“Go not up yet” or “Go not up” in John 7:8?

Some skeptics claim that our Lord Jesus lied in John 7:8 as his statement therein contradicts his conduct in John 7:10. These skeptics usually use a modern translation based on the UBS Greek text, such as the ESV. John 7:8 in the ESV has our Lord saying, “I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” However, John 7:10 says, “But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private” (ESV). Our Lord does seem to be saying one thing to his brothers and doing otherwise. In the KJV, however, our Lord does not lie. John 7:8 in the KJV says, “I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come.” The KJV follows the Textus Receptus which includes the word “not yet (ουπω)”. Just as a skilled lawyer who protects his position without making a false statement, our Lord chooses his words well. It is no lie to say “I go not up yet” because he did not go up while his brothers were present.

Some defenders of the UBS text reading propose that our Lord honestly believed he will not go, but as soon as the brothers had left he received a command from the Father to go. This seems unlikely, however, because John 7:10 is clear that our Lord’s motive for not going with the brothers was so that he would not be revealed publicly. He knew his motive from the beginning. Defenders of the UBS text might also say that “I am not going up to this feast” cannot be taken in an absolute sense as there is no way that our Lord would have said that he would never go to the feast in his lifetime. Perhaps “I am not going up to this feast” should not be understood in such an absolute sense, but at the least the statement would suggest that our Lord did not intend to go to that particular feast in that particular year.

There is no need to defend the UBS reading as the UBS text violates its own principle of preferring the earliest witnesses in choosing to omit “ουπω”. The Textus Receptus reading is supported by the earliest and the majority of manuscripts, including P66 (3rd century), P75 (3rd century), Vaticanus (4th century), L, T, W, θ, Ψ, 070, 0105, 0250, Majority Text, etc. On the other hand, the UBS reading is supported by Aleph (4th century), D (5th century), K, 1241, etc. The only reason the UBS text omits “ουπω” is because it is the more difficult reading; and according to Dr. Hort’s theory, the more difficult reading is more likely to be correct. Whatever one thinks of Dr. Hort’s theory, this is only a presumption. When the context itself rebuts the presumption, the theory should not overrule the internal and external evidence. The context is that our Lord would be a liar if “ουπω” were omitted. Why follow a man-made theory only to provide ammunition to a skeptic to allege a moral flaw in our Lord?

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