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In the Gospel of John, the following exchange takes place between the Pharisees and Nicodemus:

John 7:50-51: "Nicodemus (he who came to [Christ] before, being one of them) said to them, 51'Our Law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?' 52They answered him, 'You are not also from Galilee, are you? Search, and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee'" (emphasis added).

Is it true that no prophet ever arose from Galilee?

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What they must have meant was that the messiah must be born in Bethlehem, not Galilee -- and they were right! But to say that no prophet could be born in Galilee is obviously false and the pharisees would know this.

Galilee is a huge region, basically everything north of the Jezreel valley until Lebanon. In terms of the inheritance of the 12 tribes, it would be Zebulum, Issachar, Naphtali and Asher, so 1/3 of the twelve tribes have their inheritance in Galilee.

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But in terms of where the prominent prophets in the Bible came from, very little is known except for a handful of prophets.

Prophets with unknown birth location:

  • Habbakuk -- is the least known prophet. Nothing is known about him (the rabbinic tradition is just mishradic tales)

  • Obadiah (early christian tradition traces him to shechem somewhere in Ephraim, but this is unreliable)

Prophets in which a city is named:

  • Amos, from Tekoa, near Bethlehem

  • Jonah from Gath-hepher which is in Galilee

  • Samuel, from Ramathaim-zophim believed to be present day Rameh which is in Galilee (but there is doubt as to where "Ramathaim-zophim" was)

  • Elijah was from Tishbe in present day Jordan, but no one knows the location of this city.

  • Jeremiah from Anathoth near Jerusalem

  • Micah from Moresheth (although there is doubt as to location, it's somewhere in Judah)

  • Nahum may have been from Capernaum in Galilee, but this is uncertain

Prophets from the North (somewhere in Israel):

  • Hosea
  • Elisha
  • Samuel
  • Jonah
  • Nahum
  • Zephaniah
  • Obadaiah?

Prophets from the South (somehwere in Judah):

  • Joel
  • Amos
  • Jeremiah
  • Isaiah
  • Micah
  • Ezekiel
  • Habbakuk?

Prophets not born in Israel

  • Elijah (Jordan)
  • Zecharaiah (Babylon, Persian Exile)
  • Malachi (Persian Exile)
  • Haggai (Persian Exile)

Note that of the 12 judges in the book of judges, Elon is from Galilee.

But even though there is doubt as to where most of the prophets were born, what is certain is that almost all of them were murdered in Jerusalem:

Luke 13.33 ESV

Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.

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  • Thanks for this response. Your visual is a great way to emphasize the point. +1.
    – Xeno
    Aug 26 at 21:02
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The Pharisees were not only wrong, they were apparently ignorant of their own history.

2 Kings 14:25 tells us that Jonah was from Gath Hepher.

Micah 1:1 tells us that Micah was from Moresheth.

1 Kings 17:1 tells us that Elijah was a Tishbite.

I am also pretty sure that Elisha was also from Galilee. Tradition also has it that Nahum and Hosea were from there as well.

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Were the Pharisees correct: “no prophet arises out of Galilee” (Jn. 7:52)?

This was more like them saying "Make sure no prophet arises our of Galilee".

The study note on John 7:52 has this to say:

no prophet . . . out of Galilee: This statement ignores the prophetic words of Isa 9:1, 2, foretelling that a great light would come from Galilee. Some scholars also suggest that the Pharisees were making a sweeping generalization that no prophet had ever arisen or could ever arise out of lowly Galilee. This ignores the fact that the prophet Jonah was from the Galilean town of Gath-hepher, just 4 km (2.5 mi) NNE of Nazareth, where Jesus grew up.​—2Ki 14:25.

Thus we see that Jesus wasn't the only "prophet . . . out of Galilee".

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But He did not arise out of Galilee.

That is the point : they had forgotten all about the star, and the angels seen by shepherds, and the wise men from the east who took no notice of Herod, and the children who died as a result of Herod's butchery.

'Out of Egypt have I called my son' they had also forgotten, Hosea 11:1.

He did not arise out of Galilee. He arose out of Judah, out of David, out of the city of David, Bethlehem. Out of a manger. . . . . out of a virgin.

They supposed He would come as one of them. One of the Pharisees, out of Jerusalem and out of organised religion.

But he came riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass.

He came not with a legion of angels : rather he submitted to the scourge, the thorns, the cross and the nails and the lance thrust in his side.

No, they knew not whence he came.

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  • "they had forgotten all about the star, and the angels ..." That was 30 years ago, in an era when the transmission of information was sketchy at best.
    – RonJohn
    Aug 27 at 15:21
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    @RonJohn These scribes and Pharisees specialized in transmission of information over centuries and millennia. Especially of information held to be relating to prophecy.
    – LarsH
    Aug 27 at 19:21
  • @LarsH they were religious scribes. I'm dubious as to whether they were star gazers recording secular events.
    – RonJohn
    Aug 28 at 1:27
  • @RonJohn, you're right that they were religious scribes. They obviously paid attention to prophecy (the reason for this question). And if prophecy referenced a star (christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/32939/…), an event was brought to the attention of the royal court, and it coincided with a prophecy about a ruler coming out of Bethlehem (Matt. 2:4-6), and other prophecies (Matt. 2:15, 18), it's plausible that the Pharisees would have taken notice, even if they decided to dismiss it at some point.
    – LarsH
    Aug 28 at 14:28
  • @LarsH if it was dismissed, then it would have been forgotten. Remember, dogmatists read through the lens of their expectations -- in the case of the Pharisees, a conquering king, not a "turn the other cheek" spiritual king.
    – RonJohn
    Aug 28 at 20:06
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Were the Pharisees correct: “no prophet arises out of Galilee” (Jn. 7:52)?

They were wrong. Some commentators suggest that they were blinded by rage.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown

Search … out of Galilee … no prophet—Strange! For had not Jonah (of Gath-hepher) and even Elijah (of Thisbe) arisen out of Galilee? And there it may be more, of whom we have no record. But rage is blind, and deep prejudice distorts all facts.

Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges:

out of Galilee ariseth no prophet] Either their temper makes them forgetful, or in the heat of controversy they prefer a sweeping statement to a qualified one.

Pulpit:

The historical error is far from difficult to account for in the stress of the discontent which these Pharisees were now manifesting towards everything Galilaean.

This is a lesson for staying cool and objective in a heated argument.

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