What does John 7:35 mean?
ESV: The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks?
NIV: The Jews said to one another, 'Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks?
NASB: The Jews then said to one another, 'Where does this man intend to go that we will not find Him? He does not intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks, does He?
CSB: Then the Jews said to one another, "Where does he intend to go that we won't find him? He doesn't intend to go to the Jewish people dispersed among the Greeks and teach the Greeks, does he?
NLT: The Jewish leaders were puzzled by this statement. 'Where is he planning to go?' they asked. 'Is he thinking of leaving the country and going to the Jews in other lands? Maybe he will even teach the Greeks!
KJV: Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles?
Jesus' teachings on spiritual topics are often misinterpreted in a purely physical way. This verse is an example.
As used in the gospel of John, the phrase "the Jews" typically means the religious leaders of Jerusalem and their supporters. Their main concern over Jesus is the controversy He is causing with the people (John 7:43). In particular, they fear the way Jesus' ministry brings their leadership into question (John 5:39–40). Since they interpret Jesus' preaching as blasphemy (John 5:18), they've already set their minds on having Him killed (John 7:1). As such, they've recently sent a group of officials to arrest Him.
However, Jesus' recent comments have thrown this plan into confusion. The Pharisees are well aware that killing Jesus won't be popular with everyone, which is why they've been careful. Now, Jesus has made two easily-misinterpreted claims. The first is that He will be returning to God (John 7:33), the second that He will be going where He will not be found (John 7:34). Later, Jesus will make the same claims to His disciples, explaining that He will be returning to God in heaven, in preparation for His ultimate return (John 14:1–6). Those who reject Jesus, on the other hand, likely interpreted these comments as a vow of suicide, or an intent to travel far away from Jerusalem.
The Dispersion refers to those members of Israel who are still scattered around the world due to conquest and persecution. The term "The Greeks," as used here, was more or less equivalent to all non-Jews—i.e. Gentiles (Colossians 3:11). The crowd is wondering if Jesus means He'll be taking His message away from Jerusalem. If so, then the religious leaders would have no real need to execute Jesus. If He goes so far away that He cannot be found, their concerns are moot.
John 7:25–36 is a milestone in the plot to kill Jesus. Jesus continues to criticize the local religious leaders, who are unable to successfully arrest Him. This leads the people to wonder: are the Scribes and Pharisees in agreement with Jesus or too weak to stop Him? That crisis of confidence will make the Jewish leaders more convinced that they need to silence Jesus at all costs. Even so, misinterpreting His comments in the passage presents a possible solution: if Jesus is going somewhere they cannot follow, perhaps the problem will resolve itself.
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.
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.
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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