The Meaning of John 8:51 Explained

John 8:51

KJV: Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.

YLT: verily, verily, I say to you, If any one may keep my word, death he may not see -- to the age.'

Darby: Verily, verily, I say unto you, If any one shall keep my word, he shall never see death.

ASV: Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my word, he shall never see death.

What does John 8:51 Mean?

Verse Meaning

The central purpose of Jesus" mission was not glory for Himself but glory for His Father through salvation for humankind. Jesus" introduction of this strong statement shows its vital importance. Keeping Jesus" word is synonymous with believing on Him (cf. John 5:24; John 8:24). The death in view is eternal death (cf. John 11:25).
"The assurance relates to life which physical death cannot extinguish, and so to the death of the spirit; the believer receives eternal life, i.e, the life of the kingdom of God, over which death has no power and which is destined for resurrection." [1]

Context Summary

John 8:48-59 - The Eternal Christ
It is absolutely true that the Christian disciple does see death as the king of terrors or as a grim monster. Jesus has robbed death of its sting; He has destroyed Him that had the power of death. The moment of death is the moment of birth into a wider and happier existence. We are set free from this body of mortality and become possessed of the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. The grave is the vestibule of Paradise. We know that the iron gate opens into the city of God. Absent from the body, we are present with the Lord. The moment of transition is so desirable that it is only comparable to the falling asleep of the tired laborer.
The Father glorified His Son by the attestation given at the Baptism and the Transfiguration, by the Resurrection from the grave, by the Exaltation to His right hand. Yet these are but stages in the glorification of our High Priest. The full outburst of His glory is yet future. We shall behold the glory with which the Father has rewarded His obedience unto death; nay, we are to share it with Him. See John 17:22; John 17:24. Notice the I AM of John 8:58. Compare Exodus 3:14. [source]

Chapter Summary: John 8

1  Jesus delivers the woman taken in adultery
12  He declares himself the light of the world, and justifies his doctrine;
31  promises freedom to those who believe;
33  answers the Jews who boasted of Abraham;
48  answers their reviling, by showing his authority and dignity;
59  and slips away from those who would stone him

Greek Commentary for John 8:51

If a man keep my word [εαν τις τον εμον λογον τηρησηι]
Condition of third class with εαν — ean and constative aorist active subjunctive of τηρεω — tēreō Repeated in John 8:52. See John 8:43 about hearing the word of Christ. Common phrase in John (John 8:51, John 8:52, John 8:55; John 14:23, John 14:24; John 15:20; John 17:6; 1 John 2:5). Probably the same idea as keeping the commands of Christ (John 14:21). He shall never see death Spiritual death, of course. Strong double negative ου μη — ou mē with first aorist active subjunctive of τεωρεω — theōreō The phrase “see death” is a Hebraism (Psalm 89:48) and occurs with ιδειν — idein (see) in Luke 2:26; Hebrews 11:5. No essential difference meant between οραω — horaō and τεωρεω — theōreō See John 14:23 for the blessed fellowship the Father and the Son have with the one who keeps Christ‘s word. [source]
Keep [τηρήσῃ]
See on 1 Peter 1:4. [source]
Saying [λόγον]
Better, word, as Rev. See on John 8:43. [source]
He shall not see death [θάνατον οὐ μὴ θεωρήσῃ]
The phrase θεωρεῖν θάνατον , to see death, occurs only here in the New Testament. The double negative signifies in nowise, by no means. Θεωρήσῃ seedenoting steady, protracted vision, is purposely used, because the promise contemplates the entire course of the believer's life in Christ. It is not, shall not die forever, but shall live eternally. Upon this life, which is essentially the negation and contradiction of death, the believer enters from the moment of his union with Christ, and moves along its entire course, in time no less than in eternity, seeing only life, and with his back turned on death. The reverse of this truth, in connection with the same verb, is painfully suggestive. The question is pertinent why the Revisers have retained see, and have not substituted behold, as in so many instances. [source]

Reverse Greek Commentary Search for John 8:51

John 8:55 Saying [λόγον]
Properly, word, as John 8:51. So Rev. [source]
John 17:8 The words [τὰ ῥήματα]
Compare thy word ( λόγον ), John 17:6. That signified the gospel message in its entirety. This, the message considered in its constituent parts. See on Luke 1:37. Compare John 5:38, John 5:47; John 6:60, John 6:63, John 6:68; John 8:43, John 8:47, John 8:51; John 12:47, John 12:48; John 15:3, John 15:7. [source]
John 10:1 Verily, Verily [Αμην αμην]
Solemn prelude by repetition as in John 1:51. The words do not ever introduce a fresh topic (cf. John 8:34, John 8:51, John 8:58). So in John 10:7. The Pharisees had previously assumed (Vincent) they alone were the authoritative guides of the people (John 9:24, John 9:29). So Jesus has a direct word for them. So Jesus begins this allegory in a characteristic way. John does not use the word παροιμια — parabolē but εις την αυλην των προβατων — paroimia (John 10:6), and it really is an allegory of the Good Shepherd and self-explanatory like that of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. He first tells it in John 10:1-5 and then explains and expands it in John 10:7-18. Into the fold of the sheep (αυλη — eis tēn aulēn tōn probatōn). Originally αω — aulē (from αναβαινων — aō to blow) in Homer‘s time was just an uncovered space around the house enclosed by a wall, then a roofless enclosure in the country where flocks were herded as here and John 10:16. It later came to mean the house itself or palace (Matthew 26:3, Matthew 26:58, etc.). In the papyri it means the court attached to the house. Climbeth up (αναβαινω — anabainōn). Present active participle of αλλαχοτεν — anabainō to go up. One who goes up, not by the door, has to climb up over the wall. Some other way (αλλοτεν — allachothen). Rare word for old εκεινος — allothen but in 4Macc 1:7 and in a papyrus. Only here in N.T. The same (κλεπτης εστιν και ληιστης — ekeinos). “That one” just described. Is a thief and a robber (κλεπτω — kleptēs estin kai lēistēs). Both old and common words (from ληιζομαι — kleptō to steal, κλεπτης — lēizomai to plunder). The distinction is preserved in the N.T. as here. Judas was a kleptēs (John 12:6), Barabbas a robber (John 18:40) like the two robbers (Matthew 27:38, Matthew 27:44) crucified with Jesus erroneously termed thieves like “the thief on the cross” by most people. See Mark 11:17. Here the man jumping over the wall comes to steal and to do it by violence like a bandit. He is both thief and robber. [source]
John 14:15 If ye love me [εαν αγαπατε με]
Third-class condition “if ye keep on loving (present active subjunctive, same contract form as indicative) me.” Cf. John 14:23. Ye will keep Future active of τηρεω — tēreō not aorist imperative τηρησατε — tērēsate (keep) as some MSS. have. For this phrase see also John 8:51; John 14:23, John 14:24; John 15:20; 1 John 2:5. Continued love prevents disobedience. [source]
John 3:3 Except a man be born anew [εαν μη τις γεννητηι ανωτεν]
Another condition of the third class, undetermined but with prospect of determination. First aorist passive subjunctive of γενναω — gennaō Ανωτεν — Anōthen Originally “from above” (Mark 15:38), then “from heaven” (John 3:31), then “from the first” (Luke 1:3), and then “again” Which is the meaning here? The puzzle of Nicodemus shows To participate in it as in Luke 9:27. For this use of ιδειν — idein (second aorist active infinitive of οραω — horaō) see John 8:51; Revelation 18:7. [source]
John 8:51 If a man keep my word [εαν τις τον εμον λογον τηρησηι]
Condition of third class with εαν — ean and constative aorist active subjunctive of τηρεω — tēreō Repeated in John 8:52. See John 8:43 about hearing the word of Christ. Common phrase in John (John 8:51, John 8:52, John 8:55; John 14:23, John 14:24; John 15:20; John 17:6; 1 John 2:5). Probably the same idea as keeping the commands of Christ (John 14:21). He shall never see death Spiritual death, of course. Strong double negative ου μη — ou mē with first aorist active subjunctive of τεωρεω — theōreō The phrase “see death” is a Hebraism (Psalm 89:48) and occurs with ιδειν — idein (see) in Luke 2:26; Hebrews 11:5. No essential difference meant between οραω — horaō and τεωρεω — theōreō See John 14:23 for the blessed fellowship the Father and the Son have with the one who keeps Christ‘s word. [source]
John 8:52 Now we know [νυν εγνωκαμεν]
Perfect active indicative of γινωσκω — ginōskō state of completion, “Now since such talk we have come to certain knowledge that thou hast a demon” (John 8:48). Is dead Second aorist active indicative of αποτνησκω — apothnēskō “Abraham died.” And thou sayest Adversative use of και — kai “and yet.” Emphatic position of συ — su (thou). Same condition quoted as in John 8:51. He shall never taste of death Same emphatic negative with subjunctive as in John 8:51, but γευσηται — geusētai (first aorist middle subjunctive of γευω — geuō with genitive case τανατου — thanatou (death). Another Hebraism for dying like τεωρησηι — theōrēsēi (see) in John 8:51. Used in Hebrews 2:9 of the death of Jesus and in Synoptics (Matthew 16:28; Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27). It occurs in the Talmud, but not in the O.T. The Pharisees thus did not misquote Jesus, though they misunderstood him. [source]

What do the individual words in John 8:51 mean?

Truly I say to you if anyone - My word keeps death never not shall he see to the age
ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ἐάν τις τὸν ἐμὸν λόγον τηρήσῃ θάνατον οὐ μὴ θεωρήσῃ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα

ἀμὴν  Truly 
Parse: Hebrew Word
Root: ἀμήν  
Sense: firm.
λέγω  I  say 
Parse: Verb, Present Indicative Active, 1st Person Singular
Root: λέγω 
Sense: to say, to speak.
ὑμῖν  to  you 
Parse: Personal / Possessive Pronoun, Dative 2nd Person Plural
Root: σύ  
Sense: you.
τις  anyone 
Parse: Interrogative / Indefinite Pronoun, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: τὶς  
Sense: a certain, a certain one.
τὸν  - 
Parse: Article, Accusative Masculine Singular
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
ἐμὸν  My 
Parse: Personal / Possessive Pronoun, Accusative Masculine 1st Person Singular
Root: ἐμός  
Sense: my, mine, etc.
λόγον  word 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Masculine Singular
Root: λόγος  
Sense: of speech.
τηρήσῃ  keeps 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Subjunctive Active, 3rd Person Singular
Root: τηρέω  
Sense: to attend to carefully, take care of.
θάνατον  death 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Masculine Singular
Root: θάνατος 
Sense: the death of the body.
οὐ  never 
Parse: Adverb
Root: οὐ  
Sense: no, not; in direct questions expecting an affirmative answer.
θεωρήσῃ  shall  he  see 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Subjunctive Active, 3rd Person Singular
Root: θεωρέω  
Sense: to be a spectator, look at, behold.
αἰῶνα  age 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Masculine Singular
Root: αἰών  
Sense: for ever, an unbroken age, perpetuity of time, eternity.