14 About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. 15 The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?”
The Feast of Tabernacles is a week-long celebration (A Jewish historian Josephus Flavius called this particular feast – most holy and important feast (Ant.viii. 4.1)) and we are told that Jesus appeared in the Temple and began to speak publicly some time after the beginning of the feast. There does not seem to be any particular significance to the fact that Jesus went up to the Temple midweek. He probably simply wanted those who were looking for him to let their guard down since by then they would have already assumed that he feared for his life enough, not to come.
When he came to the feast hoi Ioudaioi did not recognize him. Either Jesus’ looks were so “average” that people could not tell him from others, or no one who could make an arrest knew him or ever saw him personally. Remember that Judas’ kiss served to identify Jesus when the Temple guards came to arrest him. This is the most likely reason that hoi Ioudaioi who heard Jesus speak, wondered: ““How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” In other words given his accent and his clothing, he was a Galilean. His arguments were unconventional enough in its conclusions (thought not in its methods), however, that it appeared that he was not schooled in the circles of hoi Ioudaioi. How was this possible?”
16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. 18 The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.
Jesus answered the questions that hoi Ioudaioi had not voiced but were probably asking in their hearts. You are right I did not receive “approved” schooling, but I have a message to bring you as an authorized representative of Israel’s God. In other words, Jesus has challenged the hearers to stop thinking of him as a young sage from out of town and begin to think of him as a young prophet from God. A prophet does not need to be schooled by men, he has a higher calling; he must be taught by God.
19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?”
Remember that hoi Ioudaioi who were listening to Jesus’ speeches and Torah interpretations did not yet make the connection as to who Jesus was. Suddenly Jesus begins to make things clear. He first accuses them of not keeping the Torah of Moses (something that was customary of Israel’s prophets), and then states the fact that they (hoi Ioudaioi) are trying to take his life.
20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?”
The first reaction was shock and disbelief. “Are you crazy!” (In the words of Ancient Israelites: “You have a demon!!) some of them said in a loud voice. “No one is after you. Don’t be paranoid!” But as Jesus continued to speak, some of them began to connect the dots.
21 Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it.
It is clear that Jesus was referring to his healing of a Jewish man at the Pool of Bethesda. The pool in Hellenized Jerusalem likely functioned as the healing sanctuary of Asclepius, the Greek god of Medicine and health (read about it here). This happened during the previous trip of Jesus to Jerusalem. You may recall that the healed man, after he was confronted by Jesus about his life of sin, went to the Temple authorities to identify Jesus. This was something that was meant to hurt Jesus and not help him. It is of course also possible that this event caused such an uproar that the man needed to put the blame on someone. Perhaps, he was threatened when he said that did not really know who healed him (John 5:10-13) and later had the opportunity to claim his innocence before hoi Ioudaioi (John 5:14-15).
The healing occurred on the Sabbath and he likely disturbed the public order by walking into a pagan facility and healing someone in the name of Israel’s God (very bad for the ancient inter-faith relations and probably would have been for the modern too). Therefore, in order to distance themselves from Jesus and to discredit him, the Temple authorities accused him of Sabbath desecration. Hoi Ioudaioi‘s blind commitment to stop Jesus and strip him of his growing popularity closed their eyes from being able to see the obvious.
22 Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the Law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
It was believed that through the sign and seal of circumcision a person is brought into covenant relationship with Israel’s God and as a result is made spiritually whole. Notice that Jesus agrees with hoi Ioudaioi that even though it was a Sabbath day, the circumcision ritual still needed to take place because the sign of circumcision takes precedence over ordinary Sabbath regulations.
As was customary for Jesus, he didn’t argue with hoi Ioidaioi about the legitimacy of Mosaic Law. After all Mosaic Law is Jesus’ law, both because Jesus was the eternal Logos of God (read here and here) and, therefore, was its original giver. Moreover, because in his humanity he was a Jew, as such he was fully and firmly under the authority of the Law of Moses. Instead of arguing about the legitimacy of the Law, Jesus only argued with hoi Ioudaioi about the interpretation of the Law of Moses and himself accused hoi Ioudaioi of the sin of inconsistency (John 5:23). There was at least another time when Jesus criticized his opponents of the sin of inconsistency when he brought to their mind a reference from a Qumranic Damascus Document, saying that while the Pharisees were right about saving life on the Sabbath, they were wrong about the fact that they thought that healing should not be allowed on this sacred day (Mat.12.9-13 and CD XI 11b-14a). Qumran Jews were not allowed to assist their animals in birth on the Sabbath. This was done not out of lack of concern for the animal’s well-being (cruelty to animals), but out of concern for working to increase one’s own wealth on the Sabbath day. One example of what made this Jewish movement different from the far more liberal Pharisees was the following prohibition: “If it falls into a pit or ditch, he shall not raise it on the Sabbath.” Contrary to the popular opinion Jesus’ point in arguing with Pharisees over healing on the Sabbath was not to call them to repentance from legalism and bad hermeneutical methods, but rather to apply their already developed hermeneutical methods all the way. The sin of Pharisees often seems to be the sin of theological and halakhic inconsistency (read more about it here).
In a sense Jesus is saying: “You can see the importance of making the people whole spiritually and ceremonially on the Sabbath Day, but you refuse me the right to make the people physically whole on the Sabbath. We do, however realize that the issues that the hoi Ioudaoi had with Jesus had nothing to do with healing on the Sabbath. This was only an excuse to make him look bad. Their real issue was that he set up himself up as the true authority, therefore, in the minds of many people, displacing them from their seat of power.
25 Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? 26 And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ?
Notice how carefully the author of the Gospel distinguishes between the voices of the hearers (the people Jerusalem) and the authorities (hoi Ioidaioi). All of the sudden everyone “put two and two together” and realized that this must be Jesus whom the Temple authorities have determined to arrest. They had heard about his teaching and miracles in Galilee, but coming to Jerusalem and not seeking their approval was a nothing less than a challenge to their leadership. There was no place for them and Jesus together. Either they would remain in power, or he would take their place.
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 It is very important to note that Judaism (Rabbinical Judaism) as we know it today accepts healing as legitimate activity that is allowed on the Sabbath Day. All of this means that today’s Judaism follows Jesus’ teachings about the Sabbath-observance with regard to the healing and not the teachings of hoi Ioudaioi that opposed him in spite of the popular myth.
Join the conversation (27 comments)
Wow! I sit here amazed by this discussion. I may not go to Bible College anymore. I am learning so much just by reading your comments. Thank you guys. Baruch HaShem!
” It is very important to note that Judaism (Rabbinical Judaism) as we know it today accepts healing as legitimate activity that is allowed on the Sabbath Day. All of this means that today’s Judaism follows Jesus’ teachings about the Sabbath-observance with regard to the healing and not the teachings of hoi Ioudaioi that opposed him in spite of the popular myth”
It’s truly remarkable how many of Jesus’ teachings have been implemented within R.Judaism. Apparently, his secret Pharisaical followers had this influence, or his teachings had been wide enough to influence later sages.
What are your thoughts on this?
I think that it could have gone that way or a number of other ways. In other words Jesus points (like this one) were not unique there are other reformers who said or would have said something similar.
I am pondering the meaning of “taught by God”. You said that prophets were “taught by God” and convicted people of sin. Agreed. So if the law convicts us of sin are we not taught by God? Is our repentance or change of mind then work of God? Did Jesus come to convict people of sin? Just pondering (smile)
It is a very complex theological topic. But I think you are thinking in the right direction.
I didn’t have the pleasure of learning from Dr Boyarin but I have learned from Scripture that Abraham didn’t have religion, he had a relationship with the One true Elohim-YHWH; & he practiced a way of life. Under the new covenant, we enter this way of life thru the blood of YESHUA our Messiah and practice a way of life that He modeled while here on earth thru the resurrection power of the Ruach Hakkodesh. The Truth of the Torah cannot be lived out without the Grace thru YESHUA. Many who claim to be Christians don’t understand this because of wrong teaching in many churches which teaches that entrance into G-d’s kingdom is an event not a life. I didn’t see YESHUA making an altar call but He invited people to come follow Him.
Your thoughtful comment makes me to question myself where is the line of departure from present knowledge to ancient customs. I think that concepts such as “having a relationship with… Elohim” and “a way of life…” may be a little ( or much) overstretched to the past. The concept that “we enter” something through the blood is probably anathema to those times. I think most Jews understood that “the High priest” was able to use the blood for something related to God that benefited everyone. It was clear that dealing with blood was prohibited for the rest. Retro-projection is frequent now and we should at least recognize when and how we may be inferring present concepts to past writings based on the scarce evidence we have.
However, your line of reasoning is indeed thought provoking and highly appreciated by me.
Thanks for sharing.
The idea of ‘relationship’ was actually introduced by Adonai to Adam as He breathe His life into his nostrils. Adonai walked with Adam in the cool of the day. He is he Master Gardener who taught Adam how to cultivate & keep the garden of Eden. Abel had an on-going relationship w/ Adonai & that’s why he knew how to honor G-d with a fitting offering. The ‘faith people’ like Enoch, Noah, Abraham, etc all had close relationships w/ Adonai. Enoch was so close to G-d that G-d just invited him home without experiencing death. Abraham was so close, Adonai appeared to him several times & had lively discussions w/ him. You can go thru the hall of faith & see that they all had a vibrant relationship w/ the heavenly Father. Christians today would wish they just had a little of David’s experience w/ Yah. YESHUA came to show us that His relationship w/ His Father is our model – “I only do what I see my Father is doing”. The mistake that we commit today is to think that people in the past are not as wise as we are or that our experience w/ Adonai is greater. But the truth is, YHWH does not change & our relationship w/ Him is all about Him & not about us. We’re the ones who need to change & that can only happen when we surrender our lives to Him in complete trust & do what He does.
Christians think that Torah was given thru Moshe & indeed it was, i. e. as far as the written Torah is concerned. But Torah began when Elohim spoke & created everything. Everything that He instructed Adam was Torah. All His instructions to His chosen is Torah; only it was oral to be recorded later by Moshe. Otherwise, how would Abel, Seth, Enoch, Noah, etc would know how to properly worship Elohim? I mentioned this because Torah is the best evidence of a close relationship between a Father & His family.
Test the doctrine of sacrifice. Isaiah 1. Isaiah 66 1 4. Psalm 40 6.
Test Paul as a true apostle
An additional though may be given to alternative interpretations that have been proposed in this area which make a lot of sense. When we say “the original language” we may be probably referring to the MT which (albeit under development still in the 3rd Century) was the base for Jerome’s Vulgata which he composed mostly to use an agreeable text with the Jewish authorities who happen to be the rabbis evolved from the Pharissees. Thus, “the original language” is a Pharisaic line of textual development.
Alternative views have surfaced when the Old Testament and the New which suggest that original Christianity used a diverging text most clearly based on the Septuagint and including some apocryphal references which make Hebrews, Jude and some other texts make more sense as radical departures from phariseism and nascent Jewish interpretation which ultimately gave rise to the MT.
Under this light, Jesus was more than understandably rejected by the Pharisses and seen in this context, his ultimate ending seems logical by them. It is in this context that I personally read Hebrews, as reflecting a radical, extreme and real breakdown of Christianity from Judaism thus I understand Jesus claims that He was a breaking sword and a disputed flag meaning that the decision to follow Him has to be radical and final.
This kind of highly refoined use of texts and meaning could not have been caused by an illiterate Jewish peasant preaching alone in Judea which in the end ends being a mocker against a true Rabbi more learned than anyone during his time.
Ramon, as always it is a pleasure to read your comment and learn from them. Thank you for keeping us thinking together. I fully agree with you on the first part up until your argument that you read the book of Hebrews a final and radical “Christian” break from “Judaism” :-). Why do I have a problem with it? (I think most people reading my comment now may be expecting me to say the obvious (well something that they would expect namely that Christianity is Jewish, etc), but please allow me to surprise you 🙂 on what grounds exactly do I disagree with you). OK here I go… are you ready?
I do not think that before Christian theologians made it so, there was ever a religion called Judaism!
In other words, I think you are wrong to read it this way because in the time of Jesus and the author of Hebrews there was no category at all for RELIGION, that is there was no JUDAISM. Now to keep you from now falling down from your chair please allow me to say that of course people thought about matters of faith (they prayed and believed)… of course! But for something to be a religion there must be a unified movement of thought (one way to think about core things) – something that UNTIL THE ARRIVAL OF CHRISTIANITY (as unified & self-invented category) – the Jews never had!
Therefore, I am here agreeing with Daniel Boyarin (well… more like learning from him) 🙂 in that while there were Jews and everything that was part of the Jews (politics, culture, dress, language/s, etc), there was never a Judaism! Well… not until later Christian apologists imagined/verbalized/contextualized it along with Paganism as a separate category. We do of course know that there was never a religion called Paganism (at least in antiquity). It will take time, but I recommend you take time to watch Prof. Boyarin’s lectures about this. I could not say it better (though I trust I said something similar shorter) – http://iibsblogs.wpengine.com/2013/08/forming-of-christian-identiy-prof-daniel-boyarin-religion-and-diversity-project/
Let’s say we agree that we agree and also we agree that we disagree. Although I submit myself to the authority in here, which is you, and only share a set of considerations I have.
Your call that there was no “religion” as we define it in terms of Jewishness behaviour, that is, that their particular way of being, believing and acting was not a religion is a very daring claim, indeed, if it weren’t for the fact that you are stating that there was no Judaism as a religion, some would say that this is a heretic claim. But far from it, it is a very well sustained and backed claim on your part and Dr. Boyarin. I admit that I have to revise most of my references to digest your proposal and that I’m not prepared to agree or disqgree with it.
However, there is a critical issue here. Are we clear in the exact claim you propose? That is, am I understanding exactly what you propose in terms of timeline of our analysis, timeline of the events and timeline of the history we agree upon? When I speak of Jews and Judaism I understand I’m talking about those israelites that were subject to exile by the Babylonians, lived a while there, were subject to preaching by Jeremiah and Ehzekiel, were liberated, returned to Jerusalem reffering to themselves as Jews, were considerably different in customs and beliefs among other israleites that were not exiled, built the Second Temple and proclaimed under Ezra that “the old covenant writings” were found by him in the Temple.
Then almost 500 hundred years later they were those called oh-judday by Jesus. They were the ones divided in factions comprising Saducees, Pharisees, Essenes, etc. and they were the ones worshipping the God of Israel in the Temple. Those called Jews (and what I understand as their Judaism way of being that I presumed was a religion) are the ones I understand were in flagrant oposition to Jesus.
Then, if your clarification to me is that that people did not have a formal religion called Judaism, then, yes, I have to check everything. And I will do it gladly. This too interesting and amazing by each day…
Finally, I do totally and absolutely agree in the rest of the thesis, that the next 7 centuries did in fact defined Christianity and Judaism and that whatever we now manage is mostly the legacy of those who lived and debated in that period.
The secrets of the Kingdom are only given to those who are in the Kingdom. The Judean authorities were clearly enemies of the Kingdom and would never understand YESHUA’s message nor the Torah’s real message since it is spiritually discerned not just intellectually understood.
The crux of the matter for me is the indubitable fact that Jesus was not recognized as Himself a great deal along his ministry. And I confess that I am puzzled and fascinated by this fact. The fact that He was not easily recognized as Himself goes all the way through the Gospels, all four of them,. It is one of the most cross checked coincidences throughout the Gospels. And this fact is one of the least studied issues of Christology albeit one of the most important ones.
I like a lot that Dr. Eli has keep trace of this situation through our discussions. A response to this is beyond even addressing. however, I would like to posit some open questions:
1. Being followed by 12 hand picked apostles for almost 3 years, his mother and brothers, at least 72 disciples and a lot of women who received grace and healings, Jesus was not easily identified along the narrative and even is not recognized by many. Was there a prevalent need of eye glasses in Israel?
2. People who were actually healed by Him didn’t recognize Him more than once.
He fed thousands himself once and through his disciples the other in record and then almost all forgot who gave them food?
3. Pilate himself had to write a letterhead to be put over his cross to identify him as Jesus nonetheless after trying to confuse a mob to let Him free?
4. His own disciples didn’t recognize him after Resurrection forcing Him to show the evidence that he was Himself.
Why all of this?
To be continued…
Do any of us recognize G-d’s call when He beckons us everytime? The fact is, people only recognize the things they are interested in. YESHUA even accuse those who followed Him of following because He fed them. Even after He perform many miracles, the Judean authorities still question His authenticity & its not for want of evidence but because they clearly see Him as a threat & don’t want to give Him approval. After YESHUA’S death, the minds of His disciples denied His existence in the present because they already thought of Him as passe’. Their eyes refuse to acknowledge the possibility of His existence after death. That’s why He had to persuade them and present them with concrete evidence of His resurrection.
Some additional Gospel data that may signal that Jesus indeed was scholarly trained:
1. Zachariah, father of John the Baptist and married to Mary’s cousin, was a priest of the Temple of such high regard that he was one of the few that entered the holy of hlies in vigil. There the angel spoke to him about his son to be. He lived in Ain karin, half a day from Nazareth. Not unconvinient to have an important Temple priest as close relative.
2. Jesus was at age 12 in a dialogue with Temple priests when found after being lost for 3 days. The Gospels tell that the priests were amazed at his responses. Were this priests not Hillel and Shammai or close acquaintances? They were there about that time closing the Torah.
3. Jesus went to be baptized by John before beginning his ministry. john was the recognized acting prophet at that time.
4. Jesus went to the dessert and was confronted by the devil himself. Even though this account can only proceed from His own recount it is evident that the devil tempted Jesus as depicted and the temptations involved knowledge, riches and supernatural help from angels. Would the devil tempt an obscure ignorant Jew with such elaborate schemes? Would the devil tempt an ignoran with citations from the Torah and the writings only to be rebuked with direct citations on the contrary? Was this a delirious fictional account by Jesus to auto create His own myth? Or an explanation of why He was able to command the devil from the beginning?
I think it is due time to check on the prevailing assumption of Jesus not having formal training. I think the evidence doesn’t support that in any way. The fact that he was called, indeed the first one called, rabbi, by most who exchanged with Him attests to his evident command of the Law and ample knowledge. The fact that someone as important as Nicodemus was one of the first one’s to admit that he didn’t quite grasp his teaching also attests his knowledge. And the fact that a royal functionary, also called a Roman Centurion humbly recognized that he was not fit for Him to visit his house to perform a healing also testifies that he was treated as someone with authority by a supposed adversary. A Roman should have ORDERED Jesus to perform the healing but he humbly requested his favor for his servant.
This is not an ignorant peasant in any way, or was treated openly as one except by the Pharissees.
The fact remains that Jesus called them hypocrites and liars. Why do we have to believe their claim that Jesus was illiterate as a certain truth? May not them refer to the fact that Jesus had no TRACEABLE TRAINING to the Temple that he could claim? Wouldn’t that fit to the fact that this was a Jewish rabby from other school of thought and not the Temple? The “old tradition” as suggested by Other scholars?
Your note that since Jesus, Jewish have modified their claims and have come to accept healings on sabbath would confirm that in fact His teachings were amply regarded and respected and we must or should, at least, abandon the idea of the ignorant peasant rejected by the Jews. Ignorant He was not, not schooled He was not. Subject of lies and misconceptions and half truths, indeed He was.
It is not that YESHUA was unschooled because like other Hebrew children, He was probably given the usual synagogue learning; however, the point was that He was not one of those who were schooled by the Judean authorities and therefore not acceptable in their sight – not one of their number. Also His interpretation of the Torah was radical in their thinking and often ran counter to how they were taught. Besides, they just wanted to discredit Him and it didn’t matter much by what means they will do it.
I am agreeing with you on a point of particular interest, but am having trouble grasping the phrase “taught by God”. You mentioned a prophet must be taught by God. (I agree) However, in John 6:45 it says It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God. Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me.” This indicates to me that we will accept Christ because we have already accepted God’s word (revealed truth). I am not a prophet, sooo I can’t figure out why I am getting a double meaning.
There is no double meaning. While it is true that all believers will be taught by G-d Himself, the prophet receives a different insight into the message that G-d wants him to deliver. Particularly because he is a messenger, he must speak the exact message from the G-d, including the vision & not just words. You will notice that when Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah & the other prophets received the word, the Scriptures describes it as “and the word came to Isaiah…” Sometimes, in the case of Ezekiel, it would include instructions like open your mouth and eat this scroll… This is different from the Spirit’s instructions to the usual believer as the message is always personal and concerns the character development of the person.
In addition, to your points here in the case of Jesus it can not be said that “the word of the Lord came to” Jesus, because he WAS THE VERY WORD OF THE LIVING GOD.
Exactly. YESHUA is the Word & He created everything that we see. He is Knowledge and Wisdom so why would He need to be educated by the Judean authorities whose theology was imperfect to say the least. It was arrogant for the authorities to lift themselves up when they could not even offer one little miracle as a badge of their ministry. YESHUA only needs validation from the Father who sent Him.
As far I can accept long term goal of G-d in reference to salvage people from the sin of Adam, starts from Moses who speaks from G-ds words , that He will send a new Messiah to redeem all people, that I cannot notice how Messiah convert to G-d itself (Jesus). We can observe in Rev. 1.1 how G-d itself gives the vision to Jesus (how G-d gives His vision to G-ds i.e. same person?). Although in Last Book of Revelation he (Jesus) stands in FRONT of G-d taking a the scroll with (7) seals (Rev 5,7).Throne is described in chapter 4 as SINGLE THRONE, surrounded by 24 seats of Elders. There was NOT any throne for Jesus though.
He ( Jesus) was standing BEYOND that HIGH area of proximity of G-d alone.
Yet he (Jesus), till TODAY is not approved to go to second chamber of the Sanctuary (Tabernacle).
Courts starting from Chapter #4 with 24 Elders and ended up in Chapter 19th with same Elders as well.
These chapters within these times are time of Judgment for all, including Jesus.
This all about final Court and last days of earth.
Second coming of Jesus Messiah is all about to finish Judgments on Him and on us in forn of G-d and Elders and 144thd’s of witnesses.
I do not see in respect of second commandment (no other G-d next to me), with Deut 6,4 and many other His statements , many other prophets in the Bible like Isaiah, Ezekiel and others (Job) clearly stating about singularity of G-d alone.
Son of G-d as popular name of Kings and Messiah does not constitute them to be G-d itself. That is my view.
By the way, I like commentary about John, as to be thorough and solid. I’ve learn few things about Jewish customs and Greek’s influence on the Jerusalem.
Let’s keep thinking together. Dr. Eli
Please read the letter to the Hebrews (NT) where YESHUA is described as Messiah, Prophet, King & Priest according to the order of Melchizedek. The first & the 9th chapter are especially enlightening as regards your questions. I would encourage you to enroll at eteacher biblical to learn ancient Hebrew so you will appreciate how the Son of Man appeared repeatedly in the Tanach. The first verse of Genesis alone would give you great insight into YESHUA & why John 1:1, 2 parallels this verse. HASHEM said thru Isaiah that He reveals the end from the beginning; so it is a great adventure to study Genesis in the original language and find out who He calls the Aleph & Tav (Alpha & Omega in Greek).