What does John 7:51 mean?
ESV: "Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?"
NIV: "Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?"
NASB: Our Law does not judge the person unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?'
CSB: "Our law doesn’t judge a man before it hears from him and knows what he’s doing, does it?"
NLT: Is it legal to convict a man before he is given a hearing?' he asked.
KJV: Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?
NKJV: “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?”
Verse Commentary:
Despite the understandable stereotype, not all Pharisees were blatant hypocrites or irrational egotists. Nicodemus lives out concepts such as education, reason, and morality, even when investigating someone so critical of his sect, like Jesus (John 3:1–2). The reason Pharisees were so respected, in fact, was specifically because they were generally intelligent, moral, educated men. However, the other Pharisees have already made up their minds to have Jesus killed (John 5:18). They respond with rage when the men they sent to arrest Jesus comment on His amazing words (John 7:46). All Nicodemus has suggested, at this stage, is that his fellow experts in the law follow the law: which explicitly says that Jesus is owed due process (Exodus 23:1; Deuteronomy 1:16–17; Proverbs 18:13). In other words, the code Pharisees claim to live by demands Jesus be given a hearing, not immediate condemnation.

Sadly, Nicodemus' associates, are so blindly enraged by Jesus that they reject this suggestion out of hand. In the next verse, they will not only ignore Nicodemus' request, they will insult him by suggesting that he is backwards and low-class, like the Galilean Jesus. And they will issue a challenge which is ironically mistaken.
Verse Context:
John 7:37–52 shows how Jesus' public ministry challenges the traditional views of Judaism. This causes infighting among both the people and the Jewish leaders themselves. The people hear His words, see His miracles, and begin to wonder if Jesus really is the Promised One. Once again, the religious leaders attempt to arrest Jesus, but the officers are so impressed by His words that they leave Him alone. When Nicodemus, a Pharisee, makes a plea for due process, he is mocked and his suggestion is ignored. Moments such as this will eventually lead the Jewish leaders to extreme measures against Jesus.
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 disciple John wrote the gospel of John decades after the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke were written. 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"— to prove that Jesus is, in fact, God incarnate. Some of the most well-known verses in 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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