The Samaritan Woman
|Appearances||"Jesus and Samaritan Woman" (4:1-30)
also mentioned in reference in 4:39-42
|Titles Given||"Samaritan Woman" (by the author in 4:7)
"Woman of Samaria" (self-reference in 4:9)
"Woman" (by the author in 4:11, 27, 28)
|Age||Exact age unknown.
Age of a "woman" (4:11)
|Marital Status||was married five times? (4:16)|
|Place of Residence||Samaria (4:9)
City of Sychar (4:5,28)
|Group Affiliation||none known|
The readers are introduced to the woman in 4:7 as she draws water from Jacob's well around noon ("the sixth hour") (4:6). It is known that the woman is from Samaria in a city called Sychar (4:9,11). Being a Samaritan, as revealed by the woman herself, does "not share things in common" with Jews (9:9). Being a woman, Jewish males are not to initiate conversation with unknown women. Although these social conditions have been set in the New Testament society, both characters break this convention.
The narrator also states that the character is of age to be called a
"woman" as opposed to "girl" (γυνή instead of κόρη).
Other physical descriptions--ailments, disfigurements, and others--are
not given by neither the narrator nor the characters.
The Actions and Speech of The Samaritan Woman
The initial conversation between Jesus and the woman is at a level of questioning that appears mildly confrontational (4:7-15). This is not to say that she was questioning Jesus to persecute, but rather to confront him concerning the social conventions that were prevalent in that area and era (4:9). In this conversation, the double meaning of the physical and the theological are misunderstood by the woman (4:11-12). The woman converses with Jesus and finally realizes that the water that Jesus is offering is advantageous (4:15).
In the second part of the dialogue (4:16-26), the woman continues to
converse with Jesus concerning the state of her "husbands" (4:25-26), the
appropriate place of worship (4:20-24), and the notion of the Messiah (4:25-26).
The Disciples return to Jesus, and the Woman returns to the city--telling
people to see this man who she thinks may be the Messiah (4:28-30).
Other Characters' Reactions to the Samaritan Woman
In the era of the New Testament, the interaction of Jesus and the Samaritan Woman breaks three Jewish social conventions:
1. a Jewish man does not initiate conversation with an unknown woman,
2. a Jewish man does not publicly converse with a woman, and
3. a Jewish man does not share anything in common with a Samaritan.
By virtue of Jesus' example, he shows that contact with a Samaritan and a woman is not prohibited. Jesus does this not by proclaiming new teachings but by breaking the social conventions.
In the conversation concerning the woman's marital status, Jesus asks her to call her husband and she replies that she does not have a husband (4:16-17). Jesus then reveals to her that she does not have a husband at the moment, but that she has had five husbands (4:17-18). In revealing facts about her life to the woman, she then proclaims Jesus as a prophet (4:19). What is more important than what Jesus does is what he does not do. Jesus neither calls her an adulteress nor does he make proclamations or moral judgments about her. He does not rebuke her for having had five husbands and living with a man who is not her husband (4:18).
The Samaritans of the City
What is striking in this narrative is the people's willingness to accept the woman's testimony concerning Jesus (4:29). Upon hearing her testimony, they leave to investigate to investigate this man who she proclaims may be the Messiah (4:30). It is not the norm to accept the testimony of a woman as reliable, but the Samaritans of the city believed her and "believed in him because of the woman's testimony" (4:39).
Movement of the Samaritan Woman within the Gospel
The Samaritan Woman has many purposes:
1. to provide a dialogue partner for Jesus (4:7-26)
2. to show that Jesus breaks the social conventions of that time (4:7-15),
3. to show that Jesus ignores the faults of the past (moral shortcomings) (4:16-18)
4. to present the notion of the ideal place of worship (4:20-24)
5. to present the to the readers that Jesus is the Messiah (4:25-26)
6. to testify to the people of Sychar regarding Jesus (4:39)
The Woman makes four steps to believing that Jesus may be the Messiah:
1. from a Jew who is asking for water (4:9-11),
2. to a man whose gift she needs (4:15),
3. to someone who is a prophet (4:19), and finally
4. as someone who may be the Messiah (4:29).
This Website was created and is maintained
by Felix Just, S.J.
This page was last updated on 09/27/01