Why is it said that the term "the Jews" as generally used in the Gospel of John is anti-Semitic?

Why is it said that the term "the Jews" as generally used in the Gospel of John is anti-Semitic? Let's find out.


"The Jews" is used in the Gospel of John seventy-one times as compared to a total of sixteen in the Synoptic Gospels. The overwhelming majority of the seventy-one occurrences convey a negative attitude.

The author of John prefers to speak simply of "the Jews" when describing Jesus' interaction with the Jewish population of Galilee and Judea, leaders and commoners alike. The term indiscriminately designates either the Jewish people as a whole, the inhabitants of Judea and/or Galilee, or the Jewish religious leaders—the chief priests, the scribes, and the Pharisees. It is frequently used in the Gospel of John with an unpleasant connotation.

The author of John separates Jesus and his disciples from "the Jews." He compounds his attack, deliberately encouraging his audience to see Jews as unfaithful and Judaism as invalid and both as part of the forces of evil and darkness. This author seeks to create an overwhelming aversion to the Jewish people and Judaism. As a result, there pervades this Gospel a constant harangue relentlessly directed against "the Jews," that is, the entire nation of Israel, not any specific faction. For example, all Jews are indiscriminately attacked in John 5:15-18, John 6:41, John 7:10-13, John 10:31, John 11:53-54, John 19:12, John 20:19. It is passages such as these that show the true target of the Gospel's malevolence is all the Jews.

As a rule, whenever John's Jesus employs the phrase "the Jews" in a pejorative sense, the entire Jewish population is involved with no distinction between groups being made or intended in the text. The use of the generalizing description, "the Jews," shows the calculated effort undertaken by the evangelist to condemn the entire Jewish people in the eyes of his audience. It is used as a direct and calculated attempt to depict "the Jews," as a nation, as a villainous people. Its use is part of the author's campaign to show his audience that the Jews, as followers of the devil, are against not only Jesus but God Himself (John 8:44-47). Indeed, that is exactly how Christians have understood the contents of this Gospel throughout the centuries.

© Gerald Sigal