How do you respond to John 6:64, 70–71?

Jesus told his disciples, “‘But among you there are some who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him” (vs. 64). Jesus continued, “‘Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.’ He was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him.”

Those who hold that the future is eternally settled and that God knows it as such sometimes cite this verse as evidence that Jesus foreknew, from all eternity, that Judas would betray him. They base this upon a questionable interpretation of the phrase “from the first” (arche). However, the phrase need not imply that Jesus knew who would betray him from a time before the person decided in their heart to betray him (let alone from all eternity, as the classical doctrine requires). It can more plausibly be taken to mean that Jesus knew who would betray him early on (cf. Phil. 4:15), either from the moment this person resolved to betray him, or from the time Jesus chose him to be a disciple.

In either case, eternal and exhaustively definite divine foreknowledge is not necessary. All that is required is God’s perfect knowledge of a person’s inner motivations in the present.

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