They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and see that out of Galilee ariseth no prophet. (ASV)
The relevant verses describe dissent in a mixed crowd of supporters and opponents of Jesus. The opponents point out that the messiah should be born in Bethlehem: John 7:42 "Hath not the scripture said that the Christ cometh of the seed of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?" Jesus doesn't qualify because he comes from the Galilee region (which would include Nazareth): "...What, doth the Christ come out of Galilee?" (John 7:41). Nobody of significance is expected to come from that region: hence "Search, and see that out of Galilee ariseth no prophet".
Apologists who are aware of this problem claim that the opponents were simply mistaken about the birthplace of Jesus, confused by the move from Nazareth to Bethlehem "for the census" (Luke 2:3). But nowhere does John correct this "confusion", or create any positive association between Jesus and Bethlehem (and there was no such census anyhow).
There is a clear evolution of the story here. Paul and Mark either don't know or don't care about any Bethlehem-birth requirement. John brings it up, but leaves the problem unresolved, implying that Jesus was born in the wrong place. Luke introduces a fictional census to move the birthplace from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Matthew simply places the birth in Bethlehem without hesitation, to "fulfil the prophecy" that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. --Robert Stevens 11:32, 24 Oct 2005 (CDT)
While I also have some problem with the story as presented, I must point out that John is seen as being a later work than Matthew or Luke: therefore, it is somewhat against the evidence to cite John as the second story in the "evolution of the story."
--JustinEiler 17:43, 25 Oct 2005 (CDT)
1. The gospel writer is revealing the ignorance of Jesus' opposition. The prophet Nahum was from Galilee (though born in Iraq). Jesus' critics should have known that. Nahum's home town, Capernaum (Hamlet of Nahum), was named in his honor and was located on shore of Galilee.
2. John had no reason to explain their error. It would have been as obvious to the readers of his gospel at the time of writing as it is today.
3. Verses 41 and 42 of John 7 imply the dispute was over Jesus birthplace. But the argument more likely concerned his home base rather than his birthplace. The phrase "out of Galilee ariseth no prophet" implies their concern focused on the Jesus' home, not his place of birth.
It is also likely that they thought that Jesus' birthplace was in Galilee as implied by his title, whereas it was simply where He grew up.
Edit this section to note miscellaneous facts.