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John 12:29

ESV The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”
NIV The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.
NASB So the crowd who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, 'An angel has spoken to Him!'
CSB The crowd standing there heard it and said it was thunder. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him."
NLT When the crowd heard the voice, some thought it was thunder, while others declared an angel had spoken to him.
KJV The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him.

What does John 12:29 mean?

The response to Jesus' comment about God's glorification provides insight into how, and why, some people fail to see evidence of God which others find obvious. A voice from heaven speaks audible words (John 12:28). This is the exact communication some modern skeptics claim would compel them to believe in God. However, the core reason for disbelief is not a lack of evidence. Evidence is easily available without miracles (Romans 1:18–20; Psalm 19:1). Evidence is accessible in accounts of the miraculous and in Scripture (John 5:39–40). But evidence can always be dismissed by those who don't want to believe (John 7:17). Miracles can be ignored (Luke 16:31). Signs can be misread, even on purpose.

Those who claim this sound was only thunder seem to be in that latter category. They literally hear the voice of God—and dismiss it as something mindless, natural, and meaningless. That's an appropriate parallel to modern-day skepticism, where mounting evidence of God's influence in nature is brushed aside. Whether it's a lack of spirituality (1 Corinthians 2:14) or outright stubbornness (1 Timothy 4:2), the result is the same.

Others have a less-skeptical interpretation, which is to assume the voice they heard was that of an angel. Both, however, find themselves in a moment of decision. As Jesus will explain, these events serve as "signs" that ought to lead people to faith (John 12:30–36). Those who reject God will have no excuse for their disbelief. Later verses in this same passage make this idea very clear (John 12:37–40).
What is the Gospel?
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