The Believers Jesus Doubted: John 2:23–25 -- By: Debbie Hunn

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 25:1 (Spring 2004)
Article: The Believers Jesus Doubted: John 2:23–25
Author: Debbie Hunn

The Believers Jesus Doubted:
John 2:23–25

Debbie Hunn

Debbie Hunn is Assistant Public Services Librarian for Turpin Library at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas.

Scholars have long debated the meaning of John 2:23–25 and its connection to the Nicodemus pericope following it. The text reads,

Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He himself knew what was in man. (NASB)

The people in v. 23 saw the signs Jesus performed in Jerusalem and believed in his name, but Jesus did not believe in the people who believed in his name. So the text leaves the reader with the choice that either Jesus refused to entrust himself to true believers or that people who believed in his name did not, in some cases, truly believe. Students of the Bible generally agree that their faith was inadequate. Nicodemus follows, then, either as an example of one with inadequate faith or of one whose faith was superior to that of the people in v. 23. This, however, is an inadequate explanation of the passage. The purpose of this article is to re-examine what it meant that the people believed in Jesus’ name, that Jesus did not entrust himself to them, and that Nicodemus also believed due to signs.

I. Belief In Jesus’ Name

Many “believed in his name” (ἐπίστευσαν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ). D. A. Carson calls their faith spurious.1 Borchert says that Jesus was not deceived “even by well-intentioned words of believing.”2 Barrett says that Jesus was not fooled by the “appearance of faith.”3 Certainly Jesus could not be fooled by appearance, but the text does

not say that people appeared to believe or that they spoke well-intentioned words, but that they believed in his name. Their faith was not spurious.

Most commentators take the faith of the people in John 2:23 as genuine but insufficient to save them, a view at least as old as Origen. Origen said that faith in Jesus’ name was a faith inferior to faith in Jesus himself and could not save.You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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