In Greek New Testament Μεσσίας only occurs twice; both in John. Andrew used it speaking to Peter (1:41) and here. The Samaritans only had the Torah and did not accept the prophets and writings in the Tanakh. Thus, they had no reference to the Messiah.

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, ESV)

Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg gives this explanation. What explanation to you have?

The official Samaritan religion, at least as far as we know from much later sources, did not include any prophetic writings, which means the Samaritan woman would have only Torah to rely upon in her definition of a Messiah-like figure. “The woman said, ‘I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, he will explain/ teach everything to us.’” We read in Deuteronomy 18: 18-19, that is perfectly consistent with what the woman said: “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account.”

Though a later Samaritan text speaks of a Messiah-like figure (Taheb, Marqah Memar 4: 7, 12), the Samaritans of Jesus’ time only expected a great teacher-prophet. The “Messiah” as King and Priest was a Jewish Israelite, and not a Samaritan Israelite concept, as far as we know. For that reason, the reply of the Samaritan woman shows this was not an imaginary or symbolic conversation (“ he will explain everything to us”). In view of this, it seems that now the woman graciously used distinctly Jewish terminology to relate to Jesus – the Jew. Just as Jesus was choosing to climb the wall of taboos, so now was the Samaritan woman. -- Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, Eli. The Jewish Gospel of John: Discovering Jesus, King of All Israel (pp. 56-57). Jewish Studies for Christians. Kindle Edition.


1 Answer 1


There is an easy answer and a hard answer. Let's start with the hard answer:

Sacred Literature of the Samaritans

From Hjelm, Ingrid. The Samaritans and Early Judaism A Literary Analysis, p 94

The often-stated 'critique' of the Samaritans' rejection of the Hebrew Bible and of their recognition of only the Pentateuch needs a clarifying remark. The Samaritan rejection of the Hebrew Bible does not imply that they did not develop their own traditions of chronicles and halakhah. As Jews did not consider the Pentateuch to give answers to all matters of life, so the Samaritans gave a certain credit to tradition and to the interpretation of the Pentateuch.

The issue is, do we have any manuscripts of Samaritan chronicles or halakha that might date to the time of Christ? First all clearly extant Samaritan documents we have date at the earliest to the third century CE (see Hjelm's summary of extant sources from p95-103).

But at the same time, the reason why we do not see a uniquely Samaritan halakha before the third century CE is that they used a common pool of texts with other sectarian groups, choosing to ascribe cannonicity in their own way to these texts -- just as the process of cannonization was not completed for any sectarian group at the time of Christ. (The MT tradition may not have even existed until after 100 CE). Thus the Samaritans would have access to a common pool of texts and used these texts, classified as "pre-Samaritan", in the sense that the evolution of a unique textual stream that diverged from the rest of judaism was not yet complete. Here is Hjelm again (p.81)

Of importance for the relationship between pre-Samaritan and Samaritan texts is the absence of any so-called sectarian readings in pre-Samaritan texts. The designation 'pre-Samaritan' is therefore based on script, expansionism, harmonization and linguistic features. Expansionism and harmonizing tendencies, which in pre-Samaritan texts do not bear the same characters, however, are found in several other DSS texts and should perhaps more precisely be labelled expansionist texts. I think it proper to argue against Tov21 that the Samaritans cannot be said to have chosen such a text, but rather continued to use the text-type they were accustomed to. This statement of course implies a different view of the Samaritan origins as well as of whether texts have been expanded or shortened. It should not go unnoticed that we do not find any Masoretic texts at Qumran and that some of the texts called proto-Masoretic bear close similarities to so-called expansionist texts in a manner hardly to be distinguished from the MT Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel.22 This in fact was confirmed also by E.Y. Kutscher, who, in his study of IQIsa23 detected a great degree of similarity between the IQIsa, LXXand SP. All three text-types intended to remove linguistic and theological ambiguities and seemed more suited to popular use.

In this view, the Samaritans would have access to Isaiah and other texts found in Qumram, but in the future, would not include them in their cannon once the cannonization process was complete and the idea of a Samaritan stream took over from the "pre-samaritan" stream which was non-sectarian and used by all sects.

With respect to beliefs, we have to understand the belief in a Messiah was a popular belief. Many people claimed to be Messiah around that time and attracted followers from all groups.

For the Samaritans however, the basis for rejection from canonnization of existing prophets was that there was no prophet equal to Moses - except for the one prophet predicted by Moses. Here is Paolo Sacchi in History of the Second Temple Period p 30, discussing Samaritan interpretation of Deut 18.15-20:

Regarding the passage from Deuteronomy, in the intentions of the author the word ‘prophet’ does not refer to a future figure, but the permanent institution of Israel. This becomes clear from the context: first it speaks of the monarchy, secondly of the priesthood, and thirdly of prophetism. The messianic interpretation of the passage originated with the Samaritans who, having excluded the Prophets from the canon, interpreted the passage as though there were only two prophets: Moses and a later one equal to Moses who would come as a restorer.4 The great antiquity of the Samaritan conception of the messianic figure as ‘prophet’ is extremely probable.5

Thus the Samaritans would have been looking for Messiah all along. Note that the Samaritan woman at the well says "I see you are a prophet". For a Samaritan to call someone a prophet was a different matter than for a jew to call someone a prophet.

So the combination of Samaritan's expectations of a Messianic prophet, the general popular sense of a coming Messiah, then this should be enough to justify the Samaritan's woman's faith.


If even the the Magi could travel to Bethlehem to seek Christ, it should not be hard to believe a woman in living Palestine could know about Christ, once we accept the likelihood that

  • Samaritans had shared access to a common pool of non-sectarian sacred texts that included Isaiah and other apocalyptic works, even if they disagreed on issues of cannonicity.

  • The Samaritans were looking for a true prophet to arise after Moses who would be a restorer.

  • There were many popular messianic movements in Palestine at the time

  • I'm giving a few more days before selecting the best answer, especially since the subject is somewhat complex.
    – Perry Webb
    Jul 29, 2021 at 22:56
  • You don't need to select a best answer. The point of the question is to do some research into a topic.
    – Robert
    Jul 29, 2021 at 23:01
  • @ Robert yours will be the best unless they can show better research and your research does support your answer well.
    – Perry Webb
    Jul 29, 2021 at 23:15

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