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Part 5: Injustice of the Woman at the Well (John 4:1-42)

Observations of the Narrative of the Woman at the Well.

In my doctorate, research the problem I encounter is that the dismissal of women's voices denies the church the complete revelation of God and God's work among human beings. Here in John chapter 4, John tells us a story of the Samaritan Woman's encounter with Jesus. This meeting is unconventional. Jews do not regularly engage with Samaritans (4:9). Jews and Samaritans have a religious quarrel (4:20). Water, in this story, is a natural environmental power structure. Humans cannot survive without water. Water means life. The Samaritan Woman must come to the well. She knows well what it means to have water and that she cannot be without it.

When the Samaritan Woman meets Jesus at the well, she is engaged in a conversation (4:7-26). Heard, is her voice and interactions from the perspective of John. "In this biblical story, in particular, water is a significant substance which is a gift given to Jesus, to the Samaritan Woman, and furthermore all living beings. She engages in a long theological conversation[1] about the messiah and water with Jesus. The exchange between Jesus and the Samaritan Woman of the respective types of water at the well amplifies the life-giving water which quenches not only spiritual thirst but also physical thirst."[2] Seoyoung Kim suggests, "The unnamed Samaritan woman realizes the significance of the revelation communicated to her by Jesus, and therefore becomes a proclaimer of the gospel."[3] (4:39-42). She is filled with living water and can bring it to others, much like the physical water she drew out of the well for Jesus and gave to him.

What is even more fascinating is that this story is placed after Nicodemus' conversation with Jesus in John chapter 3. Nicodemus is a pharisee, meaning he is a well-educated religious leader and he cannot seem to grasp what Jesus has come to do. In fact, in John 3:5-6, Jesus speaks about water and the spirit, and in verse 10, rebukes Nicodemus for not understanding. In the next chapter John Chapter 4 we read about the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan Woman. It becomes clear that she is also well-versed in many religious issues of the day, and also understands the life-giving significance of water. As the conversation unfolds she grasps the meaning of their conversation, and as a result, proclaims the gospel to her people. She a woman does what Nicodemus a religious leader could not.

[1] Carol A. Newsom, Sharon H. Ringe, and Jacqueline E. Lapsley, eds., Women’s Bible Commentary, 3rd ed., twentieth anniversary ed (Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012), 521. [2] Seoyoung Kim, “The Story of the Samaritan Woman and Jesus (John 4:1-42) Focusing on Water within an Ecofeminist Theological Perspective,” Practical Theology 15, no. 5 (2022): 467–78,, 471. [3] Kim. “The Story of the Samaritan Woman and Jesus (John 4:1-42),” 472.

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