Unreliable Sources in the Bible

John 7:25-27 WEB

Therefore some of them of Jerusalem said, “Isn’t this he whom they seek to kill? [26] Behold, he speaks openly, and they say nothing to him. Can it be that the rulers indeed know that this is truly the Christ? [27] However we know where this man comes from, but when the Christ comes, no one will know where he comes from.”


The Gospel of John is full of literary structure. One literary device is the unreliable character. It is surprising to find unreliable sources in the Bible. Each of the above verses contains misinformation by the masses. The masses are a frequent “character” in the Bible. In these verses, the masses are deceived and share untruths through the vehicle of misinformation. In literature, a character that doesn’t always tell the truth is considered an unreliable source. An unreliable source repeats gossip, disobeys, lies, may not know the truth, makes unrighteous judgments, and sometimes knows less than the reader.

In verse 25 the masses are repeating gossip. Jesus just said the Jews were seeking to kill him (John 7:15-16, 19). In just a few verses, the masses are repeating Jesus’ statement to one another. We know from the epistles that gossip is one of the “big sins” (Rom 1:29). Since the masses are engaging in a behavior that is unbiblical, they may be unreliable.

However, one or two issues do not mean a character is consistently unreliable. There are a group of behaviors unreliable sources share. One is lying. In verse 26 the masses state the Jews are not speaking to Jesus. We know that is a lie and is not unintentional ignorance.

However, there is a great deal the masses do not know in verse 26. For example, they seem to believe the leaders are trying to kill Jesus (vv 25). Oddly, the masses also think the leaders believe Jesus is the Messiah (vv 26). As readers, we know what is going on. On the other hand, the masses do not seem to know as much as the reader.

A lack of information leads unreliable characters to misjudge people and circumstances. In verse 27 we find the masses passing judgments on the leaders. They reveal they are less informed than the reader. The masses probably believed Jesus was born in Nazareth. They make a logical leap to get to this conclusion. Jesus grew up in Nazareth, so the masses believe that is where he was born. Of course, they are wrong.

Recognizing there is deliberate structure to the gospels helps the reader have a richer experience reading the Bible. Someone trained in writing wrote the gospel of John. It is full of literary structures. The Gospel of John has structure and deliberate choices by the author which do not diminish the spiritual value of the book. This use of the author’s technical skill does not diminish the anointing of the Spirit in the writing. It does mean God will use our knowledge and understanding to accomplish his purposes.


Lord Jesus, please give light to my understanding so I can read the Bible accurately. Help me acquire skills that you can use. Help me prepare an offering for you Lord. In Jesus’ name, I pray, amen.

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