Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The "Place" of the Jews (Jn 11:48)

When the Jewish leaders see Jesus' rising popularity in light of Lazarus' resurrection, they respond, "If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

"Place" (topos) can mean both an inhabited space (like a village), a physical structure (such as the temple), a place to live (BDAG entry 1). topos can also refer to a position held by someone or even a possibility.

The ESV "place" allows for the flexibility while the TNIV translates "temple" (see Acts 6:13f.; 21:28), reversing the NIV "place."

These are by no means easy decisions. Perhaps they feared the Romans would take the temple and destroy it in an attempt to stop a messianic uprising, but the parallel "and our nation" shows that the issue is not a place but their own control of a place. You can't take "our nation" away; you can only take control of it away.

Is it not amazing that in the face of a miracle — giving life to Lazarus — the Jewish leaders stay committed to their own presuppositions, ignore the miracle, and show concern only for their own power. But I am finding in life that this is the nature of the human heart, especially a legalist's heart, and especially those attracted to the power of leadership. The legalist's concern is not for what is, but for what appears to be. That is the driving force in everything he does.

Did the Jewish leaders really carry a burden for God and his work in the Jewish nation, or was the real issue their control and the prestige that comes with power. My strong assumption is that it was the later. I prefer the translation "place" and see it as a concern for their own power. Jesus had already made it clear that they cared for nothing else.