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What does the verb in John 12:36 “was hidden from them” mean in the original language? Is it the same concept as when Jesus appeared to the disciples by walking through a wall? Is there a power or supernatural component indicated in this verb or verse?

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The word is ἐκρύβη (ekrybē). It is derived from Strongs 2918 and the meaning is quite straightforward. It means he placed himself somewhere so that he could not be seen those who did not accept him. The implication here is not supernatural. Jesus was still involved in his earthly ministry, in which he endeavor to win as many people as possible to the faith. He was facing rejection and, sensing danger, physically hid himself from those who would not believe.

John 12 NABRE

The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. Then how can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 Jesus said to them, “The light will be among you only a little while. Walk while you have the light, so that darkness may not overcome you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where he is going." After he had said this, Jesus left and hid from them. Although he had performed so many signs in their presence they did not believe in him.

The incident in John 20, where Jesus appeared in a locked room, was a very different matter. It was a post-resurrection appearance and there had been no "hiding" from his disciples prior to it. One disciple, Thomas, was in doubt about the resurrection but he had been a faithful believer in Jesus as the messiah and Son of Man.

Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you."

Conclusion: The meaning of "was hidden from them" in John 12:36 means that Jesus physically hid from his opponents. There is no supernatural disappearance here: but in John, the story clearly involves a miraculous appearance.

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The operative verb in John 12:36 is ἐκρύβη which is simply the aorist indicative active form of the verb κρύπτω (krypto) meaning to "hide or conceal". [It is the same word from which we get English words such as cryptography, encrypt, and crypt, meaning "hidden".]

The same verb occurs 18 times in the NT: Matt 5:15, 11;25, 13:35, 44, 25:18, 25, Luke 18:34, 19:42, John 12:36, 19:38, Col 3:3, 1 Tim 5:25, Heb 11:23, Rev 2:17, 6:155, 16.

BDAG lists two basic meanings of this verb as:

  1. to keep from being seen, hide, eg, Matt 25:18, 25, 13:44, Rev 6:16, Luke 11:52, etc
  2. to keep something from being divulged or discovered, conceal, hide, eg, Matt 25:25, 18, 13:44, etc.

In the case of John 12:36, we have:

While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of light.” After Jesus had spoken these things, He went away and was hidden from them.

The meaning of the verse is actually given a few verses later in the same chapter:

John 12:37-40 - Although Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still did not believe in Him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:

“Lord, who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

For this reason they were unable to believe. For again, Isaiah says:

“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so that they cannot see with their eyes, and understand with their hearts, and turn, and I would heal them.”

Thus, in view of Jesus' earlier statement, "I am the Light of the world" (John 8:12, 1:4, 9), Jesus being "hidden" from them has two basic intents:

  • Jesus was physically hidden to prevent the antagonistic authorities executing Him before the appropriate time
  • because Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12, 1:4, 9), the pharisees could not understand his mission because they refused to believe in Jesus and have their understanding "enlightened". Had they done so, they would not have sought to kill Jesus.

Thus, on both counts, Jesus was hidden from them.

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