Was Galilee Jesus’ Real Home? (jn 4: 43-54)

What was Jesus’ Home address? It Depends. (By Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg)

43 After the two days he departed for Galilee for Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown. So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast. 46 So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. 53 …Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. 54 This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.

The differences between the Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John have for centuries puzzled commentators. Some labored hard to reconcile every jot and tittle, while others reached the conclusion that John contradicts the Synoptics (Mark, Matthew and Luke). Many commentators are situated between these positions. They recognized that essentially the Gospels tell one story about Jesus. They also recognized that some of the crucial differences cannot be dismissed nor should they be ignored. The following section can rightly be numbered among such divergent traditions that tell the same story from different angles and perspectives.

We come to Jn. 4:43-45 as the reporting of the events connected with Jesus’ stopover in Samaritan Shechem finishes. Here we see that Jesus does not return to Judea but continues his journey to Galilee. In addition to the absence of the incident with the Samaritan woman from the Synoptics, there is another significant feature in which the Synoptics and John part company. John states that the reason Jesus did not return to Judea, but went on to Galilee, was because “Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own homeland (literally fatherland in the sense of motherland in the English language).” (4:44)

What is of course striking here is that John names Judea as Jesus’ homeland, his fatherland and not Galilee as do the Synoptics (Mt 13:54-57, Mk. 6:1-4, Lk. 4:23-24). We read in Mark’s account for example that: “Jesus left there and went to his hometown (Nazareth in Galilee), accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.’ He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.”

On the other hand, together with this alternative reading of Jesus’ identity (as a Judean vs. Galilean), John’s Gospel paints a picture of Jesus’ rejection and acceptance that is also very different from the picture in the Synoptics. Galilee and Samaria were very responsive to Jesus, according to John’s Gospel. People there welcomed him with very few exceptions; while everything he did in his homeland of Judea seemed to meet significant opposition.

There is paradox and tension here. In Judea (Jesus’ motherland in John), Jesus faced persecution. He was born there and his Father’s house was in Jerusalem (not in Galilee and not in Samaria),  but it is from there that the real opposition to him came from.

In John, Judea is Jesus’ real home. He belongs in Judea, more than he belongs any place else. I suggest therefore that we should understand Jn. 1:11 within this context: “He came to his own (creation), and his own (the Ioudaioi – Judean leadership and their followers) did not receive him.”

Much more about this in my upcoming book “The King of All Israel: Gospel of John and the Judean-Samaritan Conflict.” It should be available on April 1, 2015.

© Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, Ph.D. 2014

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  1. Ronnie Sim

    Life, plus many years in Africa, has taught me that we all live with and represent multiple identities. In Scotland I am a Sassanach [English speaker]; in UK, I am a Scot; In Europe and elsewhere I am British — or in Africa or with US citizens I am European. All are true.
    For Jesus too, He is “a Jew” [=Judean] in some contexts– Jn 4, may be an example. In Judea he is a Galilean; In Galilee, he is from Narareth, s/times Capernaum, a second homeplace.
    But his birthplace is Bethlehem, and his census enrolement if they enrolled infants was Bethlehem. Who I am is contextually sensitive, and depnds of part on Where I am.
    We do well to recoognise multiple identities. Thanks for a goood post.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Well said!

  2. Kat

    Where will we be able to purchase your books?

    The definition I found for the word “receive” implies that his own would not have had a familiar relationship with Jesus. That doesn’t make sense to me in his hometown, unless I considered The Ten Commandments were not being followed. This makes me wondered what the difference is in language for the words receive, honor, and believe.

    1. Cheryl Durham

      Kat,
      It may be that there are more than just language difficulties. Very often language use carries hidden cultural implications as well. As Dr. Eli has mentioned in his articles the NT writers used “Koine-Judeo- Greek (see Gentiles) this means that there are words that the authors of the text are using to express other words that have no equivalent meaning. For example: Christ (In Greek anointed) doesn’t import the theological weight that the word Moschiac (for which Christ is used) has in Hebrew. Since there are many words like that, you cannot get the intended meaning by looking up the words in English. You will need to find the equivalent in Hebrew and look them up in a good source.

      1. Kat

        Hi Cheryl. Yes I struggle because my faith in God was complete prior to hearing the gospel yet the “Biblical” language I learned starts with Jesus. Very isolating. 🙂

        1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

          Hello Kat, Thanks for posting. I can see where isolation can result from taking Jesus out of his cultural and historical context. Biblical language must be understood in a cultural and historical context so everything connects. When we connect Jesus to that context his image becomes clearer and less isolating. We are better able to connect with him as we become more familiar with how he was in his own environment.

          1. Kat

            Hi Eli, yes I learned to read the historical background here in the West but the history might have been tainted.:) The combination could be why I see Biblical Principles that are not based off of a Biblical language. This seems to cause a lot of conflict online.

  3. Michael J Contos

    I can’t wait for the book. I’ve learned so much from your writings and I am beginning to0

    I look forward to 2015 for more refreshing discourses and teachings.

    God bless us one and all . . .

  4. Michael Fraser

    Hello Dr Eli In what form was the bible old testament and new testament were kept before dead sea scrolls discovered in Qumran. Thank you in advance. Michael Fraser

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Dead Sea scrolls should be better called Dead Sea fragments (most of the pieces were not a surviving scrolls, but fragments from the scrolls). Do look into Christian Old Testament codexes such as Leningrad Codex – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Hebrew_Bible_manuscripts

  5. […] the Gospel of John, unlike the synoptics, portrays Jesus as Judean and not Galilean (Read about it here). Therefore, his itinerant preaching, his miracles and signs in Galilee are portrayed as being done […]

  6. […] insights sometimes emerge (See Cleansing the Temple: Why is John so different from Synoptics and Was Galilee Jesus’ real home?). Moreover, it is by highlighting the sometimes sharp differences between the accounts of Jesus’ […]

  7. ruth hirt

    Indeed the two parallel verses, John 1:11,12 (John’s introductory to his Gospel version) and Jn 4:43-54 have truths to reveal. The former is formulated in general terms, whilst, the latter as a specific incident, among many, which particularizes, confirms, affirms application of the general statement. But then, the entire earthly walk of Christ Jesus proved that His own chosen people, nation practically rejected HIM (though HE was received and accepted by a scanty number of HIS fellow Jews) and condemned HIM. This should have to take place because G_d set this plan to be carried out, even the heinous part of it, He chose HIS chosen people to play the most vital, active role, the pre-eminent Person, HE, the Martyr, must undergo and HE did to fulfill all righteousness for redemption. Isn’t that not an emphatic indication that HE, Maschiach approached the Jews first for HIS redemption plan?

    With the view on whether Jesus is a Galilean or not, John 4:44-45 answers this question explicitly. And I would vouch, that John 1: 11-12 simply does not refer alone to this, John 4: 44-45, single instance of Jesus’ ministry. It all boiled down into the conclusion of being rejected and punished for WHO HE is by HIS own chosen nation. And that completed HIS mission: Without shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins. He became the Sacrifice for you and us, once and for all.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Ruth, I am not 100% sure what was your point. Thank you for your comment, though. Perhaps, you can clarify.

      1. ruth hirt

        Thank you for asking for further clarity.

        The comment I posted is in conjunction to chapters 1 and 4 which you highlighted.

        The first chapter of John prepared the reader what he will encounter in the next chapters of John’s version of Christ Jesus’ earthly life.

        Proceeding chapters relate the details. The specific events thereof give evidences of the verses in chapter one.

        The Synoptics have their respective emphasis on the Person of Christ as you all know. John is applying the statement on the 1st chapter not simply Jesus as Judean, but as the eternal Son of G_d.

  8. Andrew More

    Eli,Excellent article! I think for many Christians this can be very confusing because they do not have a historical understanding of the cultural, geographical and political regions of Jesus’ day. For instance, Judea, Samaria, and Galilee are not just regional territories with the same cultural makeup, they are very different areas with their own unique histories of how they have developed socially, culturally, ethnically, and politically. There were also distinct attitudes that people from one region held towards those from other regions. I have found in the parish that many people don’t even understand that these areas are regions, not cities, much less the historical contexts surrounding them. In approaching Jesus’ ethnic and cultural identity through the narratives of the gospels, I think it is important to recognize the particular literary and theological “slant” that each writer puts on their stories that relate to Jesus’ cultural identity, given their own backgrounds and the backgrounds of their primary intended audiences.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Yes, exactly, it is key to recognize each writers particular “slant”

  9. marlene arias

    excelente los felicito

  10. Ernie Carrasco

    Makes sense. I had always assumed that it was referring to Nazareth, because of the phrase “when he was come into his own country” (Matt. 13:54) and the people asked, “Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?” (Matt. 13:55). But your point is well taken. Thanks for the insight!

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      The beuaty of the Bible is that it did not hide divergent stories. It make me trust it more.

      1. BENEDICTA NAZARETH

        Yeshua was born in Bethlehem but His parents moved to Nazareth after they returned from Egypt. Is Bethlehem in Judea ?

        1. Gordon

          Yes, Bethlehem is in Judea about 5-6 miles South of Jerusalem.
          http://www.distancefromto.net/between/Jerusalem/Bethlehem

      2. Chrysostom

        I have not studied the texts entirely concerning John and the Synoptics but did John also repeat or nearly repeat the phrase concerning a prophet not being without honor?. If not, then you are dealing with interpretation; John sees Jesus as the Davidic Messiah who extends his work to others; the Synoptics were not as theologically minded, and homeland refers for them to the place of lesser control than the capital Jerusalem, with foreign control. It is probable that Jesus spent considerable time evading the Roman authorities – as the gospels testifies concerning assassination attempts – and moved over to Galilee and for that reason, the Synoptics refer to his being a Galilean.

        1. Cheryl Durham

          “did John also repeat or nearly repeat the phrase concerning a prophet not being without honor?. If not, then you are dealing with interpretation; ”

          Chrysostom,

          What do you mean by the phrase, “if not then you are dealing with interpretation? How did you come to that conclusion?

          1. Chrysostom

            Hello Cheryl,
            In my haste I was not too careful with words. The main idea is that as THE Davidic Messiah according to John the Theologian, his role begins from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. So his reference would have to be Jerusalem. That is the theological point. This concept of authority stemming from Jerusalem, and its spiritual patrimony was transmuted into the Roman form which we have today circumventing it;the Synoptics refer to the time spent in Galilee -avoiding Roman assassination in Jerusalem- as his locus of activity or “hometown” which plays down his Davidic, Jewish, Jerusalem based Messianic role to all peoples without discounting the Jewish patrimony as foundation.

        2. Cheryl Durham, Ph.D.

          Thanks for the clarification!

          1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

            Dear Chrysostom and Cheryl, my point is that with John and Synoptics, the idea of home address and belonging is a matter or perspective. Johns has a very particular perspective and Synoptis have their own, both are true in their own views. Jesus was a Judean by birth, from the city of Ruth, Boaz, Jesse, David, and etc (and his relatives too). So his life in the north can be seen as being out of place. Synoptics chose to orient him as Galilean because that is where he lived most of his days.