John 5:39

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39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.


You study the scriptures thoroughly because you think in them you possess eternal life, and it is these same scriptures that testify about me,

Translations differ: either the Lord Jesus is telling the Jewish leaders[1] to search the scriptures (as KJV, etc) or pointing out the reason why they do so (as NET, etc). Either way, it shows that he knew that it is possible that dedicated Bible students, who study Scripture believing that it means eternal life to them, nevertheless miss the significance of what they are reading. There is good reason to believe that the same thing is happening today.

See Critical Thinking for a study of the Bible's approach to reading Scripture for understanding.


  1. "the Jewish leaders" is from the NET translation of v.10, which has this footnote:

    Or “the Jewish authorities”; Grk “the Jews.” In NT usage the term ᾿Ιουδαῖοι (Ioudaioi) may refer to the entire Jewish people, the residents of Jerusalem and surrounding territory, the authorities in Jerusalem, or merely those who were hostile to Jesus. Here the author refers to the Jewish authorities or leaders in Jerusalem. (For further information see R. G. Bratcher, “‘The Jews’ in the Gospel of John,” BT 26 [1975]: 401-9).