Problem Passages in the Gospel of John Part II: Untrustworthy Believers—John 2:23-25 -- By: Zane C. Hodges

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 135:538 (Apr 1978)
Article: Problem Passages in the Gospel of John Part II: Untrustworthy Believers—John 2:23-25
Author: Zane C. Hodges


Problem Passages in the Gospel of John

Part II:
Untrustworthy Believers—John 2:23-25

Zane C. Hodges

[Zane C. Hodges, Professor of New Testament Literature and Exegesis, Dallas Theological Seminary.]

During the first Passover of the Lord’s ministry, it is reported by the Apostle John that, in response to His miracles, “many believed in His name” (John 2:23). However, it is also reported that “Jesus did not commit Himself” to these new believers due to the supernatural insight into men which He always possessed (2:24–25).

An overwhelming number of commentators on the Gospel of John have drawn the conclusion that the individuals referred to in this passage were in fact not genuinely converted but rather that they exercised a superficial and inadequate faith based on signs. This deduction is founded on what is said about the Lord’s response to them, not—obviously—on a direct assertion by the text that their faith was less than truly regenerating.

Despite the near unanimity among well-known expositors, there are substantial grounds on which this conclusion can be called into question. It is the purpose of this study to examine these grounds with a view to reevaluating the passage in question.

Believing in His Name

The Greek expression used in John 2:23 for “believed in His name” is ἐπίστευσαν εἰς τό ὄνομα αὐτοῦ. It has often been pointed out that the construction πιστεύειν εἰς is one that has not yet been found in secular Greek or even in the Septuagint.1 Consequently it

is tempting to suggest that it is a Christian coinage, though that of course can hardly be proved. If it is, however, then πιστεύειν εἰς must necessarily have originated with either John the Baptist or with Christ Himself. Both are reported to have employed it in utterances which belong to the earliest period of the Gospel narratives (John 3:15, 16, 18, 36), and historically the first recorded use actually belongs to Jesus (3:15).2 Even if the expression were known to secular Greek (which is probable enough), it was a...

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