Jesus’s Secret Journey in John 7: A Symbol of the Ascension

Hugo Méndez
Harvard Theological Review

In John 7:8–9, Jesus tells his brothers he will not “go up” to Jerusalem, but in the very next scene, he makes the ascent in secret. This essay interprets Jesus’s unusual, and seemingly deceptive, behavior in the episode as a symbolic action akin to others structuring the first half of the Gospel. The episode immediately precedes a dialogue in which Jesus predicts his imminent departure from the world. Jesus insists that he will soon “go” to God so that unbelievers “will seek” him “but … not find” him (7:33–34; cf. 20:17). Foreshadowing this future, Jesus “goes up” to Judea but in such a way that leaves unbelievers unaware of his whereabouts, leaving them to ask, “Where is he?” (7:10–11). The article highlights half-truth as an important speech device in the episode and dialogue that follows. It also concludes that the episode is key to interpreting other scenes sharing a motif of misdirection, delay, and secret reversal.

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