Sunday Morning Greek Blog

May 22, 2011

Honoring Galilee

Filed under: Biblical Studies,Greek,John Gospel of,New Testament,Theology, Biblical — Scott Stocking @ 7:43 am

Note: Second paragraph edited on 12/26/21 to clarify I’m speaking of chapters in John’s gospel.

Isaiah 9:1–2 [TNIV; MT & LXX 8:23–9:1] says:

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—

2The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.

Let me start by recapping John chapters 2–4, because the whole context is important for what I have to say about the last part of chapter 4. In chapter 2, Jesus goes to Cana in Galilee, where, at a wedding celebration, he turns water into wine. Then he returns to Jerusalem, where he gets everyone mad at him by overturning the tables of the money changers. Nicodemus, however, in chapter 3, seems to understand who Jesus really is, and comes to Jesus asking about eternal life. Some debate whether Jesus’ words end after John 3:15, but setting that debate aside for a moment, John closes out chapter 3 with a discourse on who Jesus is and what his relationship is to the Father. In chapter 4, Jesus “needs” to go through Samaria to get to Cana again, and encounters the woman at the well. There he speaks to her of living water, and in the end, he spends a few days ministering to those whom the woman had brought to Jesus to hear his words. In the last part of John 4, Jesus is back in Cana, and he’s ready for another miracle.

Four times in John 4:43–54, John mentions that Jesus has gone “into Galilee” (εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν eis tēn Galilaian /ace tayn gah lee LIE ahn/). In v. 44, John says that Jesus had mentioned that a prophet was without honor in his hometown. Cana was not his hometown (Matthew indicates his home town was Capernaum), so some think he may be referring to those who were against him in Jerusalem (see Craig Blomberg’s commentary in The Historical Reliability of the John’s Gospel, p. 105). He also says in v. 46 that Jesus specifically went back to Cana of Galilee, where he had performed his first sign of turning water into wine. In this pericope, Jesus heals a royal official’s son at a distance; he doesn’t even lay hands on or see the son, but simply speaks the word at the pleading of the distraught father.

So why the emphasis on Galilee here? If you read the opening quote from Isaiah, you’ve probably figured it out already. John is demonstrating that Jesus is the light to the Gentiles, Samaritans and Galileans alike (John’s excursus on God’s purposes for Jesus in chapter 3 is further evidence of this). Jerusalem (= the leaders of Israel) is rejecting him (see also the first part of chapter 5 where the Jewish leaders want to kill Jesus for healing on the Sabbath), but the Gentiles receive him with joy, wonder, and extraordinary faith. Chapters 2–4 form a unit that validates the fulfillment of prophecy from Isaiah 7–11. Matthew used the first verse of the prophecy (Isaiah 7:14: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel.”) to indicate fulfillment of the whole prophecy; John takes a different route to show the same prophecy is fulfilled.

Sorry this is so short today, but between a leaky ceiling, a watery mess in the basement, and trying to move into my own place myself this weekend, time is short.


1 Comment »

  1. […] the world and shattered the darkness. I wrote previously about the connection to Isaiah 9 in my Honoring Galilee post, that Jesus was the light to those walking in darkness. What is even more fascinating is that […]

    Pingback by “I Am the Light of the World” (John 8:12) « Sunday Morning Greek Blog — June 11, 2011 @ 1:16 pm | Reply

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