John Chapter 8:30-32
If John didn't mean to say that they actually believed in Jesus, (which is how elsewhere John describes receiving Jesus unto eternal life) he could've been much clearer about it. For example, if they were neutral and soon to turn hostile (only 2 verese later), then why didn't John say "those Jews who were considering His words" or "those Jews who were listening to Him" or "those Jews who were following His discourses" or "those Jews who were following Him around"?
OR, if they were already skeptical or even hostile, why would John describe them as "believing in Him"... why wouldn't he have made that clear and said "those Jews who were following Him and looking to discredit Him in their own minds" or "those Jews who doubted the things He was saying" or "those Jews who regarded His words with contempt"??
Do we not think that there were some there in the outer court of the temple that day who actually DID believe in Him... truly? Wouldn't it be the most common sense interpretation to attribute Christ's statement to "those Jews who believed in Him" to this group of true believers (however large or small)... and the ones who "answered Him" as the ones who were also in the crowd who were hostile to Him? Some hostile people had dropped their stones and left, the ones who were actually ready to stone the adultress. The instigators of such stoning were still there in the court and He was talking to them!! They picked up stones at the END of the chapter... for a different defendant....
Anyway, the discussion on John 8:30-32 moved over here at the Bluecollar Blog and Mark posted the opinion of two of my favorite theologians who disagree with my view of it. Ryrie and McGee also think that these verses refer to some idea that John is describing believers who quickly prove themselves to not really be believers after all.
That is a pity. Oh well. :~)
I discovered that Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown express, beautifully and eloquently, how the Son of God must have surely and truly touched some there in the outer court that day. Please read the following:
8:30. As he spake these words, many believed on him--Instead of wondering at this, the wonder would be if words of such unearthly, surpassing grandeur could be uttered without captivating some that heard them. And just as "all that sat in the council" to try Stephen "saw his face"--though expecting nothing but death--"as it had been the face of an angel" (Acts 6:15), so may we suppose that, full of the sweet supporting sense of His Father's presence, amidst the rage and scorn of the rulers, a divine benignity beamed from His countenance, irradiated the words that fell from Him, and won over the candid "many" of His audience.
8:31-33. Then said Jesus to those Jews who believed, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed, &c.--The impression produced by the last words of our Lord may have become visible by some decisive movement, and here He takes advantage of it to press on them "continuance" in the faith, since then only were they His real disciples (compare John 15:3-8), and then should they experimentally "know the truth," and "by the truth be made (spiritually) free."
8:33. They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man, &c.--Who said this? Not surely the very class just spoken of as won over by His divine words, and exhorted to continue in them. Most interpreters seem to think so; but it is hard to ascribe such a petulant speech to the newly gained disciples, even in the lowest sense, much less persons so gained as they were. It came, probably, from persons mixed up with them in the same part of the crowd, but of a very different spirit. The pride of the Jewish nation, even now after centuries of humiliation, is the most striking feature of their character. "Talk of freedom to us? Pray when or to whom were we ever in bondage?" This bluster sounds almost ludicrous from such a nation. Had they forgotten their long and bitter bondage in Egypt? their dreary captivity in Babylon? their present bondage to the Roman yoke, and their restless eagerness to throw it off? But probably they saw that our Lord pointed to something else--freedom, perhaps, from the leaders of sects or parties--and were not willing to allow their subjection even to these. Our Lord, therefore, though He knew what slaves they were in this sense, drives the ploughshare somewhat deeper than this, to a bondage they little dreamt of. (Jamieson, Fausset, Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible)