John 12:34

34 The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”

Read John 12:34 Using Other Translations

The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou,The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?
So the crowd answered him, "We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?"
The crowd responded, “We understood from Scripture that the Messiah would live forever. How can you say the Son of Man will die? Just who is this Son of Man, anyway?”

What does John 12:34 mean?

John Gill's Exposition of the Bible
John 12:34

The people answered him
Not the Greeks, but the Jews, and these not such as were friends to Christ, but cavillers at him:

we have heard out of the law;
not the five books of Moses, but the Prophets, and Hagiographa; even all the books of the Old Testament are called the law; (See Gill on John 10:34);

that Christ abideth for ever;
referring to those places which speak of the perpetuity of his priesthood and the everlasting duration of his kingdom, ( Psalms 110:4 ) ( 45:6 ) ( 72:17 ) ( Psalms 89:36 Psalms 89:37 ) ( Daniel 2:44 ) ( Daniel 7:13 Daniel 7:14 ) , in which last text express mention is made of the son of man, and that and the first may be more especially respected; from whence it appears, that these passages were understood of the Messiah by the ancient Jews: they knew he was designed in ( Psalms 110:4 ) . He is David's Lord that was bid to sit at the right hand of Jehovah, after he was raised from the dead, and had ascended on high; whose Gospel went forth with power, and whose people, by it, were made willing to submit to him, to his righteousness, and the sceptre of his kingdom; and who also is a priest for ever; and which is appealed to as a proof of the nature, kind, and duration of Christ's priesthood, ( Hebrews 5:6 ) ( 7:17 ) ; and so it may be observed it is expressly applied to him by Jewish writers: in ( Zechariah 4:14 ) it is said "these are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth"; of which this interpretation is given F6.

``These are Aaron and the Messiah; and it would not be known which of them is (most) beloved, but that he says, ( Psalms 110:4 ) , "the Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, thou art a priest for ever"; from whence it is manifest that the Messiah is more beloved than Aaron the righteous priest.''

And so another of them F7, speaking of Melchizedek, says,

``this is that which is written ( Psalms 110:4 ) , "the Lord hath sworn" who is this? this is he that is just, and having salvation, the King Messiah, as it is said, ( Zechariah 9:9 ) .''

So the 45th Psalm is understood by them of the Messiah; the King, in ( Psalms 45:1 ) , is by Ben Melech, said to be the King Messiah; ( Psalms 45:2 ) is thus paraphrased by the Targum,

``thy beauty, O King Messiah, is more excellent than the children of men.''

And Aben Ezra observes, that this Psalm is either concerning David, or the Messiah his son, whose name is David, ( Ezekiel 37:25 ) F8; and the passage in ( Psalms 72:17 ) is frequently interpreted of the Messiah and his name, and is brought as a proof of the antiquity of it F9; and ( Psalms 89:36 ) is also applied to him; and as for ( Daniel 7:13 ) , that is by many, both ancient and modern Jews, explained of the Messiah F11 and since then they understood these passages of him, it is easy to observe from whence they took this notion that the Messiah should abide for ever; but then they should have observed out of the same law, or Holy Scriptures, that the Messiah was to be stricken and cut off, was to be brought to the dust of death, and to pour out his soul unto death; all which is consistent with his abiding for ever, in his person and office; for though according to the said writings, he was to die and be buried, yet he was not to see corruption; he was to rise again, ascend on high, sit at the right hand of God, and rule till all his enemies became his footstool; his sufferings were to be in the way, and in order to his entrance into the glory that should always abide. The Jews have entertained a notion that Messiah the son of David shall not die, and they lay down this as a rule, that if anyone sets up for a Messiah, and does not prosper, but is slain, it is a plain case he is not the Messiah; so all the wise men at first thought that Ben Coziba was the Messiah, but when he was slain it was known to them that he was not F12. And upon this principle these Jews confront the Messiahship of Jesus, saying,

and how sayest thou, the son of man must be lifted up?
for it seems Christ used the phrase the son of man in his discourse, though John has not recorded it; he attending to his sense, and not to his express words. The Jews rightly understood him, that by the son of man he meant the Messiah, and by his being lifted up, his death; but they did not understand, how the Messiah could die, and yet abide for ever; and therefore since he intended himself by the son of man, they concluded he talked very inconsistent with the Scriptures, and with the character he assumed, and ask very pertly,

who is this son of man?
is there any other son of man besides the Messiah? and can the son of man, that is the Messiah, be lifted up, or die, who is to abide for ever? and if thou art to be lifted up, or die, thou art not the Messiah or Daniel's son of man, whose kingdom is everlasting: but how come the Jews themselves to say, that the days of the Messiah, according to some, are but forty years, according to others seventy, according to others, three hundred and sixty five F13? yea, they say, he shall be as other men, marry, have children, and then die F14. And how comes it to pass that Messiah ben Joseph shall be slain F15? the truth of the matter is this, they having lost the true sense of the prophecies concerning the Messiah, and observing some that seem to differ, and which they know not how to reconcile, have fancied two Messiahs, the one that will be much distressed and be overcome and be slain; the other, who will be potent and victorious.


F6 Abot R. Nathan, c. 34.
F7 R. Moses Hadarsan in Galatin. de cath. ver. l. 10. c. 6.
F8 Vid. Tzeror Hammor, fol. 49. 2.
F9 T. Bab. Pesachim, fol. 54. 1. Nedarim, fol. 39. 2. Bereshit Rabba, fol. 1, 2. Echa Rabbati, fol. 50. 2. Pirke Eliezer, c. 32.
F11 Zohar in Gen. fol. 85. 4. Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 13. fol. 209. 4. Jarchi & Sandiah Gaon in Dan. vii. 13. & R. Jeshua in Aben Ezra in ib.
F12 Maimon Hilchot Melacim, c. 11. sect. 3, 4. Vid. Bereshit Rabba, sect. 98. fol. 86. 2.
F13 T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 99. 1.
F14 Maimon. in Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 11. sect. 1.
F15 T. Bab. Succa, fol. 52. 1.
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