What does John 8:34 mean?
ESV: Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.
NIV: Jesus replied, 'Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.
NASB: Jesus answered them, 'Truly, truly I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.
CSB: Jesus responded, "Truly I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.
NLT: Jesus replied, 'I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin.
KJV: Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.
Verse Commentary:
Here Jesus uses the phrase translated as "truly, truly," or "very truly." This is from a doubled use of the Aramaic word amēn. Used at the end of a statement, as many cultures do in prayer even today, it suggests a hope that the words will be fulfilled, or that they are true. Used at the beginning of a statement, it is a claim to absolute, original, first-hand knowledge.

It's important to realize what Christ is saying here, and what He is not saying. Earlier, Jesus claimed to be the one and only source of spiritual truth, and that those who accepted Him would be set free from the enslavement of sin (John 7:37–38; John 8:12). Without question, Jesus is pointing out that sin is a mark of following darkness, instead of His light (1 John 1:5-10). Sin, by definition, means choosing earthly, worldly things over heavenly things.

What Jesus is not saying is that all sin, at all times, should be interpreted to mean that the sinner has no relationship to Christ. The Greek of this phrase makes this nuance much easier to understand than any English translation. The exact phrasing used is pas ho poiōn ho hamartia doulos ho hamartia. Literally, this means "everyone who keeps practicing sin is a slave of sin." In other words, Jesus is now speaking of a habitual, persistent sin. Those who are free in Christ may stumble into darkness, but they do not perpetually "walk" in it (John 8:12).
Verse Context:
John 8:31–59 is a passage which dovetails with John 2:13–22, where Jesus drives corrupt businessmen from the temple. These Scriptures disprove any myths that Jesus was weak, timid, passive, or soft. In this exchange with the Pharisees, Jesus pulls no punches. Jerusalem's religious leaders, and their followers, continue to resist Jesus' preaching. They rely on arrogance and insults, to which Jesus responds with blunt, unfiltered condemnation. This culminates in Jesus making an overt statement of His own divinity, punctuating the debate by declaring ''before Abraham was, I am!''
Chapter Summary:
John chapter 8 includes the story of the adulterous woman, a well-known but controversial passage. Most scholars believe this story is authentic, but not originally found in this exact spot in Scripture. This chapter continues Jesus' preaching during the Feast of Booths, where He once again comes into conflict with local religious leaders. Here, Christ will make His second ''I AM'' statement, using the analogy of light, which is a common theme in Hebrew theology. This conversation will become more and more heated. Eventually, Jesus' opponents are enraged enough to attempt killing Him right then and there.
Chapter Context:
Jesus is attending the Feast of Booths in Jerusalem, and has once again come into conflict with the local religious authorities. In the previous chapter, Jesus referred to Himself as a source of living water, playing off of the festivals' ritual pouring of water in the temple. In this chapter, Jesus will use the imagery of lights, also related to festival traditions. This chapter demonstrates Jesus' willingness to be direct, even aggressive, with His critics. The next few chapters will complete Jesus' public ministry, as He prepares for His impending death.
Book Summary:
The gospel of John was written by the disciple John, decades later than the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. 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”—in order to prove that Jesus is, in fact, God incarnate. Some of the most well-known verses in all of 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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