Question: “Jesus knew from the beginning who . . . should betray him” (John 6: 64). “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” (John 6: 70). If Jesus knew from the beginning that Judas would betray Him, why did He chose him?
Answer: John 6: 64 has been mistranslated in the King James (Authorized) Version. The proper translation should read, “But there are some of you who do not believe, for Jesus knew from the beginning that there are some who did not believe, and there is someone who would betray him.” This translation simply tells us that Jesus knew that there would be people who would be unbelievers in Him, and that someone was going to betray Him. The statement that He knew these things from the beginning refers to the beginning of His ministry. During the time of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, He undoubtedly came to understand that He would be rejected by the bulk of the people, and that even one of his disciples would betray Him. He probably learned the latter thought from Psalm 41: 9, which says, “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.”
We would therefore answer the question as follows: While our Lord knew that many in Israel would not believe Him to be the Messiah, and while He knew that someone of those whom He chose as His disciples would betray Him, the passage does not warrant us to conclude that Jesus knew from the beginning which one of the disciples it would be. It is contrary to our Lord’s character to assume that He would have chosen one whom He knew to be unworthy of being an Apostle. All along our Lord knew that one of the Twelve would betray Him, but we do not know how soon He found out that it was Judas. He probably construed this from various selfish things that Judas did which manifested his disloyalty of heart – a disloyalty of heart that he did not have when he was first chosen as a disciple; for he, like the others of the Twelve, was an Israelite indeed in whom there was no guile when he was chosen.