“he Came Unto His Own”: What Can We See In Greek That We Can’t See In English? (gospel Of John 1.10-12)

10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

This passage is probably one of the most important passages for discovering the true meaning of the Gospel of John. Why is this passage so important?  First of all, this passage is part of the book’s prologue. It is in the prologue where the trajectory for all the material that follows is determined.  In other words, the way the interpreter understands the prologue will affect how he reads the rest of what John had to say.

Generally speaking, both Christian and most Jewish scholars after them read this passage as if the unit of thought begins at vs.11 and continues until vs. 13. (We need to keep in mind that when the Gospel was first authored, there were no breaks between chapters and verses.) However, vs. 11 continues to develop the idea that begins in vs.10. This is significant because without verse 10, verse 11 is can be easily misread.

Vs. 11 traditionally is interpreted as follows. “He came unto his own (meaning the Jews), but his own (meaning the Jews) did not accept him.” In this traditional interpretation vs. 12 continues to juxtapose Jewish national unbelief with the faith of universalized/international Christians. However, there are two problems with this interpretation that at least should temper our conclusions until we know more:

1)      First it is grammatically problematic. Literally the translation of the first “own” in vs. 11 from the Greek should be rendered as “He came to his own things.” The Greek word is in fact in neuter plural, and therefore cannot in anyway refer to the Jewish people or any people for that matter.  It most probably refers to “the world” in vs. 10 that proceeds vs.11 (… the world was made through him, yet the world did not receive him.) The second “own” in vs. 11 can in fact refer to the Jewish people, but does not have to, since it can simply refer to humanity rejecting God’s Kingship. The traditional interpretation argues against the logical and simple flow of text (line of thought) in John’s narrative.  If one is careful to distinguish the genders used by the author, the first “own” is neuter and the second “own” is masculine, then the traditional interpretation may be not as certain as previously thought.

2)      This interpretation is also problematic historically, because it’s reading in a later history back into a previous history. Before I lose you, please, let me explain. You see whether someone thinks that John was authored extremely early (around 40 C.E.) or fairly late (around 90 C.E.) during all of the first century Jewish followers of Jesus were still very much present in large numbers. Many of the original Jewish leaders of the early Jesus movement and their (Jewish) disciples played an active role in the life of the Early Church.

At this point, I’m not setting forth any conclusive theories; but simply raising problems with the usual assumed reading of this text. If the traditional interpretation of Jn. 1.10-13 is indeed the correct interpretation, then the basic assumption about this Gospel is unavoidable – it is in fact an early Christian anti-Jewish document, regardless of its very rich Christian spiritual message. However, I am suggesting that there is at least one alternative way to read the Gospel of John.  But more about this in later sections of this commentary.

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© By Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, Ph.D.

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  1. […] Galilean story of Jesus’ rejection is not mentioned at all. It is possible therefore, that “his own received him not” (Jn.1.11) must be read in connection to that largely Judean, Jerusale… Jesus was Jerusalem-centered, Temple-centered Galilean Jew who was not accepted by his own, not in […]

  2. Eric Rodríguez

    BS”D
    Addenda et corrigenda:

    “On that season Yehoshua’ sang and said…”

  3. Eric Rodríguez

    BS”D
    Here, is when becomes true the Bialik Maxima: Read the hebrew Bible in other language (mode of think) than in its original Hebrew, is like to kiss a beautiful woman with a veil between you and her. Dr. Eli is right. Context, via Miqra’ Mesoras מקרא מסורס, (Lectio inversa) is clear: None was able to receive God’s light,His Messiah,by proper means/ways/merits; there were no conscience of the everlasting life in all around the world, we all, got in darkness!!. so, God decided (Shines) to beget Sons throughout a “Spiritual adoption”, because only Yehoshúa’ the Messiah was a “natural” son. So, we all, jewish and non-jewish which have received this adoption, that true Light as a gift, became his sons. Are irrelevant the considerations about the word ιδία / ιδιοι here, because in verse Jn 1:12 are all people included, never take off the jews, who indeed, as Dr. Eli says, were the preponderant number of believers at the beginning. But, for the sake of the true, and clarity, is important to remember that the word ιδια / ιδιοι was used in Septuaginta for meaning בית “house” (Es 5:10), חניך “servants” (Gn 14:14), and מכורה “Homeland”(Ez 21:30). In particular, חניך (Chanich) plays in sense with the word מחנך (mechanech, master, teacher, guide); so, His ιδια (Chanichim), are “those who should have had the capacity of guide the people about the true light”, this is the majority of the sages of Israel in that moment. The Jewish people, the average people, who wasn’t Chanichim, received him!!!!! Haleluyah!

    1. Eric Rodríguez

      BS”D
      The hebrew text maybe is:
      אל חניכיו(מחנכיו) בא, וחניכיו(מחנכיו) לא קבלוהו
      אבל את כל מקבליו נתן רשות לההיות בנים לאלהים
      To his servants/Instructed/educated came, but His servants/Instructed/educated didn’t received him. On the Contrary, to all who received him, gave the authorization to become Son to/of God

      1. Eric Rodríguez

        BS”D

        Excuse me, the correct grammar is:
        אבל לכל מקבליו נתן רשות…
        I don’t know what I was thinking about 😀

    2. Eric Rodríguez

      BS”D
      Another quote I can apport to suppor this hypothesis is Mt 11:25 “In that season , Jesus sang and said: I praise you Father, Master of the Universe, because you hid these (things) from wises and clevers (The sages) and revelated them to the Children (the common and “ignorant” people (Cf. Jn 7:48-49, “Did someone of the governors or Pharisees believe in him? But this people which doesn’t know the Torah, is cursed” )

  4. Humberto Meza

    Google translation of the original post: The difference in language should not be an obstacle for someone who knows the scriptures, from the objective point of view John was referring to the mission of Jesus, to the things He made​​, however, and demonstrated. and this is also Isaias 61.Citado in Matthew, Mark, Luke. the same goal (of Jesus) is your thing. Matthew 4:17. Jesus announced the kingdom of cielos.el kingdom of heaven is jesus supernatural demonstration that bothered the religious Jews, John the Baptist was sent to investigate whether the Messiah was to come and tells him to say. the blind see, the lame, the dumb speak andan.lo yours is the kingdom, which came to restore and establish a new order, John takes the words of Jesus and Chapter 17 reveals his mission to inform the parent. however it is Peter who teaches the most powerful gospel revelation 2nd Peter 1: 4 and is an invitation to be partakers of the divine nature of Christ which is the proof itself.

    La diferencia idiomatica no debe ser un obstáculo para alguien que conozca las escrituras, desde el punto de vista objetivo juan se refería a la misión misma de Jesús, a las cosas que El, hizo, cambio, y demostró. y esto es Isaias 61.Citado también en Mateo,Marcos, lucas. el objetivo mismo (de jesus) es lo suyo. Mateo 4:17. jesus anuncio el Reino de los cielos.el Reino de los cielos es la demostración sobrenatural de jesus que incomodaba a los religiosos judíos, juan el bautista manda a indagar si era el mesías que habría de venir y el le manda a decir. los ciegos ven, los mudos hablan los cojos andan.lo suyo es el Reino,el cual vino a restaurar, y establecer un nuevo orden; Juan recoge las palabras de jesus y el capitulo 17 revela su misión dar a conocer al padre. no obstante es Pedro quien da a conocer la mas poderosa revelación del evangelio 2º de Pedro 1: 4 y es una invitación a ser participantes de la naturaleza Divina de la cual cristo es la demostración misma.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Shalom, Humberto. Your point probably because of translation did not come in very clearly. Your poinst that Jesus claimed to be God and THAT turned people off in a sense that it did not fit Judaism of the time? If, so this is not exactly, right. Among other things you can read Daniel Boyarin’s Book Jewish Gospels. See the section on the Son of Man in Jewish religious literature.

  5. marcela paredes

    Dr Eli
    in one or other interpretation, evry people can be chidren of God, jews or no “12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Yes, of course and first-class at that!

  6. Margaret Comstock

    We hear this gospel at the end of every high Mass. I always assumed that ‘his own’ referred to his home town – where he could not do many miracles. The problem of a prophet…..
    This is an interesting discussion – I wish there were more responses.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      You were reading it less traditionally, but more accuretly.

  7. Dr. Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

    Your logic here is problematic not only because is grammatically unnatural (remember its not only in neuter, its also in PLURAL) but you are arguing in a circular (though certainly traditional logic) here. The Jews rejected Jesus as a nation later in the Gospel, therefore its beginning has to be about them. The trouble is that the later reading IS IN FACT determined by how you read this verse and not vica versa.

  8. Julie

    I see it is an accusative neutral plural but simply means; his own land, home area, country….city,temple…. He took upon himself a fleshly form and came to the race to which he was united by fleshly ties; …the second is: his own(people); his own received him not.
    His own is the Jewish nation, who received him not….if you grew up with someone in your neighborhood and suddenly he announces he is God’s only begotten Son and even claims to be one WITH the Father then it would be kinda hard to accept…. but Mary KNEW he was of the Father.

  9. Julie

    I looked this up in Greek and can not see where you think it means ” things”. How could it even mean “things” when it further in says; not many miracles happened because of THEIR (people)unbelief. That passage in Greek says; εἰς τὰ ἴδια ἦλθεν, καὶ οἱ ἴδιοι αὐτὸν οὐ παρέλαβον….. I really don’t find the words ; Ήρθε στη δική πράγματα.= “He came to his own things”

    εἰς(to) τὰ(the) ἴδια(own) ἦλθεν(he came), καὶ (and)οἱ(the) ἴδιοι(own) αὐτὸν(him) οὐ(not) παρέλαβον(received).

    1. Dr. Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Dear Julie, I will provide only partial response to this section, because in the following reply you do say that you now understand what I am saying about gender difference(although you disagree with my take on it). So that’s an improvement. All translation is interpretation in some way the more accurate – the better, the less – the worse. My reference to “things” was there for only an attempt to reflect Neuter Plural in Greek, realizing that its probably not possible to translate this Greek nuance into English so that the difference in what John is saying cab be clearly seen.

  10. eli

    The first couple of people to comment on this one should get a prize for being brave! 🙂