IS IT FAIR FOR JOHN TO REFER TO THEM AS “THE JEWS?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
On 16 particular occasions in John Gospel’s Record, the title “the Jews” appears to the ire of Bible correctors. In these passages, “the Jewish leaders” is said to be a “better translation” (rendered as such in the NIV, Living Bible, NLT, and Expanded Bible). There is just one problem: no Greek manuscript authority warrants the change! What undergirds the “re-translation” is actually nothing more than interpretation—and how dangerous it is when the Bible translator becomes the Bible teacher! Private views, conjectures, and opinions belong in a commentary, marginal note, or footnote where they are clearly labeled as such—not in the Bible text itself (where these manmade ideas are integrated quite smoothly into God’s words, the English reader being none the wiser).
Again, with respect to 16 verses in John, it has been argued “the Jews” is a misnomer because the unbelieving Jewish leaders are implied. Supposedly, “the Jews” suggests the Jewish people in general were in unbelief. Consequently, as stated earlier, “the Jewish leaders” has been inserted into some modern English Bibles. Yet, remember, there is no Greek authority for this—just the interpretation of translators, what they “think” the Holy Spirit meant, paraphrasing Almighty God’s words and making them their own. This happened not only with these passages in John, but countless other times throughout Old and New Testaments of modern English versions. Imagine building your Christian life on such shifting sand of “scholarship!” Such pointless textual changes are nothing more than a way to produce an entirely different work, one unlike other “bibles,” thus able to be copyrighted and make the “Christian” publishing companies more money.
The Greek word for “leaders” is “hodegoi,” and it appears just once in the Greek New Testament (Textus Receptus, or “Received Text”) of the King James Bible: “Let them alone: they be blind leaders [“hodegoi”] of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matthew 15:14). No doubt this refers to unbelieving religious leaders—see “Pharisees” in verse 12! However, it is a mistake to conclude unbelief was confined to the Jewish religious leaders. After all, if these apostates were guiding the nation Israel, how could the nation itself not share the sentiments of those heading it? If the teachers embrace corrupt doctrine, they will definitely pass on that warped thinking to their students. It is a sad fact of history, one witnessed innumerable times in classrooms all around the world.
As a simple case in point, read Mark 15:8-13: “ And the multitude crying aloud began to desire him to do as he had ever done unto them.  But Pilate answered them, saying, Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews?  For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy.  But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them.  And Pilate answered and said again unto them, What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call the King of the Jews?  And they cried out again, Crucify him.” Did you not see how the chief priests influenced the common Jewish people to demand Pontius Pilate free guilty Barabbas and sentence innocent Jesus to die in his place? Again, if the teachers embrace corrupt doctrine, they will definitely pass on their distorted thinking to their students. Therefore, the Holy Spirit does not distinguish between Jewish leaders and Jewish commoners: all are equally in unbelief, united in their opposition to God’s will for them as a nation. Only a small remnant of believers exists in Israel, “the Little Flock” (Luke 12:32). The rest of the Jews are “blind,” their “blind” religious teachers guiding them to wallow in that spiritual darkness and ignorance (Matthew 15:14).
In closing, here are the texts from John which we accept exactly as they are in the King James Bible:
- John 1:19: “And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?”
- John 5:10: “The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.”
- John 5:15: “The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole.”
- John 5:16: “And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.”
- John 5:18: “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.”
- John 7:1: “After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him.”
- John 7:11: “Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he?”
- John 7:13: “Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews.”
- John 9:22: “These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.”
- John 18:14: “Now Caiaphas was he, which gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.”
- John 18:36: “Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.”
- John 19:7: “The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.”
- John 19:12: “And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.”
- John 19:31: “The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.”
- John 19:38: “And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.”
- John 20:19: “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.”
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