22 septembre 2012

Jn 4:4. Why did Jesus have to pass through Samaria?





By
September 23, 2012


Contents

I. Introduction
II. Passing through Samaria and passing by the Jordan valley
1. Relationships between Jews and Samaritans
2. The reason why Jesus had to pass through Samaria
III. Usage of the Greek verb “dei” (have to) in the Fourth Gospel
1. Prerequisites for hearers and readers
2. Greek verb “dei” describes identity of Jesus
3. The necessity to fulfill the mission
IV. Conclusion





I. Introduction

In the last article, we talked about places mentioned in Jn 4:1-43: Samaria, Sychar, Jacob’s Well, Mount Gerizim. In this writing, we’ll focus on the sentence: “He [Jesus] had to pass through Samaria” (4:4). Why did Jesus have to pass through Samaria? We’ll try to answer this question, because it could shed light on the significance of the whole story in Jn 4:1-43.

Based on the geography of Palestine and the relationships between the Jews and Samaritans, we present two ways to go from Judea to Galilee and vice versa: (1) “Pass through Samaria” and (2) “pass by the Jordan valley” (see the maps of Palestine in the previous article). Then we examine the use of the Greek verb “dei” (have to) in the Fourth Gospel. This verb can have a theological meaning, and in Jn 4:4, the narrator has described the necessity related to Jesus’ mission in Samaria.

II. Passing through Samaria and passing by the Jordan valley

In the time of Jesus, the situation of Samaria region determines the Jews’ journey from Judea to Galilee and in the opposite direction. In this section, we treat two topics: (1) The relationships between Jews and Samaritans and (2) The reason why Jesus had to pass through Samaria.

1. Relationships between Jews and Samaritans

In the time of Jesus, the Jews in Judea and in Galilee avoided passing through the territories of the Samaritans (Samaria region), because their relationships were unfriendly. There were frequent clashes, for example, the Gospel of Luke reports a story in which Jesus and his disciples plan to go from Galilee to Judea through Samaria, but the Samaritans did not receive them. The narrator relates in Lk 9:51-53: “51 When the days drew near for him to be received up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 5 And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him; 53 but the people would not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem” (the biblical text is taken from Revised Standard Version - Second Catholic Edition, 2006).

Contrarily, since the time of the Exile, the Jews had been  considering the Samaritans as a mixed race of semi-pagans, because after the collapse of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 BCE (Before the Common Era, Before the Current Era or Before the Christian Era), the inhabitants of Samaria and of adjacent region were taken away to exile by king Sargon II of Assyrian Empire, and the other Israelites who remained in the land, were ultimately assimilated into the community of pagans who were sent by king Sargon II to settle in the colonies.

The Second Book of Kings in 2 Kg 17:22-25a reports: “22 The people of Israel walked in all the sins which Jeroboam did; they did not depart from them, 23 until the LORD removed Israel out of his sight, as he had spoken by all his servants the prophets. So Israel was exiled from their own land to Assyria until this day. 24 And the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sephar-vaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the people of Israel; and they took possession of Samaria, and dwelt in its cities. 25 And at the beginning of their dwelling there, they did not fear the LORD.” 

The hostility between Jews and Samaritans became harsher when some Jews returned from exile and rebuilt Jerusalem city and the Temple (538-515 BCE). In fact, the Samaritans requested to be permitted to assist in the work of the Jews, but their request was turned down. Then the Samaritans took this opportunity to calumniate the Jews before the Persian kings. Ezra relates in Ezra 4:1-5: “1 Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the LORD, the God of Israel, 2 they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers’ houses and said to them, ‘Let us build with you; for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Esar-haddon king of Assyria who brought us here.’ 3 But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers’ houses in Israel said to them, ‘You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the LORD, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.’ 4 Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah, and made them afraid to build, 5 and hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.” In this story, the expressions “the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin” (Ezra 4:1) and “the people of the land” (Ezra 4:4) consider themselves as descendants of foreigners forcibly resettled in Samaria region after the incorporation of the Northern Kingdom into the Assyrian Empire (722 BCE).

In the time of Jesus, when the Jews in Galilee traveled to Jerusalem, they would tend to bypass the whole area of Samaria on their way southward, going instead down the Jordan valley and making their way up to Jerusalem from Jericho (see the maps above). “It added about 25 miles (40 kilometres) to the journey, but it was worth it, if only to avoid the hazards of passing through Samaria” (WALKER, In the Steps of Jesus, 2006, p. 82). Josephus notes that the quick way to go from Judea to Galilee was through Samaria: “It was absolutely necessary for those that go quickly [to Jerusalem] to pass through that country; for in that road you may, in three days’ time, go from Galilee to Jerusalem” (Josephus Life, 52:269). In reality, Jews often bypassed Samaria by taking another route across the Jordan river.

      2. The reason why Jesus had to pass through Samaria

When the narrator relates: “He [Jesus] had to pass through Samaria” (Jn 4:4) to reach Galilee, did Jesus really want to take a shortcut to quickly arrive at Galilee? Was Jesus in a hurry? There are two details in the story which could tell us that Jesus was not in a hurry to go to Galilee; he decided to pass through Samaria, even though it is not a shortcut to Galilee, from the place where Jesus had been.

First, Jesus was not in a hurry to go to Galilee, because when the Samaritans asked him to stay with them, Jesus stayed with them at Sychar two days (4:40). For the second detail, Jesus may have been near John the Baptist. Indeed, the narrator informs us in 3:22-23: “22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went into the land of Judea; there he remained with them and baptized. 23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people came and were baptized.” This baptizing activity is reported in 4:1:3: “1 Now when the Lord [Jesus] knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John, [2…] 3 he left Judea and departed again to Galilee.” The geographic logic of the narrative places Jesus and his disciples in the Jordan valley, from where the shortest journey to Galilee is northward through the gap at Bethshan. In this case, going to Galilee through Samaria would mean a detour; it is a longer distance in comparison with the journey by Bethshan (see these locations on the maps in the article “Places in Jn 4:1-43”). Examining the use of the Greek verb “dei” (have to) in the Gospel of John below can help readers to better understand why Jesus had to pass through Samaria (4:4).

III. Usage of the Greek verb “dei” (have to) in the Fourth Gospel

In the Gospel of John, the narrator uses the Greek verb “dei” (have to) 10 times in 3:7,14,30; 4:4,20,24; 9:4; 10:16; 12:34; 20:9. The meaning of these uses can be classified in three groups. The verb “dei” (have to) (1) expresses the prerequisites for Jesus’ audience (4 times: 3:7,30; 4:20,24); (2) describes the identity of Jesus (3 times: 3:14; 12:34; 20:9); (3) characterizes the missions of Jesus and his disciples (3 times: 4:4; 9:4; 10:16). Here are the details of these three groups in the Fourth Gospel.

1. Prerequisites for hearers and readers

There are two levels of audience. The first level is the characters in the story. For example, Jesus’ hearers in Jn 4:1-43 are the Samaritans and his disciples. The second level of audience is the readers of the Gospel throughout the ages, because the Gospel is addressed to everyone who reads this book. This means the narrator relates the story in the Gospel in order to bring Jesus’ message to readers of all generations.

For the first level (characters in the story), Jesus said to Nicodemus: “You must (dei) be born anew” (3:7). “Be born anew” or “be born from above” is a necessity (have to, must) in order to see or to enter the Kingdom of God (3:3,5). In Jn 4:20, the Samaritan woman said to Jesus: “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain; and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to (dei) worship” (4:20). Jesus answered her: “God is spirit, and those who worship him must (dei) worship in spirit and truth” (4:24). The verb “dei” (ought to, must) in 4:20,24 expresses spiritual and theological imperative for worshippers to worship God. For John the Baptist, this is the rule of his life: “He [Jesus] must (dei) increase, but I must decrease” (3:30).

In the second level (narrator – reader), it is the function of the narrator to make those revelations accessible to readers. The Gospel invites Jesus disciples throughout the ages to take up Jesus teaching as given in the first level above. That means by using the verb “dei”, the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus suggests readers to be born anew, to be born from above (3:3.7), to be born of water and the Spirit (3:5). In the same way, Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman implicitly proposes for readers a new way to worship God: “worship in spirit and truth” (4:24). Finally, like John the Baptist, the story invites all of Jesus’ disciples to take up this principle of life for themselves: “He [Jesus] must increase (ekeinos dei auxanein), and me, I decrease (eme de elattousthai)” (3:30). In brief, the verb “dei” (have to) was used 4 times in Gospel of John (3:7,30; 4:20,24) which affirms the necessary undertaking which Jesus’ audience and the readers must fulfill.

2. Greek verb “dei” describes identity of Jesus

The second meaning of the verb “dei” (have to, ought to, must) defines the identity of Jesus. He said to Nicodemus in Jn 3:14-15: “14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must (dei) the Son of man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” Jesus identifies himself with the Son of man and his lot will be like the allegory of serpent, reported in Nm 21:4–9. As the serpent was lifted up in the desert, Jesus himself must be lifted up on the cross. By this means he gives to believers eternal life. This is a paradox and a great mystery. In fact, why must Jesus die in order to give life? In Jn 12:34, the crowd did not understand who Jesus is, so they ask Him: “How can you say that the Son of man must (dei) be lifted up? Who is this Son of man?” (12:34b). In these uses (3:14; 12:34), the verb “dei” (have to) presents the mystery of Jesus’ identity and the paradox of his mission, he must be lifted up.

In the Gospel of John, the verb “dei” reports also the resurrection of Jesus. Before seeing Jesus who rose from his death, the narrator comments about the ignorance of the disciples: “They [disciples] did not know the scripture, that he [Jesus] must (dei) rise from the death” (20:9). In this verse, the verb “dei” (must) affirms the divinity of Jesus. He died and he has risen from the dead. With this foundational event: dying and rising from the dead, Thomas professes his true faith before Jesus: “My Lord and my God” (20:28). Those are the titles of God which apply to Jesus, and this is the profession of faith of the Church.

3. The necessity to fulfill the mission

The third meaning of the verb “dei” (must) relates to the mission of Jesus and the mission of his disciples. Jesus said to his disciples in 9:4: “We must (dei) work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work.” Jesus and his disciples have the duty “to work the works of God” who sent Jesus to the world. In the next chapter, Jn 10, Jesus declares in the parable of the Good Shepherd: “I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must (dei) bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd” (10:16).

In 4:1-43, all of this story talks about Jesus’ mission in Samaria. Jesus spoke to his disciples about the relation between the sower and the reaper in his famous allegory: “35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest?’ I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest. 36 He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor” (4:35-38). Indeed, “the fields are already white for harvest”, because Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritans produces faith. The Samaritans were ready to believe in Jesus through his revelation.

The narrator comments in 4:39: “Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’” The Samaritan woman in the story is presented as a missionary. The idea of believing in Jesus through the word or the testimony of others is linked up with Jesus’ prayer for the mission of the disciples in 17:20. Jesus said to his Father: “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word” (17:20). In this verse 20, “these only” is the first generation of disciples who heard Jesus in Jn 17, and “who believe in me through their word” are disciples of the succeeding generations up to now, they believe in Jesus through the preaching and testimonies of other disciples, of the Church in general.

The ending of the story emphasizes the theme of mission and faith. The narrator relates in 4:40-41: “40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word.” “MANY believers” in 4:39, and then “MANY MORE believers” in 4:41 show the success of Jesus’ mission in Samaria. In this perspective, the verb “dei” in the sentence “He [Jesus] had to pass through Samaria” (4:4) describes the necessary condition which Jesus had to meet in order to fulfill his mission.   

IV. Conclusion

Different meanings in the use of the verb “dei” (must) in the Fourth Gospel express theological necessities. For the people, the only way to enter the Kingdom of God is that one “must be born anew” (3:7) and then the believer “must worship God in spirit and truth” (4:24). For Jesus, he “must be lifted up” on the cross (3:14) and “must rise from the dead” (20:9). For their missions, both Jesus and his disciples “must work the works of God” (9:4). Through the allegory of the Good Shepherd and the fold, Jesus must bring other sheep back to his fold, “so there shall be one flock, one shepherd” (10:16b). In these theological perspectives, the verb “dei” (have to) in 4:4: “He [Jesus] had to (edei) pass through Samaria” expresses the exigency and the necessity of Jesus’ mission in Samaria. From the valley of Jordan river, Jesus had to take the long way to go to Galilee by passing through Samaria, instead of taking the shortcut to Galilee by the valley of Jordan river, in the direction of Bethshan. He had to do that because of his mission in Samaria.

From the theological point of view, Jesus had to pass through Samaria in order to bring other stray sheep back to his fold (10:16a). This interpretation fits the content of the story (4:1-43). Indeed, Jesus’ encounter with, and his revelation for the Samaritans are a part of his mission. He did the work of God (9:4). First, Jesus revealed the gift of living water: “whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst” (4:14a). Second, he defined the true worshippers, those “who worship the Father in spirit and truth” (4:23a). By these revelations, the Samaritans recognize that Jesus is “the Savior of the world” (4:42). The result of Jesus’ mission is evident: “Many” (4:39) and then “many more” (4:41) believe in Him. The fruit of his mission maybe compared to the harvest (4:35). In the Gospel’s context, particularly in the context of Jn 4:1-43, we can conclude that the verb “dei” (have to) in 4:4 expresses a theological necessity, the exigency of Jesus’ mission, and the implicit inclusion of the mission of all disciples./.

September 23, 2012


Aucun commentaire:

Enregistrer un commentaire