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The Pharisees say to Nicodemus in John 7:52:

ἐραύνησον καὶ ἴδε ὅτι ἐκ τῆς Γαλιλαίας προφήτης οὐκ ἐγείρεται

Or

Search and see that a prophet has not arisen from Galilee

Is there any way to ascertain what they were instructing Nicodemus to search? Was this an idiomatic usage that meant search the Scriptures, or might they have been using it to refer to rabbinical writings or even other historical documents? It is interesting that a few verses before (49) they said, "The crowds don't know the law; they are accursed." This would lend weight to understanding it as search the law or Scriptures, but is there reason for thinking that it may refer to a broader category of writings?

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They were also wrong. Yona was from Galil, and some also say, Eliyahu. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Apr 29 '13 at 5:50
    
There not saying that a prophet can't come from Galilee as much as they're saying THE Prophet (John 1:25) doesn't come from Galilee in scripture. Which is pretty much the same conclusion the people have come to in 7:40-43 about Jesus being the Christ. –  Matthew Miller May 6 '13 at 0:43

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I would suggest two reasons to think they are referring to simply the Scriptures.

First, there is only one other use of the word search (ἐραυνάω) in the Fourth Gospel, which is in John 5:39. There Jesus says:

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

Since there are no other uses in John's gospel, this inclines me to believe they intend Nicodemus to search the Scriptures.

There are few other uses of the same word in the New Testament as a whole. Romans 8:27, 1 Cor. 2:19, and Rev. 2:23 all deal with the Spirit searching minds/hearts. The only other verse similar at all is 1 Peter 1:10-11, which is difficult in its own right. There the prophets searching intently with great care, inquiring as to the time and person of the Christ. What they are searching there is unclear and may also have to do with the Spirit and so is of little help in our context.

Second, just before this verse in chapter 7, the people are discussing the same thing:

Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?”

Since the discussion among the crowds regarding the Christ's hometown revolves around the Scripture, there is no reason to think John means anything different here in verse 52. The leaders are simply (and with great irony) putting their weight behind the interpretation that no prophet arises from Galilee, but that the Christ is from Bethlehem.

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I like how you started with finding other uses of "search" in John. –  Frank Luke Apr 29 '13 at 18:27

I agree with you Soldarnal but I think we can get even closer to the scripture John, as the author, wanted us to "search" for "and see."

The issue 7:40-43 and then extending through verse 52 is whether or not Jesus' coming from Galilee prevents him from being the Christ, the Son of David and or (the) prophet. The people ask, "Is the Christ to come from Galilee?" and

"has not the scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was."

The Pharisees also believe that "no prophet arises from Galilee" and challenge Nicodimus to prove them wrong by searching (the scriptures.) But what if we searched the scripture as the Pharisees challenge? Galilee is only mentioned a few times in the Old Testament. The most prominent being Isaiah 9:1-7. Here Isaiah prophesies,

But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness on them has light shined... For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.

It needs to be noted that the very next verse after John 7:52 is not 7:53 or any verse through 8:11. The earliest manuscripts do not contain this section. The very next verse is 8:12 and here Jesus says,

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have light of life.

Both the allusion and irony are biting. It is those who "know the law" who recognize Jesus (John 5:39). The Pharisees just don't know the law.

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another very interesting and useful answer, thanks Matthew –  Jack Douglas May 4 '13 at 12:27

As with almost all biblical texts, it is almost impossible to discern the one true meaning. But the passage could mean that the Pharisees are saying that because he, for some inexplicable reason, supported the prophet, they asked if he was from the Galilee as well. Because that would explain why he would support him out of, what we would call today, "hometown pride". And when they say in the passage you cite: "Search and see that a prophet has not risen from Galilee." I think they are being a bit more literal than you say. I think they are saying that Nicodemus should go see for himself, that he can go look in the Galilee area (one of the more poverty-stricken areas at the time) and see that no one with God's blessing could possible end up there. For one chosen by God would obviously be of the upper class, not the poor folk in the Galilee.

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If we cannot discern a true meaning, doesn't that make God an incompetent communicator? (Rhetorical question indicating that surely God would want us to understand him.) If we must depend upon extra-Biblical information to discern the meaning, such as Galilee being a place of poverty, doesn't that give the historians of the day equal authority with scripture? –  Bob Jones Dec 25 '11 at 15:48
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not so much authority, just clarification. as with modern literature, some prior knowledge is assumed in the bible. same as authors today refer to "The Ghetto". this is an area in new york that is sketchy, and we all know that. the bible was written in a time where the poor area that was the galilee WAS common knowledge, and therefore need not be specified. so the historians just recover common knowledge to clarify the text, not change it. –  That Guy Dec 25 '11 at 17:02
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A very belated Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics! (I was out of pocket on the 25th. ;-) I need to warn you that it's very difficult for me (and I imagine others) to follow an answer that isn't capitalized in the usual way. I'll go ahead and edit this answer so I can vote it up, but unless there's some really good reason for you to not capitalize words (broken Shift key, perhaps?) I probably will vote down future uncapitalized answers. –  Jon Ericson Jan 6 '12 at 23:48

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