In John 4 we read how Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well on his way, and teaches her about the Water of Eternal Life. One curious thing to be seen here is that when the disciples returned from the town with food, they were surprised to see Jesus talking to a woman (Verse 27 ). But, what was so special if Jesus spoke to a woman ? He had already started his public life and had women disciples. Were the disciples in a confusion because they already knew of the Samaritan woman's loose character ? My question therefore, is :Did John 4:27 mean to say " that woman " and not " a woman " ? Views of scholars of any denomination are welcome.

  • 1
    Good question! It might be worth mentioning that this particular woman was living with a man who was not her husband, and the likelihood is that she was shunned by others in the town. The fact that she came in the heat of the mid-day sun to get water indicates that, being the only person at the well (apart from Jesus who got there first). If there had been other women at the well, then the account would have the disciples think in terms of "that woman" as opposed to the other women - but there were no other women!
    – Anne
    Commented Jun 26, 2023 at 14:53
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    μετα γυναικος is neither 'with a woman' nor is it 'with that woman'. There is no article in the Greek text. The disciples marvelled that Jesus spoke 'with woman' in that particular circumstance. No more can be inferred from the Greek text. Any suggestions are supposition.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jun 26, 2023 at 19:51
  • The question is opinion and low quality. Before even checking the interlinear to see if there's an article or demonstrative pronouns; you can check from the context in the conversation itself that they were meeting for the first time. Jesus prophesies about her life, and she realizes he's a prophet with surprise. He merely met her for drinking water from the well.
    – Michael16
    Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 13:49
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    As Anne has pointed out, the woman must have been an outcast, and therefore came alone at an odd time to collect water, as against the custom of coming in a group. Compare her with the woman in Luke 7. Jesus' host knew that she was a sinner, and thought that Jesus did not. The disciples must have been aware of the character of the Samaritan woman, but did not dare to tell Jesus. Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 2:22
  • The second half of Jn 4:27 elaborates that no disciples asked Jesus what he wanted and why he was talking with the woman. So, it is not the case of Jew Vs Samaritan, but that of Gentleman Vs Woman. Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 2:50

2 Answers 2


Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. 

Here in verse 9 it becomes apparent that the strange thing is that Jesus, a Jew, would initiate a conversation with a Samaritan. It is incidental here that it is a Samaritan woman at this stage.

There is conversation between Jesus and the woman which makes us aware of her many husbands but the disciples are not privy to this information as they had gone into the city to buy food.

When the disciples returned 'they marveled ' 'that' 'with (in)' 'of woman' 'he was speaking' (literal).

The noun γυνη (gune) means woman and wife (hence the English prefix "gyno-"). Greek, like German (Frau), makes no distinction between woman and wife, and whether the text speaks of some woman (Matthew 13:33) or someone's wife (1 Corinthians 7:2) is established solely from the context.

The case of this noun here is gentative, which usually indicates 'of' not 'the', 'a', or 'that'.

If the disciples knew anything about the woman at first glace it would have been that she was a Samaritan and that would have been the point at which they marveled (as per verse 9), rather than that she was a woman.

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    Then why does the text not state 'marvelled that he talked with Samaritan' rather than 'marvelled that he talked with woman' ?
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 7:32
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    @NigelJ I imagine it is because 'woman' is a correct identifier. Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 12:06

Its 'a woman'.

There are two issues here.

  1. This was Samaria and the woman was a Samaritan, i.e. she was from Northern Israel and Jews, i.e. Israelites from tribe Benjamin and Judah, would consider Samaritans rejected by God.

4 Now he had to go through Samaria ... 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain,*

  1. The Jewish custom was for men and woman to be segregated, i.e. they wouldn't mingle especially one to one outside marriage.

Point 1 is they would consider Samaritans to be 'unclean' like gentiles. So just to be talking to a Samaritan would be heresy. So why was Jesus mixing with a Samaritan? Thats weird for a Jewish leader.

Point 2, worse still why place himself in a position where he could be accused of mingling, i.e. talking to a woman?

The disciples would have been astonished, a) talking to any Samaritan was a bad idea, b) talking to any woman one to one was weird even Mike Pence wouldn't mingle like Jesus was doing.

The final part of the account is that when Jesus identified her serial marriage she declared that he

29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”

If the disciples knew this information too, keep in mind Jews and Samaritans would not mix, then why would Jesus knowing this be the cause for a declaration of the Messiah? The reality is the disciples wouldn't have bothered to say so much as 'hello' to the local residents, so they would have no chance of knowing.

*, the woman is probably referring to one of the two golden calves described as the "sin of Jeroboam" to prevent the Northern Kingdom from the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

The key word I would ask about is had. Why did Jesus had to go through Samaria? I suggest he was fulfilling the prophesy of Ezekiel 37

16 Son of man, take a stick of wood and write on it, ‘Belonging to Judah and the Israelites associated with him.’ Then take another stick of wood, and write on it, ‘Belonging to Joseph (that is, to Ephraim) and all the Israelites associated with him. Then join them together into one stick, so that they become one in your hand. .... 22 I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms.’

  • "The reality is the disciples wouldn't have bothered to say so much as 'hello' to the local residents" Hadn't the disciples gone into the city to buy food? Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 12:09
  • @MikeBorden probably/possibly one would have gone but they wouldn't have said very much and thats why it's recorded in John 4:9. Group of underage youths buying beer, the one that looks 18+ goes in the rest loiter out of sight.
    – M__
    Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 13:31

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