posted on Aug, 6 2021 @ 05:01 PM
“Many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he did; but Jesus did not trust himself to them, because he knew all men and needed no-one
to bear witness of man; for he himself knew what was in man” (John ch2 vv23-25).
The key to understanding these verses is to appreciate that “believe in” and “trust to” are translating exactly the same word (apart from the
fact that the first one in in the plural).
In other words, there is a carefully balanced asymmetry at the heart of this passage;
Men trusted Jesus (they learned about him).
Jesus did not trust men (because he did not need to learn about them).
I find this passage fascinating and thought-provoking, especially that mysterious “because”, but I’ve never seen any discussion of the main
Clearly the trust is not mutual, not symmetrical. And that’s because the knowledge is not mutual, so let’s look at the question of knowledge
The Biblical God knows men perfectly, in detail. Apart from the fact that God knows everything, we are assured by Jesus that “even the hairs of your
head are all numbered” (Matthew ch10 v30).
The human mind cannot easily take in the point that God can grasp the whole and the details at the same time, because the human mind itself CANNOT
grasp the whole and the details at the same time. We can focus on the forest or an individual tree, not both. So we endow God’s mind with the
limitations of the human mind. If we do conceive the idea of a Supreme Being, we tend to make him remote, and give him assistants to look after the
details. Like the “intercessors” who fill the Catholic world, bringing our needs to the attention of a God who is too detached to see them for
But the Biblical God does not need intercessors or lesser deities. He really does know us in person.
On the other hand, men cannot know God in the same direct sense. That is partly because our minds are simply not big enough to take in the wholeness
of God. It would be like trying to fill a pint pot with a gallon of water. God is defined, theologically, as “incomprehensible”. The word
“comprehend” means “enclose, include, or embrace”. We cannot enclose the fullness of God in our minds, so we cannot comprehend him.
(In the first chapter of John, incidentally, the darkness cannot “swallow up” the light. Any translator who writes “The light shone in the
darkness and the darkness did not understand it” is not thinking things through. Shame on you, NIV.)
Faith is our substitute for knowledge. Since we cannot know God fully, we must trust in him instead. This becomes more possible because of Jesus;
“No one knows the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew ch11 v27). Indeed, “He who has seen me has
seen the Father” (John ch14 v9).
That explains what is said in the opening words of the quotation. Men could not know Jesus in the direct sense. They needed to learn about Jesus from
the signs that he did, bearing witness to him, and having learned about him they trusted in his name.
The statement about Jesus can be understood in a positive sense, and also in a more negative sense.
In a positive sense, as the exact reverse of what John said about men.
Jesus DOES know men and what is in their hearts, just as his Father knows men.
Therefore he hoes NOT need anyone or anything to bear witness of them.
Therefore he does not need to “trust in men” as a substitute for knowledge.
He knows them instead of merely “trusting”.
A more negative sense is possible.
Jesus did not trust in men because he knew them TOO darn well.
Men learned enough about Jesus to find him trustable.
Jesus KNEW men, and was therefore well aware that men are not trustable. He was surrounded by enemies and unreliable friends, people who would stone
him or betray him or run away at the last minute.
I’m still not sure whether John meant the positive or the negative sense. Perhaps we get the most out of this passage if we assume that he meant
Jesus relates to men here as God relates to men, one of many indicators that “God was in Christ”.