27 But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.”
If we read the Gospels with an absolute commitment to always systematize them into one coherent story, we will have difficulty to always be able to do so. In most cases it will be possible; in some it will not be. This text is an example of contradiction that can indeed be resolved with a feasible hypothesis. We read in vs. 27 that it was believed that the Messiah will be of unknown origins, while the scribes summoned by Herod at the coming of the Magi in the Gospel of Matthew claimed with consensus that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem (Matt.2.4-6). For Mathew’s Jewish sages who were consulted by Herod the answer seemed clear – the Messianic origins are that of Bethlehem. However, here in John, some people in the crowd, when they thought that the authorities had after all granted Jesus the status of Messiah (John 7.26), objected that Jesus’ origins were known, and therefore, they thought that it was a mistake to recognize him as the Christ. So what was it that was expected of the coming Messiah? Would his origins be known or not?
You may recall from our previous studies that when Jesus was in Galilee hoi Ioudaoi said he could not have come down from heaven as he claimed, because they personally knew his parents (John 6.42). Here in John 7.27 it is likely that something else is being referred to. Instead of personal acquaintance with Jesus’ parents, the likely issue was that Jesus’ ministry had been heard of already for some. He had already been engaged in public ministry for close to three years. There was no suddenness in his Messianic appearance. What people in John 7 were saying was not that they knew Jesus’ Galilean parents (that is rather unlikely), but that they had heard about Jesus for so long that he no longer fit their Messianic candidate checklist on this issue.
Much later rabbinic Jewish sources communicate similar sentiments coming from some Jewish sages. For example, in the Babylonian Talmud, Rabbi Zera, is remembered as having said: “Three come unawares: Messiah, a found article, and a scorpion.” (b. Sanhedrin 97a) Another example comes from the second century dialogue between Justin Martyr, a Christian and Trypho, a Jew. What is interesting is that Trypho is also objecting in a similar way: “But Christ—if he has indeed been born, and exists anywhere – is unknown, and does not even know himself, and has no power until Elijah comes to anoint him and make him manifest to all.” (Trypho, Dialogue 8) Incidentally, it is entirely possible that the conversation between Justin and Trypho in reality never took place and the content of the dialogue was simply reconstructed from New Testament texts alone (a common feature of polemical religious literature). But it is also possible that this dialogue was put together as a summary of real Jewish-Christian encounters in second century. If this is so, then it is possible that we see here an example of a widespread Jewish belief that Christ’s coming would be sudden and his origins unknown.
The idea that Christ would be of unknown origins is also known from 1 Enoch 46:1-3 (another witness to the variety of Jewish contemporary opinions about the secret things of Messiah). There we read: “There I beheld the Ancient of Days, whose head was like white wool, and with him another, whose countenance resembled that of man. His countenance was full of grace, like that of one of the holy angels. Then I inquired of one of the angels, who went with me, and who showed me every secret thing, concerning this Son of man; who he was; whence he was and why he accompanied the Ancient of Days.”
What we can clearly see from all of these biblical, extra-biblical and para-biblical sources is that Jewish people held a variety of views concerning Messiah. They were non-binding, however. This was so in opposition to Christian belief system where the Messianic idea was central and non-adherence to its core points spelled an expulsion from the early church on the grounds of false teachings.
28 So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from. But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. 29 I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.”
What is even more striking here is that in contrast to the story found in the Gospel of Matthew (regarding Bethlehem), John’s Jesus seems to agree with the objection that the Messiah will be of unknown origin. He, however, explained that while they thought they knew him, they really did not. Since Israel’s God sent Jesus, there was a lot to know about Jesus than hoi Ioudaioi naively claimed.
30 So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.
This phrase “my time has not come” was already in use when Jesus said to his mother in John 2:4 “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” Mariam, fully aware of Jesus’ divine origins and probably other actions that only a mother would know, sought for Jesus to use his miraculous powers to help embarrassed couple at the height of their wedding joy. Jesus did help, but said that his “hour has not yet come.” Later on after this incident, Jesus taught the people in the treasury rooms of the Temple and the Temple police did not arrest him. The Temple police had their own reasons as to why they did not arrest Jesus, but the author of the Gospel of John knew that the reason he was not yet arrested, tried, and killed was because his time “had not yet come” (John 7:45-51). When the news about Greek God-fearers seeking to meet Jesus came to him, he responded that “his time had come” (John 12:20-24). Shortly before his arrest, Jesus prayed: “Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You” (John 17:1-2). So it is here in chapter 7 when Jesus’ arrest is being sought, it could not take place for the simple reason that the timing of Jesus “has not yet come.” (John 7:30)
31 Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?”
The story begins with people objecting to the rumors that the authorities recognized Jesus as the potential Messiah with “when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from” (John 7.27), but it ends very differently. Many people did believe in Him, posing the opposite rhetorical question “when the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?!” You see that just as there were many traditions of Christ’s unknown origins, there were even more traditions that had to do with coming Christ’s miraculous powers. The Jewish people standing in the crowd were smarter than they looked. “If any one will ever be the Christ, he wouldn’t be able to do more miracles than Jesus?!”, they reasoned.
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Join the conversation (27 comments)
As a Christian pastor of over 50 years, I appreciate your wise leadership which if a person thinks and applies, will cause Christian and Jew to attempt to find that level ground between 2 sections of G-D’s same relationship with humanity. You are living Ex 19:6 as the whole jewish nation was called to do and that is to be a nation of priests to teach all hearts G-d’s word and love, not the division that some in the world wish to move to the breaking point of any kind of relationship here. After all, who did bring this universe into being and why are we always busy trying to dengrate His command to love one another. Any dolt can be argumentative and demand destruction. True believer’s need to bring about true co-hesiveness. We need each other to help and lift up each other in these perilous ungodly times that we live in. When we fight against each other, Satan and the world laugh at our stupidity!
I am grateful for your kind comments and just want you to know that we are very happy to have you contribute and be a part of Jewish Studies for Christians! Dr. Eli
Delbert, so beautifully said!
I like the way this discussion is going, especially because it includes a definite Jewish way of thinking. It has only been a few years since I found out some Jewish thinkers actually believe anything about Jesus is derived from the mythological world. It is difficult for me to even think of Jesus, part of the Ancient of Days, as being a son of a mythical god called Tammuz.
Alesandra, a question: Why did you came in war?I think was more easy came here in questions, to get answers, nobody denies the sanctity of Jesus, Torah or anything, we are only trying to build a bridge, interfaith, to come the closer we can to the truth, nothing more, nothing less, perhaps we make mistakes,but the main idea is improve our knowledge, after all, we are humans. Best for you.
Alesandra, I think what Dr Eli is doing here is building a bridge that needs rebuilding so that the atrocities that have gone on for centuries will not continue. Jesus was a Jew and many divisions and slaughterings were going on before, during and certainly after his physical life on earth. If the early Jewish followers of their brother Jesus and Jesus himself honored Torah, the only answer is to see Jesus for the Jew he was and stop the warped persecution of Jews in his name or any other name. Nobody is trying to convert anyone else but rather have an open heart and willingness to end the divisions that only harm. I do not believe anyone is trying to wipe away or trivialize the suffering over the centuries while this division was perpetuated– its the exact opposite! My experience of it is to engage in discourse which allows something good to happen so that future generations will accept only love and respect amongst us all.
Could I also add that pagans forced Torah from Jews and tried time and again to entirely wipe out Jews. Christians included Torah but added to it for themselves and depending on the culture of the Christian, held sacred the ancient writings in ” the Old Testament” To various degrees. Those such as aryans who tried once again to completely obliterate Jews from the planet need never to be able to get away with that again on this planet. Through discussions such as these with Dr Eli, bit by bit we can raise our consciousness so such atrocities will never again be possible ( that is the ardent hope and vision).
Why are you doing this? Is nothing sacred? Jews are Jews by birth, by tradition, and by election. Christians have forced Torah (upon pain of death) from us. Then they added to it. If you really research your Jesus and virgin birth, you will discover that he is none other than the Babylonian god Tammuz, son of Ishtar. We don’t convert for a reason. Please respect us enough to leave us alone. Thx
Dear Alesandra, thank you for writing. I agree with the first part, I think you are misinformed on the second part. BUT may I point out that this blog is called Jewish Studies for Christians. This study group exists for the Christian Church to rediscover its Jewish roots. So it is not clear to me why would you object to its existence. Wishing you all the best, Dr. Eli
Dear Alesandra , many of us are erudite Theologians ,lay preachers who attended Jewish schools, who study Torah with Rabbis, Chabad ,Torah.org ,etc. who love Ha-Shem and Jews and can speak ,sing and write Hebrew and attend reform shul too.And amongst them are some with insatiable appetites for God and Truth. Dr.Eli is erudite and kind enough to be 1 teacher and spokesman amongst many countless teachers , that some of us unceasingly learn from.What gave you the impression of pushing conversion ,albeit i tried unsuccessfully for years amongst non- Jews and Jewish folk ,until i learnt why not too .Mostly because God has His own plans for the chosen in the Diaspora ,plus many other secular views which i have too. NB! Todays Christians are unlike their ancestors,more learned ,albeit most are un-degreed in Torah & Theology and prefer to keep pews warms ,rather than reach out in dangerous places alone on missionaries in foreign places or in prisons etc.necessary to justify and work their faith. Moreover ! We can’t leave you alone,you are our neighbor and the 2nd Commandment says we must love you as our self ,but love God first and foremost. Many of us have been planting trees in Israel since Carmel College jnr school days and some still support Israel in big and small ways ,even your girl orphans at Lav Lalev are on my prayer and donor list.But i think they think i am Jewish , too .I write to the Pope too for Israels sakes and must still send my letter to allow Kashrut to continue in Poland too .I belong to Honest reporting for Israel and have lost many friends on facebook because of my alignment ,but my roots are Jewish for that where i started school .Proverbs tells us discretion is more valuable than knowledge,education,wisdom and experience which i leave you as a gift in passing and to reflect on for you ought not behave like the Crusaders did in Spain,etc. for the new born Christians i hope have learnt from thses tragedies and i apologise profusely on their behalf ,for they are deceased now and can’t ask forgiveness from you ,but i can on their behalf ?? Amen. Nevertheless, i understand your fury and contempt in the context of your rhetoric , but please point me with cross references to support your accusation of Jesus, as the Babylonian god Tammuz ,so that i can study and learn more about your phenomenon describing our Saving ( Phenomenon ) Christ ?? Shalom .
When I read this and imagine what it would be like to have experienced it in person ( as those trying to work out whether or not this was the actual messiah) I think that any messiah in human form could not please everyone. So the check list for what the messiah should fulfill may always be variable enough for some to agree and others not (?). Dr. Eli, would some today believe the messiah will not come in human form?
Yes, reform Jews normally do not believe in the “personal” Messiah. The Messiah is an idea a spirit of golden age. I am no authority on theology of reform Jews, so it is worth some further exploration. Dr. Eli
Thank you, Dr.Eli 🙂
You are most welcome.
Yet in Chapter 4 of John, HE does reveal Himself to the woman at the well, as the Messiah.
And Shimon clearly declares, “You are the Mashiach, the Ben Elohim.”
And finally Tomas, declares, “Mi Adonai, My Elohim” concerning Yeshua.
His own witness and the Testimony of 2 others biblically confirms His heritage.
Yes, absolutely. How does it all hang together I don’t yet know :-).
I think that the real question is “who is the father of this man?” referring to “where from this man comes?”, because none knew his true father, without recognize to Joseph, who was the known father on earth for Jesus; so, each question about is only especulative one, from hoi ioudaoi to this days.
No, I think that is not it. This question (because Jesus’ birth narrative is completely absent in John) is not really an issue here. I think that given the sources I quated it is far more likely. So, I think you reading something later into something earlier :-).
As in linguistics, there are several layers of meaning, revealed through the word (when the person is ready to receive when the time is right). The vessel of the mind must be prepared with open affective pathways to understand wholeness and perfection; to comprehend the purpose of and not fear cognitive dissonance.
The statement “Do not know where he came from” may be a colloquial interpretation, not literal. In English we say…”I had no idea where that came from!” Meaning a random act of surprise, unplanned, unexpected, often of good result, with obvious foundations laid in preparation. But some, closer to the revelation of the Messiah, in contrast will know and not be surprised, as they see the patterns develop and grow. The Messiah also, may be watching the building of the layers of prophecy, the accidental co-incidences that are too amazing to ignore, therefore wondering in disbelief, “Is it me? Lord, what is going on? I will obey You Lord.”
So it is really a puzzle of time, space, place, culture, relationship, emotion… and along the continuum sit many a person awaiting the Messiah : )
This is a very thought provoking article. I have noticed that some of our stories (coming to faith in Christ) are often met with contradiction too. Some people point out our condemnation (backed by scripture), some point out their story and try to make it ours. Perhaps my lesson from you Dr. Eli is that I shouldn’t not stop at pointing out my scripture backed story. I should include contradictions (even condemning ones) as well. After all, whose story really needs my self-imposed identity?