Startling Statement Within the conversation with the Woman at the Well, Jesus made this astounding statement:

Believe Me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem! (John 4:21)

Was Jesus revealing to her what He would later announce to the Disciple in the Olivet Discourse: the Temple at Jerusalem would be destroyed, obsolete, passe'?

He also mentioned this Mountain which we know from archaeology and history, contained the Samaritan Temple. Its ruins were discovered by archaeologists. And it was destroyed during the Roman invasion, just before the Jewish Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D.

The real worship God was (is) interested in is in spirit and in truth (vs. 23-24): A spiritual worship from the heart without need of any physical trappings, or sacerdotal accoutrements. This was good news to her...but would be startling to the disciples later, as judging by their questioning!

Is this one of many, the first of many, pronouncements Jesus would make about the End of the Old Testament covenants, and the institution of the New Covenant by the destruction of the Center of Worship of the Jews? Or was Jesus just speaking allegorically or metaphorically? (Luke 13:34-35, 16:16, 20:9-19, Matthew 8:11-13, Mark 12:1-12) Was Jesus just trying to pacify her racial prejudices? Or did He have a more concrete proposition in mind?

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    This question is a pandora's box and many books have been written. The answer depends on one's (usually very fixed) presupposition concerning covenant theology. The simplest answer is that Jesus was moving people away from liturgical ritual to true worship "in spirit and truth".
    – Dottard
    Jun 16, 2023 at 22:54
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    I think you've alluded to the answer in your question. v23 speaks of a time when 'true worshippers' will worship in spirit and truth. That's the thrust of the dialogue, not destruction of temples, but their redundancy in the coming age. Jun 29, 2023 at 10:17

2 Answers 2


No. He must be referring to something else, because the Samaritans have continued to worship on Mt. Gerizim to this day. Moreover he does not mention a temple. Also, although many Jews were expelled from Jerusalem when the temple was destroyed, others in Jerusalem found new ways of honoring God the that involved synagogue worship rather than temple sacrifices. There were hundreds of such congregations in Jerusalem when the temple fell. Despite mass slaughter, Josephus reports that 40,000 survived. Many became slaves but among these, some must have continued to worship there even if not publicly. Romans did not require their slaves to renounce their religion.

The OP asks: Was Jesus just trying to pacify her racial prejudices?

No. Moreover, racial prejudice ran mostly the other way. Samaritans did not object to Judaism because of race but because Jews worshiped at Jerusalem instead of Gerizim. (They also believed that the Israelite priest Eli was an imposter, his Ark of the Covenant was a fake, and all of the kings of both Israel and Judah were illegitimate.)

Or did He have a more concrete proposition in mind?

Yes. He was referring to the idea that true worship does not require a temple at all.

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. (John 4:23)

It is no accident that these words, which Christians apply generally, are delivered immediately after Jesus told the Samaritan woman that she (or the Samaritans) would worship neither at Gerizim nor Jerusalem. His prediction is not a forecast that either temple would be destroyed, but a prediction that he and his teaching would be accepted by both Jews and Samaritans. Moreover, this prediction was fulfilled in the many accounts in Acts of both Jews and Samaritans doing exactly that.

  • Clarification-The Temple at Mt. Gerizim and the Temple at Jerusalem were both destroyed in the 67-70 War conflict (the first one by the Zealot rebels, and the second by the Romans.) Both Samaritans and Jews still "worship", tis true, but without "the shedding of blood" (sacrifices), so there is no redemption accepted by God (See Hebrews 9:22).....Can we assume Jesus knew that the Temples would be destroyed?.....The Samaritans seemed to display prejudice when Jesus and the boys went through their village on the way to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51-56).
    – ray grant
    Jun 17, 2023 at 21:25
  • No. If he had been talking about blood sacrifices or destroyed temples he would have specified something about that. Instead, he immediately clarified that he was talking about worshiping "in spirit and in truth." This was already happening - "the hour is coming, and is now here." It was not a prediction of either temple's destruction but of a shift from worshiping centering on a certain place to worship based on an internal connection to God. Jun 18, 2023 at 2:19
  • @DanFefferman-Coud it be that the use of "two phrases", a time is coming, * and now is*, would refer to the present realization (at the well) that God was interested in heart-felt worship, and that there would definitely be a transition required in the future because the Temple worship was going to be entirely destroyed? She, and other disciples, ought to get used to *spiritual * worship because both Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Zion were no longer to have any Temple standing in which to practice external ceremonies!
    – ray grant
    Jun 18, 2023 at 20:38
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    @DanFefferman Synagogues existed even in Jesus's time, so to say Jews found other ways of worship is inaccurate. The context of the Temple clearly includes sacrifices. Jesus's expansion of worship doesn't negate the context of the woman's question. Jun 19, 2023 at 23:11

A Dimensional Shift The conversation between the Woman at the Well and Jesus is one of the most confrontational dialogues in the N.T., yet one of the most heart-searching, transformational incidents that showed the ability of God to see---really see---into the heart the crucial matters that others passed over.

Jesus's statement, The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such to worship Him, is the crux of Christian worship! This is the sine qua non of true religion, and the only thing that gets the Father's attention when He scans over the congregations of men.

Hindering Interference That which interferes with this purity of worship is the tendency of men to substitute spirit worship with externals: empty rituals, icons of wood, cathedrals and temples of stone, traditions of men, sacerdotal clothing, long prayers, ad nauseum. (Matthew 23:1-24:1) Even the Apostles were impressed by the buildings of the Temple.

So, to facilitate a transition, a New Covenant had to be implemented by God. And so there would be no mistaking the transition---although God has always desired truthfulness in the heart---the old trappings of the Old Covenant of Judaism had to be eliminated:

Behold , the days come, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.
Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to led them out of the land of Egypt...
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord, I will put my laws in their mind, and write them in their hearts, and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people!
...For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.
In that He said, A new covenant, He made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish. (Hebrews 8:8-13)

Announcement So, in essence, this what Jesus is announcing to the Woman at the Well. Yes! Worship "in Spirit and in Truth" is the modus operandi of worship---and it is available now (now is), BUT the old Temple worship with all its external "bells and whistles" must not be allowed to get in the way, distract, substitute for the real thing. So all these Temples---in Samaria and in Jerusalem---that highlighted the mountain tops, must be destroyed. (the hour cometh)

If it weren't for the amazing, previous counseling session that opened her eyes---and heart---wide, this announcement of annihilation would have been overwhelming to her. But she was so satisfied with the living water that quenched her thirst for a full life, that she became jubilant, and ran with the Good News, and it rang out to her village...to the nation...to the world...to everyone who reads the Bible!

Continual Thread The idea of out with the old, and in with the new was a common thread throughout the ministry of Jesus. What Jesus announced to the Woman was not a quirk or off the cuff revelation:

Matthew 8:11-12 children cast out...Mark 12:1-12, Luke 20:9-19 destroy the evil husbandmen...Matthew21:43 kingdom taken...Matthew23:33-36, Luke 13:34-35 house left desolate...Luke 19:41-44 enemies cast a trench...Luke 21:24 led away captive...Luke 23:27-31 blessed are the barren...

John the Baptist also announced a coming destruction if true, spiritual worship was not returned to! (Luke 3:7-8)O Generation of vipers who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance...Now also, the ax is laid at the root of the tree...And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then...?

For all People In taking time to teach this "Samaritan", Jesus showed that the New Covenant in spirit and truth was open to all people groups. Jesus was their Messiah, as well as the Jew's Messiah! (John 4:42 "the Christ, the Savior of the world")

In a few short years, the words of Jesus would ring true: Samaria, Galilee, Judea with all their religious pagentry would be trampled on by the boots of the Roman Legions for 3 1/2 years, and leveled to the ground until totally destroyed. Neither this mountain nor Jerusalem remained. [For interesting comparative study, read Micah 1, where Samaria and Jerusalem are both linked together and destined for judgment! What is the transgression of Jacob? Is it not Samaria? And what are the high places of Judah? Are they not Jerusalem?]

But out of the ashes would arise a Church (comprised of Samaritan, Jew, et al.) worshipping God in spirit and in truth.

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