Were the Pharisees being sarcastic in John 7:52, when they claimed that "no prophet ever came out of Galilee"? It is written that Jonah came from Gath-hepher, in Galilee (2 Kings 14:25).
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Many commentators have enjoyed pointing out the Pharisees' mistake, which is just one of several errors they make in this chapter.
A "pure" sarcasm would mean that the Pharisees considered Galilee to be the place where prophets came from - a bit like associating Washington, DC with politicians. But the context is their rejection of Jesus (known to them as a Galilean) as a prophet, which makes that reading a bit tricky. It is more likely that they are being rude or sarcastic, but at the same time, incorrect to dismiss Galilee as a prophet-free zone.
Thomas Aquinas in the Catena Aurea collated some earlier discussion on this passage. This includes John Chrysostom (Homily 52 on the Gospel of John) characterizing the tone of the Pharisees as "rude" and "insulting" (rudius, iniuriose), which would cover sarcasm; and on the other hand Alcuin of York's Commentary on the Gospel of John, where the emphasis is on their ignorance. If it is sarcasm, then it is still misaimed sarcasm, because the Pharisees are incorrect.
But their mistake is significant. The story of Jonah prefigures that of Jesus in several important ways, and so it is interesting that the two prophets are, in a sense, rejected together.
N. T. Wright says of this verse:
The Greek verb in question is ἐγείρεται (ἐγείρω), which originally meant "to wake up" or "to arouse", and was later applied to rising from a sick-bed or death-bed, as well as from sleep. It can also mean rousing someone to activity from a previous state of torpor. The other instances in John's gospel are as follows:
The "resurrection" sense is also strongly present elsewhere in the New Testament. So we could say that John's account has a certain level of irony, even if the Pharisees are not themselves being sarcastic.
Some versions of John 7:52 have the Pharisees talking about the prophet, rather than a prophet. They would then be arguing about whether the Messiah ought to be from Galilee, as opposed to whether prophets in general could come from there. If this is the reading then the Jonah question does not arise - but instead, we have to ask about the Pharisees' knowledge or interpretation of the Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 9 (or in the Hebrew, starting at 8:23). Here, "Galilee" is to be made glorious by a son who is to be called "Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace". The application to Jesus hinges on him being "from" Nazareth as well as Bethlehem, and of the line of David - facts which were not generally known (John 7:42). As before, the tone of the argument could very well be sarcastic, with the Pharisees being wrong, but this time for a different reason.
1. N. T. Wright. John: 26 studies for individuals and groups (InterVarsity Press, 2009). Chapter 10, Disputes about Jesus, p. 60.