"Come and See": A Web Commentary on the Gospel of John: Section 8 Jesus at Tabernacles
Section 8.2: Teaching during the Feast (Jn 7.14-36)
COMMENTS ON SPECIFIC VERSES
This would be around the fourth day of this 7-8 day festival. If it were a Sabbath, then that would explain the resumption of the contentious question of healing on the Sabbath, previously discussed in ch5, without resorting to a displacement theory in which the positions of chs5 and 6 are reversed.
This is the first of three interchanges between Jesus and his opponents in which they pose an objection which Jesus answers by changing the ground of the discussion from the human, earthly plane to a divine, heavenly one. (The others are at Jn 7.25-30 and 33-6.) In this they are passages similar to Jn 6.41-51, a slice of the discussion between Jesus and some Judaeans after the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, in which the Judaeans objected to Jesus' claim to have come down from heaven because they knew his parents. Here the authorities know, or at least claim to know, that Jesus lacks the proper sort of instruction, which implies that he is not really qualified to teach others as he is teaching the crowd. Jesus responds by attributing his teaching not to a tradition of human learning, but to the one who sent him, his Father.
The Evangelist thus leaves to one side the questions that interest many modern scholars (Christ Keith, for example, who tackles them in such works as Jesus Against the Scribal Elite (Baker Academic, 2014) or The Pericope Adulterae, the Gospel of John, and the Literacy of Jesus (Brill, 2009)): what was the extent of Jesus' literacy and whether he had acquired rabbinic learning in some way and in some capacity. No-one in the text, least of all Jesus, addresses the question being asked in v15, namely, how could Jesus demonstrate assured Scriptural learning when he had not been taught by rabbis known to the rabbinic and scribal elite. However in a characteristic display of irony, and one that functions on multiple levels, the Evangelist nevertheless shows Jesus engaging in arguments using rabbinic tools, for example in Jn 6.35-50 (see Brown 1966 pp 277-8) and 7.21-3 (see Brown 1966 p 313).
From this it appears that the plot to kill Jesus, which has already been mentioned in Jn 5.18 and 7.1, was not widely known, perhaps even not outside particular circles within the Jerusalem establishment. Note, however, that some of the residents of Jerusalem in v25 have heard of it, although they are not leaders of the people.
The “single deed” is Jesus' practice of healing on sabbath. It's unlikely that the implication is that Jesus healed on the sabbath only the one time described in ch5, since the Synoptic tradition is clear that Jesus healed on the Sabbath more than once.
The expression “dia touto”, which can either mean “at this/at it” or “on this account”, led to confusion at the time that the text was divided into verses (long after its composition). Copyists who interpreted it in the first way put the start of the new verse after the phrase and those who interpreted it in the second way put the start of the new verse before the phrase. The latter became the more common verse division, but the former makes better sense.
This injunction from Jesus to carry out just (or righteous) judgement does not just apply to the situation of his Sabbath healing. It also looks ahead to the story at the beginning of ch8, the story of the woman taken in adultery. Here Jesus told the crowd that they should judge justly but there he demonstrated both justice and mercy in giving judgement about her case. Just and appropriate judgement is a repeated theme in chapters 7 and 8.
Once again those speaking about Jesus and Jesus himself are not on the same page. They are sure they know where Jesus is from, like those in Jn 6.42 who know who Jesus' parents are, and they are sure that this means that he is not the Messiah. This is thus another reference to the notion of the hidden Messiah, which we also saw earlier. In any case, Jesus responds not by debating whether the Messiah will be hidden or not, but by proclaiming yet again that he comes from the one who sent him, that is, from the Father, ignoring his earthly orgins.
In Greek this phrase is hoi archiereis, the plural of the word usually translated as 'high priest' in English. Although there was only one high priest at any given time, due to the Roman custom of appointing new high priests at frequent intervals, sometimes more than one in a year, there were at any given time usually one or more men who had served as high priest in the past. At this point, for instance, living previous high priests include Annas son of Seth and Ishmael ben Fabus, and possibly Eleazar ben Annas and Simon ben Camithus and others whose death dates are not certainly known. It is thought that the plural of 'high priest' used by John refers to the group of such men, and that they exercised a degree of informal leadership in the Council. The chief priests are also mentioned in Jn 7.45, 11.47, 11.57, 18.3, and 18.35.
The word hupēretai, translated here as “Temple attendants” was used to refer to servants or other lesser officers, for example, those serving magistrates, or those serving priests in a temple. In the New Testament it is often translated as “Temple police” in this passage, but I have tried to give it a more generic rendering here.
The third of the misunderstandings in this section. We the readers know, because of what Jesus has said earlier, especially in ch3, that Jesus is going back to the Father from whom he came, back to the heavenly realm. But the people of Jerusalem think he is talking about an earthly journey and speculate about his destination and his purpose in going. It's interesting that they think he might be planning to go to the Diaspora, the Greek-speaking lands outside Palestine, where many Jews had been settled for centuries, and teach “the Greeks”, that is, the Gentiles who live there. This is another example of John's use of irony, since the Diaspora was precisely the region where many Jewish-Christian teachers like Paul and John himself, spent successful ministries.
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