Did Jesus Lie? (John 7:8) – Mondays with Mounce 275
One of the basic rules in textual criticism is to choose the “more difficult” reading. Another way to say this is to ask what reading would most likely give rise to the other reading, and to prefer the former.
In John 7:8, Jesus’ brothers are taunting him, telling him he should go to Jerusalem for the festival of Tabernacles. Jesus responds, “You go up to the festival yourselves; I am not going up to this festival (ἐγὼ οὐκ ἀναβαίνω εἰς τὴν ἑορτὴν ταύτην), for my time has not yet fully come.”
The problem of course is that he does go to Jerusalem (v 10). So was Jesus being honest?
This is certainly what gave rise to the alternate reading, “I am not yet (οὔπω replacing οὐκ) going up.” The external evidence for οὔπω is actually quite strong (P66, 75, Vaticanus, but not Sinaiticus), but internally it is inconceivable that a scribe would have changed οὔπω to οὐκ and introduce the issue of Jesus’ honesty. οὐκ is preferred in all major translations (except the KJV following the MT).
Notice also that the explicitly continuous translation “I am not going up” (ἀναβαίνω) favored by most translations at least paves the way for the reader to hear “not yet.”
The more complete answer is supplied by the condition, “my time has not yet fully come.” As Carson argues, Jesus’ “itinerary is regulated by the Father” and hence the time is not yet right. But he would go when instructed to do so by his Father.
William D. [Bill] Mounce posts about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics on the ZA Blog. He is the author of numerous works including the recent Basics of Biblical Greek Video Lectures and the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek. He is the general editor of Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. He served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version Bible translation, and is currently on the Committee for Bible Translation for the NIV. The Mounce Reverse-Interlinear™ New Testament is available to freely read on Bible Gateway.
Learn more about Bill’s Greek resources at BillMounce.com.