Did Jesus Really Run and “Hide” in John 8:59?

All translations and nearly every commentator from antiquity to modern times understand ἐκρύβη in John 8:59 as a reflexive: “But Jesus hid himself.” Among the grammarians, Winer stands alone, with Bengel before him, in preferring a true passive sense: “But Jesus was hidden.” A. T. Robertson cannot make up his mind here whether we have a passive form masquerading as a middle or a second aorist passive used intransitively. Either way, he is as certain as Blass that it cannot be understood as a true passive. And nearly all commentators from John Chrysostom to Craig Keener confidently assume that ἐκρύβη cannot be understood as a true passive, a conclusion that would then entail that a true miracle has taken place. Keener complains that a miracle here is unlikely since there is no specific mention of Jesus becoming “invisibile.” But this verb can indeed bear this sense, as in Hesiod’s Works and Days (386), where the stars of the Pleiades regularly “disappear” (κεκρύφαται) from the night sky for a period of forty days, between the end of March and the beginning of May. And even Keener later must concede that a true miracle has occurred when Jesus suddenly and mysteriously appears in a room where all of the doors are locked (John 20:19). But as in 8:59, there is no mention here of Jesus miraculously becoming “visible” or “invisible.” With all of the doors locked, he simply “came and stood in their midst” (ἦλθεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ ἔστη εἰς τὸ μέσον; also vs. 26).
In my paper, I will review the evidence regarding the meaning of ἐκρύβη, a second aorist indicative. I will show that the intransitive or reflexive meaning of ἐκρύβη is indeed well established, as in Adam’s guilty reply in the garden to God, ἐφοβήθην, ὅτι γυμνός εἰμι, καὶ ἐκρύβην (“I was afraid because I was naked, and so I hid,” Gen 3:10). But I will also demonstrate that the true passive meaning is just as well established and even more so, as in the Epistle to the Hebrews, where only a true passive meaning is possible: Πίστει Μωϋσης γεννηθεὶς ἐκρύβη τρίμηνον ὑπὸ τῶν πατέρων αὐτοῦ (“By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents,” Heb 11:23). Here we have exactly the very same identical form as in John 8:59 but used in an obviously passive sense. None of the grammarians or commentators ever bother to point this fact out. I will review the lexical and grammatical evidence, but ultimately this question can only be decided by the internal evidence within the context. Would the author of the Fourth Gospel ever risk portraying Jesus as “hiding” like his disciples in John 20:19? And in John 8:59, the stones are already in the hands of the Jews, and they are poised to throw them. How likely could Jesus have escaped this fate by running into the crowd of people? Neither Stephen nor Paul could avoid a stoning (Acts 7:57–60; 14:19). How did Jesus?

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