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. 2 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? 3 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. 4 Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.’ 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 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