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1 Corinthians 14:1 (ESV):

Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.

1 Corinthians 14:24-25 (ESV):

24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.

John 4:16-19 (ESV):

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.

Both the unbeliever/outsider at 1 Cor 14:24-25 and the Samaritan woman at John 4:16-19 recognized that something extraordinary/supernatural was going on, and in both cases this is related to the ability to prophesy. Does this mean that Paul and the Samaritan woman shared the same understanding of what it means to be a prophet (i.e. someone with the gift of prophecy)?


Related: What is meant by “the secrets of his heart are disclosed” in 1 Corinthians 14:25?

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  • I am unsure if any two people share exactly the same concept of "prophet". That fact is, we are not told. The thrust of the narrative appears to suggests that they two concepts were sufficiently similar that each knew what the other was saying.
    – Dottard
    Jul 27 at 0:27
  • @Dottard - if their concepts of 'prophet' were closely similar, the implications would be tremendous: it would mean that Paul is encouraging all believers to receive supernatural revelations from God, through the Holy Spirit, like Jesus was able to about the Samaritan woman's past marital status. Jul 27 at 0:32
  • That is another question. However, that is the direct implication of Joel 2:28, 29 as quoted by Peter in Acts 2:17-21
    – Dottard
    Jul 27 at 1:02
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+50

The Jewish concept of prophet is rather broad. It includes characters like Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jerimiah, ... (major prophets), Amos, ..., Jonah (minor prophets), members of the school of the prophets, men of God, etc. Even Jesus was labeled as a prophet.

The Samaritan woman at the well called Jesus a prophet in John 4:

18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.

Her usage at this point simply meant that Jesus received divine knowledge about her life. But it didn't stop there. She continued:

20Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

21“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

25The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

26Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” ...
39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41And because of his words many more became believers.

42They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

Initially, the Samaritan woman called Jesus a prophet because he had supernatural knowledge about her life. In the end, he was the Messiah to her.

Elsewhere in 1 Corinthians, Paul explained the doctrine of prophecy for the nascent church, 14:1

Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.

Paul focused on the act of prophesying and not so much on the character of a prophet.

24 But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying,

But not everyone was a prophet by profession.

they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, 25as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”

Similarly, the Samaritan woman was convicted of sin by Jesus' prophesying to her and she eventually fell down and worship the true God, exclaiming, “He told me everything I ever did.”

Does this mean that Paul and the Samaritan woman shared the same understanding of what it means to be a prophet (i.e. someone with the gift of prophecy)?

Yes, in terms of acts of prophesying, i.e., receiving and pronouncing revelations from God. However, the Samaritan woman focused on the person of Jesus as a prophet while Paul mainly talked about acts of special revelations.

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  1. The Samaritan viewpoint

The Samaritan's believed in the Prophet that Moses predicted, but not the Messiah , a decendent of King David.

See Why did the Samaritan woman use the term, Messiah, in John 4:25?

Their Scriptures were limited to the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. Moses was regarded as the only prophet and intercessor in the final judgment. They also believed that 6,000 years after creation, a Restorer would arise and would live on earth for 110 years. On the judgment day the righteous would be resurrected in paradise and the wicked roasted in eternal fire. -- Potts, D. R. (2003). Samaria, Samaritans. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 1436). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

Moses, as mediator of the Torah, deserves adoration as the third focus of Samaritan faith. Blessings are offered “in the name of Moses the faithful,” the last and most exalted of the prophets. His birth is exalted in a treatise, the Molad Mosheh. He is depicted as a pre-existent primordial light who came to illuminate the world. -- Neusner, J., Avery-Peck, A. J., & Green, W. S. (Eds.). (2000). In The encyclopedia of Judaism (Vol. 5, p. 2257). Leiden; Boston; Köln: Brill.

The Samaritans accepted the leading role of Judah, because their own Torah stated such in Genesis 49: 10,[ 13] but not the leading role of David’s family (2 Sam. 7: 8-9)[ 14] since this text was outside of “the canon” for the Samaritans traditions. -- Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, Eli. The Jewish Gospel of John: Discovering Jesus, King of All Israel (p. 19). Jewish Studies for Christians. Kindle Edition.

a) What they knew about Jesus

While she would not immediately recognize him, the Samaritans had likely heard about what Jesus was doing.

But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter. (Mark 1:45, ESV)

Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:15–19, ESV)

It is likely they knew he travelled through Samaria.

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2(although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), 3 he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. 4 And he had to pass through Samaria. (John 4:1–4, ESV)

  1. The Samaritan woman reponded to a Jew

The Samaritan expected Jesus as other Jews to have nothing to do with them.

The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) (John 4:9, ESV)

Then, the who do you think you are question:

Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock. (John 4:12, ESV)

Jesus' five men response elevated the woman's thoughts to a prophet.

  1. She responded as to a Jewish prophet

Most likely this was a loaded question. She would expect Jesus to give the pat Jewish answer, then she could write him off.

"Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship” (John 4:20, ESV).

But, Jesus' answer neither mountain, but must worship God in spirit and truth united Samaritans and Jews. What the Samaritans expected from the Prophet Moses talked about was for him to cross the barriers as Jesus did.

So, she gave the indirect question about the Messiah, still addressing Jesus as a Jew.

  1. She responded as to the Prophet

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:25–26, ESV)

She believed Jesus without further questioning.

The Samaritan woman did start out with the general term prophet, which somewhat overlapped Paul. But, it is unlikely that the Samaritan woman understood the gift of prophecy. However, the Samaritans recognized no prophets after Moses, and only expected the prophet Moses foretold. Thus, it seems unlikely that a Samaritan would recognize the gift of prophecy.

See How would a Samaritan woman know the Messiah might soon arrive (Jn. 4:25)?

Paul in 1 Cor. 14 refers to prophecy as a gift of the Holy Spirit.

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