Who are the Samaritans?

This coming weekend is the 3rd Sunday of Lent. In the previous post we refreshed our understanding of the encounter between Nicodemus and Jesus as a prelude to the encounter with the Samaritan Women. In John 4:4-42, Jesus’ ministry enters a new stage. He leaves the confines of traditional Judaism and turns to those whom his Jewish contemporaries reckoned as outsiders and enemies: the Samaritans. The breach between Jews and Samaritans can be traced to 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel withdrawing from the throne of David in Jerusalem upon the death of King Solomon. They formed a competing confederation building a new capital city and a new temple (Mt. Gerizim), claiming that this was the true place of worship of God. To the people of the south (Judah) they were traitors and heretics. Continue reading

Some Context

This coming weekend is the 3rd Sunday of Lent in lectionary cycle A. The gospel account is that of the Samaritan Woman at the well. It is a long passage and on several days there are two posts. In addition the Tuesday and Wednesday posts are fairly lengthy because St. John has just packed so much into the telling of the encounter. Today’s post is going to provide some context. I’d suggest that while the story stands on its own, it is best read with an eye toward the story that precedes it: Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus. It then stands as bookends framing the whole of Jesus’ ministry even as it is positioned at the beginning of the Johannine telling of the story of Jesus. So, before moving ahead let us review the encounter with Nicodemus so that we understand the deep contrasts between these two protagonists. Continue reading