What does John 17:3 mean?
ESV: And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
NIV: Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
NASB: And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
CSB: This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and the one you have sent--Jesus Christ.
NLT: And this is the way to have eternal life — to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.
KJV: And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
NKJV: And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
Verse Commentary:
Elsewhere, the gospel of John points out that salvation comes only through Jesus Christ (John 3:16–18, 36; 14:6). Salvation brings "eternal life," in contrast to the eternal death of being separated forever from God (Matthew 25:30, 41, 46). Only by faith can a person be saved (Titus 3:5), and only by faith in Christ (Acts 4:12). John refers to the idea of eternal life numerous times in his writing (John 6:47; 10:28; 12:25; 1 John 2:25; 5:11).

The Greek term for "know" used here implies a deep level of intimacy. Though we are saved only by grace through faith, not by actions (Ephesians 2:8), saving faith is more than intellectual agreement (James 2:19). The gospel of John routinely uses the verb form of the Greek pisteuō, translated as "believe," in connection with this thought. Saving faith is not passive, temporary, or mechanical. It is trusting, active, and engaged (Hebrews 11:6; John 14:15). The connection between God and a true believer is profound, rooted in an ever-closer connection. Those who refuse to know God will not be saved by Him (John 8:55–59).

"Christ" is a title which comes through Hebrew, into Greek, and then into English. The word means "anointed one," or "messiah." Some writers, such as Paul, place the title first, referring to Him as "Christ Jesus" (Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1).

Interestingly, there are only two places in the gospel of John where the exact phrase "Jesus Christ" is used. The first is in the introduction (John 1:17), the other is here. This is also the first time in John's gospel where Jesus is recorded explicitly applying the title "Christ" to Himself. Others labelled Him that way, and Christ accepted their words (John 4:25–26; 11:25–27). Other Gospels record Him using the title (Matthew 24:5; Mark 9:41) as well. John's restrained use of the term "Jesus Christ" forms a set of brackets around everything leading up to Jesus fulfilling His purpose here on earth (John 12:27–32). This is echoed in Jesus' upcoming reference to being with God at the beginning of creation, also mentioned in the introduction (John 1:1; 17:5).
Verse Context:
John 17:1–5 begins what is known as Jesus' High Priestly Prayer. After giving a few last lessons to His disciples (John 16:31–33), Christ now prays. John explained certain earlier incidents by noting that it was not yet Jesus' "time." Here, that time has come. Christ begins by praying for Himself, though His words convey complete submission to the will of God. This moment occurs just before Jesus and the disciples enter Gethsemane, where He will pray again prior to being arrested.
Chapter Summary:
In this passage, known as the High Priestly Prayer, Jesus speaks to God about three main topics. First is Christ Himself, asking God the Father to glorify Him so He can glorify the Father. Next, Jesus prays for the faith and courage in His closest disciples. Finally, He prays for those who will come to faith because of the apostles' writing and teaching. This moment occurs before Jesus enters Gethsemane, where the other Gospels will record His final anguished prayers before being arrested (Matthew 26:36–46; Mark 14:32–42; Luke 22:39–46).
Chapter Context:
Over the last several chapters (John 13—16), Jesus has been giving last-minute instruction to His closest disciples. These lessons composed a large part of the Last Supper. Among those teachings were several warnings about persecution, with the encouragement of knowing the Holy Spirit would come. In chapter 17, we read Jesus' High Priestly Prayer, making requests on behalf of Himself, the apostles, and future believers. After this, Jesus will go into Gethsemane where Judas will turn Him over for arrest and His eventual execution.
Book Summary:
The disciple John wrote the gospel of John decades after the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke were written. The author assumes that a reader is already familiar with the content of these other works. So, John presents a different perspective, with a greater emphasis on meaning. John uses seven miracles—which he calls "signs"— to prove that Jesus is, in fact, God incarnate. Some of the most well-known verses in the Bible are found here. None is more famous than the one-sentence summary of the gospel found in John 3:16.
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