What does John 7:12 mean?
ESV: And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.”
NIV: Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, 'He is a good man.' Others replied, 'No, he deceives the people.'
NASB: And there was a great deal of talk about Him in secret among the crowds: some were saying, 'He is a good man'; others were saying, 'No, on the contrary, He is misleading the people.'
CSB: And there was a lot of murmuring about him among the crowds. Some were saying, "He's a good man." Others were saying, "No, on the contrary, he's deceiving the people."
NLT: There was a lot of grumbling about him among the crowds. Some argued, 'He’s a good man,' but others said, 'He’s nothing but a fraud who deceives the people.'
KJV: And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people.
Verse Commentary:
Jesus' feeding of the thousands, described in chapter 6, was only the most public of His actions thus far. The combination of His miracles, His teachings, and His conflict with the religious leaders of Jerusalem made Jesus a popular subject of gossip at the Feast of Booths. Jesus complicated His public image by explaining that His ministry was ultimately spiritual, not material (John 6:26–29), which caused many people to abandon Him (John 6:66). Here, in the days before Jesus begins teaching in the temple (John 7:14), the people are quietly discussing His public ministry.

Christian apologist C. S. Lewis is credited with popularizing a concept about Jesus Christ known as the "trilemma." In short, this claim suggests that there are only three valid opinions of Jesus: liar, lunatic, or Lord. The basic framework of that same discussion is seen here in verse 12. Most importantly, there are no neutral options. This was the intent of Lewis' trilemma, and the real problem Jesus posed for the people. Someone making His claims could only be a dangerous monster, or a legitimate Savior—nothing in between.

This crowd is described as "the people," a term referring to the general crowds attending the Feast of Booths. This would have included Jewish pilgrims as well as residents of Jerusalem. The term "the Jews" refers more specifically to the religious leaders of the city, and their followers, whose opinion of Jesus is quite clear (John 5:18; John 7:1). In fact, this anger is already so strong that the crowds in Jerusalem keep their discussions of Jesus private, out of fear.
Verse Context:
John 7:1–13 describes Jesus' surprisingly quiet entry to a major Jewish festival. Jesus brothers—other biological sons of Mary—tease Him about seeking publicity. Instead, Jesus attends alone, and does not teach or preach publicly until the middle of the week-long festival. In the meantime, the people of Jerusalem are ''muttering'' about Jesus, wondering when or if He will appear.
Chapter Summary:
Six months after the feeding of thousands, and the public debate which followed, Jesus plans to attend the Feast of Booths (Festival of Tabernacles). Rather than going publicly, He chooses to arrive privately, and after His family. While teaching and preaching there, Jesus once again comes into conflict with local religious leaders. The crowds take note of His profound words, history of miracles, and the inability of the religious leaders to silence Him. This causes the people to openly question their spiritual leaders. This embarrassment is a milestone in the effort to permanently silence Jesus.
Chapter Context:
John chapter 7 is the beginning of the end of Jesus' public ministry. The feeding of thousands in chapter 6 was the pinnacle of His earthly popularity. That enthusiasm was dampened when Jesus explained the true meaning of His ministry. Here, in chapters 7 and 8, Jesus will confront His critics at a major Jewish festival, using metaphors drawn from ritual celebrations to highlight themes from His preaching. The following chapters include additional miracles and teachings from Jesus, as His eventual crucifixion draws nearer.
Book Summary:
The gospel of John was written by the disciple John, decades later than the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The author assumes that a reader is already familiar with the content of these other works. So, John presents a different perspective, with a greater emphasis on meaning. John uses seven miracles—which he calls “signs”—in order to prove that Jesus is, in fact, God incarnate. Some of the most well-known verses in all of the Bible are found here. None is more famous than the one-sentence summary of the gospel found in John 3:16.
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