The Gospel of John: What did Jesus and others declare about his Messiahship & Is the Gospel of John anti-Semitic?

According to John’s Gospel, Jesus Christ openly professed his Messiahship and Sonship. His self-declarations were boldly made in the face of serious charges of blasphemy and threats of imminent death. Declaring oneself to be the prophesied Messiah, the Son of God or the I AM aroused great suspicion, concern, and hostility from the religious authorities.

Although his profound statements were accompanied by miracles, the demands of, “Show us the Signs?”, never diminished. That is, the Signs of Messiah, the Signs of a Prophet, which are so important in Judaism. Although there was no shortage of followers who acknowledged the ‘Signs’ and spoke of them openly. John’s Gospel is full of such affirmations by normal, everyday people of ancient Judea. People like John the Baptist, who proclaimed, “Behold, The Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).

In this article I will list others like John the Baptist, who bore ‘Witness’ to who Jesus Christ of Nazareth was. I will include the ‘Witness’ of Jesus himself and the Father. I will answer questions that have plagued John’s Gospel, questions such as who really wrote the text? I will also discuss the perceived anti-Semitic undertones of John’s Gospel. And why I believe the author chose to use the term ‘The Jews’. I will also include the opinion of Geza Vermes a foremost Jewish Scholar and his take on the New Testament being anti-Semitic.

Hopefully, by the end of this article we can all gain a better understanding of this extraordinarily rich text; full of detail and from a time when the world was changed forever.

What did Jesus and others say about who He was?

Bear in mind these were all Jewish witnesses, except for the woman of Samaria.

Chapter 1:29 — John the Baptist said, “Behold! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!”
Chapter 1:41 — Andrew the brother of Simon Peter said, “We have found the Messiah.”
Chapter 1:45 — Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses and the Law wrote about.”
Chapter 1:49 — Nathanael said, “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
Chapter 3:2 — Nicodemus said, “You are a teacher come down from God, no one can do these signs except God is with him.”
Chapter 3:35 — John the Baptist said, “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand.”
Chapter 4: 25 — The woman of Samaria said to Jesus, “I know the Messiah is coming.”, Jesus said to her, “I am He who is speaking with you.” Many of the Samaritans believed because of her testimony (verse 39).
Chapter 4:42 — The Samaritans who believed said, “They believed, not only because of her but because of the teachings of Jesus.”, “Indeed, He is the Messiah, the saviour of the world.”
Chapter 5:20 — Father/Son witness, “The Father loves the Son.”
Chapter 5:23 — Father/Son witness, “He who does not honour the Son, does not honour the Father who sent him.”
Chapter 5:36 — Father/Son witness, “The works that I do, bear witness of me that the Father has sent me.”
Chapter 10:25 — Father/Son witness, Jesus said, “The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness of me.”
Chapter 12:28 — Father/Son witness, the voice from Heaven said, “I have glorified your name and will glorify it again.”
Chapter 14:10 — Father/Son witness, Philip asked Jesus, “Show us the Father?” Jesus replied, He who has seen the Father has seen me (verse 9) and “I am in the Father and the Father in me.”
Chapter 14:23 — Father/Son witness, only those who love Jesus and keep His word is loved by the Father.
Chapter 15:23 — Father/Son witness, Jesus said, “He who hates me hates the Father.” And that, “He was hated without a cause.” (Verse 25).
Chapter 5: 39 — The Scriptures as witness, “You search the Scriptures, because you think in them you have life ─ The Scriptures testify of me.”
Chapter 5:46 — Moses as Witness, “If you believe Moses, then you would believe me, because Moses wrote about me.”
Chapter 6:69 — Simon Peter’s witness, “We have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”
Chapter 7:41 — The Crowds as witness, “This is the Messiah, will the Messiah come out of Galilee?”
Chapter 8: 11 — Woman caught in adultery witness, she said, “No one, Lord.” Acknowledging Jesus as Lord!
Chapter 8: 58 — Jesus as witness, Jesus was in a discussion with authorities and said, “Before Abraham was, I AM.”
Chapter 6:35 ─ Jesus said, “I AM the Bread of Life, which came down from Heaven.”
Chapter 9:5 Jesus said, “I AM the Light of the World.”
Chapter 10:7 Jesus said, “I AM the Door of the Sheepfold.”
Chapter 10:11 Jesus said, “I AM the Good Shepherd.”
Chapter 11:25 Jesus said, “I AM the Resurrection and the Life, no man comes to the Father but by me.
Chapter 14:6 Jesus said, “I AM the Way, the Truth and The Life.”
Chapter 18:37 Jesus said, “I AM a King.”
Chapter 9:38 — Blind man as witness, the blind man who was healed at the pool of Siloam (Sent) confessed that Jesus was the Messiah, “Lord, I believe, and he worshipped Him.”
Chapter 10:25 — The authorities surrounded Jesus and asked Him, “Tell us if you are the Messiah?”
Jesus replied, “I told you and you do not believe me.”
Chapter 10:36 — Jesus chastised the religious leaders for calling someone whom the Father sanctified and ‘Sent’ a blasphemer. He said, “You call me this because I said, I am, the Son of God?”
Chapter 11:27 — Martha as witness, “Yes, Lord, I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”
Chapter 12:13 — The witness of the Passover crowd, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna! The King of Israel.”
Chapter 13:13 — Jesus confirms He is Teacher and Lord, “You call me Teacher and Lord. for so I am.”
Chapter 18:37 — Jesus confesses to Pilate He is a King (but only after telling Pilate His Kingdom is not of this world, but another world).
Chapter 19:19 ─ The Romans confession above the Cross, “Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews.”
So, there you have it. Jesus confessed he was The Messiah, The Son of God, The I AM, several times over. That he was ONE with God and he confessed he was a King. Although, that his Kingdom was not of this world.

Is the Gospel of John anti-Semitic?

To answer this question, we must first establish if John’s Gospel was written by a Jewish author and if it was acknowledged by other Jews as being truthful.

Is the Gospel of John, written by a Jewish author? And when was it written?

Most of the books of the Bible have experienced challenges relating to their dates and authorship. And the Gospel of John is no different. With John’s Gospel, because it was the last Gospel written, John’s age comes into question. How old was he when he wrote it? A reasonable question, I think. The other significant issue raised by Minimalists is the verse in John 21:24, “This is the disciple who testifies of these things and we know his testimony is true.” Who are the ‘we’, referred to in the passage? The ‘we’ in John 21:24 has led many to believe, that the Gospel of John is a collective work. But as I will show you, there is an exceptionally good explanation for this comment from another ancient source.  

In this article, I will be quoting from The New Testament Documents by F.F. Bruce (1910-1990) for the most part. Bruce was Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis at the University of Manchester, England, and author of over forty immensely popular books.  Bruce references several authors who clearly identify the Jewishness of John’s Gospel and that its author had to be a Jew. They remain convinced the author was familiar with the Palestinian landscape, Jewish purification rites for death and burial (John Chs. 2:6; 19:40). That he was familiar with The Feasts and Old Testament Law (John Ch. 8:17). It was John’s depth of knowledge that led prominent Jewish Scholar, Israel Abrahams to note: “My own general impression, without asserting an early date for the Fourth Gospel is that the Gospel enshrines a genuine aspect of Jesus’s teaching which has not found a place in the Synoptics.”

Dates of New Testament writings according to Professor Bruce:

The New Testament was completed AD100.

Matthew AD 85-90

Mark AD 65

Luke AD 80-85

John AD 90-100

Acts AD 60 approx.

Paul’s Writings AD 48-60 (Letters) and AD 63-65 (Pastoral Epistles)

Revelation AD 90

Mark and Luke wrote before the event of the destruction of the Temple in AD 70.”

It is quite conceivable for me to believe John wrote the Fourth Gospel and Revelation around the same time despite his advancing years. In both instances the much-loved disciple of our Saviour had the last word and concluded our New Testament with his Memoirs. According to Irenaeus, the Apostle John returned to Ephesus after his exile to Patmos. This was during the reign of Emperor Trajan (AD 98-117). Therefore, we know from this source that John lived to an incredibly old age.

What we refer to as Gospels were originally referred to as Memoirs of The Apostles. It was only in the second century that their Memoirs became Gospel.

The early mention of the Memoirs/Gospels being read in Christian gatherings are numerous. The most significant of these would be The Didache. I am also including references to other works of the New Testament by Papias, to acknowledge that the Early Church Fathers, left us a lot of information as to who wrote what.

Professor Bruce also mentions the following:

“Ignatius mentions the Gospels in AD 115

Maricon mentions the Gospels and Paul’s writings in AD 140 (Favouring the NT over the OT)

Papias wrote in AD 130-140 about living and abiding in the Word.

Justin Martyr mentions the Memoirs of the Apostles in AD 150 (read alongside the writings of the Prophets in the OT in Christian gatherings) Apol.i.67.

Bruce states, it was about this time that the Jews left the Septuagint to the Christians because of various divisions between them and made themselves a fresh Greek version of the Old Testament especially for Greek speaking Jews.

Irenaeus mentions the Gospels in AD 180

Origen mentions the Gospels in AD 185-254

Athanasius established the New Testament Canon in AD 367 in the East, followed by Jerome and Augustine in the West. As late as AD 508 there were disputes over 2 Peter, 2&3 John, and Revelation.

But officially the Canonisation of the New Testament happened in Hippo Regius in AD 393 and Carthage in AD 397 (both in North Africa).

Eusebius (Ecclesiastical story (iii.39) gives us an account of the Gospel of Mark by Papias. Papias calls Peter the Elder and says that Mark wrote Peter’s Gospel. And, says that Mark made no mistake, and Mark paid attention not to omit anything or make any false claims.

It is quite possible that Mark like Matthew were first written in Aramaic and then translated in koine Greek. “Aramaic was the common language of Jesus’s day, especially in Galilee and Jesus and His disciples would have spoken this dialect. Even though it is referred to Hebrew in the New Testament it was not! When Papias writes “Matthew compiled the Logia in the ‘Hebrew’ speech [it was Aramaic]. And he went on to say everyone translated them as best he could.”.

Now that we know that The Memoirs/Gospels were in circulation from an incredibly early date, we can appreciate Papias when he tells us who wrote the Fourth Gospel. Papias says The Apostle John wrote the Gospel of John. As far as the ‘we’ mentioned in John 21:24 is concerned, Polycarp, tells us that the disciples prayed and fasted for three days and it was revealed to Andrew that the Apostle John should write down everything in his own name and the others should revise it. Polycarp was a disciple of Apostle John and inherited his mantle when he died. In other words, Polycarp was a second-generation Apostle of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

Is the Gospel of John anti-Semitic?

a) Origins of the word Jew:

The word Jews appears seventy-one times in John’s Gospel. The Greek (laudais) and Latin (Iudaeus) were translated into English first as (Iewes) in the 1611 Authorized King James Bible. There is a free translation of the 1611 AKJ online, read it sometime. According to the Greek-English concordance the Greek word (laudais) is translated as Jews, Jew, Jewish, Jewess, Jewish community, and Jews. Greek (loudas) is translated as Judas, Judah, Jude, and Judea. In subsequent Revised King James Versions (1881-1885 and beyond) Iewes is translated as Jews, as in Second Kings 16:6 and Second Chronicles 32:18. This is the first time the word Jew appears in the English language.  

God often changed people’s names in the Bible, Abram to Abraham (Genesis 17:5), Sarai to Sarah (Genesis 17:15), Jacob to Israel (Genesis 32:28). But He never changed Israel’s name to Jews! Israel should always remain Israel, the Twelve Tribes (Sons) of Jacob (Israel). Flavius Josephus says collectively the Hebrews (Israelites) called themselves Judeans (Judah) the day that they returned from Babylon, Judah were the first ones to arrive back from exile, “And thence both they and their country gained that appellation.” (Antiquities Book 11:5:7 (173). Only the Tribes of Judah, Benjamin and some of the Levites returned at first, which might indicate why they did not call themselves, Israel.

b) Jews were the inhabitants of Judah:

In the Gospel of John, I believe ‘Jews’ is used as an identifier and no malice is intended. The term differentiated one community from another, like Jewish people do today ─ Jews and Gentiles (Jews and non-Jews) or like Muslims do (Believers and Infidels/unbelievers). This same method is used in John’s Gospel, because John’s Gospel was the last Gospel written, therefore a clear distinction had arisen between the followers of Jesus, who were Jew and Gentile converts and the others who were not. Like the non-converts, who followed Judaism and lived in the Province of Judea. I like the term, “Speech Situation”, used in the book Anti-Judaism and the Fourth Gospel, it was just how things were labelled back then. You might find this strange, but The Talmud (English translation) also uses the term, “The Jews.”

Since Apostle John lived to a ripe old age as testified by Irenaeus, he would have seen the Temple fully demolished by Titus and both Jews and Christians scattered. And since John wrote Revelation, he would have also been familiar with the persecution taking place in the Churches. John Ch.16:2 comes to mind, “They will put you out of their Synagogues.” Despite many lies being peddled that Gentile Christians caused a rift between Jews and Converts, it was in fact Jewry that decided on a clean break. But that article is for another time. If nothing else, the close of the first century drew a line in the sand between the two religious’ groups.

When we look closely, John’s Gospel itself identifies who these ‘Jews’ are, they are the inhabitants of Judea. Therefore, Jesus left the Jews (the Judeans) where he felt persecuted and went to Galilee (He was a Galilean) where He was not persecuted. How is that anti-Semitic? Jews (Judeans) derived their name from Judea, (Yehud ─ a Roman Province), a place, a tribe, not a race or a religion. As a people, a community they would always be Israel. So, to apply anti-Semitic undertones to a Gospel written by a Jew and approved by other Jews is wrong.

c) What does Eusebius tell us about who was a Jew?

Eusebius (AD 260-340) wrote classical Christian Chronicles recording the first three centuries of Christian history. He was an eyewitness of the destruction of Christian literature by the Romans and decided to record events and hide them for future generations. 

Eusebius carefully documented the most important Christian documents. When I read what he achieved, I sat quietly and cried. How insightful of him to have considered us, risking his own life to preserve a historical testament that has lasted 2000 years. God Bless you Eusebius!

In his writings Eusebius makes a distinction between Hebrews (converts to Christianity) and Jews. For example, he lists all the Bishops of Jerusalem as being Hebrews and differentiated them from The Jews living in Jerusalem who were not part of the Christian Church. Which I thought was interesting, I must dig a little deeper to unravel the mind of this Early Church Saint. 

d) The meaning of the word Jew has changed over time:

In the passing of time the meaning of the word “Jew’ has changed.  This is a quote from the MFA about their understanding of who is Israel and who is a Jew. “So, if modern day so-called Jews are not the Jews of the Bible, who are they? When asked, “Who is Israel? – Who is a Jew?” the Israeli Government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) unhesitatingly answered:

“The term Israelite is purely Biblical. An Israeli is a citizen of Israel, regardless of religion. A Jew is a person anywhere in the world born to a Jewish mother, or converted to Judaism, who is thus identified as a member of the Jewish people and religion” (Information Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jerusalem; February 1998)”.

Funk and Wagnall’s New Encyclopaedia (1970) says the same thing: “In 1970 the Israeli Knesset adopted legislation defining a Jew as one born of a Jewish mother or a convert” (vol. 14, p. 214). Despite these more recent definitions about Jews, we must remind ourselves that John’s understanding of the term was a lot different.

I was pleasantly surprised to find support for my concept of John’s Gospel not being anti-Semitic from one of my favourite Jewish Scholars, Geza Vermes. Vermes always provides interesting elements to Jewish/ Christian relations. That is because before reverting to his Jewish roots he was a Catholic Priest, fascinating stuff! In the words of Vermes, the New Testament contains squabbles between various Jewish groups. And there you have it in the words of this great scholar, they were just squabbling and not anti-Semitic.  

Since John was a Jew, his writings cannot be deemed anti-Semitic. Vermes, does however see potential for anti-Semitic attitudes from the minds of some readers of the New Testament, but in general, he says, “Anti-Semitism is not in the New Testament text.” In my opinion this is only because the definition of the term ‘Jew’ has changed over time.  


In concluding I have shown that the use of the word ‘Jew’ in John’s Gospel cannot be considered anti-Semitic. John’s Gospel was written over 2000 years ago and the meaning of the word has changed over time. There is evidence from Eusebius that Christian converts in John’s day referred to themselves as Hebrews rather than Jews (adherents of Judaism). Much like today non-religious Jews refer to themselves as Israelites. The inhabitants of Judea (Yehud – Roman Province) who also referred to themselves as Judeans, later became translated into English as Jews. In ancient Jewish literature such as The Talmud, Jews also refer to themselves as ‘The Jews’.

I provided extra-biblical support from ancient sources who confirmed that the Apostle John wrote the Gospel of John. And the ‘we’ referred to in John 21:24 refers to those who verified that his testimony was true. It is estimated that John’s Gospel was completed in AD 90-100. Originally, John’s Gospel like the Synoptics were called Memoirs of The Apostles. In the second century, they were referred to as Gospels. Professor Bruce referenced the Jewishness of John’s Gospel. And that many scholars believe it was written by a bona fide authority on Jewish practices and processes. Lastly, I listed the Jewish sources (that is the people of Jewish descent) who testified that the person we know as Jesus Christ of Nazareth was non other than the Promised Jewish Messiah.   

I will leave you with John Calvin’s take on John’s Gospel. “I am in the habit of saying that this Gospel is the key which opens the door to the understanding of the others.” Amen and Amen to that!

Cheryl Mason.


Bieringer, R., Pollefeyt, D. and Vandecasteele-Vanneuville, F., 2001. Anti-Judaism and the Fourth Gospel. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, p.181-184.
Bruce, F., 2003. The New Testament documents. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, pp.21,32,35,44-50.
Comfort, P., 2005. Encountering the Manuscripts. Nashville: B & H Pub. Group.
Eusebius and Crusé, C. (2009). Eusebius’ ecclesiastical history. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, p.93.
Greenlee, J., 2008. The text of the New Testament. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson.
Lancelot, S. and Brenton, C., 1851. The Septuagint with Apocrypha Greek and English. 12th ed. London: Samuel Bagster & Sons, Ltd.
The Holy Bible, King James version.
Patzia, A., 2011. The making of the New Testament. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic.
Tomson, P., 2005. Presumed guilty. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
Vermes, G. and Vermes, G., 2010. The Real Jesus. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, p.90.
Youngblood, R., Bruce, F. and Harrison, R., 1995. Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. Nashville: T. Nelson, p.897.

The End:

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