Jesus Christ Prays For All People: A Letter by Karl Barth

Christ_in_Gethsemane625In the Scriptures, Jesus Christ is said to pray for the whole world. But who is the 'whole world'? I found the following letter in Karl Barth Letters: 1961-1968, where Karl Barth defines the 'whole world' as 'all humans', including all those who do pray and all those who do not yet pray. There is an element of Universalism in this letter, suggesting that Jesus is the savior of all people including those who do not yet Jesus as Savior. However, the Reformed Doctrine of Election has always allowed for people to be numbered among the elect who have not yet experienced conversion, existing as both Spiritually Alive and Spiritually Dead at once like Schrodinger Cat. Regardless of Universalism, Barth's definition of 'whole world' as 'all people' is fascinating.

Letter 203 to N.N Denmark

Basel, 1 March 1966

Dear N.N.,

My sincere sympathies in the deep sorrow you are now feeling. My reply to your question is as follows: We read in John 1:10 that he (Christ) was in the world and the world was made by him.

John 3:17: God sent his Son . . . that the world might be saved through him.

John 6:51: . . . my flesh which I (Christ) shall give for the life of the world.

2 Cor 5:19: God was in Christ and reconciled the world to himself.

Rev 11:15: Dominion over the world has been given to our Lord and his anointed (Christ).

John 1:29: Behold, this is the Lamb of God, which bears the sin of the world.

1 John 2:2: He is the expiation for our sins, yet not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

In the Bible, the world is all humanity. If Jesus Christ is and does what we read here, then he also prays for all men: for those who already pray and those who do not yet pray.

With friendly greetings,


Karl Barth

*N.N., who had lost his wife, had read in Barth's vaterunser (Zurich, 1965, p. 41) that Jesus prays for all humanity and he had asked Barth to mention some verses in the Bible which tells us this.

Barth, Karl. Karl Barth Letters: 1961 - 1968. Trans. Geoffrey William. Bromiley. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1981. 199-200. Print.

Header Source: "Christ in Gethsemane" by Heinrich Hofmann - Self-scanned by User:JGHowes from 1945 print. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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