“Abraham is our father,” they answered.

“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the works of your own father.”

“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (John 8:39-47, NIV)

In this passage Jesus seems to be saying pretty clearly that Satan is the father of the Jews. I know a lot of Christians that love Jews, but this verse seems pretty anti-Jewish. Is there some way of understanding this verse to be not anti-Jewish, or are there Christians that do not accept this verse as authoritative?

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    It's simply a matter of recognizing the audience of his speech. In other words, Jesus wasn't talking to all Jews, but specific individuals. Obviously, the apostles were all Jews, and even his mother. He wasn't calling them children of Satan. I mean, seriously. :)
    – user900
    Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 8:19
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    'In this passage Jesus seems to be saying pretty clearly that Satan is the father of the Jews.' - Incorrect conclusion.
    – user13992
    Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 10:26
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    Welcome to the site. We are glad you decided to participate. For future question asking reference please see the Types of questions that are within community guidelines I hope to see you post again soon.
    – user3961
    Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 19:07
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    "Jesus was Jewish." As were His disciples. Clearly, He is only speaking to a group of people, all of whom happen to be Jewish at this point. Most of them were probably also men. Manhood does not make one a son of the devil either.
    – user16825
    Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 21:43
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    I am giving you +1 because it is a passage that needs explaining and you spotted it. But, Muslims also calls Abraham their father (and they try to kill Jews). Claiming Abraham has never been enough to make one Jewish. In this Jesus is in keeping with the Old Testament especially the Prophets. Remember Jesus preached 'conversion' to Judaism for Jews who had been rejected or were experiencing difficulties. Nothing else. Commented Dec 6, 2014 at 6:40

5 Answers 5


That is exactly not the point he is trying to make. He is trying to say that it's our actions that show whether God or Satan is "our father" in a very figurative sense. He is saying "You are not the righteous just because you descend of Abraham, if you not also behave like that". Reversing that to say Jews are "children of Satan" in general is basically the thing he tries to refute here, in reverse.

  • He is actually saying that some of the Jews are Satan's children. In a spiritual sense, because they show the same attitude that Satan has. Namely, they do not live up to the truth, but promote lies to benefit themselves. Many (not all) of those versed in the Law and Prophets knowingly and deliberately rejected him, even with all the evidence pointing at him as the Messaiah. Of course, there were a number of Jews who did accept him. So you are right to say "no", yet that doesn't imply the exact opposite. Imagine, would Jesus really call his own disciples 'children of Satan'?
    – Mr. Donutz
    Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 13:56
  • @Mr.Donutz I don't follow. You mean saying the actions make us children of Satan or God is too strong? That it should read attitude instead of actions?
    – kutschkem
    Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 14:30
  • Remember that Jesus was a Jew himself, so obviously he could not have meant all Jews collectively. Jesus refers to the same individuals in many occasions, such as Matthew 23:2-7,13-36 (they pretend they have equal authority to Moses), and Luke 20:45-47 ("beware of the scribes"). Some of his parables also compare the attitudes that many of the prominent ("spiritual leaders") had in his day, with the attitude that God approves of, which is the complete opposite: humble, not proud or arrogant. Somewhere in the gospels, it is said that the versed ones considered the common people "accursed".
    – Mr. Donutz
    Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 14:45

Is there some way of understanding this verse to be not anti-Jewish, or are there Christians that do not accept this verse as authoritative?

The particular Jews that Jesus was speaking to were plotting to kill him. Jesus was pointing out that their claim to Abraham may have had a biological basis, but that their actions were contrary to what Abraham would have done. Jesus was in essence telling them that they have no legitimate claim to Abraham since their actions denied him.

John 8:37-39 I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father. They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham.

This particular group of Jews then raised the stakes. Jesus implies that their "father" is not Abraham but someone else. They then turn this insult back on Jesus (maybe implying illegitimacy regarding his birth). They then declare God as their father.

John 8:40-41 But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.

Jesus completes his explanation of why this group of Jews is unable to accept him. It is because they are in alignment with one who is hostile to God. They have come to a point where their connection to Abraham and God is of none effect.

John 8:42-44 Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

What a powerful warning this is for us. This particular group of Jews had come to a point where everything they did was contrary to what a Jew was supposed to do. They had in effect made themselves non-Jews by accepting a different "father".

Jesus is not calling all Jews "of the devil". He is telling those Jews who are trying to figure out a way to kill him that their opposition to him is because they have adopted a different "father".

  • TL;DR: Some people think there is a chromosome for righteousness. Jesus (as well as John the Immerser, and others) flatly denied it.
    – EvilSnack
    Commented Nov 29, 2019 at 2:31

Jesus was talking to a subset of people who were Jewish. Abraham was, in fact, their father/ancestor. However, being Jewish was not merely physical. They were God's covenant people. In this covenant, God obligated Himself to various things, but they were also obligated to various things as well. Also, a Jew who did not worship God and God alone was to be cut off from his people.

The Jews Jesus was speaking to in this particular passage were not worshiping God and God alone. In fact, Jesus, the Eternal Son, was standing before them, and they rejected Him. There is not much more they could do to completely reject God.

However, there were other Jews to whom He gave incredible praise. John the Baptist was one of them. In fact, when Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He instructed them to address God as "Father".

So, the Jews who rejected Jesus had rejected God's covenant with Abraham and, though, they were physically of Abraham, God was no longer their God or Father. Yet, to the Jews who believed in Him, He affirmed that God was their father.

  • @Narnian. How were the Jews to know Jesus was the 'Eternal Son'? You cannot let this answer stand as it is without an explanation. One can see how John struggles to give a logical explanation. He has Jesus revert to the non argument methods of the Greeks like Plato with his cave - 'I know - you do not, therefore I win' - instead of following the Jewish method of arguing we see in Matthew. You do the same. No good. Prove Jesus was the Eternal Son through logic to justify your 'in fact'. Or state in your that you as a person or your denomination or group hold this as a belief. Commented Dec 6, 2014 at 6:58
  • @gideonmarx How were the Jews supposed to know Jesus was God, the eternal Son? Well, perhaps their theology was incomplete, was to know Jesus was the Messiah and God in the flesh was well prophesied. Jesus also affirmed that if they loved God, they would love Him as well. So, evidence was not the issue. They rejected Moses and the prophets as well, so rejecting Jesus was par for the course, despite the evidence.
    – Narnian
    Commented Dec 8, 2014 at 13:12

No, God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34)

"But, in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him." (Acts 10:35)

Jesus was not speaking about Jews as a nation, but specifically to the audience in-front of Him. They have hardened their hearts against the Holy Spirit and were working against God.


Jesus was himself a Jew therefore I am perplexed by your question. Jesus was not a racist, what that passage is intended to convey is that:

Genesis 15:4through 6 NKJV And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, "This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir." 5 Then He brought him outside and said, "Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be." 6 And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.

and even though they were speaking with one who spoke with the authority of God they still did not believe, and were therefore unrighteous.

The key to understanding this passage lies in:

John 8:37 through 40 NKJV "I know that you are Abraham's descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. 38 I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father." 39 They answered and said to Him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham. 40 But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this.

The 'Old Timers' of my youth used to quote these Scriptures when they used the term "Like father like son".

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