Is Sex Essential to Jesus’ Encounter with the Woman by the Well?

July 1, 2012 — 15 Comments

I’d like to hear from YOU. This past week we explored the “sexual” subtext in Jesus conversation with the woman by the well.

Now, I’d like to hear from you. What do YOU think about the issues that have been raised in this series?

  • In the first post, I noted the seemingly disjointed topic of the woman’s marital status and noted that it had something to do with John’s description of Jesus as the bridegroom.
  • In the second post, I showed how Jesus and the Samaritan woman’s meeting follows the consistent pattern of engagement scenes in the Old Testament.
  • In the third post, we looked at how John connects the location of the well to a story of rape and marriage.
  • And finally in the last post, I asked if the issue of the woman’s marital status could have arisen because of (a) perceived double-entendre(s).

So here’s my question to YOU. WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON?

  1. Is the marital innuendo in the historical situation itself?
  2. Is it part of the inspired message of John?
  3. or does it simply arise in the overactive imaginations (or dirty minds) of the readers?

I for one believe it’s both 1 and 2. It’s not without reason that John is known as the Spiritual Gospel.

But you might think its 3. Say so!

If you thinks its 1 or 2 though, tell us what you think John is up to. What spiritual message is he driving at?

What do YOU think?  Oh and I’d be glad to take any questions that you might have for me.

This is your chance to write down all those thoughts, feelings and questions you’ve been wrestling with while reading this series. I’d be delighted if you shared them.

NOTE: If you don’t feel comfortable leaving your information, I do allow anonymous posts. But please, please don’t use it as cover to write rude or offensive comments.

Matthew Scott Miller

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Your comments make my day - the good, the bad and the ugly! I read each one and try to respond within a few hours. Please see the about page for the reason behind Logos Made Flesh and, if interested, 25 utterly random things about me.
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  • Larry

    I find that you take a text and sensationalize it to try and generate reader interest. Your blog seems to be patterned after the National Enquirer with a Bible verse or two thrown in to pique the interest of ‘Christians.’

    Why do you feel the need to dramatize the scriptures? We are to sow the seed (the unadulterated, Word of God without embellishments and exaggerations), another waters but God causes the increase.

    My overall take on this series: That sound you hear is me rending my clothes.

    • Matthew

      Hey Larry. I’m glad you’re still reading. I do write things that are sensational but I don’t believe I’m twisting the scriptures to make them sensational. I’ve been studying the scriptures for over twenty years. I even went to Bible college and taught at a bible college. While I know that doesn’t make any of these interpretations correct, it does suggest that I’m no run of the mill heathen. I love God’s word and my heart is only to understand it and teach it more fully. Thanks again for reading. I do appreciate your comments.

    • KAM

      Seven years later…

      Larry, you haven’t engaged with God’s Word in your comment.

      And you might want to reconsider your reaction, given the company you are keeping in rending your clothes at this Christ-centered interpretation of the Old Testament.

  • jonathan pageau

    I’m sorry you went through all of this, came to the verge of understanding but seemed to be too caught up in puritanical surprise. The answer is in the text. The Samaritan woman had 5 husbands, and the man she is with now is an illegitimate relationship. That Makes 6. Her 6 shows that she has given herself to many AND that she is in a state of illegitimacy and sin. Christ is offering to marry her as her 7th husband, her “last” husband, her Sabbath. She is a Samaritan, one of the lost sheep of Israel. The Samaritans were the remainder of the Northern Kingdom known for having given in to other gods, raped by the sons of the Ass (Hamor). Christ is offering her to take her as his wife “in spirit and in truth” as he mentioned to her before in the narrative. She becomes by this an image of the Church. Don’t you think there is sexual innuendo when the Bible calls the Church the Bride of Christ? Why does that bother you?

    • Matthew Miller

      Actually, It doesn’t bother me at all. I wouldn’t have written four posts on the subject if I thought it would be better left untouched. But it does bother some as the comment below demonstrates. I left the question to each reader, hoping that they would be challenged to dig deeper into the text. I actually agree with your assessment. Check out my series “When Jesus Gave Birth.” I think allusions to sex and marriage in Jesus encounter with the Samaritan woman are simply part of a larger pattern in the Gospel of John. There are allusions to marriage every time Jesus engages with a woman. I think these allusions ultimately point to John’s depiction of the cross and the piercing of Christ’s side and its allusion to the first marriage recorded in scripture. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

      • jonathan pageau

        You have good insights, that is you are able to see patterns in the text. You would just need to anchor your insights into a Christian tradition that is analogical in its form. It is by getting these types of insights that I finally came to Eastern Orthodoxy from evangelical Protestantism. Liturgy is analogy in action, analogy in life. The Church fathers and the liturgy do not shy away from sexual symbolism in relation to spiritual life and are not afraid of analogy and anagogy. Just be aware that this is not just a meaning game but it is the very shape of the body of Christ that is at stake in seeing “knowledge” as actual union of the head (the groom), and body (the bride). In both Orthodoxy and Catholicism we have always said that “The Church is Born from the Wounded Side of the Crucified Christ”. We sing this on Good Friday. It wouldn’t surprise anybody.

        • Matthew Miller

          Being a ardent student of John, I have a deep love and respect for the Eastern Orthodox tradition. I believe the recreation of the Image of God in humanity (Theosis) was the reason Jesus came. It’s the main point of the Bible’s story. And you are right. Liturgy is analogy in action. As a means of discipleship, the Church’s ministry should symbolically reflect the meaning of the scriptures. Protestants are by and large unthoughtful iconoclasts, having stripped the symbols from the church. My hope is to return my protestant/pentecostal tradition to this important means of Christian living and witness.

        • Matthew Miller

          I saw your last comment on email but for some reason can’t find it here. Thanks for the heads up on your article. Love your insights on symbolism.

  • Aliester D’Souza

    Hello Matt
    I am just hoping that you would reply real fast…
    I am working on my Masters and most probably on the Betrothal Type-Scenes. I came across your blog.
    I was wondering if you could suggest me books that deal with this theme directly.
    Thanks…God bless.
    you could perhaps mail me your response:
    P.S.: Sorry for the haste.

    • Matthew Miller

      By far the best book I’ve found on this subject is The Bridegroom Messiah and the People of God by Jocelyn McWhirter. However, most treatments of the subject are not book length. I also recommend The Wooing of the Woman by the Well by L. Eslinger which can be found in The Gospel of John As Literature: An Anthology of Twentieth-Century Perspectives edited by Mark Stibbe. Also Robert Atler discusses the betrothal type scene in his book The Art of Biblical Narrative (1981). I hope that helps. That should get you started. I have other resources if you still need more.

      • Aliester D’Souza

        Thanks Matt…that was quick
        it would be certainly helpful if you could send me the names of other books that deal with this theme in some way or another…
        God bless 🙂

  • Julie

    Peace and Blessings Matthew,
    Where may I find your postings on this topic? I find you findings very interesting as I myself have been meditating on this story and the Revelation is very similar.

    Infinite thanks

    • Matthew Miller

      Hi Julie! Thank you. What postings are you looking for? The titles above are hyperlinked and if you click on them they will take you to them.

  • Taren Walters

    I was studying the link between Rebecca & the Samaritan woman and I came across your posts. I tend to agree with your view on the intention of John 4 with regards to marriage. But I would like to offer another option. If we look at Isaac’s story we see just before his marriage he is offered as a sacrifice. (Mirroring Jesus’ sacrifice) then Eliezer (whose name means God is my Helper) goes to find him a bride. If Jesus is the Bridegroom & The Holy Spirit is the Helper could John 4 be symbolic of Jesus’ intention of welcoming Samaritan’s & Gentiles into the marriage of Christ. Jews were already the bride (symbolically shown in Genesis 24) but now Jesus is welcoming the Deplorables into the marriage. I encourage you to read from Jonathan Cahn’s book The Book Of Mysteries day 186 The Agent. It relates to your post.