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In John 4, Jesus and His disciples linger (near the well?) until the Samaritans to come out to Him. When they invited Him to join them, He stayed with them 2 days:

  • John 4:39-40: "From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, 'He told me all the things that I have done.' 40So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. "

However, according to the timeline I consulted, later, when the Lord sent out the 12 apostles in Matthew, He explicitly told them whom not to "enter any city of the Samaritans":

  • Matthew 10:5-7: "These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: 'Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; 6but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ "

How do we reconcile these seeming discrepancies between visiting Samaritans on the one hand (Jn. 4:40), and avoiding them completely on the other (Matt. 10:5)?

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  • Jesus did not enter Samaria with the explicit or declared purpose of preaching and teaching there, but merely had to pass through the region while on the road to somewhere else (4:3-4, 4:43-47, 4:54). What happened was unplanned or unintentional, a matter of conjecture.
    – Lucian
    Aug 16 at 9:29
  • Jesus was only sent to the Jews, there was no such thing as Christians - Matt 15:24 - But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Can be more clear than that - Gentiles / Christians came after by Paul not Jesus Aug 16 at 9:51
  • @Lucian As I mentioned once before, perhaps the answer is that, on the first occasion, Christ was the one to initiate contact with the Samaritans. It would be perfectly understandable that the disciples were unprepared for such an encounter, certainly not until much later. That is, the disciples themselves were as yet unfit to engage in work that required wider thoughts and actions than they had yet attained. Christ was under no such restrictions to accomplish the unthinkable in the Jewish mind: initiate a conversation with not only a Samaritan, but a Samaritan woman - and later her village.
    – Xeno
    Aug 16 at 18:17
  • @Xeno: Christ was accused of being a possessed Samaritan (8:48), hence the tactical decision, mentioned elsewhere, to avoid or minimize, as much as humanly possible, any contact with outsiders, so as to still the various malicious rumors and allegations spread by his ideological adversaries.
    – Lucian
    Aug 16 at 18:38
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https://biblehub.com/timeline/#complete:

27 AD   Jesus Testifies to the Samaritan Woman    John 4
29 AD   Jesus Sends out His Twelve Apostles       Matthew 10, Mark 6

How do we reconcile these seeming discrepancies between visiting Samaritans on the one hand (Jn. 4:40), and avoiding them completely on the other (Matt. 10:5)?

Different schedules, different purposes.

The events that transpired in John 4 were not a before-hand defined missionary objective. It happened spontaneously. It would be ungracious of Jesus not to take up the presented opportunity when the harvesting was riped.

Now assume that one does not accept the above timeline. Still, the command not to enter Samaria in Matthew 10 was lifted in

Luke 24:

46 He [Jesus] told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

Between the time of Matthew 10 and Luke 24, Jesus' focus was on the Jews, and not on the Samaritans or Gentiles. However, during this time, some Samaritans and Gentiles benefited from Jesus' presence. Jesus didn't purposefully get out of his way to avoid them.

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  • Perhaps the answer to this is that, on the first occasion, Christ was the one to initiate contact with the Samaritans. It would be perfectly understandable that the disciples were unprepared for such an encounter, certainly not until much later as mentioned in Ellicott. That is, "The disciples themselves were as yet [unfit] to enter on a work which required wider thoughts and hopes than they had yet attained." No such "wider thoughts" were necessary for Christ to do the unthinkable in the Jewish mind: initiate a conversation with not only a Samaritan, but a woman as well! +1
    – Xeno
    Aug 16 at 18:10
  • That's a possibility :) This website allows you to answer your own question. You can do it and see what kind of responses you'd get :)
    – Tony Chan
    Aug 16 at 18:15
  • You may have noticed the kinds of responses I've received lately. :-) Some just seem, well, a bit less than pleased. I may give it a shot later today; I'm just not feeling too well today.
    – Xeno
    Aug 16 at 18:25
  • As of right now, you rank #3 according to hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/…. You are doing far better than most. There is no way to please everyone all the time. Don't let anyone discourage you. As I said before, I need you to be on this website and I hope that more people like you will join.
    – Tony Chan
    Aug 16 at 18:55
  • Thanks Tony. That means a great deal to me. God bless you!
    – Xeno
    Aug 16 at 18:57
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If we accept, for the sake of the question, that the instructions by Jesus in Matt 10 were well after the events in John 4 (this is not unreasonable), then there is still little to explain as no contradiction exists.

  • In John 4 Jesus talks to a Samaritan woman and effectively commissions her to evangelize her village which was quite successful.

  • Jesus' instruction for the disciples on the first missionary tour are what they were - not to go (yet) to the Samaritans - this would come later (in Acts 1:6-8).

There is no conflict here - the disciples were all Jews and were not yet ready to reach the non-Jews as the experience in John 4 ably demonstrated. Jesus was ready for anything. Only later did the disciples actually begin to comprehend the magnitude of the task set for them (Matt 28:19, 20).

However, for the fist missionary tour, they were to stay on familiar territory with familiar people,. which they did. Note Ellicott's comments which summarize the situation.

(Matt 10:5) Go not into the way of the Gentiles.—The emphatic limitation seems at first sight at variance with the language which had spoken of those who should come from east and west to sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of God, and with the fact that our Lord had already taken His disciples into a city of Samaria, and told them that there also there were fields white for the harvest (John 4:35). We must remember, however, (1) that the limitation was confined to the mission on which they were now sent; (2) that it did but recognise a divine order, the priority of Israel in God’s dealing with mankind, “to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile;” and (3) that the disciples themselves were as yet unfitted to enter on a work which required wider thoughts and hopes than they had yet attained. It was necessary that they should learn to share their Master’s pity for the lost sheep of the house of Israel before they could enter into His yearnings after the sheep that were “not of this fold” (John 10:16).

Similarly, Benson observes:

Matthew 10:5-6. These twelve Jesus sent forth — Namely, to preach the gospel and to work miracles; exercising therein his supreme authority over his Church. And commanded, Go not into the way of the Gentiles — That is, into their country. Their commission was thus confined now, because the calling of the Gentiles was deferred till after the more plentiful effusion of the Holy Ghost on the day of pentecost. And into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not — In travelling through Palestine the apostles would often have occasion to go into Samaria; but they were not to enter the cities thereof with a design to preach. It is true, in the beginning of his ministry, our Lord himself preached to the Samaritans with great success, John 4:41-42; and therefore, had he sent his apostles among them, numbers, in all probability, would have been induced to believe; but the inveterate enmity which the Jews bore to the Samaritans made the conversion of the latter improper at this time, as it would have laid a great stumbling-block in the way of the conversion of the Jews: as preaching now to the Gentiles would also have done. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel — He calls the Jews lost sheep, because, as he had told his disciples, Matthew 9:36, they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd, and so were in danger of perishing. See Isaiah 49.

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  • This very 'contradiction' is useful in gauging the time of the events as they unfold in both gospels. Rather than lack of faith and supposing a 'contradiction', we should accept the verity of the two records and put the facts to good use. (Up-voted +1.)
    – Nigel J
    Aug 16 at 11:59
  • Dottard : Verse John 3:24 and 4:1 says that John was not yet thrown in prison, this indicates that the events in John 4:39-40 happened early in Jesus' ministry, perhaps towards the end of his first year. The events in Matthew 1O:5-7 happened well after Jesus met the Samaritan woman. Also, the scriptures are silent, they do say if any Samaritans were baptized, this means no evangelizing. Hope you don't mind brother.) Aug 16 at 17:35
  • @OzzieOzzie - no problems - happy for all comments. Many thanks.
    – Dottard
    Aug 16 at 21:44
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While Jesus planted seeds in Samaria (John 4:39-40), his time was getting short and it was important to first have a solid reach within the Jews (Matt 10:5-7). The Samaritans having experienced Jesus' presence would make it easier for Jews to reach the Samaritans when the gospel spread (Matt. 28:16-20; Acts 1:8).

When Jesus sent out the Twelve, the time at their disposal was short, and it was necessary to concentrate on the people who had been specially prepared for the message of the kingdom. Even if the Twelve did confine themselves to the “lost sheep of Israel,” they would not have time to cover all of these. This has sometimes been thought to be the point of the cryptic words “you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel, before the Son of man comes” (Mt 10:23 RSV). -- Kaiser, W. C., Jr., Davids, P. H., Bruce, F. F., & Brauch, M. T. (1996). Hard sayings of the Bible (p. 375). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity.

This prohibition against going among the Gentiles and the Samaritans was for this special tour. They were to give the Jews the first opportunity and not to prejudice the cause at this stage. Later Jesus will order them to go and disciple all the Gentiles (Matt. 28:19). -- Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Mt 10:5). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

But the great reason for this command is simply this—wise commanders know that they must limit their objectives. They must direct their attack at one chosen point. If they spread their forces here, there and everywhere, they dissipate their strength and invite failure. The smaller their forces, the more limited the immediate objective must be. To attempt to attack on too broad a front is simply to court disaster. Jesus knew that, and his aim was to concentrate his attack on Galilee; for Galilee, as we have seen, was the most open of all parts of Palestine to a new gospel and a new message (cf. the discussion of Matthew 4:12–17). This command of Jesus was a temporary command. He was the wise commander who refused to diffuse and dissipate his forces; he skilfully concentrated his attack on one limited objective in order to achieve an ultimate and universal victory. -- Barclay, W. (2001). The Gospel of Matthew (Third Ed., pp. 420–421). Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press.

It would be the Jewish who would spread the gospel to first the Samaritans and then the Gentiles.

Moreover, it is taught in the prophetic writings of the Old Testament, and nowhere more clearly than in Isaiah 40–55, that when Israel grasps the true knowledge of God, it will be its privilege to share that knowledge with other nations. Nearly thirty years later, Paul, apostle to the Gentiles though he was, lays down the order of gospel presentation as being “first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Rom 1:16). This statement of primitive evangelistic policy was evidently founded on Jesus’ own practice. -- Kaiser, W. C., Jr., Davids, P. H., Bruce, F. F., & Brauch, M. T. (1996). Hard sayings of the Bible (pp. 375–376). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity.

The ban on entering any town of the Samaritans is to be understood in the same way. Samaritans were not Jews, but neither were they Gentiles. Jesus did not share his people’s anti-Samaritan bias (although the evidence for this is supplied by Luke and John, not by Matthew), and after his death and resurrection his message of salvation was effectively presented to Samaritans even before it was presented to Gentiles (Acts 8:5–25). -- Kaiser, W. C., Jr., Davids, P. H., Bruce, F. F., & Brauch, M. T. (1996). Hard sayings of the Bible (p. 376). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity.

Barclay gives a good answer to those who double Jesus actually said what was in Matt. 10:5.

But there are certain things to be remembered. This saying is so uncharacteristic of Jesus that no one could have invented it; he must have said it, and so there must be some explanation. -- Barclay, W. (2001). The Gospel of Matthew (Third Ed., p. 419). Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press.

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