Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ John 6:41
Ἐγόγγυζον οὖν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι περὶ αὐτοῦ ὅτι εἶπεν Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ἄρτος ὁ καταβὰς ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ
Ἰουδαῖοι is (mis)translated here and elsewhere as “Jews”. The better translation, with possibly some exceptions, is “Judeans”. Judeans are from the region (and often the tribe) of Judea in the South where the city Jerusalem, the Temple, and the headquarters of the Roman Governor are. Judeans, then, are often the elite with power, wealth, and privilege dependent on collaboration with the Roman occupiers.
John uses “Israel” more regularly to refer to the people looking back to Abraham and Moses. “Jews” not only mistranslates the original, it presents an understanding in the directly opposite direction to what the author intends. The reference to Ἰουδαῖοι is to an opposing subgroup within Israel, whereas the current usage of “Jews” gives the impression of the larger group of which Galileans (and Jesus) were a part.
That John refers, hence, to Festivals of the Judeans (John 2:13; 5:1; 6:4; 7:2; 11:55) makes sense – these are festivals requiring pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem, in Judea.
The exception, in the Chapter we are working with, is John 6:4:
Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.
Jesus is speaking in a Galilean synagogue (6:59) at a time shortly before the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover would take place. Hence, John points out this time of year, connecting John 6 to the Passover.
The nonsense of mistranslating Ἰουδαῖοι as “Jews” is seen vividly in the next chapter:
After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He did not wish to go about in Judea because the Jews were looking for an opportunity to kill him. (John 7:1).
This would make absolutely no sense whatsoever if the Jews were identified with those of Israel in Galilee. John 11:7-8, similarly, only makes sense with the interpretation I am arguing for:
Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?’
To be continued…
- Friday in the Fourth Week of Lent
- Saint James the Great
- Matthew in Slow Motion 15
- Christian Seders?
- Pope Francis in the Holy Land