I had a Twitter exchange today with Irish Catholic editor Michael Kelly, that reminded me of our recent RTE radio debate when he denied that the Bible says that Jews are of their father the devil. In fairness, he acknowledged when I next met him that it does say that, but since the original exchange ended unresolved on RTE, I think it’s best to clarify the position publicly here.
The quote in the Bible is from Jesus in John 8:44. That’s the passage that starts with the story of the adulteress and ‘let he who is without sin cast the first stone’. However, that story was added centuries later. In the original John 8, Jesus has an argument with the Jews in the Temple, who decide to stone him, so he hides and then runs away.
Here is a transcript of the relevant part of the RTE interview.
Michael Kelly – I think its not so simple to separate mocking the beliefs from causing harm or causing offence to the individuals.
Host – What do you think, Michael Nugent?
Michael Nugent – Well in that case, if you’re going down that road, then the Catholic Church shouldn’t be saying that homosexuality is an objective disorder, and the Bible shouldn’t be saying that Jews are of their father the devil.
Michael Kelly – Well, Michael, that’s not a reference from the Bible, actually. I don’t know where you are picking that from, but its certainly not from the Bible.
Michael Nugent – It’s from John 8:44.
Michael Kelly – It’s certainly not.
Michael Nugent – And it’s Jesus talking to Jews about their God. He says, you are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. It’s one of several chapters in the Bible that give scriptural foundation to Christian anti-Semitism. You should be aware of that.
Michael Kelly – No, it’s certainly not. I’m extremely aware of the scriptures, but that’s certainly not there.
Michael Nugent – Check up John 8:44.
Michael Kelly – I mean, I don’t know what translation you’re reading from, but that’s just not there.
Michael Nugent – Check up John 8:44.
Authorised King James Version – “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.”
International Standard Version – “You belong to your father the Devil, and you want to carry out the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning and has never stood for truth, since there is no truth in him. Whenever he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies.”
New Revised Standard Version catholic Edition – “You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
The context of John 8:44
John 8 begins with the story of the Pharisees bringing before Jesus a woman caught in adultery, and asking Jesus if they should stone her. Jesus says “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” and nobody can do this, so Jesus tells the woman to leave and not to sin again.
But this story was not in the original version of John 8. It was added in centuries later.
In the original, or at least the most reliable versions of John 8, Jesus tells the Jews in the Temple that whoever follows him will never walk in darkness, and that if they knew him they would also know his father. He told them that if they continue in his word, they will be his disciples, and they will know the truth, and the truth will set them free.
The Jews said they were descendants of Abraham and were not slaves to anyone. Jesus said they were not Abraham’s children, as they were trying to kill him. He said they were from their father the devil, who was a murderer from the beginning and who is a liar and the father of lies. Jesus said they did not hear the words of God because they are not from God.
The Jews told Jesus that he was possessed by a demon, and asked him if he thought he was greater than Abraham. Jesus told them that before Abraham was, he is. The Jews then started to gather stones, in order to stone Jesus, but Jesus hid and then ran away.
Like many Bible passages, there are many interpretations of what John 8:44 means, and indeed Michael Kelly told me his interpretation when we discussed it later, but that’s not the point of this post.
The point of this post is to correct the claim, made on RTE by the editor of the Irish Catholic newspaper, that the quote does not appear in the Bible. It does appear in the Bible, and since the original exchange ended unresolved on RTE, I think it’s best to clarify the position publicly here.
This is the full interview from which the above extract is taken. It was about the Irish blasphemy law in the context of the Pope’s response to the murderous attack on the Charlie Hebdo staff.