them.

I do not have a theology degree, and my knowledge of all the ins and outs of Christology is limited. However, I believe that one can interpret the one person, two natures, and two wills in such a way as to make it fully compatible with Calvinism.

“Furthermore, it is not that the Incarnation saves “more” than the Cross but rather it is the foundation of salvation.”

I never said that it *saves* more. I said (or at least meant) that it was overemphasized so much that the cross was relegated to a small blip on the radar screen of importance in EO theology. It seems to me that EO theology of sacrifice as found in places such as Isaiah 53:4-12 and Hebrews 7-10 is extremely underdeveloped.

On the other hand, your point that I am somewhat ignorant of EO theology is well made. It makes me sick when other people misrepresent my theology, and so, I endeavor not to burn straw-men of other’s. What would be the best one-volume work on Orthodox Theology out there?

“And since unlike Protestants and Catholics, we don’t think philosophy is the handmaiden to theology our theology is quite limited.”

As a presuppositionalist, I agree that philosophy should be subordinate to Scriptural exegesis.

“(Where exactly is divine simplicity in the Bible?)”

As a Protestant, I am not dogmatically bound to divine simplicity. I believe that it is the best descriptor of what is explicitly stated and/or inferred from what Scripture says about God’s attributes. Things like divine simplicity, libertarianism, compatibilism, semi-compatibilism, etc. are all philosophical constructs used to try to describe what Scripture teaches in a more systematized form. I am not bound to any of these.

“On the contrary, I’d argue that your theological perspective gives little if any soteriological importance to the Incarnation, far less than Scripture demands.”

I beg to differ. God assumed human flesh that He might redeem humans and conform them to His image of perfect obedience (though limited to that). I agree that the incarnation was instrumental for all of salvation (and not just justification).

“Take a look at Eph 1:10 and tell me what it means and how it relates to the preceding discussion of predestination. Now how are we to make sense of predestination without Christology?”

Actually, I agree that Christ is the central figure in all of history, and the history of all the things that transpired in heaven and on earth shall climax with His return. This is the central tenet of Calvinism.

“From my perspective it certainly looks like the Incarnation is only important so Jesus can get killed as suvordinated to the Father.”

Again, see above.

“As for disputed texts. I am not sure what you mean by that except to say that we are going to differ over their meaning. But since our theological presuppositions fill in and guide our exegesis, this will be true for not just these verses but for every verse, even when we agree superficially on the meaning.”

I simply stated that they were disputed so that I wouldn’t have to give a full-length exegesis then and there. I recognize that everyone has presuppositions. However, my argument is that your interpretation cannot account for ALL the nuances of the text.

“As for circular reasoning, that doesn’t seem like the charge you wish to make. Rather I think you wish to charge such a practice with yielding an unclear meaning which rests on other unclear passages.”

My point is that if the Scripture that is used to interpret a less clear passage (and I assert that John 6 is not less clear than any others you cited) is shown to not say what you think it says, then your use of it to interpret the other “less-clear” passage fails.

“So, do you think that 1 Cor 15 teaches that all who are raised are “in Christ” or not?”

This is the same as Romans 5. Paul is relating the respective “all”s to their federal heads. Those who are “in Adam” will die (and since all are descended from Adam, they have him as their federal head). Those “in Christ” (in covenant relationship with Christ as their federal head) will be made alive. V.23 makes it clear that he speaking only of believers where it mentions Christ as first and “those who are Christ’s” as second without mentioning unbelievers.

Don’t get me wrong. Unbelievers are raised, but they aren’t in view in either John 6 or 1 Corinthians 15.

“And how about 2 Pet 2:1?”


“As for Jesus explaining the unbelief I think he is harkening back to the post-exodus experience. If so, then this means he has redeemed both believers and unbelievers.”

The analogy only goes as far as the text will allow it. I explained why in my last post. Again, v.35 makes that explicit. To *come to Christ* will satisfy their “hunger” (i.e. eating the “bread” that Christ mentioned in vv.27, 32, and 33 and the same “bread” that the crowd asks for in v.34), and to *believe in Christ* will satisfy their “thirst”. This verse has its direct reference to the “bread” mentioned above in vv.33 and 34. So, unless you are saying that all will come to Christ and believe in Him, then your interpretation isn’t going to work. Not all will eat the bread (i.e. come to and believe in Christ).

“I do think that the “all of v. 37 is limited by the scope of belief but not so with v. 39. V. 40 clarifies v. 37 by explicitly giving conditions on belief. V. 39 though indicates a corporate meaning, which I think is why there is no condition on belief there.”

All three statements (vv.37 and 38 together, v.39, and v.40) use the exact same language and structure of statement. This is especially the case with v.37 and v.39:

“All that the Father gives to me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” (v.37)

“…that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing…” (v.39)

All too easily implied:

“All that the Father gives to me…” = “…that of all that He has given Me…” (v.39)

“…I will certainly not cast out.” (v.37) = “I lose nothing…” (v.39)

They are near-identical statements. There is *no reason* to take them as having separate references.

“Moreover, v. 39 follows on the heals of v. 38 which you seem to ignore. Why I wonder?”

See above.

“And if Jesus ends up bringing his human will in conformity to the divine, connection could that have to his immediate discussion of the Resurrection?”

Again, I don’t have any official theological training, but whatever inference you can take from this is limited by the text.

“All ate there and some died. All eat here and have the fullness of life.”

See above.

“But given what we know via the analogia fide, using other Scriptures we do know that the resurrection is part of the restoration of all creation. (Romans 8, Matt 19:28) So you seem to me to treat the passage atomistically as if nothing from any other passage can illumine it.”

No, my argument is that the passage (i.e. John 6) is a specific treatment of the resurrection to eternal life and more specifically, its only cause, belief in Christ.

” And it seems odd to me that you wish to preclude me from talking about the restoration of creation in Jn 6 but then you want to talk about the covenants, when the passage says nothing explicitly about them. That doesn’t seem fair, let alone consistent.”

I never “precluded” you from saying anything. I showed that the topic of the entirety of Christ’s discussion was on the necessity of coming to and believing in Him.

“I didn’t see any demonstration that the passages are equivalent. I saw plenty of assertions to that effect but no appeal to their grammatical structure or past historical usage that would imply what you claim.”

See above.

“Now, appealing to “standard consistent exegesis” sounds a lot like “the assured results of higher criticism” to me.”

I made it clear that because of the near-identical word usage and structure of each of the three statements, there is no reason to take them as having separate references.

“So to convict me of interpreting the passage in light of my theological presuppositions is just to accuse me of being consistent. My claim is that people like White aren’t consistent with their theological presuppositions.”

Amen. My assertion is the same (just reciprocal).

“Now it is quite possible that I am mistaken, but given the fact that competent readers of the text came up with the same interpretation as I did, on similar grounds, if there is an error, it is not an obvious one, lest we convict such authors as being morons.”

I never said that they were morons. What I do assert is they had a philosophical and emotional bias against what I believe the text to teach, monergism. A philosophical one in that they read an idea imported from pagan philosophy, autezousia, into the text. An emotional one in that they think it would be unfair for God to choose some and not choose others. The standard non-Biblical criticisms of Calvinism.

“Just read some Calvinist commentaries on 2 Pet 2:1.”

Yes, they are pretty sad. Yet, the fact that most non-Calvinist interpretations don’t take into account that the term for “Lord” in that passage is not kurios but despotes. It makes a BIG difference.

“Of course if intellectual activity is what constitutes personhood, you have got a fast track to the legitimacy of abortion, which incidentally was the underlying reason why Protestants by and large considered abortion a “Catholic issue.” It is because they had an implicit adoptionist Christology, Jesus became God when he could reason.”

When you say “Protestants”, I’ll take it that you mean Baptists. I don’t know all about this, but I believe that one of the main reasons for their abortion stance had to do with their racism and a eugenic desire against African Americans. A sad and evil part of our history, but then again, every worldview has its bad points.

Again, I doubt that their Christology had *anything* to do with it, implicit or not. Perhaps you could claim that it had something to do with their view of anthropology (which in turn would affect Christology), but then, anthropology would be their starting point, not Christology.

“1 Cor. 15:22… Now are the two groups different here? Are the wicked not raised? If so, how do you explain Revelation 20? If their resurrection is not part of Christ’s work of redemption, what biblical warrant do you have for thinking it is based in something else other than Christ’s resurrection?”

I discussed 1 Cor. 15:22 above, and I’ll give a lengthier exegesis of the text at a later date. [Maybe much later due to working demands.] Whatever the basis of the resurrection of the wicked may be (and if I studied more systematic theology, I could probably tell you), the fact that Scripture explicitly teaches it (Daniel 12:2, John 5:25-29, etc.) is enough for me to believe in it.

“We are united to God via a created and contingent mental relation, Christ unites us to God, therefore Christ is created and contingent. Sola fide lays the groundwork for contemporary Arianism by virtue of Nominalism. This is why you didn’t get modern Arianism from say Thomism because the Thomists are Realists.”

I’m not a philosophical theologian, but again, I think that you are inferring too much from Christology (e.g. hidden presuppositions, assigning certain philosophical definitions to “person”, “nature”, and “will”, which end up begging the question, etc.). I believe that it is possible to synthesize orthodox Christology with Calvinism.


Universalism, as far as I know, started with Clement of Alexandria (I had said Origen earlier, but after looking it up, I was wrong) who was hardly a Calvinist, and actually, Universalists have the exact same Scriptural hermeneutic as you do. You have the same interpretation of the extent of the “all” in Romans 5:18, 1 Corinthians 5:22, 1 Timothy 4:10, 1 John 2:2, etc. Given that presupposition, they’re just more consistent in their interpretation of those verses than you are.

Also, as to Annihilationism, it has its first appearance in the Christian Church with Arnobius. Again, he wasn’t exactly a Calvinist.

“If the Fathers are not of ultimate authority in terms of applying the rule that is Scripture, why think that you are of equal stature with them?”

Because I am asserting that they had about as much inside knowledge into what the apostle meant as I: only the text of Scripture.

“I mean how does that comport with say Heb 13:7, 17?”

You’re assuming that this refers to every aspect of systematic theology instead of the basics of the faith, the kerygma.

“Jesus teaches that the church has binding authority. (Matt 18:17)”

Another eisegeted text. I’m about to do a series on how Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox apologists misuse Biblical texts. Look out for it.

“Are you telling me that if the church rejects a teaching that your acceptance of it is of equal normative value?”

Straw-man. The church is an authority, but it is not an *infallible* authority. To Augustine, tradition played a big role in his theology, but when he clearly could not reconcile it with what he saw as clearly contrary to Scripture, tradition went out the window. During the Pelagian controversy, Coelestius could cite several very highly esteemed church fathers (including Chrysostom) on his side denying that babies had Original Sin.

“You need to understand that the idea that no interpretation is infallible has serious ramifications for ecclesiology and Christology. It implies that the powers of Christ are not conveyed to his body. And that raises serious Christological (Nestorianism), if not biblical problems. (Luke 9:32, John 17:5)”

Again, inferring way too much from Christology.

“And even if the Fathers weren’t of greater authority, it doesn’t follow that one can or should dismiss them out of hand. I am not sure why in this case we should prefer modern exegetes over past ones.”

I never dismissed them out of hand. As to why I prefer modern exegetes, my reasons are found here:

“Let me ask you this. Between Christ’s two wills, is that monergism or synergism?”

First of all, Calvinism doesn’t deny that man has a will that freely responds to God (even after a Christian has been irresistably called). Secondly, I believe that you are, yet again, overextending Christology with hidden assumptions.

“I don’t have to assume that Tertullian was a recipient of apostolic tradition. To some degree he in fact was. How else do you explain his familiarity with Christianity?”

Apply this same standard to Origen and all of his theological views: catharsis, universalism, etc.

“Moreover, if the Fathers aren’t reliable guides, why trust that they designated the apostolic authorship of the gospels correctly?”

This is based on history, not Biblical interpretation. Your assuming that the apostles passed down every in and out of their systematic theology to the churches AND that it wasn’t lost or distorted by the outside influence of philosophy, language, culture, etc. That fact that X wrote Gospel according to X is simply a matter of historical record.

Tell me, did the both the Eastern and Western churches have the same soteriology? As I recall, the West seems to have developed its view from Tertullian’s Latin legal lingo, and the East seems to have developed its own path. Are they both apostolic? If one is, which one and how do we know?

“And it just seems silly to think that people like Tertullian and Ireneaus didn’t have access to things we don’t.”

I’m not saying that they didn’t have *any* inside knowledge. However, Irenaeus claimed that Jesus being a little under 50 years of age at the time of His crucifixion was an apostolic tradition handed down from the apostle John. Papias claimed that premillenialism was an apostolic tradition handed down directly from John. Obviously, oral traditions can erode and be distorted very quickly.

“As for traditions apostolic in origin, well Basil gives us plenty of examples, which the Orthodox continue to practice.”

And there are several theological items that the Orthodox practice that were *specifically* condemned by the earliest fathers such as the veneration of icons:
the practice of private penance:
the infallibility of councils:
and especially your view on the nature of Scripture which denies that it is the only *infallible* authority for the Church today. (Notice that I did not say the “only” authority but added the adjective “infallible” for a reason.): [Note: I am re-writing several of the articles on this site to get rid of a few straw-man arguments. However, I don’t believe that I will need to change much on the articles that I cited.]

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Response to Perry Robinson on John 6

The following is a response to Perry Robinson’s interpretation of John 6.

His main exegetical error is that he doesn’t recognize that vv.37, 39, and 40 are intended to be parallel statements. [See my exegesis of John 6:26-66, especially part one.]

“In another forum I argued that John 6:37ff was to be interpreted Christologically as Christ the center of the text and the key to its correct interpretation. White thinks I am mistaken. Foolish me for thinking that Jesus was the center and hermenutical key of Scriptures! (John 5:39)”

This is the problem with Orthodox theology. No, I’m not saying that interpreting the Scriptures Christologically is wrong. What is wrong with Eastern Orthodox theology is that it forms all of its doctrine from Christology and Trinitarianism. For example, according to EO, the redemption of men was accomplished more by the Incarnation, Christ being enfleshed, than by His work on the cross. When you form your theology the way the Eastern Orthodox do, you start going into speculation since Christology was never meant to be an be-all end-all answer to such things as salvation, the eucharist, etc. There’s only so much information on Christology, and when we form every doctrine out of it, we end up adding to it in a direction in which *our reason* thinks it should go. There are many mysteries in Christology, and to form every doctrine from it is to go beyond that which is revealed.

“I think the Scripture indicates that all are redeemed in Christ, otherwise they would not be raised and hence not be “in Christ.” (1 Cor 15:22, 2 Pet 2:1)”

The problem with appealing to these texts in order to interpret John 6 is that these texts are also disputed texts that are not interpreted in a common fashion so as to bridge the Reformed – EO divide. Once you use one (or several) disputed texts so as to interpret another disputed text, all you end up with is circular reasoning. [I’ll post an exegesis on both of these texts in the future.]

“All are beneifited by God’s redemptive work but some enjoy it more fully than others. (1 Tim 4:10, John 10:10)”

Again, disputed texts.

“I perfectly grant that Jesus is explaining in part the unbelief of some of the Jews but he is also pointing to His superiority despite their unbelief.”

Amen. A Calvinistic interpretation would easily yield that.

“Just as all of Israel was redeemed in the Exodus and ate Manna, so this is also true here. This stiffles White’s theological importation of “elect” since the Bible indicates that Israel is “elect” in spite of unbelief. (Romans 11:2, 28)”

[Correct me if I have misinterpreted Mr. Robinson.] Here, Perry is trying to say that the “all” in vv.37, 39, and 40 is everyone since all of Israel ate the Manna, but some died. Thus, not all of the “all” would make it to heaven.

The problem with this is that Christ is telling them to eat the “bread which comes down out of heaven” so that they will *have life by believing in Him (v.29)*. So, it is not that all will eat this bread but some will perish (i.e. not be saved) like the in wilderness. Instead, by partaking of this “bread”, the person who does so will have “eternal life” (v.27). These are believers, members of the covenant. The whole passage is about belief and unbelief in Him. There is nothing about the restoration of all creation.

Christ does indeed show His superiority to Moses. Whereas the manna from Moses only sustained physical sustenance but was incapable of keeping all the Israelites in the Covenant, the “bread” which Christ gives (i.e. His crucifixion) will cause those who partake of it to “not die” (v.50) but “live forever” (v.51) and have “eternal life” (v.54). Christ is superior in that the "bread" that He gives will keep those who receive it in the covenant forever and not fail to do so.

“What reason do I have for thinking so? Well first the conditions for membership in v. 39 and v.40 aren’t the same. There is no condition for belief in v. 39 but there is in 40.”

As I pointed out in my exegesis of this passage, all three statements (vv.37 and 38, v.39, and v.40) are equivalent. They are re-statements of God the Father’s will for the Son. In v.37, those given by the Father to the Son will come to Christ and never be cast out, and according to v.38, v.37 was the will of the Father for the Son. [“For” is an explanation word used to start an explanation of the previous verse.] Likewise, in v.39, the will of Him who sent Christ, the Father, was, that of all He gave Christ, that Christ lose none but raise it up on the last day. Lastly, in v.40, the will of the Father is that, of all who behold the Son and believe in Him, Christ will give them eternal life and raise them up on the last day.

Standard, consistent exegesis will bring one to the conclusion that these are equivalent, parallel statements. However, Perry has an overriding theological system that forces Him to eisegete this passage. He does the very thing he accuses Dr. White of doing.

There is *no* reason to assume that they are separate missions that the Father has given to the Son, and *every* reason to assume that these are parallel statements that build on top of each other.

So, Mr. Robinson is simply wrong. The “all” of vv.37, 39, and 40 are the exact same.

“The promises not to lose any of them doesn’t do any work either because Christ doesn’t lose any of His Creation to the devil since He raises it all up for eternity. If the wicked do not derive their source of life from Christ and His Resurrection, from where does White think they derive it?”

There is nothing in John 6 about “Creation” as a whole. Perry is simply reading that into the text. First, I’ll note again that vv.37, 39, and 40 are parallel and equivalent statements. There’s no reason to see them as separate statements except when one has an overriding theology.

The whole of the passage (6:26-66) is about belief in Christ.

“Moreover, I think White misconstrues the flow of the chapter. The section begins with contrasting the general and specific and then Jesus narrows the scope to that of a personal response, which is in part the point of consuming His flesh and blood.”

There’s nothing in John 6:26-66 about “general and specific”. It was all about belief and unbelief in Him.

“Part of the problem is that White is presupposing that union with Christ only comes about via an extrinsic personal/volitional relation but I don’t think Scripture teaches this. First becaus if it were true only some of creation would be recapitulated in Christ, which is false. (Rom 8:19-28, Eph 1:11)”

No one denies that Christ will renew creation. However, we deny that He will *redeem* everyone to a degree. Eternal redemption was accomplished only for those in covenant with Him (Hebrews 9:12 and 15).

“Second, it would imply that the wicked were not raised or that Christ wasn’t God since the hypostatic union would be an extrinsic and contingent relation such that it could be broken.”

White doesn’t deny that the wicked will be raised up on the last day. However, Jesus is stating that those who believe in Him will be raised up on the last day unto eternal life. The resurrection presented in John 6 is being presented as an *incentive* (for lack of a better word) for believing in Christ. This is the resurrection unto everlasting life, not the general resurrection (Daniel 12:2).

“(This was the real theological basis of Annihilationalism/Conditional Immortality, which is why Arianism and the former usually go hand in hand-Socinianism, JW’s, Christadelphians, Seventh Day Adventists, etc. and why these views came out of Calvinism or some derivative thereof.)”

First of all, all of these groups deny Calvinism. They have more in common with Perry than with White.

Second, notice that he left Universalism out of that list. That’s because many of his church fathers held and promoted such a view (i.e. Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, etc.).

“Third, it would imply that not all were dead and that Christ didn’t die for all. (2 Cor 5:14) If White wishes to invoke Limited Atonement here, he is certainly free to do so, but it will imply that not all men were dead in Adam (1 Cor 15:22, Romans 5:18).”

The interpretation of these texts is disputed, namely the extent of the “all”. I’ll have to give an exegesis for these in the future.

“And of course, it is well known that I have patristic warrant for interpreting the passage the way I do.”

Yes, many of the church fathers denied monergism. However, this begs a question under dispute. Namely, are the church fathers a greater authority for interpreting Scripture than a modern exegete? White and most Calvinists would simply view them like any other exegete of Scripture, interesting but nothing more.

“Maximus the Confessor definately saw the passage this way and the refutation of monothelitism/monoenergism/monergism turned on this interpretation.”

Again, interpreting everything through Christology leads to speculation and seeing things that aren’t there since there’s only a handful of information on Christology. It only goes so far.

“Now, White will probably dismiss these father and and early witness like Tertullian.”

Perry is assuming that Tertullian was a witness, a recipient of apostolic tradition which is the proper interpretation of Scripture. Of course, many Protestants on the web have noted the MANY divergent views on just about every theological topic in the writings of the earliest fathers. As White has said elsewhere, the only topic that the fathers agreed on was monotheism. Tertullian had no more “inside” knowledge than we do today.

“This is why White’s exegetical methodology doesn’t float free of Christological assumptions but in fact depens on a Nestorian Christology.”

Again, interpreting everything through Christology leads to speculation and seeing things that aren’t there since there’s only a handful of information on Christology. It only goes so far.

Exegesis of John 6:26-66

Here are the links to parts 1-4 of my exegesis of John 6:26-66.

-Saint and Sinner

John 6:26-66, Part Four

Verses 61-63

“But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” ” –John 6:61-63

Jesus, seeing that His so-called “disciples” are displeased with His sayings and in disbelief of His claims, asks them a rhetorical question along the lines of, “If you think that my statements and the claims about myself are amazing and unbelievable, what will you think if I ascend back into Heaven!?! What do you think about THAT claim!?!”

Next, He does, in fact, correct their misapprehension of what He said. The Spirit is the One that imparts eternal life and only a spiritual act, not a physical one of the flesh, can bring about salvation. The words that Jesus speaks are of the Spirit of God and truthful. If anyone heeds them, they shall be quickened by the Spirit unto eternal life.

Verses 64-66

“ ‘But there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. And He was saying, ‘For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father. As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.’ ” -John 6:64-66

Jesus re-states His purpose at the beginning of the dialogue (v.36), an explanation of their unbelief. Since Christ knows the motives, desires, and all the innermost things of all men (John 2:24-25), He also knew who was unregenerate and who was of the Spirit of God (John 8:47). He then summarizes what He said in vv.37-40 and 44-45 in a very succinct manner, and if you read only Jesus’ words without John’s commentary in the middle, it becomes very clear:

“But there are some of you who do not believe…For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” (v.64 and 65)

For what reason did He say this? Answer: for the reason of unbelief. What was His explanation for their unbelief? Answer: no one can come to Christ unless it is granted by the Father! The implications here are obvious:

The so-called “disciples” could not believe in Christ because it was not granted to them to believe by the Father!!!

There is no way around this. The stated reason given by Jesus for their disbelief had nothing to do with their rational, free, decision-making faculties. Rather, the ability to come to Christ has its monergistic (i.e. sole origin) in the Father’s choosing.

Does that mean that the Father prevented them from having saving faith? May it never be!!! For that would contradict a great many Scriptures (Matthew 11:28-30, John 3:16, Acts 17:30). Rather, men are naturally enslaved to sin (John 8:34, 2 Corinthians 4:4, etc.), and as a result, they cannot choose God (nor would they want to; John 8:43-47, 10:25-26, 12:37-40, Romans 8:7-8, etc.) apart from God’s monergistic grace (Matthew 11:25-27, John 6:37-40, 44-45, 64-65, 10:27-29, Acts 13:48, 16:14, Philippians 1:29, 2 Peter 1:1, etc.).

A Greater Argument from a Theme of the Gospel of John

One aspect that is missing from any discussion of this passage in John 6 is a theme of the entire book of John. What was John’s purpose for writing his Gospel? Was it solely to show the Deity of Christ more fully and refute Gnosticism? While just about every passage in this Gospel has something that relates to Christ’s union in substance with the Father, some of those passages do not have that theme or the anti-Gnostic theme as their *main* focus. For the theme of this Gospel, we should inquire from John’s prologue, and in that prologue, we find these verses:

“There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” –John 1:9-13 (emphasis mine)

In other words, one of the themes of the Gospel of John is to answer the question, “If Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, why did the Jews not believe in Him?”

Throughout John, there can be found Jesus’ words or John’s comments explaining why the Jews rejected Christ (John 3:18-21, 5:37-47, 6:36-40, 44-45, 64-65, 7:7, 8:19, 37-47, 9:39-41, 10:1-5, 25-29, 12:37-40, 13:18, 14:17, 15:19, 16:3, 17:1-6, 9, 12, 14, and 18:37).

The argument presented by both Jesus and John throughout the latter’s Gospel was that the Jews rejected Christ, not for any rational decision made from some near-neutral willpower, but for a determinative, non-rational decision made from an evil nature that can choose anything except trusting faith in God.

Indeed, any interpretation of the Johannine text must wrestle with this. Any interpretation that gives libertarian free-will to the unbelieving Jews will undermine Jesus’ and the John’s argument and result in an exegetical error!!!


I have shown that the most obvious and necessary interpretation of John 6:26-66 yields the Calvinistic doctrines of Total Depravity (without prevenient grace), Unconditional Election, Particular Redemption, Irresistible Grace, and The Perseverance of the Saints. The full TULIP is there.

Furthermore, I have answered the standard Arminian/non-Calvinist re-interpretations/counter-arguments of the passage. If there are any that I have left out, please leave a comment.

Lastly, I have answered the Eucharistic Interpretation of verses 50-58 put forward by many Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Lutheran apologists and shown their arguments and interpretation to be eisegetical.

Again, if there is anything that I have missed, please leave a comment. “Nastygrams” will be deleted.

–Saint and Sinner

John 6:26-66, Part Three

Verse 46

“Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father.” –John 6:46

Jesus repeats the claim made earlier in John 3:13 and in John’s prologue (John 1:18). His point is that since He has received this knowledge straight from God, He can make authoritative statements with absolute certainty on this subject.

Verses 47-50

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.” –John 6:47-50

Jesus restates what He has already said at the beginning of the dialogue in vv.27, 32, 33, and 35.

Verse 51

“I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” –John 6:51

Continuing with the bread theme that started the whole dialogue, Jesus tells them not to seek out earthly bread but heavenly bread, Himself. The gift of His flesh is His crucifixion as the propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of His people (Matthew 1:21). This again introduces a parallel with other verses in this dialogue:

“…he who believes has eternal life.” (v.47)

“…if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever;” (v.51)

The parallels are:

“…he who believes…” (v.47) = “…if anyone eats of this bread…” (v.51)

“…has eternal life.” (v.47) = “he will live forever;” (v.51)

From this parallel, we infer that to ‘eat of this bread’ (i.e. Christ) is a metaphor for ‘believing’ in Christ. This will come out clearer and more forcefully in the next few verses. [To the Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Lutherans, etc.: before you start yelling the typical counter-arguments at the screen, leave a reply, and close out this window, see the “Eucharistic Interpretation Errors” below the exegesis of vv.57-58. This section will cover the objections to vv.50-60.]

Verses 53-54

The Jews are very confused as to what He is saying since they are interpreting His words literally (v.52). He proceeds by continuing the metaphor of eating and drinking but puts His statements in a parallel form to what He has said before:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” –John 6:53-54

This parallels what the Lord said in v.40:

“For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” (v.40)

“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (v.54)

The parallels are:

“…everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life…” (v.40) = “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life…” (v.54)

“…and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” (v.40) = “…and I will raise him up on the last day.” (v.54)

From this, we easily infer that to ‘eat’ His “flesh” and ‘drink’ His blood (v.53) is a metaphor for ‘beholding the Son and believing in Him’ (v.40). [The parallels with v.53 will be discussed under v.56.]

Verse 55

“For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.” –John 6:55

Jesus is not saying that His flesh is actual meat to eat or that His blood can be poured into a cup and drunk. Rather, He is using the word “true” to emphasize that His flesh “which [He] will give for the life of the world” (v.50; i.e. His crucifixion) is *effective* and not just a pretended, false, or imagined thing. The word “true” is used in this way in John 4:23, 37, 8:16, 19:35, etc., and sometimes it is used in this way implying an obvious metaphor:

“There was the true Light [i.e. Jesus] which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.” (John 1:9; emphasis mine)

“I [i.e. Jesus] am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.” (John 15:1; emphasis mine)

The metaphor is obvious.

Verse 56

“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” –John 6:56

This, with part of v.53, parallels what would be stated later in John 15:5:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves…He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” (vv. 53 and 56)

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

The parallel statements are:

He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” (v.56; emphasis mine) = “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him…” (15:5; emphasis mine)

“…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.” (v.53) = “…he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (15:5; emphasis mine)

[Italics are meant to parallel italics and words in bold are meant to parallel those in bold.]

Though the meaning of vv.53 and 56 was obvious from the interpretation of vv.53-54, the above parallel is helpful. To ‘eat the flesh’ and ‘drink the blood’ of Christ is a metaphorical way of saying that one must be in union with Christ (i.e. a repentant believer that has submitted to the Lordship of Christ by faith) in order to have eternal life.

Verses 57-58

“As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” -John 6:57-58

Jesus is simply summing up what He has stated in previous verses. From the exegesis of the immediately preceding verses, Christ’s meaning is obvious. However, these summary verses at the end remind us of what He said as a summary at the beginning of the dialogue:

“I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” (v.35)

The parallels to the previous verses stand out, and the interpretation of vv.50-58 become plain: to ‘eat His flesh’ is to ‘come to Him’ which will satisfy the spiritual hunger, and ‘to drink His blood’ is to believe in Him which will satisfy the spiritual thirst. Other parallels to vv.57-58 include John 4:13-14 and 7:37-38:

“As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” (6:57-58; emphasis mine)

“Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” ” (4:13-14; emphasis mine)

“Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ ” (7:37-38; emphasis mine)

To ‘eat His flesh’ and ‘drink His blood’ is to repent and believe in Christ. The immediate context of the passage itself as well as the other parallel statements in John make this very clear.

After Jesus finishes His statements in the synagogue in Capernaum (v.59), His so-called “followers” complain to each other that Christ’s statements are harsh sayings (v.60). As a result, they would walk away from Him in unbelief (v.66).

The Eucharistic [Mis]interpretation

Many Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Lutheran apologists will argue that this section of John is a proof-text for the “Real Presence” of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. To the Roman Catholic, this is proof of transubstantiation, the belief that the “essence” of the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper are turned into the body and blood of Christ respectively. This, however, comes from a misreading of the text. By not taking John 6 in context (i.e. removing vv.50-58 from the previous 24 verses) these groups miss the metaphor that Christ is using and take it literally.

Eucharistic Interpretation Error A

The first argument put forth by the proponents of the Eucharistic interpretation would be to argue that a more literal reading of any text should be preferred over the metaphorical. It is frequently asked by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox apologist, “Don’t you Evangelicals say that we should read the Bible literally?” Of course, this is a straw-man of the Protestant position on Biblical hermeneutics. The Protestant would say that we should read any piece of literature in its grammatico-historical context. This means that we interpret Jesus’ words in light of the entirety of chapter six, not just those eight verses. If the context implies a literal meaning, then we should understand it literally, but if the context implies a figurative or metaphorical meaning, then we should understand Christ’s words as teaching a metaphor. We should prefer a literal reading when: a.) There is no surrounding context that would suggest otherwise or b.) There is no indication of metaphor or figure of speech from the verse itself. These few verses in John 6 would not fall into either of those two categories.

Eucharistic Interpretation Error B

A second argument would be to argue that, in verse 55, Jesus uses the word “true” to tell us that He meant *literal* food and drink. The problem with this is that the adjective “true” can have several meanings all depending on the context. From the context, “true” in verse 55 does not mean literal (as opposed to figurative) but effectual and real (as opposed to fake or false). This is the way it is used in John 1:9 and 15:1. [See the exegesis of John 6:55 above for a fuller discussion.]

Eucharistic Interpretation Error C

The third argument put forth by these “Real Presence” apologists is to argue by asking, “If Jesus was not talking about His literal flesh in verses 53-58, then why did he not correct his disciples’ misunderstanding when they began to leave?” The answer to this question lies in the point that Jesus was trying to get across to His “disciples” in vv.36-40, 44-45, and made even more clear in vv.64-65. It is the same reason why many of His hearers could not understand His parables (Matthew 13:10-17 and Luke 8:9-10): THEY WERE SPIRITUALLY BLIND!!!

Summary of Arguments for the Metaphorical Interpretation

The evidence that Christ was speaking metaphorically when He said, “Eat the flesh of the Son of Man,” (v.53) is:

1. In verse 35, Christ states that to come to Him will satisfy their hunger, and to believe in Him will satisfy their thirst. In this context, to “eat” and “drink” are metaphors for repenting and believing.
2. Verse 51 parallels verse 47. To eat “of this bread” will impart eternal life (v.51), and to believe in Him will impart eternal life (v.47).
3. Verse 54 parallels verse 40. To eat His flesh and drink His blood will give eternal life, and that person will be resurrected on the last day (v.54). Likewise, to believe in Him will yield eternal life, and that person will be raised up on the last day (v.40).
4. Verses 53 and 56 parallel John 15:5. To “eat the flesh” and “drink the blood” of Christ is a metaphor for being in covenantal union with Him.
5. The people were following Him because they desired actual bread (v.26). He is using the metaphor of bread (i.e. “bread of life”) as a way of telling them not to seek earthly things that will temporarily sustain one’s life, but rather, He is telling them to seek faith in Him which will impart eternal life. Similar metaphors are used by Jesus throughout John (John 4:13-14 and 7:37-38).

Church Fathers

Since I am responding to Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox claims, it is worthy to note the interpretation of John 6 from two of the early church’s most famous bishops, Chrysostom and Augustine. While Augustine and Chrysostom held to a more Lutheran and Roman Catholic view of the Eucharist respectively, neither of them interpreted John 6 as referring to the consumption of the “Real Presence” of Christ in the Eucharist! In other words, two of Roman Catholicism’s and Eastern Orthodoxy’s most important saints did not interpret John 6 in the way that those two churchs’ theologians and apologists do. Here are the quotes (emphasis mine):

“We have heard the True Master, the Divine Redeemer, the human Savior, commending to us our Ransom, His Blood. For He spake to us of His Body and Blood; He called His Body Meat, His Blood Drink. The faithful recognize the Sacrament of the faithful. But the hearers what else do they but hear? When therefore commending such Meat and such Drink He said, “Except ye shall eat My Flesh and drink My Blood, ye shall have no life in you” (and this that He said concerning life, who else said it but the Life Itself? But that man shall have death, not life, who shall think that the Life is false), His disciples were offended, not all of them indeed, but very many, saying within themselves, “This is an hard saying, who can hear it?” But when the Lord knew this in Himself, and heard the murmurings of their thought, He answered them, thinking though uttering nothing, that they might understand that they were heard, and might cease to entertain such thoughts. What then did He answer? “Doth this offend you?” “What then if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before?” What meaneth this? “Doth this offend you?” “Do ye imagine that I am about to make divisions of this My Body which ye see; and to cut up My Members, and give them to you?’ What then if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before?’” Assuredly, He who could ascend Whole could not be consumed. So then He both gave us of His Body and Blood a healthful refreshment, and briefly solved so great a question as to His Own Entireness. Let them then who eat, eat on, and them that drink, drink; let them hunger and thirst; eat Life, drink Life. That eating, is to be refreshed; but thou art in such wise refreshed, as that that whereby thou art refreshed, faileth not. That drinking, what is it but to live? Eat Life, drink Life; thou shalt have life, and the Life is Entire. But then this shall be, that is, the Body and the Blood of Christ shall be each man’s Life; if what is taken in the Sacrament visibly is in the truth itself eaten spiritually, drunk spiritually. For we have heard the Lord Himself saying, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth, but the flesh profiteth nothing. The words that I have spoken unto you, are Spirit and Life.”
-Augustine, Sermons of St. Augustine, Sermon 131.1

“His meaning is, “Ye must hear spiritually what relateth to Me, for he who heareth carnally is not profited, nor gathereth any advantage.” It was carnal to question how He came down from heaven, to deem that He was the son of Joseph, to ask, “How can he give us His flesh to eat?” All this was carnal, when they ought to have understood the matter in a mystical and spiritual sense. “But,” saith some one, “how could they understand what the ‘eating flesh’ might mean?” Then it was their duty to wait for the proper time and enquire, and not to abandon Him. That is, they are divine and spiritual, have nothing carnal about them, are not subject to the laws of physical consequence, but are free from any such necessity, are even set above the laws appointed for this world, and have also another and a different meaning. Now as in this passage He said “spirit,” instead of “spiritual,” so when He speaketh of “flesh,” He meant not "carnal things," but "carnally hearing," and alluding at the same time to them, because they ever desired carnal things when they ought to have desired spiritual. For if a man receives them carnally, he profits nothing. “What then, is not His flesh, flesh?” Most certainly. “How then saith He, that the flesh profiteth nothing?” He speaketh not of His own flesh, (God forbid!) but of those who received His words in a carnal manner. But what is “understanding carnally”? It is looking merely to what is before our eyes, without imagining anything beyond. This is understanding carnally. But we must not judge thus by sight, but must look into all mysteries with the eyes within. This is seeing spiritually. He that eateth not His flesh, and drinketh not His blood, hath no life in him. How then doth “the flesh profit nothing,” if without it we cannot live? Seest thou that the words, “the flesh profiteth nothing,” are spoken not of His own flesh, but of carnal hearing?
-John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of John, Homily XLVII (v.63 and 64)

[Also, notice how Chrysostom responds to the argument put forth by the “Real Presence” Advocates that I mentioned in Error C.]

John 6:26-66, Part Two

Verses 44-45

The Jews completely lost Him at the “I am the bread that came down out of heaven” part and start to grumble to each other (v.41). They thought that His origin was completely human since they knew His parents (v.42). Because they totally missed Christ’s point about the giving by the Father to the Son as the explanation to their unbelief, he tells them to stop grumbling (v.43) and proceeds to explain in clearer terms the reason for their unbelief:

“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.” -John 6:44-45

Verse 44 is a simplified restatement of verses 37, 39, and 40. By paralleling these statements, their equivalent parts are:

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me” (v.37) = “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing” (v.39) = “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life” (v.40) = “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (v.44; this verse is the negative form of the others, and as such, it shows the fulness of the doctrine discussed)

“I…raise it up on the last day” (v.39) = “I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” (v.40) = “…and I will raise him up on the last day.” (v.44)

From this, we infer that the “giv[ing]” by the Father to the Son is the equivalent of the “draw[ing]” in verse 44. Seeing that verse 44 is in the negative form of what Jesus has already stated, we can see the full picture. Those “given” by the Father are those “drawn” by the Father, and those not “drawn” were not “given” to the Son so that they might come, believe, and be raised on the last day unto eternal life. The implication is that those who will *not* be raised up on the last day unto eternal life were never drawn by the Father!

Jesus then (v.45) backs this up with Old Testament teaching, Isaiah 54:13, a quote speaking about what the other major prophets called the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:33-34 and Ezekiel 36:26-27). The ‘teaching’ by God is not simply knowledge of God or the proclamation of the gospel, but rather, it is the writing of the law on the heart. It is the act of regeneration!

Again, the stated reason for their unbelief had nothing to do with their rational decision making. Rather, the stated reason for their unbelief was that THEY HAD NOT BEEN DRAWN BY THE FATHER! [Again, before you start yelling the typical counter-arguments at the screen, leave a reply, and close out this window, see the “Exegetical Errors” just below this. This section will cover the objections to vv.44-45.]

Exegetical Error A

The first exegetical error to this section is to make an appeal to John 12:32 in order to intepret the extent of the “draw[ing]” in verse 44. John 12:32 states:

“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself." –John 12:32

The non-Calvinist argument is that though the Father does not draw men now, once Christ is crucified, He will draw every last human being to Christ. The problem with this is that it takes 12:32 out of its context.

The context is that Greeks had come to seek Jesus (vv.20-21), and when told by Andrew and Philip, Jesus starts to speak of His imminent crucifixion ending with the statement in verse 32. The crowd around Him is confused about the “Son of Man” and “lifting up” in Jesus statements (v.34). Christ then repeats a similar statement from previous chapters about Him being the “Light of the world” which men must believe in lest they walk in darkness (vv.35-36; cf. John 1:4-9, 8:12, 9:5, etc.). Jesus then hides Himself from the crowd (including the Greeks) (v.36), and there lies the text’s own interpretation of 12:32. At that time before the cross, Jesus had only revealed Himself to the Jews since during His earthly ministry He was “sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). Thus, the “all men” in verse 32 does not refer to every last human being on earth, but rather, it refers to all people groups or ethnicities. The dichotomy is not between a select few and every last human being; rather, it is between “every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9) rather than just “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). Once Jesus is crucified, He will draw every *people group* (but not necessarily every person within that people group) as opposed to His earthly ministry in which He revealed Himself to the Jews alone. This interpretation agrees with what Jesus says elsewhere in John (John 10:16 and 11:21-52). Thus, the force of the non-Calvinist objection to John 6:44 is empty seeing that it presupposes a definition of “all men” in 12:32 which the context of chapter 12 will not allow. [This is a common error in non-Calvinist interpretations of the Bible’s use of the words “all”, “every”, and “world” since all of these words can, depending on the context, refer to a universal of subsets rather than an absolute universal.]

Secondly, a real problem with the interpretation of “all men” in 12:32 as meaning every single human being is the next few verses, namely, John’s commentary on the dialogue that had just happened (emphasis mine):

“But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT? AND TO WHOM HAS THE ARM OF THE LORD BEEN REVEALED?” For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, “HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES AND HE HARDENED THEIR HEART, SO THAT THEY WOULD NOT SEE WITH THEIR EYES AND PERCEIVE WITH THEIR HEART, AND BE CONVERTED AND I HEAL THEM.” ” –John 12:37-40

From the begginning of the history of Israel, there was a constant cycle of falling into sin followed by national repentance whenever there was a major crisis. This repentance was a repentance out of self-preservation, not a repentance out of contrition and love for God. God would, because He is bound by His covenant promises (Hebrews 6:17-18 and 2 Timothy 2:10), take back His punishing hand. However, when there was prosperity, the Israelites would fall back into sin, testing God’s patience, and the cycle would begin again. God, in His long-suffering allowed this cycle to endure time after time until He decided to spiritually blind the unregenerate from seeing the threat of the Assyrians and Babylonians. As such, they never saw the need to repent (out of self-preservation) since their heart was hardened against it, and because there was no repentance, God was not bound by covnenant promise to protect them from the instrument of destruction which He had ordained (Isaiah 10:5-19).

This is what Isaiah 6:10 is speaking of: God’s judicial hardening and blinding of the unregenerate in Israel so that He could destroy them and bring back only the regenerate, the Remnant, to the land of Israel.

In John 12:40, John quotes this passage and applies it to the situation with Jesus. God hardened the hearts of the unregenerate Jews so that they would not recognize Christ as the Lord of Glory (1 Cor. 2:8; also, see Isaiah 52:13-53:12, the Fourth Servant Song, which is cited in John 12:38) and as a result, kill Him (Acts 2:23, Acts 4:27-28, etc.). Because of the murder of Jesus, God would take the kingdom away from the Jews and give it to the regenerate (Matthew 21:33-45). As Paul says, “What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; just as it is written, ‘GOD GAVE THEM A SPIRIT OF STUPOR, EYES TO SEE NOT AND EARS TO HEAR NOT, DOWN TO THIS VERY DAY.’ And David says, “…LET THEIR EYES BE DARKENED TO SEE NOT, AND BEND THEIR BACKS FOREVER” (Romans 11:7-10; bold mine).

The point is this: God did NOT draw every single last human being since He hardened the Jews from believing in Christ even after the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension (Romans 11:7-10)! If the “all men” of verse 32 is understood as referring to certain men *out of* “all” ethnicities (Revelation 5:9), however, the passage makes sense. In conclusion, the force behind the non-Calvinist appeal to John 12:32 has no power and cannot be used to say that Jesus will draw every human being after his resurrection, and in fact, the Calvinist hermeneutic of this passage makes more sense.

[Note: While God is hardening an already unregenerate heart, this still presupposes the antithesis of libertarian free-will since it teaches that the unregenerate would not be able to have trusting faith in God to begin with. Otherwise, God would not have hardened their heart on the chance that it might be softened by that person’s own willpower.]

Exegetical Error B

A second exegetical error committed by non-Calvinists in their interpretation of John 6:44-45 is to argue that while the ‘teaching’ is the sole initiative of the Father in salvation, it is up to the hearer to listen and learn. Thus, those who listen and learn (i.e. respond in faith using their libertarian free-will) to the Father’s teaching will be drawn by Him and risen up on the last day unto eternal life.

The first problem with this, as I noted in the main discussion of vv.44-45, is that the ‘teaching’ from the Father is not simply the proclamation of the gospel but the act of regeneration (see the above discussion of v.45 in the main section before the exegetical errors). To be “taught of God” is to be regenerated by His power. Verse 45 is saying that only those who are regenerated by the power of God come to Christ. This is the opposite of the Arminian/non-Calvinist order of regeneration which places coming to/believing in Christ as first followed by being born-again (i.e. regeneration).

The second problem with such an interpretation is that the “hearing” frequently used in John is not that of physical hearing or intellectual understanding, but rather, it is a spiritual “hearing”:

“Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.” –John 8:43-47 (emphasis mine)

Notice that Jesus says that His opponents’ unbelief was caused by their being “not of God”. It was not as though those particular people made a libertarian free choice (i.e. capable of deciding either way) not to believe in Christ, and the result was that their spiritual state was “not of God”. Rather, the unregenerate spiritual nature of the unbelievers determined their inability to “hear” (i.e. believe) Jesus’ words. They *could not* believe because their spiritual nature allowed them to freely make only one choice in response to Jesus’ claims: the choice of unbelief. This is fully in accord with compatibilist or semi-compatibilist freedom but is the antithesis of the non-Calvinists’ belief in libertarian freedom. [See also John 10:25-29.]

The final problem, like all the exegetical errors of vv.37-40, is that it fails to explain why the so-called “followers” don’t believe, and in fact, such an interpretation of libertarian free-will undermines Jesus’ claims. [See “The Common Exegetical Error to All Non-Calvinist Objections” under the discussion of vv.37-40.]

John 6:22-66, Part One

What follows is a verse-by-verse exegesis of John 6:26-66. The reason for writing this is to answer non-Calvinistic interpretations of the passage which seek to neutralize the force of the passage as an argument for Calvinism. As will be shown, most of these non-Calvinistic interpretations involve a most basic exegetical error, namely dividing up the passage and interpreting each individual verse by itself without reference to each other and even the book of John as a whole. This is a common tactic utilized by non-Calvinists and can be seen in their attempted exegesis of Romans 9, Genesis 50, and their use of 2 Peter 3:9 and 1 Timothy 2:4. Lastly, this exegesis covers and responds to the Eucharistic interpretation of John 6:50-58 put forth by Roman Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox, and Lutherans. So, on to the passage…

Initial Context

John 6 begins with the feeding of the five thousand (vv.1-13), an amazing event in which five thousand men (not to mention the women and children) could not deny was anything but a miracle. Now, the majority view of Jewish Messianism at this time looked for a conquering king to be the Messiah, one who would throw off the yoke of Rome and all the oppressors of the Jewish people. A man who could create an endless supply of instant nourishment could feed an army of infinite size, withstand Roman sieges forever, feed the Jewish people without them having to break their backs at work, etc.

As a result of their thinking, the crowd tries to make Jesus the King of Israel (v.14). Because the purpose of His first advent was to render Himself, the Servant spoken of in Isaiah 42, 49, and 53, as a “guilt offering” (Isaiah 53:10), Jesus hid Himself from them (v.15). The disciples, being alone, set out to sea (vv. 16-17). In the middle of the night, Jesus appears to them walking on water (v.19-20), and after He climbs in, the boat is immediately at the shore of Capernaum (v.21). The next day, the crowd that tried to make Him king is baffled that there is one boat that left without Jesus, and yet, Jesus is no where to be found (v.22). So, they climb into small boats and set out for the other side of the Sea of Galilee in order to seek out Christ (v.24). When they see Him in the synagogue (from v.59), they ask when (and how) He got to Capernaum (v.25). It is here that Jesus starts his dialogue with these so-called “followers”. All Scripture quotes are taken from the NASB.

Verses 26-27

“Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” -John 6:26-27

Jesus completely ignores their question and cuts right to the chase. These “followers” are seeking Him for impure, worldly motives. Simply put, they wanted food without having to work for it, not because they sought to be sanctified by His teaching. He tells them not to seek earthly food but to seek food which grants eternal life, the spiritual nourishment of eternal redemption, which only the Messiah, the Anointed of God, can give. The crowd immediately wants to know what they must do in order to gain this food (v.28). Jesus answers them quite simply:

Verse 29

“This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” -John 6:29

Similar statements are made concerning God’s servants. For instance, 2 Chronicles 20:20 states that the people of Israel were to believe in God and His prophets. Indeed, this was the chief tenant of Rabbinic Judaism (despite what anti-missionaries say), to believe and await YHWH’s Messiah. Jesus is stating that all one has to do to receive the covenant blessings of His kingdom is to believe in Him, God’s Anointed One. As with all the Old Testament prophets and their prophecies, this belief was not simply an assent to truth (i.e. assensus). It involved a resulting obedience as well (i.e. fiducia).

They then demand a sign from Him similar to Moses’ manna so that they might believe in Him (vv.30-31). Of course, this is absolutely absurd since He just fed 5,000 people using a five loaves of bread and two fish the previous day!!! This is very similar to how the Pharisees demanded from Him a sign from heaven just after the feeding of the five-thousand (Matthew 15:32-16:4)! Christ is about to expose their unbelief for what it truly is.

Verses 32-33

“Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” -John 6:32-33

Chist exhorts them not to desire earthly things which pass away, but rather, they should seek God and obey His law in order to gain an eternal reward (cf. Matthew 6:19-20). Still thinking that Jesus is speaking of *literal* bread, his “followers” ask Him for this bread (v.34).

Verse 35

“I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” -John 6:35

Jesus is this “bread”. To come to Him will satisfy their spiritual hunger, and to believe in Him will satisfy their spiritual thirst. This is the equivalent of the “repent and believe” formula found throughout the Gospels and Acts (Matthew 1:15, Acts 2:38, 3:19, etc.). We should also note the parallels with the other passage in John where Jesus dialogues with the woman at the well in Samaria (4:7-30, esp. 13-15). This verse is also one of the several parallel verses within John 6, and so, we will come back to this later on.

Verse 36

“But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe” -John 6:36

He has explained to them that He is the “Bread of Life” that must be “partaken of” in order to receive eternal life. He has performed plenty of miracles to prove this (by fulfilling the Scriptures; see John 5:39), and yet, the Jews do not believe. What follows is key since it is the explanation of WHY THEY DON’T BELIEVE. In fact, it would seem like Jesus is randomly changing the subject in the next few verses *unless* He is going to explain to them *why they don’t believe*. To interpret the following verses without reference to this fact is to commit the exegetical fallacy that I noted at the beginning. Again, TO TRY TO EXPLAIN THE FOLLOWING VERSES IN SUCH A WAY AS TO UNDERMINE JESUS’ EXPLANATION IS AN EXEGETICAL ERROR!!!

Verses 37-40

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” -John 6:37-40

Jesus states that all of a certain group which the Father will give to Him will end up coming to Him (recall v.35 where coming is the equivalent to repenting and believing), and those who come to Him will never be cast away from Him. Expanding on this thought (and paralleling it), Jesus explains what the will of the Father who sent Him is (v.38). Look at verses 37, 39, and 40 side by side:

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” (v.37)

“This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.” (v. 39)

“For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” (v.40)

*These are parallel statements* explaining that the will of the Father is to give a group to the Son which will not be lost but raised up on the last day. Since they are parallel and build on top of each other, IT WOULD BE AN EXEGETICAL ERROR TO INTERPRET THEM SEPERATELY.

Since they are parallel, here are their equivalent parts:

“All that the Father gives Me…” (v. 37) = “all that He has given Me…” (v. 39)

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me” (v.37) = “everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life” (v.40)

“the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (v. 37) = “all that He has given Me I lose nothing” (v.39)

“I…raise it up on the last day” (v.39) = “I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” (v.40)

(The following is key:)
Inferred from all these equivalent statements is the following: a.) ALL of a certain group was given by the Father to the Son (vv.37 and 39), b.) ALL of this group will come to/behold the Son and believe in Him (vv.37 and 40), c.) ALL of this group will have eternal life as a result of coming to/believing in the Son (v.40), d.) NONE of this group shall be cast out OR LOST (v.37 and 39), and e.) ALL of this group shall be raised up on the last day (v. 39 and 40).

Here, in the clearest of terms, is unconditional election, particular redemption, irresistible grace, and the preservation of the saints. [Before you start yelling the typical counter-arguments at the screen, leave a reply, and close out this window, see the “Exegetical Errors” just below this. This section will cover the objections to vv.36-40.]

1st Exegetical Error

A certain non-Calvinist counter-argument is to argue that people won’t be cast out, but they can “jump out” utilizing their libertarian free-will. Other than the fact that such a theology destroys the purpose and nature of the New Covenant as spoken of in Jeremiah 31:33-34 and Ezekiel 36:25-27, the problem with this interpretation is that the parallelism between vv. 37 and 40 eliminates such a thought since Christ will *lose* none. To “jump out” of Christ’s hold and end up going to hell *would* be for Christ to *lose* some! Also, ALL of this particular group are those that come to Christ, and ALL of this group will be *raised unto eternal life*. [See the next error below.] Everyone who believes in Christ (noticia, assensus, AND fiducia since it includes repentance: v.35) will be saved. [Also, see the “common exegetical error” section below.]

2nd Exegetical Error

A second, less common exegetical error would be to argue that “raise it up on the last day” only refers to the general resurrection of the dead in which everyone is raised up on the last day, and thus, verses 39 and 40 would not indicate the eternal state of those who come to Christ. The problem with this argument is that v.40 states that it is those WHO BELIEVE and have ETERNAL LIFE that will receive this form of resurrection, and thus, this raising up is given as an INCENTIVE (for lack of a better word) for beholding the son and believing in Him. It is obvious, then, that this is the resurrection unto everlasting life (Daniel 12:2), not the general resurrection.

3rd Exegetical Error

A third error would be to argue that while it is the will of the Father that this happen, the Father’s will is not always obeyed. [This, of course, assumes two Arminian/non-Calvinist presuppositions: a.) that God’s *decree* can be frustrated and b.) that there is no distinction between God’s prescriptive, law-giving will and His providential will in which He has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. Since all the non-Calvinist has to do is to neutralize this passage as a Calvinist proof-text, however, the Calvinist bears the burden of proof.] The problem with this argument is the fact that since all three verses (vv.37, 39, and 40) are linked, we may safely say that ALL of this particular group “WILL” come to Christ (a predictive certainty, not just God’s prescriptive will; v.37), and ALL of the *same group* will be “raised…up” unto everlasting life on the last day (v.40). [Also, see the “common exegetical error” section below.]

4th Exegetical Error

Another error would be to argue that verses 37 and 39 which speak of the giving by the Father to the Son do not speak of irresistible grace, but instead, these verses speak of the Father giving this group because of their foreseen faith and coming to Christ out of their (autonomous) libertarian free-will. The problem with this is explained below in the “Common Exegetical Error” section just below and will be expanded upon in the discussion of verses 44 and 45.

The Common Exegetical Error to All Non-Calvinist Objections

The greatest exegetical error that runs through all of these objections is the fact that it fails to take into account that verses 37-40 are an explanation of *why the “followers” don’t believe*! By not taking this into account, the above objections (and any not mentioned here) reveal their COMPLETE EXEGETICAL FAILURE.

If men could “jump out” of Christ’s grasp due to their unbelief by exercising their libertarian free-will; if God’s salvific will could be frustrated by men utilizing their libertarian free-will; if the “giving” by the Father to the Son of the “All” was simply due to their forseen faith on the basis of their libertarian free-will, then how could Christ explain the unbelief of those in the synagogue in Capernaum? If they had libertarian free-will, then it follows that they were simply utilizing their neutral, unbiased intellect and making a rational choice that Jesus was not the Christ. However, because vv.37-40 is an explanation of v.36, namely an explanation of the “followers” unbelief, it follows that the “all” being given by the Father to the Son, their subsequent believing in the Son, and their eschatological rising to eternal life is presented as the answer to the “followers’” unbelief. The “followers’” unbelief was due to a factor not related to their free and rational choice-making.

The reason that the “followers” did not believe in Christ was BECAUSE THEY WERE NOT GIVEN BY THE FATHER TO THE SON!!! They had no power to come outside of the Father’s enablement. Their free-will was capable of choosing any action other than saving faith in Christ.