In John 7, Jesus tells his brothers that he is not going up to the festival. Then he goes up in secret. This sounds to me like a lie.

John 7:6-10 (NIV)

6 Therefore Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. 8 You go to the festival. I am not[b] going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee.

10 However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret.

[b] Some manuscripts not yet

Most Christians believe in Jesus' sinlessness, while believing that lying is a sin. Given those beliefs, how do such Christians explain his words in John 7?

  • 1
    the NIV reference for John 7:8 in the link you provide says: "Some manuscripts not yet". In any case, good catch
    – user14
    Commented Sep 10, 2011 at 12:40
  • 1
    This is a good question and should be open, IMO. I made an edit to reduce the opinion element.
    – ThaddeusB
    Commented Aug 23, 2015 at 15:52

2 Answers 2


Bob's answer about the intended meaning of 'not yet going' is on the right track but it leaves out a couple of important details.

There are more than one set of Greek manuscripts and there are actually quite a number of one and two character type differences between them. Usually, these involve punctuation or spelling differences and have no affect on the text; but sometimes a snippet can be a little bit different and it's unclear which set of manuscripts to go by.

It is important to note that NONE of these differences in the manuscripts used to produce our translations touch on ANY doctrinal issue so there is no need to fret about that. Even when a word is dropped, the meaning can be matched with the same doctrine in other places in the text. However, sometimes odd linguistic issues like the one in this question do come up. There are at least a dozen or so that I've read about and probably more that I haven't.

First of all, the real trouble is not actually in verse 6 which was [originally] quoted by the OP. In verse 6 Jesus is talking his final hour and time to go to the cross. That is is what he means when he said his time has not fully come, but the disciples completely misunderstand this. Not just this time either: he often references his death and they don't really get the picture. In verse 6 there is no particular problem with the translation, 'not yet' is appropriate, but the subject matter is not understood.

The real issue comes in verse 8 where Jesus actually IS talking about physically walking to the feast. This is the verse that Bob quotes and contains the word issue. In quite a number of the older manuscripts, the word in question is 'oupō' as quoted and is correctly translated 'not yet', but this word is found in other manuscripts as 'ouk' meaning simply 'not'.

So which is it? The answer is it doesn't matter.

In English, the use of present continuous tense "I am not going" can and often does apply to a events in the future. That would mean the same thing as "I am not going to go at all" However the verb tense used in Greek here simply meant "I am not now going" ... as in he wasn't going to budge that moment and go like they wanted. It wasn't an indication that he didn't maybe plan on going.

Thus, whichever set of manuscripts you choose to go by, whether you use 'not' or 'not yet' in verse 8 is a matter of discretion of the translators. It is not necessarily a mistake in the NIV or any other translation to use simply 'not' because the best manuscripts have it written that way in Greek, however because of the verb tense we also know that whether the alternate 'not yet' Greek version is original or not, that sense is indeed intended by the original author of the text. You will find many translations that use 'not yet' because it gives us a clue about what is being said that is lost in our English verb tense.

And no -- any way you add it up, Jesus was not lying. He did not jump up and do what the disciples wanted him to do (verse 8) nor had his final time come (verse 6).

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    this was a fascinating answer. It's important to note the meaning that gets lost in translation. Commented Sep 10, 2011 at 13:16
  • +1 for clarifying verb tense. But a question: if as you say 'that sense is indeed intended by the author' (the sense of not yet), why not just say, 'not yet'? 'Not' and 'not yet' may have been equivalent in Greek, and the intended sense clear, but not so in English.
    – Bob Black
    Commented Sep 10, 2011 at 14:37
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    @BobBlack: Not sure on that bit, probably the NIV team had a pre-determined requirement to follow a certain set of manuscripts as closely as they could and they had picked early ones. That's pure speculation on my part tho. I grew up on the NIV but it has quite a few hiccups like this actually. It's not horrible but I don't think it's the best translation in whatever category you are looking for whether closer to 'literal' or more paraphrased.
    – Caleb
    Commented Sep 10, 2011 at 15:17
  • @Caleb: good answer, but my question is: what changed between vv. 6-9 and v. 10? Why was it not his time in v. 8 but it was in v. 10? I don't believe He was lying but it definitely seems like he changed His mind. Which is (to me, it seems) also quite uncharacteristic of Him. I don't think He's lying, but it does sound fickle.
    – ryvantage
    Commented Jul 23, 2014 at 20:36
  • What really has me scratching my head is that the Lord gave the reason for not going up "yet" in v. 8 "because My time has not yet been fulfilled." So, in v. 10, was that reason no longer valid? "My time" refers to His crucifixion, undoubtedly. So, v. 10 is not suddenly "My time." What changed?
    – ryvantage
    Commented Jul 23, 2014 at 20:58

This is a little easier to understand using the KJV translation.

Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come.

He didn't say he wasn't going. He said He wasn't going yet.

Also, for comparison, Young's Literal Transation:

Ye -- go ye up to this feast; I do not yet go up to this feast, because my time hath not yet been fulfilled.

Also see the original greek, shown below...

Original Greek

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    So we have another NIV mistranslated verse. Go figure. Commented Sep 10, 2011 at 5:47
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    +1 to Bob for pointing out the 'yet'. NKJV "My time has not yet come", "My time is not yet here" NASB. (I do see a text note on NKJV as well John 7:8 NU-Text omits yet - source: biblegateway.com)
    – Jamess
    Commented Sep 10, 2011 at 8:20
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    Not so fast @JonathonByrd :) Before you rag on the NIV (which has issues I grant!) it's worth checking out what might have made them translate it that way. In this case there is actually an explanation.
    – Caleb
    Commented Sep 10, 2011 at 11:37
  • I noticed that some translations had yet and some didn't. Thanks for pointing that out. By the way, what website or program did you use to get that Greek translation? It looks nicer than the stuff I've used.
    – Jeff
    Commented Sep 10, 2011 at 14:06
  • ISA 2 Basic from scripture4all.org. I saw someone else on this site using it (I would give them credit if I could recall who) and decided to check it out. It's free, and works very well.
    – Bob Black
    Commented Sep 10, 2011 at 14:09

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