March 1, 2023
Unfortunately, some Christians and many Jewish people think that the Gospel of John is antisemitic. However, in His conversation with the Samaritan woman, Jesus clearly said, “Salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22b). This verse and the rest of Jesus’ conversation in John chapter four debunk the claim that this book is antisemitic. Jesus’ striking statement shows that the New Testament confirms the unique role of the Jewish people in God’s redemptive plan. This phrase, clearly in support of the chosen people, poses major problems for those who have tragically misused the Bible to support their antisemitic ideas.
One example is Walter Grundmann, a German theologian of the Nazi period. He argued that Jesus was not Jewish and that the New Testament is an attack on Judaism. Grundmann could not, however, reconcile this view with Jesus’ clear declaration that salvation is from the Jews. So, he claimed that this phrase was not originally in John’s Gospel. He said that a later editor or scribe inserted it. This example illustrates that a careful reading of the New Testament in context does not foster antisemitism. Rather, misusing Scripture for antisemitic ends requires twisting it and ignoring its content.
Why Is “Salvation Is from the Jews” Important?
What exactly did Jesus mean when He said, “. . . salvation is from the Jews”? In what sense is salvation from the Jewish people? How does this all relate to Jesus Himself? As we examine Jesus’ statement in context, a few key truths emerge. First, God entrusted the Scriptures to Israel (Romans 3:2). It was also to Israel that He sent Jesus, the Messiah (Matthew 15:24). Moreover, God called Israel to be a light to the nations (Isaiah 42:6). This article will discuss each of these three elements and what they mean for us today.
Reading Scripture in context is crucial. Taking careful note of what comes before and after a certain passage yields many treasures. John 4:22b is no exception. What prompted Yeshua to declare, “Salvation is from the Jews”? At the beginning of this chapter, Yeshua left Judea to return to Galilee. John notes that “He had to pass through Samaria” (John 4:4). Jewish people and Samaritans tended to avoid one another (John 4:9). Samaritans thought that Mount Gerizim, not Jerusalem, was the proper place of worship. They also only believed in the Torah, excluding the prophets and writings.
How Did the Topic Come Up?
Yeshua, tired from the journey, stopped by a well outside the city of Sychar. Meanwhile, His disciples entered the city to buy food. While Yeshua sat by the well, a Samaritan woman came to draw water. He was thirsty; after all, He had been walking all day. So He asked the woman for a drink. Recognizing Him as Jewish, she was surprised that He interacted with her (John 4:5–9). Nevertheless, a conversation began. When He demonstrated knowledge about personal details of her life, she called Him a prophet. She then brought up the disagreement between Jewish people and Samaritans about where to worship (John 4:19–20). Here is Yeshua’s response:
Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:21–24)
In summary, Yeshua told her that the key to proper worship is doing so in spirit and truth. At the same time, He confirmed that the Jewish people, unlike the Samaritans, knew whom they worshiped. This claim is the grounds for the striking statement, “salvation is from the Jews.” To this statement we now turn.
God Gave the Jewish People the Scriptures
One of the greatest blessings God gave His people was entrusting them with His Word. Paul highlighted this amazing gift when he described the nature of Israel’s election in Romans 9:4. He wrote that to Israel belongs “the giving of the Law.” In this instance, “Law” may refer to the Old Testament as a whole, not just the Torah. God’s revealing Himself to Israel is central to Jesus’ point that His people know God. Israel did not know the Lord because of any inherent superior intelligence or spiritual insight (Deuteronomy 7:7). Rather, God made Himself known to them. In love and grace, He made Israel His own.
The blessing of God’s Word, however, was never meant for Israel alone. Through the Jewish people, the knowledge of the one, true God has spread throughout the entire world. It is the most translated and bestselling book of all time. It was Jewish prophets who penned the Old Testament, or Hebrew Scriptures. Likewise, all the New Testament authors were Jewish, with the possible exception of Luke. The New Testament is steeped in the themes, imagery, and language of the Old.
Together, the Scriptures tell the story of the God of Israel, His people, and His Messiah. This message has transformed individuals and nations. The Torah is the foundation of many moral principles we take for granted today, such as a duty to help the poor and the inherent value of human life. Polytheism, once the dominant religious form around the world, has greatly waned. Most importantly, people from “every tribe and tongue” are trusting in Yeshua through the Bible (Revelation 5:9). The message of salvation has come through the Jewish people.
Salvation Comes through the Messiah
“Salvation is from the Jews” ultimately leads back to Jesus Himself. As His talk with the Samaritan woman progressed, He told her that He is the Messiah. She returned to her town and bade the inhabitants to “come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done” (John 4:29). He ended up staying at that city for two days. After that time, the Samaritans reported, “This One is indeed the Savior of the world” (John 4:42). The name Yeshua means “salvation.” Yeshua was Jewish and came first to His own people, as the Scriptures foretold. The angel who told Mary she would have a son while still a virgin declared that the child “will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
When Mary and Joseph presented Yeshua at the Temple, Simeon called Him, “A light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2:32 cf. Isaiah 42:6). Israel has the honor of being the conduit through which God brought the redeemer to the world. No one comes to the Lord except through Yeshua the Messiah (John 14:6). Everyone who trusts in Yeshua, whatever their ethnic background, shares in Israel’s spiritual blessings. We benefit from the atonement and new life that Yeshua announced first to Israel. “Salvation is from the Jews” because the Savior is from, and first came to, the Jewish people. To be saved is to be united with the greatest Jewish person who ever lived.
Israel Will Bring the Nations to God
God has already given us His written Word and His Messiah. Still, a future, corporate aspect of this calling remains. Not only did the Scriptures come through Jewish prophets and the gospel through Jewish apostles, but universal knowledge of God (Isaiah 11:9) will come through end-times Jewish faith in the Messiah. The prophet Zechariah vividly described what this will look like. “Ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you’” (Zech 8:23).
Here are a few significant facets of Zechariah’s imagery. First, Gentiles will seek the Lord passionately, even desperately. They will also recognize that God revealed Himself to the Jewish people. In addition, God will use Israel to bring the nations to a knowledge of Him. Paul also spoke of this future role for the Jewish people. He foretold that all Israel would one day recognize Yeshua as the Messiah. That glorious day will also lead to a great revival among the nations. Paul wrote, “For if their [Israel’s] rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:15).
The salvation of the Jewish people and the salvation of the world are profoundly linked. Throughout the Bible, God is working through Israel to redeem the earth. Reading John 4 in the context of the rest of Scripture confirms that “salvation is from the Jews” remains in effect. Some commentators argue that Jesus’ statement is no longer true because Israel’s unique role in God’s plan has since dissolved. Zechariah’s and Paul’s words, however, strongly indicate that the Jewish people remain central to God’s plan of salvation.
Let us look at John 4:22 again within the context of Jesus’ talk with the Samaritan woman. As we see how the conversation changed this woman’s life, we discover that “salvation is from the Jews” is good news. Jesus’ statement confirms that God is consistent and faithful. God has kept His promise to bless Israel and, through them, the world (Genesis 12:1–3). Knowing that the Lord is true to His Word regarding Israel should encourage us that He will accomplish everything He has said. Again, the truth that “salvation is from the Jews” ultimately leads to Jesus Himself. As Simeon said when he held Jesus in the Temple, “My eyes have seen your salvation” (Luke 2:30).
We also see this connection within Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman. He crossed many cultural barriers to meet this woman in her need and show her the way to salvation. First-century Jewish men generally avoided speaking with women who were outside their families. This practice was especially strict with Samaritan women. Even His disciples were shocked when they came back and saw Him talking with her (John 4:27). Still, Jesus did not let any societal obstacle stand in the way of His redemptive work. Though one could have interpreted His actions as improper, He told this woman what she needed to hear.
Notice the fruit, though. By the end of this story, not only she but also so many in her village trusted in Jesus. It is this message of salvation “from the Jews” that Jesus told His followers to proclaim, “both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
 Anders Gerdmar, “Walter Grundmann: Towards a Non-Jewish Jesus,” in Roots of Theological Anti-Semitism: German Biblical Interpretation and the Jews, from Herder and Semler to Kittel and Bultmann (Leiden; Boston: Brill Academic Pub, 2008), 557–58.
 Brian Maiers, “Samaritans,” in Lexham Bible Dictionary, ed. John D. Barry et al. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).
 In John 10:34, for instance, Jesus introduces a reference to the Psalms with, “Has it not been written in your Law?”
 Jeremiah Unterman, Justice for All: How the Jewish Bible Revolutionized Ethics, JPS Essential Judaism Series (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2016), 22.
 In Hebrew, the name ישוע “Yeshua” is related to the word יֵ֫שַׁע meaning “deliverance, rescue, salvation.” See Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: With an Appendix Containing the Biblical Aramaic (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Academic, 1994), s.v. “יֵ֫שַׁע”.
 Gerald Peterman, “Social Reciprocity and Gentile Debt to Jews in Romans 15:26-27,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 50, 4, (December 2007), 735-46.
 For example, D. A. Carson makes this claim about John 4:22. “As strongly as Jesus insists that the Jews were appointed by God to unique privilege and responsibility as they passed on the oracles of God (cf. Rom. 3:2), he insists no less strongly that their privileged position is in the process of dissolution as that eschatological age dawns to which their own Scriptures point.” (D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary [Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: InterVarsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991], 224.) As this article discusses, “salvation is from the Jews” refers to more than just the Scriptures. Moreover, the Bible consistently affirms that God’s choice of Israel is eternal.
 Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014), 258–60.