EWTN Catholic Q&A
They Will All Know Me—John 6:45
Question from Frank Ringsmuth on 01-29-2003:

Dear Father Echert,

There are two very similar phrases in the Old Testament that are quoted in the New Testament: “They will all know me” (Jeremiah 31:34) and “They will all be taught by God” (Isaiah 54:13).

Jesus quotes this in John 6:45 in the very passage where He promises the Eucharist. It is quoted again in Hebrews 8:9- 10, as the author demonstrates the superiority of the New Covenant over that of the Old.

Can you please explain the meaning and significance of these passages, especially why Jesus quotes this in John 6?

Thank you, Father.

Answer by Fr. John Echert on 02-12-2003:

The Prophet Isaiah wrote:

54:13 All your sons shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the prosperity of your sons.

The Prophet Jeremiah wrote:

31:34 And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, —Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."

The Gospel of Saint John records these words of our Lord:

6:41 The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven." 6:42 They said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, —I have come down from heaven'?" 6:43 Jesus answered them, "Do not murmur among yourselves. 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 6:45 It is written in the prophets, —And they shall all be taught by God.' Every one who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 6:46 Not that any one has seen the Father except him who is from God; he has seen the Father.

All natural and divine revelation, in all its forms, is expressed through the divine Word of God, that is, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Creation itself is expressed and sustained through the Word, which is therefore a form of revelation but at the lowest and most universal level: natural revelation. Obviously, however, creation is not itself the Word. Above the level of natural revelation is divine revelation, which is expressed in many forms and through various mediators: prophecy through prophets, the law through an angel on Sinai to Moses, a voice or a guiding pillar of fire, and the inspired sacred authors of the Old Testament, such as Moses and many others. Once again, we must acknowledge that while this divine revelation transcends natural revelation, the mediators are not the divine Word but only instruments. So all revelation in the Old Testament period was mediated or manifested by something less than the divine Word, even while we affirm that the Word was always active in such revelation.

With the New Covenant, however, we now have the divine Word Himself Incarnate, who directly spoke and acted in the Gospel period, expressing divine revelation in Person and not through lower mediators. He is, in fact, Revelation Incarnate. As our Lord noted in the discourse cited above, only He is from the Father and has seen the Father—as He is in His Essence—and can therefore reveal God. Since the Son of God is God, of course, the prophecy is fulfilled that they will be taught by God—directly! No doubt this fulfillment far transcended what most Jews expected, for the Incarnation of God was unthinkable to most of them. Hebrews affirms this prophecy as applicable to the New Covenant in Christ, in which we have the Perfect Mediator, as both God and man.

Beyond this, we can add a text of Saint Paul, to the Corinthians, in which he assures us that those in the grace of baptism have the mind of Christ, through His indwelling Spirit:

2:12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. 2:13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit. 2:14 The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 2:15 The spiritual man judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 2:16 "For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.

This Holy Spirit was first poured out upon the Apostles and the first disciples of the Church, and continues to be given to us at the time of baptism. As such, we are able to be enlightened interiorly and directly by the divine Word Himself, through the activity and presence of the Holy Spirit. Once again, we properly say that we are taught by God, and in a manner that transcends the Old Testament and even the Gospel period, prior to the gift of the Holy Spirit. And so it is no wonder that those who know God and spiritual truths best are often not the brightest, by worldly standards, but having the mind of Christ within themselves, they are taught by God Himself. ©

Thanks, Frank

Father Echert