Problem: Jesus answered a group of Jews and said, “Is it not written in your law, `I said, you are gods’?” Does this mean that humans can become God as pantheistic religions and New Age advocates claim?
Problem: Jesus said here, “I and My Father are one.” But on other occasions He distinguished Himself from the Father, saying “I came forth from the Father and … I leave the world and go to the Father” (John 16:28). Further, He prayed to the Father as one person to another (John 17), and even said, “the Father is greater than I.”
Problem: John quotes Jesus as claiming that He laid down His “life for the sheep” (cf. 15:13). But Paul claims “Christ died for the ungodly” while they were still “enemies” (Rom. 5:6, 10). How can both be true?
Problem: John said here, “Now we know that God does not hear sinners.” Yet Jesus said God heard the publican who prayed, “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13). Does He hear sinners when they pray?
Problem: Passages like Romans 13:4 present a good case for capital punishment, for the passage says, “for it [the government] does not bear a sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil” (nasb). In John 8 a woman is caught in an adulterous situation, which was cause for stoning according to the Mosaic Law. Yet Jesus did not seek her death, but rather forgave her sin. Did Jesus thereby reject capital punishment?
Problem: This story of the woman taken in adultery is found in the kjv, the asv, the nasb, and the niv. However, the NEB places it at the end of the Gospel under the caption “An incident in the temple.” And since 1971 the rsv places it in special print set off from the rest of the text, as does the nrsv. The standard Greek NT (Nestle-Aland Text, United Bible Societies) places brackets around it, indicating that it is not part of the text of John. Why do many scholars believe this story is not part of the original manuscript of the Gospel of John?
Solution: There are several reasons why many scholars question whether this passage belongs here in John’s Gospel. (1) The passage does not appear in the oldest and most reliable Greek manuscripts. (2) It is not found in the best manuscripts of the earliest translations of the Bible into Old Syriac, Coptic, Gothic, and Old Latin. (3) No Greek writer commented on this passage for the first 11 centuries of Christianity. (4) It is not cited by most of the great early church fathers, including Clement, Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian, Cyril, and others. (5) Its style does not fit that of the rest of the Gospel of John. (6) It interrupts the flow of thought in John. John reads better if one goes right from John 7:52 to 8:12. (7) The story has been found in several different places in Bible manuscripts—after John 7:36; after John 21:24; after John 7:44; and after Luke 21:38. (8) Many manuscripts that include it in John 7:53–8:11 have marked it with an obelus, indicating they believe it is doubtful.
In spite of this, many Bible scholars believe this story is authentic. It certainly contains no doctrinal error and fits with the character of Jesus and His teaching, but there is no certainty that it was in the original text of John.
Problem: Jesus’ unbelieving brothers challenged Him to go up to Jerusalem and show Himself openly if He was the Messiah (7:3–4). Jesus refused, saying, “I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come” (v. 8). However, only a few verses later Jesus “went up to the feast” (v. 10).
Solution: Jesus did not go up to Jerusalem in the way in which His brothers suggested. They suggested He go and be “known openly” (7:4). But the Scripture explicitly declares that “He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret” (7:10).
Problem: John informs us here that “Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him.” Yet Jesus said to His disciples, “My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body” (Luke 12:4).
Solution: Jesus did not fear death; He merely avoided dying prematurely. Before the appropriate time Jesus would say, “My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4; 8:20). But when “His hour came” (cf. John 12:23), Jesus faced death bravely and courageously. Though humanly speaking Jesus shrunk from the horror of the Cross (see comments on Heb. 5:7b); nevertheless, He prayed, “what shall I say? `Father, save Me from this hour’?” to which He answered with an emphatic no: “But for this purpose I came to this hour” (John 12:27). Jesus knew from the very beginning that He had come to die (cf. John 2:19–20; 10:10–11), and He never hesitated in His resolute purpose “to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). However, to accomplish this as God had ordained and the prophets predicted, Jesus had to watch out for attempts on His life before the appointed time and way. For example, He was to be crucified (cf. Ps. 22:16; Zech. 12:10), not to be stoned, as the Jews sought to do on one occasion (see John 10:32–33).
Problem: Evangelical Christians believe in taking the Bible literally. But Jesus said, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53). Should this be taken literally too?
Solution: The literal (i.e., actual) meaning of a text is the correct one, but the literal meaning does not mean that everything should be taken literally. For example, the literal meaning of Jesus’ statement, “I am the true vine” (John 15:1) is that He is the real source of our spiritual life. But it does not mean that Jesus is a literal vine with leaves growing out of His arms and ears! Literal meaning can be communicated by means of figures of speech. Christ is the actual foundation of the church (1 Cor. 3:11; Eph. 2:20), but He is not literally a granite cornerstone with engraving on it.
There are many indications in John 6 that Jesus literally meant that the command to “eat His flesh” should be taken in a figurative way. First, Jesus indicated that His statement should not be taken in a materialistic sense when He said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). Second, it is absurd and cannibalistic to take it in a physical way. Third, He was not speaking of physical life, but “eternal life” (John 6:54). Fourth, He called Himself the “bread of life” (John 6:48) and contrasted this with the physical bread the Jews ate in the wilderness (John 6:58). Fifth, He used the figure of “eating” His flesh in parallel with the idea of “abiding” in Him (cf. John 15:4–5), which is another figure of speech. Neither figure is to be taken literally. Sixth, if eating His flesh and drinking His blood be taken in a literalistic way, this would contradict other commands of Scripture not to eat human flesh and blood (cf. Acts 15:20). Finally, in view of the figurative meaning here, this verse cannot be used to support the Roman Catholic concept of transubstantiation, that is, eating Jesus’ actual body in the communion (see comments on Luke 22:19).