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Bible Commentaries

International Critical Commentary NT

John 4

Verses 1-99

Jesus Leaves Judaea for Galilee by Way of Samaria (4:1-4)

4:1. ὁ κυριος. This is read by ABCLTbW, but the Western reading (אDΘ fam. 1, with a b c e ff2 l Syr. cur.) is ὁ Ἰησοῦς. It is plain that the text has been tampered with. The verse is clumsily expressed and seems to have been rewritten, ὁ κύριος having probably been inserted in the later draft to remove any ambiguity as to the subject of the sentence.

It has been pointed out (on 1:38) that His disciples were accustomed to address Jesus either as Rabbi (Teacher) or as Mari (Lord). And in His absence, according to the Synoptists, they used both terms, either saying ὁ διδάσκαλος (as Jesus bade them do, Mark 14:14) or ὁ κύριος (Mark 11:3), an appellation which He approved (Mark 5:19). In Jn., Martha says ὁ διδάσκαλος (11:28); Mary Magdalene says ὁ κύριος (20:2, 18), and so do the disciples (20:25, 21:7).

In direct narrative, when the evangelists are using their own words and not reporting the words of others, a distinction must be made. In Lk. (7:13, 10:1, 11:39, 12:42, 17:5, 22:61), “the Lord” is often used by the evangelist. So in the Marcan Appendix (16:19, 20) we have “the Lord” twice. This also is the usage of the Gospel of Peter. But Mk. (followed by Mt.) never writes “the Lord,” but always “Jesus.” The primitive narratives, that is, took the form “Jesus said …,” “Jesus did …” The form “the Lord said” is later.

Now in the direct narrative of the Fourth Gospel we find “Jesus” as in Mk., and not “the Lord” as in Lk., with five exceptions which are instructive. In 4:1, 6:23, 11:2, ὁ κύριος is the true reading; but these verses are all explanatory glosses, not from the hand of Jn., but written after the first draft of the story had been completed. In 20:20, 21:12, where we have ὁ κύριος, we are in the middle of the post-Resurrection narrative, and it is not unnatural that special reverence should be exhibited in writing of Him who had risen.

Soon after the Resurrection, the title began to imply that larger and deeper meaning of ὁ κύριος as the representative of יְהוָֹה which is frequent in Paul and is found in the Acts (2:36, 9:11).That “Jesus is Lord” (1 Corinthians 12:3; cf. Philippians 2:11) has become the central thought of the Christian profession; but now the predicate means more than “Master,” for it expresses the doctrine of the Incarnation. Perhaps we may say that the passage from the lower to the higher sense begins with the citation of Psalms 110:1 by the Master Himself (Mark 12:36).

Thus the use by Jn. of the form of narrative in which the central figure is designated as “Jesus” (save in the exceptional passages cited) rather than as “the Lord,” illustrates well the primitive characteristics which the Fourth Gospel exhibits.

Probably some time had elapsed since Jesus had begun His ministry in Judæa (cf. διέτριβεν, 3:22); and it is possible that His departure was subsequent to John’s imprisonment (cf. 3:24). The Pharisees (see on 1:24) had begun to take notice of Him, being perhaps even more suspicious of Him than they had been of John (1:24), because they had heard that (ὅτι recitantis) “Jesus is making more disciples than John”; and so He moved to another place (cf. 7:1, 10:39). At this stage He was anxious to avoid open collision with the Pharisees. It will be noticed that we have the “making of disciples” and “baptizing” associated closely thus early, long before the charge is said to have been given to the apostles μαθητεύσατε … βαπτίζοντες αὐτούς (Matthew 28:19).

The art. is omitted before Ἰησοῦς πλείονας μαθ. ποιεῖ, contrary to the general usage of Jn., who prefers to write ὁ Ἰησοῖς (see on 1:29). We have the same omission at 4:47, 6:24, and for the same reason as here, viz. that ὅτι introduces the words which were actually spoken: the construction is not oblique, but that of ὅτι recitantis.

2. If this verse is part of the original draft of the Gospel, it is a parenthetical comment or correction by Jn., and is quite in his manner (see on 2:21). He wishes to prevent his readers from making any mistake; the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was baptizing disciples in large numbers, but Jn. pauses to explain that the report which reached them was inaccurate in so far as it suggested that Jesus baptized in person. And it may be that this correction of ἐβάπτιζεν in 3:22 (where see note) is well founded.

But it is probable that the verse 4:2 is not from the hand of Jn.,1 but was added at a revision of the text, because of the idea that it would detract from the dignity of Jesus to perform the ministry of baptism, which even Paul was accustomed as a rule to leave to others. There are slight indications, too, that the style of the verse is not Johannine. καίτοιγε does not occur elsewhere in the N.T., and Jn. is apt to use καί where another would use καίτοι (see on 1:11. Again, Ἰησοῦς is not preceded by the def. article, as is the general usage of Jn. (see on 1:29). For οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ, see on 2:2.


4. ἔδει δὲ αὐτὸν κτλ., sc. “He had to go through Samaria,” unless He wished to make a detour. Josephus mentions (Antt. xx. 6. 1) that it was the habit of the Galilæans going to Jerusalem to pass through Samaria, this being the direct route (cf. Luke 9:51, Luke 9:52). But apparently Jesus did not start from Jerusalem, but from Jericho (cf. 3:22); and the road that He took was probably the north-western road from thence to Ai and Bethel, where He would strike the great northern road used by caravans.

ἔδει does not stand here for any Divine necessity, although Jn. often uses it thus (see on 2:4, 3:14).

Discourse at the Well with the Samaritan Woman (Vv. 5-26)

5. Συχάρ. “Near to the plot of ground (χωρίον; cf. Matthew 26:36) that Jacob gave to Joseph,” i.e. to the E. of Shechem (Genesis 33:18, Genesis 48:22), the modern Nabliûs. Some have thought that Sychar and Shechem are identical, but they have been distinguished since Eusebius. Sychar is probably to be identified with the village ˒Askar (ע having displaced א, a linguistic change which is also observable in the Arabic form of Ascalon). ˒Askar is situated about five furlongs N.E. of Jacob’s Well.1

E. A. Abbott finds Sychar in the root שׁכר “drunkenness”; i.e. it is an opprobrious name for Shechem (cf. Isaiah 28:1: this, he suggests, is suitable to the moral of the dialogue, which has to do with drinking.2 But there is no need to find such subtle and obscure allegory in a place-name.

6. κεκοπιακώς. The verb is used again by Jn. only at v. 38. ὁδοιπορία appears elsewhere in the N.T. only at 2 Corinthians 11:26.

ἐκαθέζετο, “He was seated”; cf. 11:20, 20:12. καθέζομαι in the N.T. is always used in a durative sense. Tw has the unique variant ἐκάθισαν.

οὕτως may mean “just as He was,” sc. without waiting to select a place deliberately; but more probably it refers to κεκοπιακὼς ἐκ τῆς ὁδοιπορίας “tired with His journey, He was seated by the well.” Cf. 1 Kings 2:7 for a somewhat similar use of οὕτως. οὕτως is omitted here in some cursives and in Latin, Syriac, and Coptic vss.

For κεκοπιακώς, see on 1:14 for Jn.’s emphasis on the true humanity of Jesus. He saw nothing in speaking of Jesus as “tired” which was inconsistent with His oneness with Him of whom the prophet wrote, “The Everlasting God, the Lord, fainteth not, neither is weary” (Isaiah 40:28).

“Jacob’s Well”3 is at a fork in the northern road to Samaria; one branch, the ancient caravan road, going N.E. to Scythopolis, the other going W. by Nablus and thence N. to Engannim. The well is about 100 feet deep, and at the bottom the water collects, probably by infiltration. The double title πηγή (v. 6) and φρέαρ (vv. 11, 12) is thus explicable. Why any one should have taken pains to sink a deep pit, when there is abundance of water both at Nabl̂us and ˒Askar, we cannot tell; any more than we can explain why a woman should come half a mile from ˒Askar to draw water which she could have got in the village. But, at any rate, the well is there, and probably has been there since the days of Jacob. In the absence of knowledge of the exact position of the woman’s house, it would be idle to speculate as to the motive which drew her to this, which was even then a sacred well, rather than to the ˓Ain at ˓Askar.

“It was about the sixth hour,” that is, about noon (see on 1:39), the natural time to rest while the sun was at its height. The account given by Josephus of Moses resting by a well in. Midian (Exodus 2:15) provides a striking parallel: καθεσθείς ἐπί τινος φρέατος ἐκ τοῦ κόπου καὶ τῆς ταλαιπωρίας ἠρέμει μεσημβρίας οὕσης οὐ πόρρω τῆ πόλεως (Antt. ii. xi. 1). As in the Gospel story, Moses was sitting by the well at midday, weary with his journey, when the women came to draw water for their flocks. No doubt, the usual time for this was in the evening, but there is no improbability in water being drawn sometimes at noon, as Josephus represents it, and as Jn. says that the woman came to do.

7. “A woman of Samaria” (ἐκ τῆς Σαμαρίας: cf. 1:44). In later days she was commemorated as St. Photina, on March 20.


9. Πῶς σὺ Ἰουδαῖος ὢν κτλ. The Samaritan woman affects surprise—for her words are ironical—that a Jew should ask her for water. There was nothing strange in asking a woman for water, as it was women who generally drew it from the wells; cf. Genesis 24:17. However bitter the feeling between Jew and Samaritan, we cannot suppose that a draught of cold water in the noontide heat would be likely to be refused by either to other. It was counted the mark of a wicked man “not to have given water to the weary to drink” (Job 22:7); and the precept of kindness was universal: “If thine enemy be thirsty, give him water to drink” (Proverbs 25:21). Yet the woman makes her little gibe—half-jest, half-earnest—recalling to Jesus the old feud between Jews and Samaritans. She recognised Jesus as a Jew, perhaps by His dress or perhaps by His manner of speech (cf. Matthew 26:73). The narrative does not say explicitly that she granted the request of Jesus, Δός μοι πεῖν, but the reader is intended to understand that she did so.

The explanatory comment οὐ γὰρ συνχρῶνται Ἰουδαῖοι Σαμαρείταις, “for Jews do not treat familiarly with Samaritans,” is omitted by א*D a b e, but it must be retained with אaABCLTbWNΘ. συγχρᾶσθαι does not occur again in N.T., but it appears in Ignat. Magn. 3, ὑμῖν δὲ πρέπει μὴ συγχρᾶσθαι τῇ ἡλικίᾳ τοῦ ἐπισκόπου, “it becomes you not to presume upon the youth of your bishop,” to treat him with undue familiarity.

If συνχρῶνται is translated “have dealings with,” co-utuntur, the comment would not be accurate; for although Jews and Samaritans were intolerant of each other (cf. Luke 9:53, John 8:48), of necessity there was much business intercourse. As v. 8 indicates, Jews could trade with Samaritans, as indeed they could do with heathen (cf. Nehemiah 13:16).

The comment is not that of the Samaritan woman, but of the evangelist, and is quite in his manner (cf. Introd., p. xxxiv).


εἰ ᾔδεις τὴν δωρ. κτλ., “If thou knewest the gift of God”; Cf. 8:19. δωρεά, a free gift, occurs in the Gospels adverbially (Matthew 10:8), and is always used in the Acts and Epistles of a divine gift. It refers here to the “living water” mentioned in the next sentence, i.e. to the gift of the Holy Spirit (which σωρεά always indicates in the Acts). Some commentators have referred to 3:16, and have interpreted it of the gift which God gave of His Son, and the revelation of salvation through Him.

τίς ἐστιν ὁ λέγων σοι. The woman had taken Him for a Jew. But He was no ordinary Jew, and if she had understood who He was, she would have been the suppliant (σὺ ἂν ἤτησας αὐτόν, “It is you who would have asked Him), and He would have granted her request (cf. Matthew 7:7); He would have given her “living water.”

ἔδωκεν ἄν σοι ὕδωρ ζῶν. This saying was paradoxical in its form, like the saying with which the attention of Nicodemus was arrested (3:3). The woman did not understand it (v. 11), nor could she have been expected to do so. But Jesus is here following the method by which He was accustomed to convey instruction to simple people who were willing to learn; and the discourse which follows may be particularly compared with 6:26f. The plan of these instructions, for which there are Synoptic parallels, has been discussed in the Introduction, p. cxi.

ὕδωρ ζῶν. “Living water” is water issuing from a spring or fountain, unlike the water in Jacob’s Well, which was due to percolation and rainfall,1 being collected in a kind of cistern or pit (τὸ φρέαρ, v. 12). This was good water, but had not the virtues of “running” or “living” water, such as was always preferred, especially for purposes of purification (Genesis 26:19, Leviticus 14:5, Numbers 19:17).

Water was full of symbolism to Eastern thought, and in the O.T. it is often symbolic of the Divine Wisdom which is the source of life. Thus “the law of the wise” is πηγὴ ζωῆς (Proverbs 13:14; cf. Proverbs 14:27). The Son of Sirach declares that he that possesses the law shall obtain wisdom: “with bread of understanding shall she feed him, and give him water of wisdom to drink” (Ecclus. 15:2, 3). Zechariah’s vision of hope is that “living waters shall go out from Jerusalem” (Zechariah 14:8; cf. Ezekiel 47:1, Joel 3:18), i.e. that in the glorious future the blessings of the Law shall be extended far and wide. The promise of Isaiah (12:3) is “with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation,” a passage specially parallel to the declaration of Christ here.

“If thou hadst known who it is that speaketh to thee, thou wouldest have asked Him, and He would have given thee living water.” To appreciate the depth of this saying, it must be remembered that, according to the O.T., it is Yahweh Himself who is the Fountain of living waters (Psalms 36:9, Jeremiah 2:13, Jeremiah 2:17:13; cf. Song of Solomon 4:15, where the mystic Bride is described as φρέαρ ὕδατος ζῶντος). So also in the Apocalypse, the river of the Water of Life proceeds from the throne of God and of the Lamb (Revelation 22:1; cf. Revelation 7:17). Thus the statement of Jesus to the Woman of Samaria that, had He been asked, He would have given her living water, implies His claim to be One with the Lord of the O.T. prophets, who is alone the Source and Spring of the living waters which refresh the soul and assuage the spiritual thirst of men. See further on v. 14.

Note that Jesus does not call Himself the Living Water, although He calls Himself the Living Bread (6:51). It is from Him that the Living Water proceeds, for this is the symbol of the Spirit which He was to send (7:39).

There is no exact parallel in Philo to this doctrine of the Living Water which flows from the Word, although the similar idea expounded by St. Paul (1 Corinthians 10:4) of the mystical meaning of the Rock in the Desert from which water flowed forth for the refreshment of Israel is found in Leg. Alleg. ii. 21: ἡ γὰρ�

In the Messianic forecast of Isaiah 35:7 one of the promised blessings was εἰς τὴν διψῶσαν γῆν πηγὴ ὕδατος, and at v. 26 below (where see note) Jesus is represented as declaring that He was Messiah. See on 9:1 for a quotation of this Messianic passage by Justin Martyr.

11. κύριε. She is impressed by the Speaker, and so addresses Him now (cf. vv. 15-19) in terms of respect (see on 1:38). How could He provide spring water, or water of any kind, without a bucket (ἄντλημα; cf. v. 8)?

For φρέαρ and its depth, see on v. 6. The broken Constr. οὔτε … καί is found only once again in N.T., at 3 John 1:10.

λέγει αὐτῷ ἡ γυνή. B, with the Coptic Q and Syr. sin., omits ἡ γυνή; but אcACDLTbWΘ.

12. It could not be from the well, that Jesus would provide living water. Whence then could He get it? Even Jacob got water for himself and his household from this well. Was the Speaker greater than Jacob, who had to draw the water from the well like any one else?

μὴ σὺ μείζων εἶ τοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν Ἰακώβ; See 6:31 and cf. the similar question put by the Jews (8:53), “Art thou greater than our father Abraham?”

“Our father Jacob.” The Samaritans claimed descent from Joseph, through Ephraim and Manasseh (Josephus, Antt. xi. 8, 6).

ὃς ἔδωκεν ἡμῖν τὸ φρέαρ. Field compares Pausan. iii. 25, 3: ἔστι δὲ ἐν τῇ πυρρίχῳ φρέαρ ἐν τῇ�

14. “It shall become in him a fountain of water springing up unto eternal life.” In v. 10 the thought is of God as the Eternal Fountain; but it was also a Hebrew thought that the man who has assimilated the Divine Wisdom becomes himself, as it were, a fountain from which streams of the water of life proceed. Thus the promise of Isaiah 58:11 is, “Thou shalt be like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.” Schoettgen quotes an apposite saying from the Talmud: “Quando homo se convertit ad dominum suum, tanquam fons aquis uiuis impletur, et fluenta eius egrediuntur ad omnis generis homines et ad omnes tribus.” And similarly Wetstein quotes from Tanchuma, f. 17. 1: “Unde Abrahamus didicit legem? R. Simeon filius Jochai dixit: bini renes eius tanquam binae lagenae aquarum factae sunt, ex quibus lex promanavit.” See on 7:38 below.

The passage in Ecclus. 24:21-31 about the Divine Wisdom presents some parallels to these thoughts. The stream of the waters of Wisdom comes originally from God: “Her thoughts are filled from the sea, and her counsels from the great deep” (v. 29). Of the wise man increasing in wisdom it may be said, “My stream became a river, and my river became a sea” (v. 31); these waters of Wisdom lose themselves at last in the same eternal Ocean whence they sprang. Cf. Psalms 36:9 παρὰ σοὶ πηγὴ ζωῆς. The water of life is, as Jesus says here, πηγὴ ὕδατος ἁλλομένου εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον, leaping forth to eternal life. C. Wesley puts it all in familiar words:

“Thou of life the Fountain art,

Freely let me take of Thee;

Spring Thou up within my heart,

Rise to all eternity.”

The verb ἅλλομαι does not seem to be applied elsewhere to the action of water. But water in this passage is symbolic of the Spirit (cf. 7:38f.); and “ἅλλομαι or ἐφάλλομαι in LXX is applied to the action of a ‘spirit of God,’ forcing its way or falling violently on Samson, Saul, and David.”1 It may be, therefore, as E. A. Abbott has suggested, that ἁλλομένου is used here with special reference to the action of the Holy Spirit, vehement like that of rushing waters. If that be so, εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον expresses the purpose of this spiritual torrent of grace; it is “with a view to eternal life.”

There seems to be a reminiscence of this passage in Ignatius, Rom_7, ὕδωρ δὲ ζῶν καὶ λαλοῦν† ἐν ἐμοί, where Lightfoot supposes the MS. reading to be a corruption of ὕδωρ δὲ ζῶν καὶ ἁλλόμενον. It is possible that there is also a trace of it in Justin (Tryph. 69). Commenting on Isaiah 35:7 he says: πηγὴ ὕδατος ζῶντος παρὰ θεοῦ …�

Verses 10 and 14 are quoted explicitly in Pistis Sophia, c.141.

In one important particular, at least, the promise of Jesus about the Living Water transcends what is said about the Water of Wisdom by the Son of Sirach. “They that drink me shall yet be thirsty” are the words of Ecclus. 24:21; the spiritual thirst is insatiable, so far as the Hebrew sage knew. But Jesus said: “Whosoever shall drink of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst” (cf. 6:35). To him who has appropriated the revelation of God in Christ, there is no sense of imperfection in the Divine gift, no dissatisfaction with it as insufficient. The Living Water is always quickening, always flowing in correspondence with human need. As Bengel puts it: “ubi sitis occurrit, hominis non aquae defectus est.” The promise of Jesus is that those who “thirst after righteousness shall be filled” (χορτασθήσονται, Matthew 5:6).

With ἐκ τοῦ ὕδατος οὓ ἐγὼ δώσω αὐτῷ cf. ὁ ἄρτος ὃν ἐγὼ δώσω of 6:51. אDTbWN, with the Lat. and Syr. vss. generally, insert ἐγώ before the second δώσω; but om. ABCLΓΔΘ.

εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, “for ever.” This is a common phrase in the LXX and occurs elsewhere in the N.T.; but it is especially frequent in Jn. (6:51, 58, 8:35, 51, 52, 10:28, 11:26, 12:34, 13:8, 14:16, 1 John 2:17, 2 John 1:2).

The phrase εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον first appears in 4 Macc. 15:3, where a mother prefers to the temporal safety of her sons τὴν εὐσέβειαν … τὴν σώζουσαν εἰς αἰώνιον ζωὴν κατὰ θεόν. It appears again in John 4:36, John 6:27, John 12:25, Romans 5:21, 1 Timothy 1:16, and Jude 1:21, and in each case the reference is to the future life, the life after death (see note on 3:15).

15. λέγει πρὸς αὐτόν. For the constr., see on 2:3. For κύριε. Cf. v. 11.

δός μοι τοῦτο τὸ ὕδωρ. Cf. 6:34 δὸς ἡμῖν τὸν ἄρτον τοῦτον. The woman did not understand Jesus, words about the Water which assuages thirst for ever; and her reply is a puzzled request: “Give me this water, that I may not be thirsty, and need not come hither continually to draw from the well.” She speaks half in irony; for she does not believe in any πηγὴ ὕδατος such as Jesus had incomprehensibly spoken of as being “in” the recipient of His gift.

The rec. text has ἔρχωμαι with ACDWΓΔΘ; but א*B support διέρχωμαι. As Field points out, διέρχωμαι may have arisen from a mistake in transcribing μηδεερχωμαι; but in any case the prep. διά does not add special force to the verb here (cf. Luke 2:15).

ἵνα μὴ διψῶ κτλ. For ἵνα with the pres. subj., cf. 6:29, 1 John 1:2, 1 John 2:27, 1 John 5:3.

16. The exact bearing of the words of Jesus, “Go, call thy husband, and come hither,” is not easy to determine. Perhaps the woman was going off, after her last retort, and Jesus bade her come back again with her “husband,” as He wished to carry on His ministry at Sychar (v. 39). He had observed her intelligence, and He knew her need. Another interpretation of the words is that Jesus wished, by mentioning her “husband,” to recall her to a sense of her sad condition, that thus the way might be opened for a fuller presentation to her of His message. We cannot in any case assume that more than a fragment of the conversation has been preserved, and much that was said is, no doubt, omitted in the narrative of Jn. (see on v. 18).

For the verb ὑπάγειν, see on 16:7; and for the aor. imper. φώνησον, see on 2:5.

17. καὶ εἶπεν. So אcADLNΓΔΘ, but BCW Syr. sin. and Syr. cur. add αὐτῷ.

The woman, by this time, feels that she is in the presence of One to whom she cannot lie, and she confesses, “I have no husband.” Jesus gently shows her that He knows all about that, and about her past. “You had five husbands, and he whom thou hast now is not thy husband.” Jn. frequently lays stress on the power which Jesus had of reading men’s hearts (cf. 1:48, 2:24, 25). If the report of His words here is precise, He showed more than natural insight, and this the evangelist evidently means to suggest. But (see on v. 18) we have to remember that the record of this conversation probably depends on the subsequent report of the woman (v. 27), and in regard to some details she may have confused what her own guilty conscience told her with what Jesus saw in her face. On the other hand, to have had five husbands in succession would be an unusual experience, and the woman may have been notorious for the number of her marriages. But there is no hint in the narrative that Jesus had heard of her before, although there is nothing to exclude this possibility.

18. πέντε ἄνδρας. It is remarkable that Heracleon (according to Origen) read ἓξ ἄνδρας, a reading unknown elsewhere. Origen, himself, finds allegory in the number five, and says that it refers to the fact that the Samaritans only recognised as canonical the five books of Moses.1


Upon the words πέντε γὰρ ἄνδρας ἔσχες κτλ. has been built a theory that the narrative of the Samaritan woman at the well is an allegory from beginning to end, and that the woman is a symbol of the Samaritan people. It is recorded (2 Kings 17:24f.) that the King of Assyria brought colonists from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and planted them in Samaria; and that each set of colonists brought with them the cult of their former national deities, who were worshipped side by side with Yahweh. Here then are the five “husbands” of the Samaritan woman, while the husband who was “not a husband” stands for the spurious cult of Yahweh, which to the Jews was little better than heathenism.1 But this ingenious interpretation will not bear analysis. It appears from the narrative in 2 Kings 17:30, 2 Kings 17:31 that not five, but seven, strange deities were introduced into Samaria from Assyria.2 Further, these were not the objects of worship in succession, but simultaneously, so that the supposed analogy to the successive husbands of the Samaritan woman breaks down. Again, the allegory would imply that the heathen deities had been the legitimate gods of Samaria, while Yahweh whom she came to worship was not a true “husband” at all, and that therefore Samaria’s relation to Yahweh was that of an illegitimate and shameful sort, shame equally resting on her and Him who was not her “husband.” No Christian writer of the first century, or of any century, would have ventured to construct an allegory so blasphemous when its implications are examined. This fancy may safely be rejected.

Another suggestion is that “he whom thou hast is not thy husband” alludes to Simon Magus, who had a great influence in Samaria (Acts 8:9-11).

But the simplest interpretation is the best. The narrative is a genuine reminiscence of an incident that actually happened, recorded many years after the event, and probably—so far as the words of the conversation are concerned—with much freedom. That Jesus expressed Himself so tersely and even enigmatically, to an ignorant woman, as the deep saying of v. 14 would suggest, without explaining what He said more fully, is improbable. On the other hand, the vividness and simplicity of the story have the note of actuality. The narrative brings out clearly the main features of the interview between Jesus and the woman, and it is easy to follow the general lines of their conversation.

When the woman got back to her friends (v. 29) she reported in eager haste what her experience had been, and told them what Jesus had said to her. She may have exaggerated or confused words here and there, but that the incident became known to any one was probably due to her own talk about it. Jesus seems to have been alone with her (v. 27), but this is not certain. If we could suppose that one of the disciples remained with his Master at the well, while the others went into Sychar to make their purchases (which would a priori be probable), then we should be able to refer the report of the conversation to the disciple’s recollection, as well as to the woman’s account of it. And that the disciple who remained with his Master is not mentioned by the evangelist would not surprise us if he were John the son of Zebedee, who is kept so much out of sight in the Fourth Gospel, while at the same time his reminiscences are behind large parts of it. But this only can be affirmed with certainty, that the woman told the story to her fellow-villagers, and with such emphasis that many of them “believed on” Jesus, so that He (and no doubt His disciples) stayed at Sychar for two days (v. 40). All the disciples who were present (see on v. 8) must have become thoroughly familiar with her report.

19. For κύριε, see v. 11, and for the shades of meaning of θεωρεῖν see on 2:23.

κύριε, θεωρῶ κτλ., “Sir, I perceive,” sc. from what you have said, “that you are a prophet” (cf. 9:17, Luke 7:16, “a prophet” not “the prophet”). A prophet was one who had special powers of insight, as well as of foresight. Cf. Luke 7:39, where the Pharisee objects that if Jesus were really a prophet He would have known that the woman with the cruse of ointment was a sinner. The Samaritan woman was astonished at the knowledge of her personal history which Jesus displayed, and, by her reply, she virtually confesses that it is wit! her even as He had said.

20. The woman diverts the conversation to another subject, and proceeds to raise a theological difficulty, either to evade the personal issue, or because she was honestly anxious to learn what a prophet with such wonderful insight would say about the standing controversy between Jews and Samaritans. Probably both motives affected her.

οἱ πατέρες ἡμῶν κτλ., “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain,” i.e. Mount Gerizim, at the foot of which Jacob’s Well is situated. Abraham (Genesis 12:7) and Jacob (Genesis 33:20) had set up altars at Shechem; and the Samaritan Pentateuch at Deuteronomy 27:4 recorded the setting up of an altar in Mount Gerizim (the true reading being Mount Ebal); cf. also Deuteronomy 11:29, Deuteronomy 27:12. After the Return from the Babylonian Captivity, the Jews and Samaritans parted company, and a temple was erected on Mount Gerizim about 400 b.c. It was destroyed by John Hyrcanus about 129 b.c.; but the odium theologicum grew more bitter thereafter, and in the first century the hatred between Jew and Samaritan was ready to break out at any moment.

καὶ ὑμεῖς λέγετε κτλ., “and you (i.e. the Jews) say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” ὁ τόπος is “the place (Deuteronomy 12:5) which the Lord your God shall choose … to put His Name there” (cf. Deuteronomy 16:2, Deuteronomy 26:3), but the name of the place is not given in the Books of the Law, and the Samaritans recognised no later Scriptures (as they deemed them). Thus such passages as 2 Chronicles 6:6, 2 Chronicles 7:12, Psalms 78:68, to which Jews appealed as justifying their claim for Jerusalem as the appointed religious centre, were not recognised as authoritative by Samaritans. For τόπος as indicating the Temple, see 11:48.

J. Lightfoot1 illustrates this passage by the following from Bereshith Rabba, § 32: “R. Jochanan going to Jerusalem to pray, passed by Mount Gerizim. A certain Samaritan, seeing him, asked him, ‘Whither goest thou?’ ‘I am,’ saith he ‘going to Jerusalem to pray.’ To whom the Samaritan, ‘Were it not better for thee to pray in this holy mountain than in that cursed house’?” Cf. Luke 9:53 and John 8:48.

The verb προσκυνεῖν is used absolutely here and at 12:20; it may be followed either by a dative, 4:21, 23, 9:38 (as always in Mk. and Paul), or by an accusative, 4:22, 23 (as in Luke 24:52). It is noteworthy that in the Apocalypse, where it occurs 25 times, there is the same variety of construction as in Jn. Cf. Revelation 5:14 for the same absolute use as here.2 The word always stands in Jn. for divine worship, while elsewhere it sometimes signifies no more than respect (cf. Matthew 18:26 and perhaps Matthew 8:2).

21. πίστευέ μοι, γύναι, is read by אBC*LW; the rec. has γύναι, πίστευσόν μοι (ADNΓΔΘ).

πίστευέ μοι, a unique phrase in the Greek Bible, calls attention to the fact that what follows is deliberately said: the more usual�

It is not ἡ ὥρα, for the thought of the inevitableness of the predestined hour (see on 2:4) is not present here; cf. Luke 17:22.

οὔτε … οὔτε …, “not (only) in Gerizim and not (only) in Jerusalem.” These ancient rivalries will disappear when the spirituality of true religion is fully realised. The prophets had already taken this wide view. “Men shall worship Yahweh, every one from his place,” was the vision of Zephaniah (2:11): “in every place incense is offered unto my Name, and a pure offering,” was Malachi’s forecast (1:11). The words ascribed to Jesus here are in entire harmony with His saying about the destruction of the Temple, and its replacement by the spiritual temple of believers (see on 2:19). Cf. Acts 7:48, Acts 7:17:24, Acts 7:25.

“The Father,” not as contrasted with “the Son” (see 3:35), but as the Father of all men. The Samaritan woman had referred to “our father Jacob,” and “our fathers (who) worshipped” in Gerizim (vv. 12, 20); but pride of ancestry is to be replaced by the thought of the universal Fatherhood of God, when questions pertaining to worship are being answered.

ὁ πατήρ is a very frequent designation of God in Jn.; but it nearly always occurs in connexion with the thought of the Sonship of Christ. Here, however, it is rather “the Universal Father”; perhaps we may compare 8:27, 16:26f. (see on 6:27).

22. This verse is an assertion of the superiority of the Jewish religion to the Samaritan, not based on any difference as to the place of worship, but. rather on the difference as to their knowledge of the Object of worship. “Ye,” i.e. the Samaritans, “worship that which ye know not” (cf. ἣν ὑμεῖς οὐκ οἴδατε in v. 32). They accepted Yahweh for the true God, indeed, but they knew little about Him. By refusing to recognise the writings of the prophets and psalmists they had shut themselves off from all revelation of God except that which was contained in the Law. The Athenian inscription Ἀγνώστῳ θεῷ quoted in Acts 17:23 provides no parallel to the ignorance of the Samaritans. The Samaritans knew, as the Athenians professedly did not know, the Name of the God to whom they erected their altar on Mount Gerizim; but their ignorance was an ignorance of His character and purposes.

“We,” on the other hand, i.e. the Jews, “worship that which we know” (but cf. 7:28), the same God as the God of the Samaritans, but known to Jews as He was not known to Samaritans; cf. Psalms 147:19, Psalms 147:20.Psalms 147:1 The Jews were the chosen people, “whose is the adoption and the glory and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service (of God), and the promises” (Romans 9:4). Paul’s enumeration of their prerogatives is not more emphatic than the calm statement, “We worship that which we know.” The woman of Samaria is not permitted to suppose that the Speaker believes the Samaritan religion to be as good as the Jewish, although He tells her that in the future their poor rivalries as to their respective sanctuaries will be disregarded as of no consequence. He gives the reason why the Jewish religion is, and must be, superior: ἡ σωτηρία ἐκ τῶν Ἰουδαίων ἐστίν.

ἡ σωτηρία, “the salvation,” the Messianic deliverance (see on 3:17), was the central thought of Jewish national expectation (cf. Luke 1:69, Luke 1:71, Luke 1:77, Acts 13:26, Acts 13:47). It was to come from the tribe of Judah, ἐκ τῶν Ἰουδαίων, as distinct from the other tribes; cf. Genesis 49:10 (a passage which Samaritans accepted as canonical, although they do not seem to have taken it as Messianic), Isaiah 59:20 (quoted Romans 11:26). Later Judaism held firmly to this conviction of Jewish prerogative. Cf. Test. of XII. Patr., Daniel 5:10, “There shall arise unto you from the tribe of [Judah and] Levi the salvation of Yahweh”; see also Gad viii. 1, Naph. viii. 2). See further for σωτήρ, σωτηρία, on 4:42. Here the point is that the Messianic deliverance was to be ἐκ τῶν Ἰουδαίων. For the constr. εἶναι ἐκ … cf. 1:46, 7:22, 52, 10:16; and for “the Jews” in the Fourth Gospel, see on 1:19.

The force of ἡμεῖς must be observed: “We worship that which we know.” Jesus, here, definitely associates Himself with the Jews; He is a Jew. Their God is His God. Nowhere in the Gospels is there another passage so emphatic as this, in its assertion of the common nationality of Jesus and the Jews who rejected Him; cf. Matthew 15:24. Here He associates Himself with Jews in a common worship. The plural οἴδαμεν in 3:11 (see note) is not a true parallel to this. See on 15:25.

In this verse are expressed the worthiness of Jewish worship and the supreme privilege of the Jewish race; but in v. 23 we have on the other hand the simplicity of the ideal worship of God and the catholicity of true religion. Both aspects are included in the Fourth Gospel. The evangelist is not forgetful of the debt which Christianity owes to Judaism, while he views Christianity sub specie œternitatis as for all men and for all time.

23, 24. The repetition of τοὺς προσκυνοῦντας seems to have misled scribes and translators, so that there are a good many minor variants, but none calling for special notice. Syr. cur. exhibits extraordinary confusion here, for in it v. 24 runs as follows: “For God is a Spirit, and those that worship Him in spirit, and to worship for them it behoves, even those that in spirit and in truth worship Him.”1

23. ἔρχεται ὢρα, repeated from v. 21 (where see note), the theme of that verse, which has been temporarily abandoned in v. 22, being resumed. It is a question whether καὶ νῦν ἐστίν, both here and at 5:25, should not be treated as an editorial comment on the words of Jesus. But probably the words “and now is” are appended to “an hour is coming,” to obviate any misunderstanding. Jesus has told the Samaritan woman that the old rivalries as to sanctuary are passing away, and that in the future “the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.” But that is not confined to the future; it may be equally asserted of the present, that true worshippers worship thus. See on 5:25.

For the word�

The πνεῦμα is the highest in man, for it associates him with God who is Spirit. In so far as a man walks κατὰ πνεῦμα, does he realise the dignity of his being (cf. Romans 8:5). To worship ἐν πνεύματι is, then, to worship in harmony with the Divine Spirit, and so to worship in truth (cf. 16:13 τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς�Psalms 145:18.

καὶ γάρ only occurs again in Jn. at 4:45; it seems to mean “for indeed” (but cf. Abbott, Diat. 2167).

ὁ πατήρ, the Universal Father; see on v. 21.

ζητεῖ, “seeks.” It is not only that the true worshippers are accepted of God, but that He seeks for such. The approach of man to God is not initiated by man; the first movement of love is on the side of God. This is the constant teaching of Jn.; cf. 1 John 4:10, and John 3:16, John 6:44, John 15:16. It is a phase of that doctrine of pre-destination which underlies the Fourth Gospel; see note on 3:14. The gift of the Spirit is a necessary preliminary to spiritual worship.

24. πνεῦμα ὁ θεός. The spirituality of God was an essential tenet of Judaism (cf. 1 Kings 8:27, Isaiah 31:3), although all its implications were not recognised. It was a tenet common to Jews and Samaritans, but it is here for the first time put into three words, and its bearing on the nature of worship drawn out. The similar phrases ὁ θεὸς φῶς ἐστίν, ὁ θεὸς�1 John 1:5, 1 John 4:8), show that we must render “God is Spirit,” not “God is a spirit.” It is the Essential Being, rather than the Personality, of God which is in question.

The consequence of this, as regards worship, is repeated from v. 23. For true worship there must be affinity between the Worshipped and the worshipper.

ἐν πνεύματι καὶ�

25. Little is known about the Messianic doctrine of the Samaritans, but that they cherished Messianic hopes, although less clearly than the Jews did, is known from other sources, Josephus (Antt. XVIII. iv. 1) tells of a rising in Samaria, quelled by Pilate, which was evidently due to a kind of fanaticism, similar to that of Simon Magus in the same district (Acts 8:9) who gave himself out to be “some great one.”1 The Samaritan woman thought of Messiah as a prophet, like the prophet foretold in Deuteronomy 18:18 (cf. v. 29 below). This was common to Jew and Samaritan, that Messiah was to be a Revealer of new truths about God and man: ὅταν ἔλθῃ ἐκεῖνος,�

οἶδα. אcL fam. 13 have οἴδαμεν.

The Samaritan woman had already confessed that Jesus was “a prophet” (v. 19); but now she begins to wonder if He may not be more. “I know,” she says it wistfully, “that Messiah is coming; when He comes, He will declare all things to us.” Her words are almost a query; they invite a further declaration on the part of Jesus, which He gives forthwith.

Messiah is here without the article, and the title may have been used as a kind of proper name. At 1:41 (where see note) it has the article, and there as here is explained by Jn. for his Greek readers (cf. 1:38). ὁ λεγόμενος is not “which is interpreted” (ὅ ἐστιν μεθερμηνευόμενον, 1:41), but is equivalent to “which is commonly called,” χριστός being used like a proper name by the time that the Fourth Gospel was written. See, for a similar usage, 11:16 and cf. 5:2.

26. Jesus declares Himself. “I who am talking to you (λαλῶν) am He.” So, to the blind man whose sight had been restored, He said ὁ λαλῶν μετὰ σοῦ ἐκεῖνός ἐστιν (9:37). The usage of the phrase ἐγώ εἰμι in Jn. has been discussed in the Introduction, p. cxx; and it is probable that this is one of the cases where, although the predicate is not expressed, it is implied in the context: “I that talk to you am the Christ.” See on v. 10.

Nevertheless, the phrase ἐγώ εἰμι αὐτὸς ὁ λαλῶν is placed in the mouth of Yahweh at Isaiah 52:6, and it may be that Jn. here intends ἐγώ εἰμι to indicate the style of Deity, as at other points (see Introd., p. cxxi). Cf. esp. 8:58.

ἐγώ εἰμι, ὁ λαλῶν σοι,, then, if not an assertion of the Speaker’s Divinity, is at any rate an assertion of His Messiah-ship. That it should have been made so early in His public ministry is not in accordance with what we should gather from the Synoptists. Perhaps Jn. has antedated this momentous declaration; or perhaps it was actually made on this occasion, although unheard or unnoticed by Peter, who may not have been present with Jesus on His journey through Samaria (see on v. 8 above).

The Disciples Wonder (V. 27)

27. ἐπὶ τούτῳ κτλ., “upon this came His disciples,” i.e. at this point in the story. ἐπὶ τούτῳ is not used elsewhere in the N.T. in this sense, but the reading is well attested, only א*D having ἐν τούτῳ.

ἐθαύμαζον, “began to wonder” or “kept wondering.” This is the true reading (אABCDWΘ) as against the rec. ἐθαύμασαν.

To talk with a woman in a public place was not consonant with the grave dignity of a Rabbi; Lightfoot quotes the Rabbinical precept, “Let no one talk with a woman in the street, no, not with his own wife.”1

Yet the disciples had learnt by this time that Jesus had good reason for what He did, and they did not venture to expostulate. They did not ask the woman Τί ζητεῖς; “What do you want?” nor did they ask Jesus Τί λαλεῖς μετʼ αὐτῆς; “Why are you talking with her?” That they did not ask these questions, which they were tempted to ask, is the reminiscence of some one who was of the company. For μέντοι, see on 12:42.

The Samaritan Woman Tells Her Friends About Jesus (Vv. 28-30)

28. The woman was so much impressed that she went off to tell her friends in Sychar. She left her waterpot, or ὑδρία, which was a large, heavy vessel (cf. 2:6), behind her, as she intended to return speedily. Probably it had not yet been filled, as she had been engrossed with the conversation (cf. v. 7), and it was useless to carry it backwards and forwards.

29. During the heat of the day, the men of the village were not working in the fields, and so she found them readily. In her excitement, she uses the exaggerated language of an uneducated woman, “Come and see a man who told me all things that ever I did.”

πάντα ἅ. So אBC* Syr. sin. Syr cur., as against πάντα ὃσα of the rec. text (cf. v. 39).

μήτι οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ χριστός; “Is this, perhaps, the Christ?” (see on v. 25). Cf. Matthew 12:23 μήτι οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ υἱὸς Δαυείδ; and John 8:22 (for the form of sentence) μήτι�

30. We have seen above (v. 25) that the Samaritans had Messianic hopes. The men of Sychar were so much impressed by what the woman told them that they left the village and “were coming” (ἤρχοντο) to Him. The impft. tense is used as indicating that they were on their way while the conversation between Jesus and His disciples which follows was being carried on.

The rec. text has οὖν after ἐξῆλθον, which is rejected by ABLΓΔΘ. But אNW have it, and it would be quite in Jn.’s style. The omission of οὖν by a scribe after ἐξῆλθον would be a natural slip, εξηλθονου passing into εξηλθον.

The redundant ἐξῆλθον ἐκ occurs again 8:42, 59, 10:39, 1 John 2:19; and cf. 18:29.

Discourse with the Disciples (Vv. 31-38)

31. ἐν τῷ μεταξύ (subaud. χρόνῳ), “in the meanwhile,” sc. before the Samaritan villagers arrived. There is no exact parallel to this use of μεταξύ in the Greek Bible; but cf. Acts 13:42 and Luke 8:1.

ἠρώτων αὐτόν κτλ., “the disciples begged Him, saying, Rabbi, eat.” For of οἱ μαθηταί used absolutely of the disciples who were present, see on 2:2. For ἐρωτᾶν, “to beseech,” cf. vv. 40, 47. The disciples (see vv. 8, 31) were apprehensive lest He should be overcome by hunger and fatigue (cf. v. 6).

See on 1:38 for “Rabbi” as a title of address.

32. Jesus had been fatigued, but He was sustained by spiritual support of which the disciples did not know (v. 34). ἐγώ and ὐμεῖς are both emphatic.

βρῶσις occurs again 6:27, 55, in the same sense as the more correct form βρῶμα (see v. 34), viz. that of the thing eaten, not of the act of eating (as in 1 Corinthians 8:4). The only other occurrence of βρῶσις in the Gospels is in Matthew 6:19, Matthew 6:20, where it means “rust.”

33. The conversation pursues the course usual in Jn.’s narrative. Jesus utters a profound saying (v. 32). It is misunderstood and its spiritual meaning is not discerned (v. 33). Then He enlarges the saying and explains it to some extent.1

Here the puzzled disciples say to each other (πρὸς�

To do God’s will is the supreme obligation of man at every moment of life, and to it is attached the supreme reward (Mark 3:35, Matthew 7:21, John 7:17, John 9:31 and passim). The condition “Thy will be done” (Matthew 6:10) governs all Christian prayer, as it governed the prayer of Christ (Luke 22:42, Matthew 26:42) at Gethsemane. Christ’s “meat” was to do the will of God, the metaphor being similar to that suggested by “Man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3), which was the Scripture thought that supported Him in His Temptation (Matthew 4:4, Luke 4:4); cf. Job 23:12, Psalms 119:103. It was in Him that the words of the Psalm, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God,” received their complete fulfilment (Psalms 40:7, Psalms 40:8 , Hebrews 10:7).

ἐμὸν βρῶμά ἐστιν ἵνα ποιήσω κτλ.: ἵνα has no telic force here (cf. 6:29, 15:8, 17:3), “My meat is to do, etc.” Wetstein quotes a good parallel from Thucyd. i. 70 μήτε ἑορτὴν ἄλλο τι ἡγεῖσθαι ἢ τὸ τὰ δέοντα πρᾶξαι.

βρῶμα is found in Jn. only in this verse; see above (v. 32) on βρῶσις. The thought is one which appears many times in Jn.; e.g. “I seek not mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me” (5:30), and “I am come down from heaven not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me” (6:38); cf. 14:31 and Acts 13:22.

τοῦ πέμψαντός με. For the conception of Jesus as “sent” by God, see on 3:17.

καὶ τελειώσω αὐτοῦ τὸ ἔργον, “and to accomplish His work.” “To do God’s will” is, in a measure, within the reach of any man, but “to accomplish His work,” to perform it perfectly and completely, was possible only for the Son of Man. This perfection of achievement bore witness to the uniqueness of His mission: “The works that the Father hath given me to accomplish bear witness that the Father hath sent me” (5:36). So at the close of His ministry He could say, “I have accomplished the work which Thou hast given me to do” (17:4); and from the Cross came the word τετέλεσται (19:30).

35. The illustration of the harvest used by Jesus to unfold to the disciples the significance of the incident just narrated brings Jn. into line with the Synoptists, who repeatedly tell of His parables of the seed.

He was the Great Sower (cf. Mark 4:14ff.), and the seed just now sown in the heart of the Samaritan woman was springing up already. The harvest of souls at Sychar followed forthwith upon the sowing, contrary to the natural order in which he who wishes to reap must have patience and wait. Natural law does not always prevail in the spiritual world. The spiritual harvest was ready to be reaped with joy (v. 35), so that Sower and reaper might rejoice together (v. 36). But the reaping would not be for Him. It was the apostles who were to reap at a later date the harvest which originally sprang from the seed that He had sown in Samaria.

τετράμηνος So אABCDLNTbΘ, as against the rec. τετράμηνον. τετράμηνος does not occur again in the Greek Bible, although τετράμηνον (used as a substantive) is read by A at Judges 19:2, Judges 20:47. The meaning “four months long” is not doubtful, and the words τετράμηνός ἐστιν καὶ ὁ θερισμὸς ἔρχεται mean “the harvest comes in four months’ time.” But we cannot interpret this as indicating that the harvest of the fields of Sychar would not be ready for four months from the date of the interview of the woman of Samaria with Jesus, for that would involve the scene being laid in January or early in February. That was the rainy season, and there would have been no difficulty in getting water to drink, such as is suggested (vv. 6, 7). The words οὐχ ὑμεῖς λέγετε, “Do you not say?” which introduce the sentence, suggest that it was a proverbial phrase.

J. Lightfoot (Hor. Hebr., in loc.) quotes a passage from a Rabbinical writer, showing that the agricultural year was divided into six periods of two months each, viz. seed-time, winter, spring, harvest, summer, and the season of extreme heat, so that the interval between sowing and harvest would be reckoned roughly as four months, although actually it might be a little longer. Thus Jesus here reminds His disciples of a rural saying, “Harvest does not come for four months,” and then he points to the contrast with the spiritual harvest already ripe for gathering in the hearts of the Samaritan villagers, although the seed had been sown only that day.

The words of this proverbial saying, with a trifling change, form a line of iambic verse:1

τετράμηνός ἐστι χὡ θερισμὸς ἔρχεται.

If Jn. represented Jesus as quoting Greek iambics, then there would be some ground for treating the narrative of c. 4 as an allegory rather than as an historical reminiscence, freely edited. But this would be at variance with the general lines on which the Gospel is written. The disciples elsewhere (see on 1:38) address Jesus in Aramaic, and doubtless He spoke in the same language to them. That Jn. should represent them as familiar with a Greek proverb in verse is incredible. Further, not only is this proverb unknown in Greek literature, but it would be hard for it to have currency among Greeks. There is no evidence that the Greeks had a sixfold division of the agricultural year as the Hebrews had; and if they did not adopt this division, four months would not be as likely an interval to be contemplated as normal between seed-time and harvest as five or even six months.

Again, ἔτι precedes τετράμηνός ἐστιν κτλ. in אABCNTbWDΘ, and has to be retained, although it is omitted by DL fam. 13 Syr. cur. But ἔτι spoils the iambic senarius, and yet it must be reckoned with; for the saying which Jesus quotes as familiar to the disciples is, “There are yet four months (sc. from the time of sowing), and then comes the harvest.”

We conclude, therefore, that the rhythm of ὁ θερισμὸς ἔρχεται is an accident, and that we are to regard the whole phrase as the Greek rendering of an Aramaic agricultural proverb. See 5:14 for another accidental Greek verse.

With the paratactic constr. ἔτι τετράμηνός ἐστιν καὶ ὁ θερισμὸς ἔρχεται, Milligan2 compares the illiterate P Par. 18:14 ἔτι δύο ἡμέρας ἔχομεν καὶ φθάσομεν εἰς Πηλοίσι.

ἰδού λέγω ὑμῖν. ἰδού is unusual in Jn., occurring again only in 16:32, 19:5 (12:15 is a LXX quotation). Jn. generally has ἴδε (see on 1:29). ἰδού here and at 16:32 is almost equivalent to “but”; it introduces a contrast with what has gone before.

ἐπάρατε τοὺς ὀφθαλμούς is an expressive phrase, suggesting careful and deliberate gaze, which we have both in O.T. (Genesis 13:10, 2 Samuel 18:24, 1 Chronicles 21:16, Ezekiel 18:6) and in N.T. (Luke 16:23, Luke 18:13, Matthew 17:8). See on 6:5 (cf. 11:41, 17:1), where, as here, the phrase is followed by the verb θεᾶσθαι, which in the N.T. (see on 1:14) is always used of seeing with the bodily eyes.3

The disciples could see for themselves that the fields (cf. Luke 21:21 for this use of χώρα) were whitening for the harvest already. Jesus does not say that the material harvest of the fields of Sychar was springing up immediately after it had been sown; the harvest of which He speaks is expressly contrasted with the harvest that takes months to grow and ripen. The allusion is to the spiritual receptiveness of the Samaritan woman, the measure of faith which she has already exhibited (v. 29), and the eagerness with which her friends and neighbours were even now coming to inquire of Jesus for themselves. These were the fields for the spiritual harvest, which was patent not to the eye of faith only, but to the bodily eyes of the disciples, for these people were hastening to meet them even at the moment of speaking.

ἤδη may be taken either with what precedes, or with what follows. But the word “already” seems to go more impressively with what has just been said than with the saying of v. 36.

Nothing, then, can be certainly inferred as to the time of year from this verse. The fields may have, literally, been ready for the reapers, and if so, it was the harvest season. That, in itself, would bring home to the disciples the meaning of the Lord’s words about the spiritual harvest; but it is clear that it is the spiritual harvest which is primarily referred to in v. 35b, while it is the natural harvest which is the subject of the proverb of v. 35a.

36. The terse, pithy aphorisms of vv. 35-37 recall the sayings of Jesus recorded in the Synoptists, by their form no less than by the use of the illustration of sowing and reaping. See Introd., p. cx.

ὁ θερίζων μισθὸν λαμβάνει. Cf. the more general saying, true of all labour and not only of that in the fields, ἄξιος γὰρ ὁ ἐργάτης τοῦ μισθοῦ αὐτοῦ (Luke 10:7); and also 2 Timothy 2:6. Here the reaper reaps in spiritual fields, and his reward is that he gathers fruit unto life eternal. (For this phrase, see on 4:14.) The reaping is itself the reward, because of the joy which it brings; the “fruit” which is gathered is that of the spiritual harvest, the outlook being not that only of the present life, but of that which is to come.

Jn. does not use the word μισθός again, but of καρπός he has much (15:2f.) to say. The apostles were chosen (15:16) ἵνα ὑμεῖς ὑπάγητε καὶ καρπὸν φέρητε, καὶ ὁ καρπὸς ὑμῶν μένῃ. Just as Paul speaks of his converts as καρπός (Romans 1:13), so here the “fruit” which the disciples were to gather εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον was the harvest of souls in Samaria.1

א ADΓΔΘ and most vss. have καί after ἵνα, but om. BCLNTbW.

ἵνα ὁ σπείρων κτλ., “so that the sower may rejoice together with the reaper.” This is quite contrary to the natural order. In nature the rule is that men sow in tears, if they are afterwards to reap in joy (Psalms 126:5, Psalms 126:6). The labour of the sower is heavy, and it precedes by a long interval (cf. v. 35) the joy of the reapers at harvest-time (Isaiah 9:3). But the prophet had sung of the wonderful days of Messiah, when “the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth the seed” (Amos 9:13; cf. Leviticus 26:5), so fertile should the land be. Something like this had happened at Sychar. The Sower was rejoicing along with the reapers, who were already gathering fruit unto life eternal. See on 11:15.

ὁμοῦ is found again in N.T. only at 20:4, 21:2 and Acts 2:1; and it is infrequent in the LXX.

37. The rec. text has ὁ before�

That the sower should not have the joy of reaping is regarded in the O.T. as a sad thing (Job 31:8), and is spoken of as a punishment for sin (Deuteronomy 28:30, Micah 6:15). Yet this often happens, not through sin but through the unselfishness of the sower or the inevitable conditions of his work. So here, Jesus was the Sower, but He permitted His disciples to reap. And the labourer in the field of the spirit must be ready to acknowledge that “One sows, another reaps,” may be a condition of his highest usefulness. “Sic uos, non uobis” is his Master’s challenge.

But more was involved here, and a greater paradox than is suggested by the reaper being a different person from the sower. That a man should reap where he had not sown is, indeed, ordinarily a matter for peculiar thankfulness on his part (Deuteronomy 6:11, Joshua 24:13); but this privilege is the natural prerogative of the lord of the. fields, who sends his servants to sow, but takes the harvest for himself (Matthew 25:26). Yet Jesus, who was here the Lord of the harvest, had Himself done the sowing, while He permitted His servants to gather the fruits.


The verb�Mark 3:14, Mark 6:7, although Jn. has not described anything of the kind; and it might be thought that these words placed by Jn. in the mouth of Jesus here have reference to a former sending forth of the Twelve, such as the Synoptists report, rather than to any mission confined to the disciples (see on v. 8) who were with Jesus at Sychar. But the missions of the Twelve and of the Seventy were of men who were sent to sow rather than to reap, nor could they be fitly described by the words, “I sent you to reap where you had not laboured.” Nor can we be sure that the missions of Mark 3:14, Mark 6:7 had been initiated before this Samaritan journey took place (see on 6:1).

Pfleiderer1 suggests that the words of this verse, which might fitly be applied to the later work of the apostles (e.g. Acts 8:5-7, Acts 8:14f.), are carelessly applied here by Jn. to an early incident in Jesus’ ministry. But the fact is that the words “others have laboured and you have entered into their labours” will fit every period of the Church’s life, as they would fit every era of scientific discovery. That, however, does not supply any ground for refusing credence to the statement that they, or words like them (for Jn. writes freely), were addressed by Jesus to His disciples at Sychar, as conveying a lesson which it was good for them to learn.

The Faith of the Samaritan Villagers (Vv. 39-42)

39. The Samaritan villagers who, on another occasion, rejected Jesus and His disciples had not heard Him teach; their objection to His presence was not personal, but rested on the fact that, as a Jew, He was going to Jerusalem to keep a feast (Luke 9:52). The people of Sychar, on the other hand, were won by His words (v. 42).

πολλοί ἐπίστευσαν εἰς αὐτόν. The phrase is a favourite with Jn., occurring six times (cf. 7:31, 8:30, 10:42, 11:45, 12:42). The aorist seems to indicate a definite, but not necessarily lasting, movement of faith evoked by special words or deeds of Jesus. For the constr. πιστεύειν εἴς τινα, see on 1:12.

The first believers at Samaria were won, not by visible miracles or signs (cf. 2:23, 7:31, 10:42, 11:45, 12:42), but by the woman’s report of what Jesus had said to her. Many more believed because of His sayings which they themselves had heard (v. 42; cf. 8:30). But v. 39 illustrates the normal way in which men are drawn to Christ in the first instance; cf. His prayer for those who were to be led to Him through the apostles’ teaching: ἐρωτῶ … περί τῶν πιστευόντων διὰ τοῦ λόγου αὐτῶν εἰς ἐμέ (17:20).

For ὅσα of the rec. text the better reading (א BC*L) is ἅ, as at v. 29.

40. ὡς οὖν ἦλθον κτλ. For Jn.’s frequent use of οὖν, see on 1:22. He likes the introductory ὡς οὖν (cf. 11:6, 18:6, 20:11, 21:9), which is not found in the Synoptists.

The Samaritans who had been impressed by the woman’s story desired to listen themselves to the teaching of Jesus, and at their request he lodged in Sychar two days. For Jn.’s habit of recording dates, or intervals of time, see Introd., p. cii. He repeats in v. 43 that the stay of Jesus in this village was for two days only, τὰς δύο ἡμέρας (cf. 11:6).

41. πολλῷ πλείους ἐπίστευσαν …, “many more believed because of His word.” Cf. ταῦτα αὐτοῦ λαλοῦντος πολλοί ἐπίστευσαν εἰς αὐτόν (8:30).

NΘ fam. 13 add εἰς αὐτόν after ἐπίστευσαν (as at 8:30), but om. the greater uncials. πιστεύειν is here used in an absolute sense, “to believe,” as often in Jn. See on 1:7.


λαλιά, “way of speech,” “manner of talking,” occurs again in N.T. only at Matthew 26:73 and 8:43 (where see note).

οὐκέτι διὰ τὴν σὴν λαλιάν κτλ., “No longer do we believe because of thy speaking, for we have heard and know, etc.” οὐκέτι always means “no longer” in Jn. (cf. 6:66, 11:54, 14:19, 30, 15:15, 16:10, 21, 25, 17:11, 21:6). The initial stages of belief may be brought about by the report of others (see on v. 39), but the belief which is complete and assured depends on personal contact and association with Christ (see on 1:39 and cf. Luke 24:39, “Handle me and see”).

That the Samaritan villagers rose to the conception of Jesus as not only Messiah, but as “the Saviour of the world,” is not probable. This great title reflects the conviction of a later moment in Christian history, and of a more fully instructed faith. Jn. in writing the story of Jesus at Sychar tells it in his own phraseology, as will become apparent if the history of the terms “saviour,” “salvation,” is recalled.

In O.T. theology, Yahweh is the Author of salvation (see on 3:17), and to Him it is always ascribed. He is repeatedly called מוֹשִׁיע, σωτήρ (Psalms 24:5, Psalms 62:7, Isaiah 12:2, Bar. 4:22, 3 Macc. 7:16), the “Saviour” of Israel or of individual Israelites. σωτήρ is also used in the LXX of human deliverers, e.g. of the judges (Judges 3:9), just as in Egypt the Ptolemies, and in Greece Brasidas and Philip of Macedon, were so designated. But in the O.T., Messiah is never called מוֹשִׁיעַ or σωτήρ, the nearest approach to such a description being Zechariah 9:9 ὁ βασιλεύς σου ἔρχεται δίκαιος καὶ σώζων. To O.T. Judaism, Messiah was but the instrument of the true σωτήρ, Yahweh, who is described (Psalms 28:8) as ὑπερασπιστὴς τῶν σωτηρίων τοῦ χριστοῦ αὐτοῦ.

In the later literature, there are faint traces of the conception of Messiah as Saviour; e.g. it is said of the Son of Man in Enoch xlviii. 7, “The righteous are saved in his name, and he is the avenger of their life”; cf. l. 3. The Messianic deliverance was pre-eminently the “salvation of Israel” for which pious Hebrews looked (see on v. 22 above); but that in the first century Messiah was given the title σωτήρ is not proven.

In the Synoptists, σωτήρ occurs only twice, Luke 1:47 (where it is applied to God, as in the O.T.), and Luke 2:11 σωτὴρ ὅς ἐστι Χριστὸς κύριος, “a Saviour (not the Saviour) who is Christ the Lord.” Cf Acts 13:23 and Acts 5:31Hebrews 2:10.

The first unambiguous instance of the application of the title in its full sense to our Lord is Philippians 3:20 σωτῆρα … κύριον Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν. See also 2 Timothy 1:10, Titus 1:4, Titus 1:3:6, 2 Peter 1:11, 2 Peter 1:2:20, 2 Peter 1:3:2, 2 Peter 1:18; and cf. Ephesians 5:23, 1 Timothy 1:15.

The evidence shows that σωτήρ, as a title, began to be applied to Christ as readily as to God the Father, as soon as the Gospel message of redemption was understood and appropriated. The title has its roots in the O.T., and there is no need of the hypothesis that it is imported into the N.T. from the pagan mysteries or from the Emperor cults.1 But that it was recognised as a Messianic title before Christ came is unproved and improbable.

The universality of salvation (at any rate so far as Jews were concerned) had already been declared by the prophets; cf. Joel 2:32 ἔσται πᾶς ὃς ἂν ἐπικαλὲσηται τὸ ὂνομα κυρίου σωθήσεται (quoted Acts 2:21, Romans 10:13). God is called τὸν πάντων σωτῆρα (Wisd. 16:7); cf. 1 Timothy 4:10 σωτὴρ πάντων�1 John 4:14. It is one of the distinctive phrases of the Johannine writings; cf. 12:47 and especially 3:17, where the purpose of Christ’s mission is declared to be ἵνα σωθῇ ὁ κόσμος διʼ αὐτοῦ. See note on 3:17, and for κόσμος on 1:9.

It has been suggested by G. Vos2 that a parallel for ὁ σωτὴρ τοῦ κόσμου may be seen in 2 Esd. 13:26, where it is said of Messiah liberabit creaturam suam. But it is doubtful if creatura is equivalent to “the universe of creation,” and further the passage may be affected by Christian influence.

A nearer parallel is Philo’s ὁ σωτὴρ τοῦ παντός (quod deus imm. 34), which he applies to God. The passage presents some superficial resemblance to the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. Philo has quoted Numbers 20:17ff., where the Israelites seek permission to pass through Edom, promising not to drink water from the wells, or, if they did, to pay for it. To be able to pass by the attractions of earth befits the heavenly soul; such is Philo’s reflexion, and he adds that it is folly to drink from cisterns contrived by the distrustfulness of man, when the Saviour of the Universe has opened to us His heavenly treasury (cf. Deuteronomy 28:12), in comparison with which all the wells in the world are not worth looking at. This suggests John 4:14, but then the σωτήρ in the Philo passage is not the Logos, but God Himself. The resemblance between Philo’s language and Jn.’s is not sufficient to indicate any literary connexion.

It may, however, be noted as a curious point that a reference in John 4:42 to Numbers 20:17f. is actually traced by Ephraim Syrus. In a baptismal hymn (Epiphany Hymns, vii. 7) he has: “To the sons of Lot Moses said, ‘Give us water for money, let us only pass by through your border.’ They refused the way and the temporal water. Lo ! the living water freely given and the path that leads to Eden.”

Departure from Sychar and Reception in Galilee (Vv. 43-45)

43. τὰς δύο ἡμέρας, sc. the two days mentioned in v. 40.

After ἐκεῖθεν the rec. text, with ANΓΔ, adds καὶ�Pro_1 when He was passing from Samaria into Galilee. The verse is an editorial comment, illustrative of the context, and only notes that Jesus quoted the saying either then or on some other occasion. The aor. ἐμαρτύρησεν seems to be used like an English pluperfect; cf. the similar aorists ἐποίησεν and ἦλθον in v. 45, “He had done,” “they had come”; cf. also ἐξένευσεν at 5:13. For the verb as applied to explicit sayings of Jesus, cf. 13:21.

The saying is placed in the mouth of Jesus in the Synoptic narratives, at Mark 6:4, Matthew 13:57, in the form οὐκ ἔστιν προφήτης ἄτιμος εἰ μὴ ἐν τῇ πατρίδι αὐτοῦ, and in Luke 4:24 as οὐδεὶς προφήτης δεκτός ἐστιν ἐν τῇ πατρίδι αὐτοῦ. In these passages the πατρίς of Jesus is Nazareth, where He was teaching and where His friends and kinsfolk were amazed that “the carpenter, the Son of Mary,” should exhibit such wisdom as His words revealed.

As Jn. applies the proverb, the circumstances were wholly different from those at Nazareth. Jesus had left Judæa, where the Pharisees were beginning to watch Him with suspicion (4:1-3), and was moving via Samaria into Galilee. What does the writer mean here by His having “no honour in His own country”? Alternative explanations have been offered.

(1) If 4:44 refers to the departure of Jesus from Judæa, because His mission was not sufficiently welcomed there, then by His πατρίς Jn. must mean Jerusalem or Judæa. Origen (in Joann. p. 268, and Fragm. in Joann. 4:44) adopts this view. He says that Jerusalem was the πατρίς of all the prophets, and of Jesus as well. Thus 1:11 εἰς τὰ ἴδια ἦλθεν, καὶ οἱ ἴδιοι αὐτὸν οὐ παρέλαβον would provide a parallel for the present verse. But (a) Jesus had made many disciples in Jerusalem already (2:23), and it was His success that had aroused the suspicion of the Pharisees (4:1). And (b) Jn. knew quite well that Jesus was “of Galilee,” which implies that His home or πατρίς was there (see 1:45 and 7:42, 52). It is unlikely that Jn. should allude to Jerusalem as Christ’s πατρίς, more particularly as there are good reasons for holding that he was familiar with Mk.,1 who applies the word to Nazareth.

(2) Some commentators apply 4:44, not to what precedes but to what follows. Jesus had been attracting much notice in Judæa; it was His habit to withdraw Himself, at least in the early stages of His ministry, from a hostile environment (7:1, 10:39), and to seek retirement. He wished, then (so it is urged), to go from Judæa to some place where He might escape unwelcome attention, and He knew from former experience that His old friends in Galilee would not be likely to make too much of Him. According to this view, the citation of the proverb here is a suggestion of the writer that Jesus deliberately chose to go into a territory where He expected that His mission would not arouse public interest. This is highly improbable; and, besides, Jesus was, in fact, cordially received by the people of Galilee (v. 45), and the miracle of the healing of the nobleman’s son is recorded immediately (vv. 46 ff.).

The verse, then, is a gloss the applicability of which to the context is not immediately clear. Perhaps it has been misplaced, but there is no evidence for this. Jn. is prone to insert explanatory reflexions2 or glosses in the body of his narrative, which are not always convincing to modern readers; and this gloss seems to be Johannine. μαρτυρεῖν and ἴδιος are favourite words with Jn.; he is apt to introduce his explanations with γάρ (cf. esp. 5:13 ὁ γὰρ Ἰησοῦς ἐξένευσεν, where, as here, the aor. stands for the pluperfect). τιμή, indeed, is not in Jn.’s vocabulary, and instead of it he always uses δόξα when he would speak of the honour paid by one man to another (see on 1:14); but the proverb as quoted by Mk. has ἄτιμος (although τιμή only occurs in the Synoptists in the sense of “price”; cf. Matthew 27:6, Matthew 27:9). It is remarkable that the true text of the verse before us gives αὐτὸς γὰρ Ἰησοῦς κτλ. (אABCDWΓΔ Θ) without ὁ, while Jn.’s use is to prefix the def. article to the name Ἰησοῦς (as the rec. text does here); see on 1:29.

We conclude that v. 44 is a gloss, introduced by Jn. or by some later editor from Mark 6:4, suggested by the mention of Galilee, but not apposite in this place.

45. ὅτε is the true reading, but א*D have ὡς.

For ὅσα (אcABCLNWΘ, ἅ is read by the rec. with א*DTbΓΔ. See, for a similar variant, vv. 29, 39.

ὅτε οὖν ἦλθεν κτλ., “When, then, He had come into Galilee,” οὖν not connoting causation but sequence only (see on 1:22).

The Galilæans, among whom He came, had seen His “signs” at Jerusalem at the feast (2:23, 3:2), καὶ αὐτοὶ γὰρ ἦλθον εἰς τὴν ἑορτὴν, sc. “for (note the introduction of the explanation by γάρ) they also had come for the feast” (the aor. ἦλθον, as well as the preceding ἐποίησεν, being used with a pluperfect sense). The Samaritans did not go up to Jerusalem for the feasts, and so Jesus and His activities there were not known to them; but the Galilæans were orthodox and went up regularly. The words of Jesus alone, without “signs,” were sufficient to convince the villagers of Sychar of His claims.

αὐτοὶ γὰρ ἦλθον εἰς τὴν ἑορτήν. ἔρχσθαι is naturally used of coming up to the feast, when the standpoint of the writer is Jerusalem (e.g. 11:56, 12:12); but when the scene is in Galilee, as here, and mention is made of worshippers “going up” to the feast, we should expect�

46. Despite the differences between the story of the healing of the centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:5ff., Luke 7:6ff.) and Jn.’s story of the healing of the nobleman’s son, the two narratives probably recall the same incident. The differences are obvious. In Jn. the anxious inquirer is βασιλικός; in Mt., Lk., he is ἐκατόνταρχος. In Jn. the patient is sick of a fever; in Mt. he is παραλυτικός. In Mt., Lk., Jesus is asked only to speak the word of healing, but He offers to go down to the man’s house. In Jn. He is asked to go down, but he only says that the boy will recover (v. 50); nor does Jesus express surprise at the man’s faith, as He does in Mt., Lk. In Mt., Lk., the patient is the servant (Mt. has παῖς, Lk. has both παῖς and δούλος), while in Jn. he is the man’s son (υἱός, παιδίον). Further, it has been argued that the strong faith of the centurion in Mt., Lk., “becomes intelligible, without ceasing to be admirable, when we reflect that he was evidently aware of the miracle formerly wrought for another inhabitant of the same city, an eminent person, one of the court which his own sword protected.”1

It has also been supposed that while the centurion of Mt., Lk., was a Gentile (Matthew 8:10), the nobleman of in. was probably a Jew; but of this latter conjecture there is no evidence. There is no hint in Jn. as to the nationality or religious belief of the βασιλικός.

Yet the stories are not so dissimilar that they could not have been confused. Irenæus actually treats them as one and the same: “Filium centurionis absens verbo curavit dicens, Vade, filius tuus vivit,” are his words (Hær. ii. 22. 3). In both cases the patient’s home was at Capernaum, and in both cases it is suggested (although not expressly stated by Jn.) that he was healed from a distance; that is, that the healings were “telepathic” in modern phrase. The only other instance of this in the Gospels is the case of the Syrophœnician woman’s daughter (Mark 7:29, Mark 7:30, Matthew 15:28). The faith of the nobleman, as indicated in v. 50, “the man believed the word which Jesus spake to him,” was very strong, and he cannot be placed, in this respect, on a lower level than the centurion of Mt., Lk. It is probable that one of the most obvious discrepancies in the two narratives, “servant” and “son,” is due to the ambiguity of the word παῖς, which may mean either. That Jn. uses παῖς in v. 51 (and there alone in the Gospel), although he has υἱός in vv. 46, 47, 50, 53, may be significant in this connexion.2 See, for the “miraculous” element in the story, Introd., p. clxxix.

ἦλθεν οὖν κτλ. οὖν expresses sequence, not causation (see on 1:22). It was not because the Galilæans welcomed Him that Jesus moved on to Cana. πάλιν, a favourite word with Jn. (see on 4:3), reminds the reader that He had been there before.

Κανᾶ … ὅπου ἐποίησεν τὸ ὕδωρ οἶνον. An explanatory note reminding the reader of the narrative of 2:1ff..

καὶ ἦν. So ABCΓΔΘW אDLNTb have ἦν δέ.

βασιλικός, i.e. one of the courtiers of Herod, tetrarch of Galilee; D has βασιλισκός, regulus, which would convey the erroneous idea that this courtier was a petty king. Some have identified him with Chuza, Herod’s steward (Luke 8:3), or with Manaen (Acts 13:1); but this is only guess-work. The man was eager to invoke any help that might cure his son, quite independently of his religious principles or position.


The collocation σημεῖα καὶ τέρατα does not occur again in Jn., but it is frequent in the Greek Bible (Exodus 7:3, Isaiah 8:18, Isaiah 20:3, Daniel 4:2, Daniel 4:3, Daniel 4:6:27, Matthew 24:24, Mark 13:22, Acts 2:19, Acts 2:22, Acts 2:43, Acts 2:4:30, Acts 2:5:12, Acts 2:6:8, Acts 2:7:36, Acts 2:14:3, Acts 2:15:12, Romans 15:19, 2 Corinthians 12:12, 2 Thessalonians 2:9, Hebrews 2:4). τέρας, “a prodigy,” never occurs in the N.T. except in conjunction with σημεῖον. No doubt a σημεῖον need not be miraculous, but the Jews, like all the peoples of early ages, were more ready to see the Divine power in what seemed to be “supernatural” than in the “natural” order; and it is not likely that they would have distinguished sharply a σημεῖον from a τέρας. Jn. is specially prone to use the word σημεῖον when speaking of the “works” of Jesus (see Introd., p. clxxvi, and also on 2:11, where the relation between faith and “signs” in the Fourth Gospel is considered).

οὐ μὴ πιστεύσητε. This might be interrogative: “Will you not believe without signs?” But more probably it is categorical: “You will not believe, etc.” That the Jews “seek signs” (1 Corinthians 1:22) was as true at Cana as in Jerusalem. The plural πιστεύσητε may indicate that the words, although addressed to an individual, include in their reference a whole class of people to which the nobleman belonged.

49. κύριε. “Sir.” For this mode of address, see on 1:38.

κατάβηθι. The man perceives that his request has not been definitely refused, despite what Jesus had said to him and to the bystanders as to the imperfection of a faith based on “signs.”


τὸ παιδίον μου. A fam. 13 have υἱόν for παιδίον. But not only is παιδίον the word in the best texts; it is obviously right. “My little child,” the father says in his anguish; cf Mark 9:24 ὁ πατὴρ τοῦ παιδίου.

50. The answer of Jesus tests the father severely. “Go thy way; thy son lives.” When the father had left the boy, he was at the point of death (v. 47); but the only assurance that Jesus gave was that the boy was still living. See Introd., p. clxxx.

Before ἐπίστευσεν the rec. inserts καὶ (ACNΓΔΘ), but om. אBDW.

ἐπίστευσεν τῷ λόγῳ. For the constr., cf. 5:47; and note that the man believed without any corroboration of Jesus’ words. See 20:29.

καὶ ἐπορεύετο. The impft. marks the continuous progress of the man’s journey, and not any sudden movement of departure. Cf. Matthew 24:1, Luke 2:3, Luke 7:6, Luke 19:28, Luke 24:28, for ἐπορεύετο.

By some commentators a difficulty has been found in the statement of v. 52, that the anxious father did not reach home until the next day, although Jesus’ words of assurance had been addressed to him at 1 p.m. (see on v. 52). But even if we are to apply such strict tests of time and circumstance to the Johannine stories, there is no special difficulty here. It Isa_20 miles or more, the way being rough and hilly, from Cana to Capernaum. Presumably the βασιλικός had a retinue with him, and it would take some time to get them together for the journey. Even if an immediate start had been made in the midday heat, it would not have been easy to reach Capernaum the same evening. If we are to speculate about such a matter, it seems probable that the father got home early the next morning, for his anxiety would have prevented him resting at night on the way. If he left Cana at 3 p.m. and got home at 2 a.m. next morning, all the time conditions of the story would be satisfied.

51. ὑπήντησαν. So אBCDLNΘW; the rec. has�

The spelling ἐχθές (אAB*CDWΘ) must be preferred to the rec. χθές (cf. Acts 7:28, Hebrews 13:8).

ὥραν ἑβδόμην, sc. about the seventh hour, the acc. being less definite than the dat. of v. 53; see Exodus 9:18 ταύτην τὴν ὥραν αὔριον, “to-morrow about this hour” (cf. Rev_3 ποίαν ὥραν). The seventh hour was 1 p.m. (see on 1:39). The point may be, however, that it was common belief that the seventh hour of fever was the critical hour. Clement of Alexandria (Strom. vi. 16) thought that the seventh day of any disease marked the crisis.

ὁ πυρετός, “the fever”. The word occurs again in N.T. only at Matthew 8:15, Mark 1:31, Luke 4:38, Luke 4:39, Acts 28:8.

53. ἐκείνῃ τῇ ὥρᾳ, “that very hour,” the dat. fixing the hour definitely. The rec. text prefixes ἐν, but א*BC omit. In this was the σημε͂ιον, that the fever left the boy at the exact time that Jesus said, “Thy son lives.”

ἐπίστευσεν, “believed,” the verb being used absolutely, to express complete faith (see on 1:7).

καὶ ἡ οἰκία αὐτοῦ ὅλη. Cf. Acts 18:8.

54. πάλιν δεύτερον. This tautologous phrase occurs again 21:16; Cf. πάλιν ἐκ δευτέρου, Matthew 26:42, Acts 10:15.

The sentence points back to the miracle at Cana, which Jn. says was the first of the “signs” of Jesus; and it calls attention to the fact that the healing of the nobleman’s son was, like the earlier sign, wrought after Jesus had left Judæa for Galilee

A Alexandrinus (δ 4). British Museum. v. Cc. 6:50-8:52 are missing.

B Vaticanus (δ 1). Rome. Cent. iv.

C Ephræmi (δ 3). Paris. v. Palimpsest. Contains considerable fragments of Jn.

L Regius (ε 56). Paris. viii. Cc. 15:2-20 21:15-25 are missing.

T Muralt (ε 31). Leningrad. vi. Contains cc. 1:25-42 Song of Solomon 1:2:Song of Solomon 1:9-14 4:34-50.

W Freer (ε 014). Washington. iv-vi. Discovered in Egypt in 1906. The Gospels are in the order Mt., Jn., Lk., Mk. Collation in The Washington MS. of the Four Gospels, by H. A. Sanders (1912).

אԠSinaiticus (δ 2). Leningrad. iv.

D Bezæ (δ 5). Cambridge. v-vi. Græco-Latin. Cc. 18:14-20:13 are missing in the Greek text, and the gap has been filled by a ninth-century scribe (Dsupp).

Θ̠Koridethi (ε 050). Tiflis. vii-ix. Discovered at Koridethi, in Russian territory, and edited by Beermann & Gregory (Leipzig, 1913). The text is akin to that of fam. 13, fam. 1, and the cursives 28, 565, 700 See Lake and Blake in Harvard Theol. Review (July 1923) and Streeter, The Four Gospels. Cf. also J.T.S. Oct. 1915, April and July 1925.

1 See Introd., p. xxxiii.

Γ̠(ε 70) Oxford and Leningrad. ix-x. Contains Song of Solomon 1:1-13 8:3-15:24 19:6 to end.

1 See, for a full discussion of the site, G. A. Smith, Hist. Geogr. of Holy Land, ch. 18.

2 E.B., 1801.

T (ε 35). British Museum. vi. Græco-Sahidic. Contains cc. 3:5-4:49 with a few gaps. For a collation by Crum and Kenyon, cf. J.T.S. April 1900, p. 415 f. See on 3:18 4:6.

3 For difficulties in the way of accepting the tradition that the well of Sychar was “Jacob’s Well,” cf. Pal. Ezplor. Fund Quarterly Statement, April 1910, p. 131.

1 See Introd., p. xxvii.

1 See, for these Talmudical references, D.C.G., s.v. “Samaria.”

N Purpureus Petropolitanus (ε 19). Dispersed through the libraries of Leningrad, Patmos, Rome, Vienna, and British Museum. vi. Some pages are missing. Edited by H. S. Cronin in Cambridge Texts and Studies (1899).

1 See D.C.G. ii. 40a.

1 Abbott, Diat. 2315; cf. Judges 14:6, Judges 14:19, Judges 14:15:14, 1 Samuel 10:10, 1 Samuel 16:13.

Δ̠Sangallensis (ε 76). St. Gall. ix-x. Græco-Latin.

1 Comm. in Jn. (ed. Brooke), ii. 271.

1 So Pfleiderer, Primitive Christianity, iv. 30.

2 Nevertheless, Josephus (Antt. ix. 14, 3) counts them as five.

1 Horæ Hebr. iii. 279.

2 Abbott (Diat. 1647 ff.) distinguishes προσκυνεῖν with dat. as a Jewish constr. meaning “to prostrate oneself,” from προσκ. followed by acc. as a Greek constr. indicating a more spiritual form of “worship.” But this is not really involved.

3 From the document called Ordo quatiter (Migne, P.L. lxvi. 938), an eighth-century supplement to the Benedictine Rule.

Diat. E. A. Abbott’s Diatessarica, including his Johannine Vocabulary and Johannine Grammar, Parts I.-X. (1900-1915).

1 Cf., however, 8:54.

1 See Burkitt, Evangelion da Mepharreshê, ii. 219, and cf. Rendel Harris, Cod. Bezæ, p. 246, who would trace the error to the Western colometry of D.

1 Cf. Justin, Apol. i. 53, for a vague statement of Samaritan doctrine as to Messiah, similar to Jewish belief.

1 Hor. Hebr., iii. 287.

1 See Introd., p. cxi, as to this method of discourse.

1 See Westcott, St. John, i. 179.

2 Vocabulary of Greek Testament, p. 314.

3 Abbott (Diat. 2616-7) attaches a spiritual significance to Jn.’s mention of our Lord’s “lifting up” His eyes.

1 The similarity between this passage and Galatians 6:8 ὁ σπείρων εἰς τὸ πνεῦμα ἐκ τοῦ πνεύματος θείσει ζωὴν αἰώνιον, is only verbal, although remarkable; cf. Romans 6:22.

1 Primitive Christianity, Eng. Tr., iv. 33.

1 The title is often bestowed on the Emperors, and especially on Hadrian, in inscriptions. See Deissmann, Light from the East, p. 369.

2 D.C.G., ii. 573.

1 Its equivalent is found in Plutarch, Pliny, and Seneca; see D. Smith, s.v. “Proverbs,” D.C.G., ii. 445.

1 Introd., p. xcvi.

2 Cf. Introd., p. xxxiv.

1 Chadwick, Expositor, iv. v. 443 f.; so Westcott, in loc.

2 There is a miracle story in the Babylonian Talmud (Ber. 34b) which looks like another version of this. When a son of Gamaliel was sick, the father sent messengers to Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa to ask for his intercessions. He prayed, and then said, “Go, for the fever has now left him.” They marked the time, and going back found that in that hour the boy had been cured. See Trench, Miracles, p. 123.

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Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on John 4". International Critical Commentary NT. 1896-1924.