Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Light John 8:12 Casts Upon John 7:42

Earlier this week, I linked Mark Goodacre's discussion of whether Jesus was born in Bethlehem. In the comments section of Goodacre's thread, logosmadeflesh (Matt Miller) made a good point.

In John 8:12, Jesus seems to be alluding to Isaiah 9:1-2. The account of the woman caught in adultery in John 7:53-8:11 wasn't part of the original gospel. Therefore, John 8:12 originally came just after 7:52. That latter verse refers to Galilee and Jesus' background there. Jesus then refers to himself as a light to people walking in darkness. The theme of a light shining in Galilee for those walking in darkness is found in Isaiah 9:1-2. The passage goes on to refer to God being born as a man, as the promised Davidic Messiah (Isaiah 9:6-7; cf. 11:1, 11:10). Though Jesus' comment in John 8:12 primarily answers what was said in 7:52, it also answers earlier comments, like what we find in 7:42. As I've noted before, 7:42 links Davidic ancestry and a Bethlehem birthplace, as we see the two linked in Matthew, Luke, and other early sources. By identifying himself as the light of Isaiah 9, Jesus is implying his role as the Davidic Messiah, which in turn probably implies the Bethlehem birthplace (David came from Bethlehem, the Bethlehem prophecy of Micah 5 alludes to David, etc.).

Elsewhere, I've argued for John's acceptance of the Bethlehem birthplace on other grounds (e.g., what's found in the rest of the Johannine literature and in early Christian sources highly influenced by John). If John 8:12 can be added to the list of arguments, in the manner I've suggested above, then the case is significantly strengthened.

By the way, notice how John 7:53-8:11 interferes with the reader's understanding of 8:12. This is another reason why 7:53-8:11 should be relegated to a footnote or removed from the scriptural text in some other way.


  1. If you've addressed this before ignore it, but is there evidence in Mark that suggests the author may have known about Jesus being born in Bethlehem?

    Bethlehem means "house of bread" I think. I wonder if that fact might shed some light in those passages where Jesus refers to bread (either in Mark or John where Jesus specifically refers to Himself as the Bread of Life and the true manna from heaven.


      I think it's likely that Mark believed in the Bethlehem birthplace, for a variety of reasons that I can expand upon if you want me to. But I'm not aware of any passage in his gospel in which he directly implies it. He does imply it in some indirect ways that involve combining his gospel with other information (what's implied by his high view of the Old Testament and Jesus' fulfillment of it; his apparent belief that Jesus was a descendant of David; his belief in the authority of the apostles who affirmed the Bethlehem birthplace; his prominence in mainstream early Christianity, in which the Bethlehem tradition was widely affirmed without any trace of significant opposition in the historical record; etc.).

    2. I can expand upon if you want me to.

      Not necessary, I'm just trying to enhance the apologetics on Triablogue with whatever crumbs I can add.

      However, I just realized something you might already know. Rev. 12:4,17 implies that Satan wanted to kill Jesus around the time of his birth. To me that suggests that whoever wrote Revelation may have been aware of Herod's massacre of the children who were around Jesus' age (maybe 2 years old by then) and knowledge of the Bethlehem birth story.

  2. Thanks for the link! I'm glad to see someone read those comments. Too many scholars are pointing to this passage without fully understanding why it's in John. My blog post on the subject says the same. http://logosmadeflesh.com/2012/12/06/what-if-jesus-wasnt-born-in-bethlehem/