Yochanan Chapter 4

James Trimm’s Nazarene Commentary on Yochanan Chapter 4

4:1-3 And when Yeshua learned that the P’rushim had heard that he made many talmidim… The Greek translator paraphrased this section of John “The Pharisees heard that Yeshua was gaining… more talmidim… When the Lord learned this” (4:1, 3 from Greek). In short the Greek has “Lord learned” in place of the Aramaic “Yeshua learned” and “Yeshua” in place of “he”. The result is an awkward and misleading text which implies wrongly, that YHWH the Father learned that the P’rushim had heard that Yeshua made many talmidim.

4:5-6a And he came to a city of the Samaritans, which was called Shakar, by the side of the field that Ya’akov gave to Yosef, his son. And there was there a well of water that belonged to Ya’akov… According to the Aramaic the name of the city was “Shakar” (Hebrew for “dawn”) while the Greek has “Sychar”. The town must have been in the land of Sh’khem, which had been owned by Ya’akov (Gen. 33:19 & Joshua 24:32). The location is believed to be near the ruins known as Tel-Shekhem near modern Nalbus. Christians have a traditional site for the well, which they still visit in that area.

4:6b …And Yeshua came and sat upon the well, that he might rest himself from the fatigue of the road (8) And his talmidim had entered the city to buy themselves food. (6b) And when Yeshua sat down it was about the sixth hour.

The Old Syriac Aramaic places verse 8 in the midst of verse 6. Either a scribe or the Greek translator neglected to write the phrase, which is now known as John 4:8 in its proper place in verse 6. After writing John 4:7 he realized his mistake and inserted the phase between John 4:7 and John 4:9 where it stands in the Peshitta Aramaic and the Greek NT but which is very awkwardly placed so as to interrupt the flow of conversation between Yeshua and the woman.

4:10-14 …If you knew the gift of Eloah, and who this is who said to you, Give me to drink, you would ask him and he would give you water of life. That woman said to him, My Adon, you have no bucket, and the well [is] deep. From where do you have water of life? Are you greater than our father Ya’akov, who gave us this well… Yeshua answered… Every man who drinks from this water will thirst again. But every man who drinks from the water that I give him will not thirst forever; but that water that I give him will be in him a spring of water that will spring up into eternal life.

(See also Jn. 3:5-6; Jn. 7:37-39) Yeshua speaks here of a well from which comes “water of life” or “living water”. These two English phrases are the same phase in Hebrew (מים חיים) and Aramaic (מיא חיא). This same Aramaic phrase is used by Yochanan in the Aramaic of Rev. 22:1. The Greek translator however translates John 4 and Revelation 22 with two different Greek phrases. This has led some Greek origin scholars to mistakenly propose that these two books could not have had the same author. They were however written by the same author. The Aramaic uses the same vocabulary, it is only in the Greek that the vocabulary differs.

The phrase “living water” appears in the Tanak. In the first two usages, Jeremiah is prophesying in the name of YWHW against Israel for having departed from Torah and He says:

they have forsaken Me
the fountain of living water, and hewed them out cisterns,
broken cisterns, that can hold no water.
Jer. 2:13

they have forsaken YHWH,
the fountain of living water.
Jer. 17:13

In another example Zechariah is speaking of the Messianic Kingdom and writes:

And it shall be in that day,
that living water shall go out from Jerusalem…
Zech. 14:8

Compare this with Isaiah which also speaks of the Messianic Kingdom:

for out of Zion shall go forth the Torah,
and the Word of YHWH from Jerusalem.
Is. 2:3b

From these passages it is clear that the living water is a reference to the Word of YHWH, the Torah.

The phrase “water of life” also appears in the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Damascus Document:

He instituted His covenant with Israel forever,
revealing to them things hidden, in which all Israel
had gone wrong:
His holy Sabbaths, His glorious festivals,
His righteous Laws,
His reliable ways. The desires of His will,
which Man should carry out and so have life in them,
He opened up to them. So they “dug a well,”
yielding much water. Those who reject this water
He will not allow to live.
(3, 13-17)

God called to mind the covenant of the forefathers;
and He raised up from Aaron insightful men and
from Israel wise men and He taught them and they dug
the well of knowledge: “the well the princes dug,
the nobility of the people dug it with a rod” (Num. 21:18).
The Well is the Law [the Torah], …
(6, 2-4)

there is one fate for everyone who rejects
the commandments of God… So it is with
all men who entered the new covenant…
but then turned back and traitorously
turned away from the fountain of living water.
(19,18-19; 19, 33-34)

The phase “living water” (“water of life”) is a Semitic idiom referring to “running water” such as that found in a stream rather than a well. In Rabbinic Judaism ritual immersions must be performed in “living water”. In Jewish mysticism the Middle Pillar of the Godhead, the Son of Yah is viewed as a stream of “living water” flowing from Ayn Sof, down the Middle Pillar of the Godhead to this world (see commentary to Rev. 22:1)

The Midrash Sefer Raziel refers to “living water” in context of ritual purity:

Enoch, son of Jared, served and became wise
in the reverence of Elohim. Keeping the body
in purity, bathing in the living water and living
in holiness before the Creator of the world.

In ancient times women were responsible for drawing water from the local well and carrying it home. The woman did not understand Yeshua. She thought that his promise of “living water” i.e. “running water” might ease her daily burden. In these days the Romans had invented primitive plumbing and irrigation systems. She believed Yeshua was promising her the luxury of indoor plumbing. She did not realize he was offering her Torah truth.

4:19 …I perceive that you are a prophet. The Aramaic word for “prophet” is נביא which comes from a Semitic root meaning “to flow forth”. The words of a prophet “flow forth” like living water (running water) which flows from Ayn Sof, down the Middle Pillar and into this world (see comments to Rev. 22:1). The prophet serves as a conduit for the Word of YHWH as it enters this world. Messiah Yeshua was not just A prophet, he was “THE Prophet” (Deut. 18:18) and as such was the incarnation of “THE Word” (Jn. 1:1f). See comment to verses 25-26

4:22 You worship that which you do not know, but we worship what we know, because salvation is from the Jews. In context Yeshua is comparing Judaism with the Samaritan religion and finding Judaism to be true. This passage is an especially difficult passage for Anti-Semites. (Compare Ps. 147: 19; Is. 2:3; 14:1; 56:5-8; Ez. 47:22-23; Zech. 2:10-11; 8:23; See comments to Romans 2:20; 3:2; 9:4; 11: 11-32; Rev. 21:12-24).

4:23-24 But the hour comes, and now is, when true worshippers will worship the father in spirit and in truth, for indeed the father seeks worshipers who are like these. For Eloah is spirit, and those who worship him ought to worship in spirit and in truth.

Who are the “true worshipers” ? For context one need only look up to the previous verse, which advocates Judaism over the Samaritan religion.

What is meant by “worship the father in Spirit” ? The statement recalls Ezekiel 18:29-32 and 36:26-27:

a new spirit will I put within you
I will put my spirit within you,
and cause you to walk in my statutes,
and you shall keep my judgments, and do them.
(Ezek. 36:26-27)

What is meant by “worship the father in truth” ? The Tanak says:

Your Torah is truth.
all your commandments are truth.
(Psalm 119:142, 151)

Moreover Yochanan later refers to:

the Spirit of Truth will guide you in all truth
(Jn. 16:13)

In other words Yeshua is telling the Samaritan woman that the time had come for a revival of Torah truth. Yeshua is saying in no uncertain terms that the one true religion is Torah Observant Judaism. (For more on the “Spirit of Truth” and the “Spirit of the Torah” see comments to Luke 10:30-36; John 16:13 & 2Cor. 3:6)

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