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The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah [#G3323] is coming (he who is called Christ) [#G5547]. When he comes, he will tell us all things.” (John 4:25) ESV.

λεγει αυτω η γυνη οιδα οτι μεσσιας ερχεται ο λεγομενος χριστος οταν ελθη εκεινος αναγγελει ημιν παντα.
(John 4:25) Textus Receptus Stephanus 1550

λεγει αυτω η γυνη οιδα οτι μεσιας ερχεται ο λεγομενος χριστος οταν ελθη εκεινος αναγγελει > ημιν παντα.
(John 4:25) Byzantine Majority Text

λεγει αυτω η γυνη · οιδα οτι μεϲϲιαϲ ερχεται ο λεγομενοϲ χϲ · οταν ελθη · εκεινοϲ αναγγελ.
(John 4:25) Codex Sinaiticus

A: Is the Samarian women saying to Jesus in both Hebrew and Greek, "I know Messiah is coming, he who is called Christ."
Or
B: Has the scribe added (he who is called Christ) for the reader to understand what Messiah means.

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  • 1
    Excellent, well-crafted question! +1.
    – Dottard
    Jul 6 at 11:02
  • @Dottard Thanks Dottard!! Jul 6 at 11:03
  • 1
    The clarifying interpolations of scribes for theological agenda, cannot be fully pinpointed, as they can be very minor. I suspect the "born of water" in John3 doesn't fit well with born of spirit; it could be a baptismal formula inserted by a scribe like the trinitarian formula. The translation glosses are totally fair even if they are later additions. bible.org/article/…
    – Michael16
    Jul 7 at 16:23
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The distinction between what the writer hears and his own added "interpretation" is usually documented as such. For example:

  • Matt 1:23 - "Behold, the virgin will hold in womb, and will bring forth a son, and they will call His name Immanuel" which is, being translated, "God with us."
  • Mark 5:41 - And having taken the hand of the child, He says to her, "Talitha, koum!" which is translated, "Little girl, I say to you, arise!"
  • Mark 15:22 - And they bring Him to a place, Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull.
  • Mark 15:34 - And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" Which is translated, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"
  • John 1:38 - Then Jesus having turned and having beheld them following, says to them, "What do you seek?" And they said to Him, "Rabbi" (which being translated is to say Teacher), "where are You staying?"
  • John 1:41 - He first finds the own brother Simon and says to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which is translated Christ).
  • John 1:42 - He led him to Jesus. Having looked at him, Jesus said, "You are Simon the son of Jonah. You will be called Cephas" (which means Peter).
  • John 9:7 - And He said to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent). Therefore he went and washed, and came seeing.
  • Acts 9:36 - Now in Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which translated is called Dorcas. She was full of good works and of alms that she continually did.
  • Acts 4:36 - Now Joseph having been called Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated, Son of encouragement), a Levite, a Cypriot at the birth,
  • Acts 13:8 - But Elymas the magician (for his name means thus) was opposing them, seeking to turn away the proconsul from the faith.

The text of John 4:25 reads (BLB):

The woman says to Him, "I know that Messiah is coming, who is called Christ; when He comes, He will tell us all things."

Messiah is the Hebrew word for "anointed one" as is Christos the Greek for "anointed one". Note that in John 4:25, we do not have anything equivalent to, "which is translated ...", or "which means ...". Rather, we have, "who is called Christ". It is as though the woman at the well is saying to Jesus, " ... messiah in Aramaic/Hebrew who is called Christ in Greek ...".

Some version punctuate the phrase as though this explanation is added by John but it does not "feel" like this in the text - I think that is what the woman said.

However, commentators are divided. Benson says:

which is called Christ — It would appear from the manner in which this clause is expressed, that it was spoken by the woman

Albert Barnes has the opposite opinion:

Which is called Christ - These are probably the words of the evangelist, as it is not likely that the woman would explain the name on such an occasion.

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  • "it is not likely that the woman would explain the name on such an occasion" What if she was speaking with someone from a completely different 'sect' (Samaritan vs. Jew)? Jul 6 at 18:24
  • @SolaGratia - I agree.
    – Dottard
    Jul 6 at 22:30
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I argue for scribal text.

Josephus wrote that it was generally considered "common" (lowly, base, vulgar) for a Jew to learn or speak Greek, or any other Gentile language. Even for servants (slaves) of Jews to speak Gentile languages was discouraged:

Antiquities of the Jews, Volume 20, Chapter 11

I have also taken a great deal of pains to obtain the learning of the Greeks, and understand the elements of the Greek language, although I have so long accustomed myself to speak our own tongue, that I cannot pronounce Greek with sufficient exactness; for our nation does not encourage those that learn the languages of many nations, and so adorn their discourses with the smoothness of their periods; because they look upon this sort of accomplishment as common, not only to all sorts of free-men, but to as many of the servants as please to learn them.

Many scholars have wondered how seriously to take this remark, given that Josephus himself wrote almost in the same dip of his pen how he had spent a great effort learning Greek, so that he could relate the history of the Jews to the Greeks in their language. (Although he also wrote that he spoke Aramaic for most of his life, and therefore spoke Greek with an accent.) Also, Josephus carefully documented the creation of the Septuagint translation hundreds of years before, a Greek translation of the TNK [Torah Nevi'im Ketuvim; "Tanakh"]. And archaeological finds have proven that Greek was commonly written in Judea. It seems that learning Greek, or Latin, was a practical necessity for many in that time and place.

Notwithstanding the question of how many Jews learned Greek in the Roman period, the Samaritan woman almost certainly spoke the Hebrew dialect of Aramaic (sometimes referred to simply as "Hebrew" in the gospels), not Greek. She was no merchant, nor statesman. It is implausible that she spoke Greek, or literally said, "who is called Christ" (Christos in Greek) to Yeshua [Jesus].

(Perhaps you are thinking, but the Samaritans were not, as Josephus wrote, of "our [the Jewish] nation". And that is true. But the Samaritans also viewed mainstream Pharisaism as a corruption of the true religion of Abraham and Moses. The woman even references this divide in calling attention to Gerizim in their conversation. I see no indicator that an aversion to learning Greek would not include the Samaritans also. Would someone so zealous really use a Greek term in referencing a Torah prophecy?)

So the presence of this remark in the text must be a scribal remark. It remains to ask whether the apostle or a later scribe introduced it first.

  • If John's gospel was originally written in the Hebrew Aramaic dialect, as a minority of scholars believe, then the remark would most probably be scribal added later, leaving "Messiah" in the original dialect and providing its literal meaning of Christos ("anointed") when translating the text from the original Aramaic into Greek.
  • If John originally wrote in Greek, or if he wrote originals in both scripts, then he could have chosen to preserve the term Messiah in the original Aramaic dialect and provide the literal Greek translation originally.

As another indicator, in my Aramaic English New Testament, which is based on the traditional Syriac text from Eastern Christanity, John 4:25 simply reads:

That woman said to him, "I know that the Mashikha [Messiah] is coming, and when he comes, he will teach us everything."

The Aramaic text does not say, "Christos, who is called Mashikha"; or, "the anointed one, who is called Mashikha"; or any such. But there are examples of Greek loanwords elsewhere in the Aramaic text. For example, Greek evangelion [gospel] is written in Aramaic Mark 1:1. So the Aramaic text indicates that the "who is called Christ" phrase is an artifact of translation from Aramaic to Greek, where the Aramaic term Mashikha is left untranslated in the dialog and translated to Greek Christos in a scribal remark.

Responding a bit to the accepted answer, I am not persuaded that the absence of the specific phrase, "which being translated", or similar, sufficiently makes the case for literal use of the word "Christos", in Greek, by a Samaritan woman who lived in the foothills of Mount Gerizim in the Herodian period. There are two common words, unrelated to this exact question, which are alternately translated from Aramaic or not in the Greek New Testament text, and when translated, it is not explicitly called out as translation:

  • "Satan" seems not to be a name at all, it means "the enemy". In Luke 10:19, where "Satan" would fit grammatically as a name, we find "enemy" in the Greek text instead. So this Aramaic word is sometimes translated into Greek and sometimes not. And in the cases where Aramaic "Satan" is spelled with Greek letters instead, there is no "which means" alongside it.
  • "Peter" is more like a nickname, really a pejorative, meaning "dumb". There are multiple cases of "stone" being written in Greek when not used as a nickname for Simon. But in most cases, "Peter" is not accompanied by any "which means" phrase.

When the New Testament books were first written into Greek, whether originally or in translation from an earlier Aramaic text does not matter, these Aramaic terms were written untranslated in the native Aramaic dialect within the Greek text, in certain places, and we may never know exactly why. There may be other similar cases as well.

We cannot always infer from the Greek text alone whether a potential scribal addition is actually part of the original dialogue. Comparison with the Syriac textual tradition, and historical knowledge of the culture and time period, are strong indicators that this woman did not speak any Greek.

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  • +1 very well written! "Josephus carefully documented the creation of the Septuagint translation" Josephus was born after Yeshua died and all Christian scholars agree that Septuagint was crafted somewhere around 3rd - 1 st BC and not AD. Can you lead me to the claim that J. Flavius overview the making of LXX. Jul 7 at 9:21
  • How do you bake in a link like you did here; this divide ? Jul 7 at 9:23
  • 1
    In the question/answer editor there's a 'chain' icon that does it for you. In comments I think the syntax is different. I just put links in plain text for comments.
    – wberry
    Jul 7 at 19:46
  • Antiquities of the Jews, Book 12, Chapter 2. I found the story to be quite amazing actually. "So the king [Ptolemy Philadelphus] rejoiced ... and he was chiefly delighted with hearing the laws read to him; and was astonished at the deep meaning and wisdom of the legislator." This ancient king expended great labor and fortune, just so that he could hear the laws of the God of Abraham in his own language. And how many of us today let those same laws gather dust on our bookshelves!
    – wberry
    Jul 7 at 19:55
  • Josephus never uses the word "Septuagint". But he documents that the high priest sent seventy elders of the nation to visit the king, to translate the scriptures into Greek. This can only be the story of the Septuagint, usually abbreviated LXX for seventy.
    – wberry
    Jul 7 at 19:58

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