« Prev 2. Scene of Jesus’ Ministry. Next »


We have already had to touch upon another main point in which the other Gospels differ from Jn. It affects the scene of Jesus’ ministry. According to the Synoptics, Jesus did not come to Jerusalem or to Judaea at all—the most southern of the three parts of the Jewish land lying between the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan, which flows from the north to the south into the Dead Sea—until a few days before his death. Previously he stayed uninterruptedly in Galilee, the northernmost of these three parts. The shores of the Lake of Gennesareth are here the chief scene of his ministry. On one occasion 11he journeyed outside of the land far to the north-west into the regions of Tyre and Sidon and back to the east shore of the Sea of Galilee (Mk. vii. 24, 31); afterwards he went once to the other side of the northern boundary of Galilee into the neighbourhood of Caesarea Philippi (Mk. viii. 27). His journey to Jerusalem led him eastward of Jordan through Peraea (Mk. x. 1); Samaria, which lay west of this, midway between Galilee and Judaea, which would have been his nearest way, was avoided because an old feud had made the Samaritans unfriendly in their attitude towards the Jews, especially when these were making pilgrimages to Jerusalem (Lk. ix. 52 f., Jn. iv. 9).

Nevertheless Lk., and he alone, does represent this journey as having been made through Samaria; in fact his account of it extends over nine whole chapters (ix. 51-xviii. 34). But he leads us to realise fully that he is not clear as to the facts of his story. Not very far from the end of it, for instance, he repeats (xvii. 11) that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem, and adds that in the course of it he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee, whereas Galilee must have been left behind, if his purpose was to reach Jerusalem by way of Samaria. In xiii. 31 Jesus is warned against the snares of Herod Antipas, whose jurisdiction he had already avoided by leaving Galilee for Samaria. Further, on this journey Jesus is supposed on several occasions to have met Pharisees (xv. 2; xvii. 20), and is even said to have been invited to sit at meat with two of them (xi. 37; xiv. 1). But it is certain that no Pharisee could stay in Samaria, where he would come into daily contact with a people which did not observe the strict injunctions of the Jewish Law, and so would, of course, be continually defiled in such a way that no amount of washings and other observances would have availed to 12make him clean. Lk.’s story of Jesus journey through Samaria has therefore no claim to trustworthiness; it must be left entirely on one side.

In Jn. then the most important thing is this, that Jesus real and abiding dwelling-place during his ministry is Judaea and especially Jerusalem. To Galilee he came only on rare occasions and only for a short time: in ii. 1-12 to Cana at the marriage-feast and to Capernaum, where however he remained “not many days”; in iv. 43-v. 1 to Cana again, as regards which visit only the cure of the son of the royal official from Capernaum is signalised as a (special) event; finally in vi. 1 Jesus crosses the Lake of Galilee without its being said how he came there from Judaea; he feeds the five thousand, on the following night walks across the Lake, on the ensuing day teaches the people; and soon after the Feast of Tabernacles is again near at hand (vii. 2), for which he goes to Jerusalem without returning to Galilee. In the case of the last journey but one to Galilee we learn also where, according to Jn., Jesus original home really was, “Jesus himself testified that a prophet has no honour in his own country; when then he came to Galilee, the Galileans received him kindly” (iv. 44 f.). What is here meant by Jesus country? Judaea is intended, just as certainly as in the Synoptics his father’s town Nazareth in Galilee is; for it was in Nazareth, as every one knows from Mk. (vi. 4), Mt., and Lk., that he uttered this saying (the Greek word patrís means both father’s land and father’s town). In i. 45 f.; vii. 41 f., 52, it is true, Jn., like the Synoptics, presupposes that Galilee, especially Nazareth, is Jesus native place, but in spite of this, iv. 44 f. implies the contrary. Moreover, vii. 42 suggests that Jn. may have believed that at least the birth of Jesus took place in Bethlehem, and so in Judaea.


As to the journeys northward from the Lake of Galilee, Jn. is entirely silent. Jesus comes to Peraea shortly before the last Passover according to Jn. also, but on this occasion not by the pilgrimage route from Galilee to Jerusalem, but from Jerusalem (x. 40), where he has stayed since the Feast of Tabernacles (vii. 2, 10), and so without break since October. But, besides this, according to Jn,, on the second excursion also which he makes from here to Galilee (not as in Lk. on the last journey to Jerusalem in the opposite direction), he comes to Samaria (iv. 1-4), and follows up the success which he has here with the woman at Jacob’s Well and all the inhabitants of her town, by holding out the greatest expectations of extensive missionary work on the part of his disciples (iv. 35-38), though according to Mt. x. 5 he expressly forbids these same disciples to carry on mission work among the Samaritans. In short, a greater difference with regard to the scene of his ministry can hardly be imagined.

« Prev 2. Scene of Jesus’ Ministry. Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection