This doesn’t fit in with anything we’ve read so far and it’s completely unfamiliar to me. I doubt we ever read anything from it in my church. In the very first verse, we see a hint of the author’s prejudice against the Jews. In the KJV, it reads “… because the Jews sought to kill him.” In modern translations of this verse, and in the previous gospels as near as I can remember, we read only that the Jewish leaders were plotting to kill him. (Ditto v 13.) Very different connotation, eh? Then we get a reference to Jesus’ own family (including siblings) questioning his claim to fame (in fact, to me those words in v 3-5 sound a little sarcastic, like they’re calling his bluff). He lies to them about going to the festival.
In the next section, first Jesus is trying to hide; then he is preaching openly in the temple, and questioning the rules again. He’s got a point here about circumcision. Subject to overriding medical considerations, circumcision must take place eight days after the birth of a child, even when this falls on Shabbat (Sabbath). But look at the clause in brackets in v 22 – to me it suggests an ‘edit. Perhaps the original text said only that circumcision dates back to Moses, which is false (it dates to Abraham in Genesis 17 – well before Moses).
The discussion about whether Jesus is the Messiah (v 25-36) contains a lot of vague statements that sound like prophesy; and from the audience reaction, it sounds like he was being deliberately obtuse here. There’s no mention of any attempt on Jesus’ part to explain himself or clarify his words. So how effective was his teaching if it only confused people? V 37-39 are just gobbledy gook – living water and the holy spirit stuff again. But in v 38 there’s an important OT reference – except there’s not, because there’s no such verse in the OT. He’s either making stuff up as he goes along, or citing scriptures that have been lost to antiquity…
In the last part of the chapter, people are arguing again about whether Jesus is the real Messiah. V 42 does contain real OT prophesy – Micah 5:2. But it’s hokum. And the last verse (52) is interesting – no prophet ever came from Galilee? Apparently several did – check this site for an interesting explanation of that as well as some apologist acrobatics.
Here’s a lovely story (v 1-11) – one of the best known in the bible and most often cited by believers defending Jesus’ character. Too bad it has no business even being here. These verses are not found in the oldest manuscripts of John; some versions of the bible include them elsewhere (in a different chapter of John, or near the end of Luke) and some omit them entirely. If you do not have them in the version you are reading, you can find them here (and even if you do have them, check the link anyway – it’s humorous and has lots more info). This story was clearly a later addition to the gospel, because it does not fit into the context of the time. Jews in Jesus’ time would never have questioned whether or not to stone the woman – they followed the Mosaic laws. This type of dilemma arose much later, in the early Christian church, when followers were trying to decide which of the old laws Christians should still follow and which could fall by the wayside.
At John 8:12 section we get the “light of the world” speech, full of more double-speak. Jesus’ word counts as two witnesses, because he is both himself and his father. Give me a break! And doesn’t v 19 make you go ‘huh’?
I’m calling the next section (v 21-30), the ‘I am going away’ speech. It’s full of Christianese phrases like “you belong to this world” and “die in your sins”. Isn’t ‘die in your sins’ just a polite way of saying people who don’t believe are headed straight to you-know-where? And again, it sounds like Jesus is deliberately being obtuse. Why can’t he just say what he means straight up? Because it sounds so much more mystical this way…
Last we have the ‘truth shall set you free’ speech (v 31); it seems superficially inspirational, although I found it anything but. Jesus comes across as a crazy psychopath here, telling people that they are children of the devil, that god will glorify him, that anyone who obeys him will never die, and that he existed even before Abraham. The spectators are right when they accuse him of being possessed!