John 1.43->

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. He met Philip, who like Andrew and Peter, came from Bethsaida, and said to him, “Follow me.”

Phillip went to find Nathanael, and told him, we have met the man spoken of my Moses in the Law, and by the prophets; it is Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.

“Nazareth!” Nathanael exclaimed. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

Philip said, “Come and see.”

When Jesus saw Nathanael coming, he said, “Here is an Israelite worthy of the name; there is nothing false in him.”

Nathanael asked him, “How do you come to know me?”

Jesus replied, “I saw you under the fig tree, before Philip spoke to you.”

“Rabbi,” said Nathanael, “You are the son of God; you are king of Israel.”

Jesus answered, “Is this the ground of your faith, that I told you I saw you under the fig tree? You shall see greater things than that.” The he added, “In truth, in very truth I tell you all: You shall see Heaven wide open, and God’s angels ascending and descending upon the son of Adam.”

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5 responses

  1. Seeing and being seen by God seems like a pretty sound ground of faith.And on 'an Israelite worthy of the name"…The footnotes in my (NIV) Bible translate Israel as 'he struggles with God." Which might sound like a dubious recommendation in some cases; but perhaps it's the struggle that burns away falsehood?

  2. You had Jacob… who after a lifetime of being too clever for his own good, was returning to his brother Esau, expecting some well-earned retribution. While he was camping alone by the river, trying to prepare for the coming encounter, a "man" wrestled with him all night, neither of them winning until daybreak. Then the man says, "Your name shall no longer be 'Jacob', but 'Israel,' for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed."In the rest of his story, he is sometimes still called 'Jacob,' and sometimes called 'Israel,' perhaps expressing a different aspect of himself with the different names…

  3. Nathanael is given the meaning "God has given" or the gift. And my study bible's commentary notes that is is possibly a collective character. And some other list I saw (while look for the symbolic meaning of vine) was that the fig tree represented "natural good" … and here he is recognized as having no deceit. … who will see the Son in his role as mediator. Sounds like this is a passage about the changing nature of humanity. Also, the comment about Nazareth seems odd. My bible says it was too small to matter, but the Nazarenes had a mystery school didn't they? Is this an effort to obscure the path of the initiate (and yet remind us of it too)?

  4. Nazareth was a small village in Galilee, not a center of sophisticated learning, but of peasant life… peasants being accurately defined as "subsistence farmers with much of that subsistence siphoned off to support a kleptocratic elite."The local culture there was Jewish, rather than Judean. William Herzog (in _Prophet and Teacher_) explains what that meant: "The 'great tradition' that emanated from Jerusalem was focused on the Torah as interpreted by the oral Torah of the Pharisees or the readings of other groups like the Sadducees and Essenes. Their great traditions offered readings of the Torah in the service of the priestly and ruling elites, as its emphases on purity and tithing suggest. In the villages, peasants kept alive the prophetic traditions associated with Elijah and Elisha and nurtured their own cultural traditions as best they could. Horsley is confident that it is highly likely, from what we know of agarian societies under foreign rulers, that Israelite traditions continued to be cultivated independently in the popular oral traditions of Galilee."I'd like to quote his entire book, but can't. Anyway, the image of someone coming "from Galilee" would be vaguely subversive–somewhat like being a rural Quaker would sound to a London Episcopalian, back in the 1600's.When I think "under a fig tree," it reminds me of prophecies of a time when God would bring Israel under his reign, so that "every man would sit under his own fig tree," undisturbed by hunger, envy, or greed. I dunno if this is a hint in that direction, but it might be… and then there was the fig tree, symbolic of the religious hierarchy of his day, which Jesus allegedly cursed because it had failed to bear fruit. Hmmm! Then (?!) this worthy Israelite has been sitting under ("understanding"?) the Hebrew religion as conveyed by the prosperous, Hellenized Jerusalem elite, didn't think much of this guy from the flaming-radical sticks, but after meeting Jesus, concludes that he is "the son of God" == "king of Israel." (Think of the Chinese term 'Son of Heaven.' Or that line from a traditional 'coronation' Psalm: "You are my son; today I have begotten you.") All right, so maybe it is a passage about the changing nature of humanity? I'm not sure it isn't, but I don't understand!

  5. The passage seems to fall inside a pattern of holding up the unlikeliest people as a source of Good. If we understand his ministry as one that challenges the privileged, ruling, Temple-centered elite for their hypocrisy and abuses, then it makes sense to continue to highlight fishermen and farmers, Nazarenes and Samaritans, lepers, prostitutes and tax collectors. I really like the comparison you draw to earlier conflicts between rural and urban Friends. That was helpful to me.

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