Is Jesus From Above Or From Below? (john 8:12-23)

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12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13 So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” 14 Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge according to the flesh;

Jesus applies the high calling of Biblical Israel to himself. He calls himself the Light of  the world! (vs.12) While this may seem usual to us, it must have sounded very strange to the original hearers. The Pharisees, having disavowed every witness that came to them about Jesus, level the charge that Jesus had no witnesses! (vs.13)  They meant that, for the most part, the Sanhedrin had not accepted Jesus and therefore their view of Jesus was generally negative. Jesus, however, responded that they as a body had no authority to judge Him because they were not qualified enough to do so (vs.14-15a).

I judge no one. 16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me.

Jesus’ authority comes from his father. By implication, the hoi Ioudaioi (in this case the Pharisees) simply did not possess this authority. They were therefore rendered powerless to judge.

17 In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. 18 I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”

Jesus will use this argument more than once. The Pharisees claimed to be experts in Torah knowledge and interpretation. They accused the Christ-following Jewish crowds of lack of knowledge of Torah (John 7:49) Jesus told them that since they denied the testimony of witnesses for Jesus; this disqualified any opinions they might have about Him. His own testimony and that of the Father (signs/miracles) were sufficient. In this passage, Jesus does not juxtapose “your law” vs. “my law or our law,” but instead calls the Pharisee’s view to consistency.

19 They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?”

A often happens in court when a witness is presented; the opposite side seeks to discredit the power of the witness by attacking the witness’ person. The phrase “who is your father” likely referred to an early historical reference of a false accusation that Jesus was the illegitimate son of Joseph and Mary. Having said that, it is also possible that they were simply asking why Joseph (his father) was not appearing with Jesus to give his testimony. While the second scenario is possible, I think the first one is more likely.

Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 20 These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

The reason John mentions that Jesus said this while he was in the treasury area was to show that Jesus was in close proximity to all the Temple officials and guards. The conversation has moved from Galilee to Judea, from Judea to Jerusalem, from Jerusalem’s streets to the Jerusalem Temple, from the Jerusalem Temple grounds to the symbol of the Temple authority – the treasury unit.

21 So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” 22 So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?”

We have already heard similar clueless responses to Jesus’ statements. This Gospel continues to portray the Jerusalem Temple authorities as unfit to rule, unaware of simple things of the spirit, and in no condition to judge Jesus – the Son of the Living God.

23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

There is a wonderful play on words here. When we read that Jesus says to his opponents that he is from above and they are from bellow, there is more here than meets the eye. The Gospel of John from the beginning portrays Jesus to be divine Logos/Memra of God. As such preincarnate Jesus has always existed with his father in Heaven above. Jesus makes a reference to that divine and heavenly origin. But there is more here. You see, whenever the scripture says that Jesus traveled to Jerusalem it always says that he “went up” to Jerusalem. Getting to Jerusalem was and still is a physical ascent to the topographically higher ground!

The simplicity that is recovered when we translate the Greek back into the Hebrew original is striking. Remember that as Jesus arrives from Galilee, the topographically lower country to Judea, he comes to Jerusalem which is the topographically higher place. There he turns things upside down by confronting Israel’s leaders. So if Jesus had this conversation in ancient Hebrew, and there are some very serious arguments that he did, he probably used simple words like “Lemala” (up) and “Lemata” (down), which literally mean “high” and “low”. “You think you are high up because of your Jerusalem location?!” says Jesus. “No, you are actually from down below – because you belong to this fallen world, and I belong to the redeemed world to come!”

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  1. Diogo Cavalcanti

    The article doesn’t exclude the fact that Jesus was from Heaven, but reafirm it. The farisees thought they were spiritually on the top, just because they were in Jerusalem. So Christ said to them He was from a higher place than theirs: the Heaven itself! We can apply this reflection to the upper and proud “places” from were people consider themselves superior than others. We must also remember that the Hebrew name of Jerusalem (Yerushalayim) implies two “Jerusalems” – the earthly and the heavenly one.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      yes! good points. thank you, Diogo. Dr. Eli

  2. Manuel Salcedo

    Shalom to all participants of this forum, my view according to scriptural exegesis and hermeneutics, Jeshua refers to a spiritual place geographic when Jews responds to the place of its origin, the above is “Heaven” them below, or of this earth, earthly. remember that the charge for which he was sentenced to death on the cross was “BLASPHEMY” PRIESTS LE MAN BEING SAID … YOU BECOME YOUR DI_OS ……… Israel cried watching him whom they pierced, for He is the Passover Lamb slain for the sins of world, Jeshua resurrected and is seated in glory at the right hand of the Father and will return to Judging from the living and the dead.

    Shalom para todos los participantes de este foro, mi opinion segun la hermeneutica y la exegesis escriturales, Jeshua hace referencia a un lugar espiritual no geografico, cuando le responde a los judios el lugar de su origen, El es de arriba “Celestial” ellos de de abajo, o sea de esta tierra, terrenales. recordemos que el cargo por la cual fue condenado A muerte en la cruz fue “BLASFEMIA” LOS SACERDOTES LE DIJERON… TU SIENDO HOMBRE TE HACES DI_OS………Israel llorara mirando al que traspasaron, pues El es el cordero pascual inmolado por los pecados del mundo, Jeshua resucito y esta sentado en gloria a la diestra de Padre y volvera a jusgar a los vivos y a los muertos.

  3. Michelle Mihalakis

    Jesus is definitely from above because He says He is. He said my kingdom is not of this world…
    Michelle M.

  4. Chuck Pugh

    So this is referring to Jesus being from the Negev (low lands) and traveling up to the hills (high ground). So as a comparison it would be like if I said I had to travel Up to Jackson, MS because I would need to go north to get there? So here from below is the Negev and from above is the hills where Jerusalem is? Did I understand this right?

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      well… something like that. Galilee is the lower place (where Jesus traveled from to Jerusalem). Remember his movement was a real movement in Jewish part of Galilee and not so much in Judea. In Judea this is where all the conflicts happen for him. Also, Jackson MS is not a good comparison, because I think in the US we are largelly talking about up the map and down the map (meaning north and south). In Israel especially in connection to Jerusalem it is literally going up (the mountains and higher than valleys) ENDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD it is spiritual height. So in the American educational terms we can compare Jerusalem to Harvard and Yale, etc. or in financial terms to NYC, let’s say. eli

  5. Chuck Pugh

    I would have to say that Jesus is in fact from above for He is the first fruits over all creation and is the creator Himself (John 1:1-3). Then on the other hand He entered this world in physical form through His virgin birth by Mary here below. Having said that, Jesus made it very clear that he was sent below by His Father to do His will who is above. Jesus came from above and therefor returned above to sit at the right hand of the Father.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Shalom, Chuck. I think there is no question that Jesus is from above. He says so Himself. But back then and even today in Israel there exists also topography. Some places are lower ground and some are higher. So Jesus was coming up to Jerusalem from the lower to the higher, but in all reality He was the one who was from above. I think that is the point here.