Epistle: Acts 11:19 – 30
11:19 Those Believers Who Were Scattered
The Faith Is Spread by Persecution. Chrysostom: The persecution brought a not inconsiderable success. “For by turning everything to their good, God cooperates with those who love him.” Had their purpose been to work zealously to establish the church, they would not have done anything different. They dispersed the teachers, and look how the preaching spread. Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles 25.
11:20 Some Spoke to the Greeks
Trusting in the Grace of God. Chrysostom: Look! Not even in tribulation did they succumb to lamentations and tears, as we do, but dedicated themselves to a great and good work and preached the word even more undaunted. They did not ask, “Should we, who are Cyrenians and Cyprians, attack so splendid and great a city?” Instead, trusting in the grace of God, they applied themselves to the work of teaching, and the Gentiles themselves did not disdain to learn from them. Notice how all these things were accomplished through small means; how the preaching grew; and how, similar to those in Jerusalem, they bestowed their care on everyone, treating the entire world as a single household. Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles 25.
11:22 Barnabas Sent to Antioch
That the Gospel May Spread. Chrysostom: “News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.” When such a great city was receiving the word, why did they not go themselves? Because of the Jews. But they sent Barnabas. Only it was no small part, and so it was providentially arranged for Paul to go there as well. It was both natural and providential that they turned him [toward Antioch] and that he was not shut up in Jerusalem, that voice of the gospel, that trumpet of heaven. Do you see how on all occasions Christ uses their faults to serve a need for the benefit of the church? Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles 25.
11:24 A Good Man
Great Grace Through Small Means. Chrysostom: The more insignificant they were, the brighter the grace working great results by small means. “And he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord, for he was a good man.” I think by “good” here he means a kind, unaffected person, very much eager for the salvation of his neighbors. “For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.” “With steadfast purpose,” he says. With encomium and praise, for, like rich land, this city received the word and brought forth much fruit. Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles 25.
11:25 Barnabas Looked for Saul
Persecution to Be Expected from Those We Know Best. Origen: Now it is good to read through the history what Jeremiah suffered among the people, in reference to whom he said, “I said: No more shall I speak or name the name of the Lord,” and again elsewhere, “I have unceasingly been an object of derision.” But whatever he also suffered at the hand of the reigning king of Israel has been written in his prophecy. But that those from among the people came frequently to stone even Moses has also been written, and the stones of that place were not his homeland, but those following him were, that is, the people, by whom he too was dishonored. And Isaiah is reported to have been cut up by the people. Now, if someone does not accept this report because it is found in the apocryphal Isaiah, let him believe in what is written in the letter to the Hebrews: “They were stoned, cut up, put to the test.” The “cut up” is referred to Isaiah, just as the verse “they were murdered by the sword” applies to Zechariah, who was murdered “between the temple and the altar,” as the Savior taught bearing witness, I believe, to a writing not contained in the shared and publicly accepted books but to one that is probably apocryphal. But they were dishonored by the Jews and went about “in sheepskins, in goatskins, impoverished, suffering tribulation” and the following. For “all who desire to live uprightly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Now it is probably because he learned that a prophet cannot have honor “in his homeland,” that Paul, having proclaimed the word in many other places, did not preach in Tarsus. Commentary on Matthew 10.18.
11:26 Called Christians
Because of Paul, They Were Worthy of the Name. Chrysostom: Surely they were called Christians because Paul spent such a long time among them. “For a whole year,” it says, “they met with the church and taught a large company of people; and in Antioch the disciples were for the first time called Christians.” This is no small praise for the city, but enough to match it against all cities. For Antioch was the first city, before all the others, to have the benefit of listening to Paul for so long, and because of this the people there were the first to be deemed worthy of the name. Look at the success of Paul, to what heights it raised, like a standard, that name! Elsewhere, three thousand or five thousand or so great a number believed, but nothing like this. Elsewhere, the believers were called “they of the way”; here, they were given the name Christians. Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles 25.
What Does the Name Mean? Gregory of Nyssa: Our good Master, Jesus Christ, bestowed on us a partnership in his revered name, so that we get our name from no other person connected with us, and if one happens to be rich and well-born or of lowly origin and poor, or if one has some distinction from his business or position, all such conditions are of no avail because the one authoritative name for those believing in him is that of Christian. Now, since this grace was ordained for us from above, it is necessary, first of all, for us to understand the greatness of the gift so that we can worthily thank the God who has given it to us. Then, it is necessary to show through our life that we ourselves are what the power of this great name requires us to be. The greatness of the gift of which we are deemed worthy through the partnership with the Master becomes clear to us if we recognize the true significance of the name of Christ, so that, when in our prayers we call upon the Lord of all by this name, we may comprehend the concept that we are taking into our soul.… Paul, most of all, knew what Christ is, and he indicated, by what he did, the kind of person named for him, imitating him so brilliantly that he revealed his own Master in himself, his own soul being transformed through his accurate imitation of his prototype, so that Paul no longer seemed to be living and speaking, but Christ himself seemed to be living in him. As this astute perceiver of particular goods says, “Do you seek a proof of the Christ who speaks in me?” and, “It is now no longer I that live but Christ lives in me.”18
This man knew the significance of the name of Christ for us, saying that Christ is the “power of God and the wisdom of God.” And he called him “peace,” and “light inaccessible” in whom God dwells, and “sanctification and redemption,” and “great high priest,” and “passover,” and “a propitiation” of souls, “the brightness of glory and image of substance,” and “maker of the world,” and “spiritual food,” and “spiritual drink and spiritual rock,” “water,” “foundation” of faith, and “cornerstone,” and “image of the invisible God,” and “great God,” and “head of the body of the church,” and “the firstborn of every creature,” “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep,” “firstborn from the dead,” “firstborn among many brothers,” and “mediator between God and humanity,” and “only begotten Son,” and “crowned with glory and honor,” and “lord of glory” and “beginning” of being, speaking thus of him who is the beginning, “king of justice and king of peace,” and “ineffable king of all, having the power of the kingdom,” and many other such things that are not easily enumerated. When all of these phrases are put next to each other, each one of the terms makes its own contribution to a revelation of what is signified by being named after Christ, and each provides for us a certain emphasis. To the extent that we take these concepts into our souls, they are all indications of the unspeakable greatness of the gift for us. However, since the rank of kingship underlies all worth and power and rule, by this title the royal power of Christ is authoritatively and primarily indicated (for the anointing of kingship, as we learn in the historical books, comes first), and all the force of the other titles depends on that of royalty. For this reason, the person who knows the separate elements included under it also knows the power encompassing these elements. But it is the kingship itself that declares what the title of Christ means.
Therefore, since, thanks to our good Master, we are sharers of the greatest and the most divine and the first of names, those honored by the name of Christ being called Christians, it is necessary that there be seen in us also all of the connotations of this name, so that the title be not a misnomer in our case but that our life be a testimony of it. Being something does not result from being called something. The underlying nature, whatever it happens to be, is discovered through the meaning attached to the name. On Perfection.
11:28 A Great Famine
A Twofold Famine and a Twofold Abundance. Chrysostom: But no one does this now, even though the famine is more severe than the one then. For it is not the same when misfortune is borne in common and when everyone else has plenty, but the poor one is famishing. Back then, even those who gave were poor. “Everyone according to his ability,” it says. The famine is twofold, just as the abundance is twofold. Back then, this was a severe famine—a famine not only of hearing the word of the Lord but also of being nourished by alms. Back then, both the poor in Judea enjoyed the benefit and those in Antioch who gave their money, and the latter more than the former. Now, both we and the poor are famishing: they from a lack of necessary sustenance and we because we, in our luxury, lack the mercy of God. Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles 25.
Revelation Through the Spirit. Bede: Agabus can be said to mean herald of tribulation. In accordance with his name he also here prophesied a general famine, and [as we learn] below, he prophesied chains for Paul the apostle. Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles 11.28.
11:29 The Disciples Determine to Send Relief
The Famine an Occasion of Salvation. Chrysostom: Do you see how for them the famine was an encouragement to salvation, an opportunity to give alms and a harbinger of many blessings? And so it could have been for you, if you were so inclined. But you were not. The famine was foretold so that they might prepare themselves beforehand for almsgiving. For they were enduring terrible hardships, but before this they were not suffering from famine. And they sent it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul. “The disciples,” it says, “each according to his ability.” Do you see that as soon as they believed, they bore fruit not only for their own people, but also for those far away? Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles 25.
The Saints in Jerusalem Had Helped the Apostles. Bede: They knew that the famine would rage most severely in Judea, and especially in Jerusalem, where among the saints there were poor people who had sold their goods, homes and fields, and had brought the proceeds to the apostles, so that they had no way left to obtain much more money. And some were punished by the unbelieving Jews for their confession of the faith by having their own property taken away. To them the apostle said, “You joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods.” Among these givers of alms we are told of the pious deed of Helen, queen of the Adiabeni, who purchased grain from Egypt and most generously provided for the needs of those dwelling in Jerusalem. She thus merited a sepulcher to honor her before the gates of the same city. Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles 11.29.[i]
Gospel : John 4:5 – 42
4:5 Sychar, a City of Samaria
Significance of Sychar and Samaria. Chrysostom: Why is the Evangelist so exact about this place? It is so that when you hear the woman say, “Jacob our father gave us this well,” you will not think it strange. For Sychar was the place where Simeon and Levi brought about a great slaughter because of their anger over what happened to Dinah.… And from where did the Samaritans get their name? Samaria receives its name from Somer, a mountain there, so called from the name of a former possessor of it. … The inhabitants of the country were formerly not Samaritans but Israelites. But in due time, they fell under God’s wrath and the [king of Assyria] … transplanted them to Babylon and Media, placing Gentiles from various parts in Samaria in their place.… God, however, sent lions to afflict the barbarians in order to show that it was not for lack of power on his part that he delivered up the Jews, but rather for the sins of the people themselves. The king was told this, and he sent a priest to instruct them in God’s law. But not even then did they entirely discontinue their iniquity but only effected a half-hearted change. In due time, they abandoned their idols and worshiped God. At this point, the Jews returned but were always jealous toward them as strangers and enemies, naming them “Samaritans” after the mountain. Homilies on the Gospel of John 31.2.
4:6a Jacob’s Well
The Legitimate Heir of the Patriarch Comes to the Well. Caesarius of Arles: Our Lord Jesus Christ came to the field that holy Jacob had left to his son, Joseph. I do not think that this field was left to Joseph as much as to Christ, whom holy Joseph the patriarch prefigured, for truly the sun and moon adore him, while all the stars bless him. For this reason the Lord came to this field in order that the Samaritans, who were longing to claim for themselves the inheritance of the patriarch of Israel, might recognize their owner and be converted to Christ who became the legitimate heir of the patriarch. Sermon 170.1.
Ministry to the Gentiles and Salvation of the Patriarchs. Cyril of Alexandria: Having crossed the borders of Judea and being now among strangers, the Savior rests at Jacob’s well. He shows us again as in a type and darkly that the preaching of the gospel should depart from Jerusalem and the divine word in time would extend to the Gentiles. However, this does not signify that the patriarchs are to be any less revered. Christ shall embrace them again and shall again be refreshed and rest, as in his saints, preserving to them the pristine unfading grace. Commentary on the Gospel of John 2.4.
4:6b Jesus Is Tired
Divine Majesty in the Feelings of Our Human Nature. Ambrose: Many things we read and believe, in the light of the sacrament of the incarnation. Even in the very affections of our human nature we behold the divine majesty. Jesus is wearied with his journey, that he may refresh the weary. He desires to drink when about to give spiritual drink to the thirsty; he was hungry, when about to supply the food of salvation to the hungry. On the Christian Faith 5.4.53.
Rivers of Living Water. Hilary of Poitiers: If we do not understand the mystery of his tears, hunger and thirst, let us remember that … he who thirsted gave from himself rivers of living water.… When he ate and drank, it was a concession not to his own necessities but to our habits. On the Trinity 10.24.
Weariness of the Journey. Theodoret of Cyr: The prophet Isaiah has said about the divine nature, “He will not be hungry, nor will he grow weary,” and so on, and the Evangelist says, “Jesus grew weary from the journey and therefore sat down by the well.” Now the phrase “he will not grow weary”17 is the opposite of growing weary. The prophecy therefore [appears to] contradict the account of the Gospels. But they are not really contradictory since they both come from one God. Not growing weary pertains, therefore, to the infinite nature, because it fills all things. But movement is proper to the body that is finite. And when that which moves is forced to walk, it becomes subject to the weariness of the journey. It was the body, therefore, that walked and grew weary. For the union did not mix the natures together. Dialogues, Epilogue 1.7.
Christ Wearied When He Cannot Find Faithfulness. Caesarius of Arles: Could the power of God be exhausted? Certainly not. But he was wearied because he could not find the people faithful. Christ was wearied, then, because he recognized no virtue in his people. Today, too, our disobedience wearies him, as does also our weakness. For we are weak when we do not pursue the things that are strong and enduring but follow what is temporal and fleeting. Sermon 170.2.
4:6c The Sixth Hour
The Spring Comes to the Spring in the Heat of the Day. Romanus Melodus:
Christ, … the source of the breath of life for all, when He was
Weary from a journey, sat down near a spring of Samaria.
And it was the season of burning heat. It was the sixth hour, as the Scripture says,
It was the middle of the day when the Messiah came to illumine those in darkness.
The Spring came upon the spring, not to drink but to cleanse.
The fountain of immortality was near the stream of the wretched woman as though it were in need.
He is tired from walking, He who tirelessly walked on the sea,
He who furnishes
Exceeding great joy and redemption.
Kontakion on the Woman of Samaria 9.4.
Entering the Depths. Augustine: He came wearied, because he carried weak flesh. At the sixth hour, because he was in the sixth age of the world. To a well, because he came to the depth of this our habitation. For this reason it is said in the psalm, “From the depth have I cried to you, O Lord.” He sat, as I said, because he was humbled. Tractates on the Gospel of John 15.9.
4:7 A Woman of Samaria
The Woman Is the Church. Augustine: It is pertinent to the image of the reality that this woman, who bore the type of the church, comes from strangers, for the church was to come from the Gentiles, an alien from the race of the Jews. In that woman, then, let us hear ourselves, and in her acknowledge ourselves and in her give thanks to God for ourselves. Tractates on the Gospel of John 15.10.
Jesus’ Thirst for the Woman’s Faith. Augustine: His “drink” was to do the will of him that sent him. That was why he said, “I thirst; give me to drink,” namely, to work faith in her and to drink of her faith and transplant her into his own body, for his body is the church. Tractates on the Gospel of John 15.31.
Jesus Thirsts for Her and the World’s Salvation. Maximus of Turin: The Savior asks for water from the woman, then, and feigns thirst so that he might give eternal grace to the thirsty. For the source was not able to be thirsty, nor was he in whom there is living water able to draw water full of earthly sediment. Did Christ thirst, then? He thirsted, to be sure, but for salvation and not [merely] for human drink. He was thirsty not for the water of this world but for the redemption of the human race. In a wonderful way, therefore, the source sitting by the well produces streams of mercy in that very place, and with flowing, living water he purifies the woman who is fornicating with a sixth man, not her husband but an adulterer. And in a new kind of miracle the woman who had come to the well of Samaria as a prostitute returned chaste from the source of Christ. She who had come to look for water brought back chastity. As soon as the Lord points her sins out to her she acknowledges them, confesses Christ and announces the Savior. Abandoning her pitcher she brings not water but grace back to the city. She seems, indeed, to return without a burden, but she returns full of holiness. She returns full, I say, because she who had come as a sinner goes back as a proclaimer, and she who had left her pitcher behind brought back the fullness of Christ, without the slightest loss to her city. For even if she did not bring water to the townspeople, still she brought in the source of salvation. Sanctified, then, by faith in Christ, the woman goes back home. Sermon 22.2.
4:8 The Disciples Had Gone Away
Like a Hunter, Jesus Comes to the Watering Hole. Ephrem the Syrian: Our Lord came to the fountain of water like a hunter. He asked for water so that he might give water, under the pretext of water. He asked for a drink, like someone who was thirsty, so that the gateway to quenching thirst might be opened to him. He asked a request of [the woman] so that he might teach her and that she in turn might make a request of him. Although rich, [the Lord] was not ashamed to make a request like a person in need, so that he might teach indigence how to make a request. He was not afraid of reproach for talking to a woman on her own, that he might teach me that whoever stands in the truth will not be upset. “They were amazed that he was standing, talking to a woman.” He had sent his disciples away from him lest they chase away his prey. He cast a bait for the dove so that through it he might capture the entire flock. He made a request of her obliquely so that she might respond directly. “Give me water that I may drink.” This was the beginning of the encounter. He asked for water and [then gave] a promise concerning the water of life; he asked, and then he abandoned his request, just as she too [abandoned] her jug. He abandoned pretexts because the truth, for whose sake the pretexts had been [used], had come. Commentary on Tatian’s Diatessaron 12.16.
4:9 How Is It That a Jew Asks a Drink of a Samaritan?
The Virtue of the Samaritan Woman. Theodore of Mopsuestia: It is evident that the blessed John wanted to reveal the virtue of the woman through this story. This request for water was not to be taken lightly. She instead first brings up the rules of the law. With great honesty she did not tolerate this infringement of the law even with strangers, even though it could have happened easily and almost necessarily [because of the thirst needing to be quenched]. Therefore, in order that it might not appear that the woman did not want to give water to the foreigner out of meanness or hostility, the Evangelist added these words: “Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans,” so that we might know that she refused to give him water not as to someone who was a stranger to her religion but because she wanted to warn him not to transgress the rules of the law by being led by his thirst. At this stage our Lord took this answer of the woman as the right opportunity for his teaching. Commentary on John 2.4.9.
Samaritans Can Have Dealings with Jews, Not Vice Versa. Chrysostom: After the Jews returned from their captivity, they were jealous of the Samaritans whom they regarded as outsiders and enemies.… The Samaritans did not use all the Scriptures, but only the writings of Moses, and made little use of the prophets. They were eager to claim their Jewish origin and prided themselves on Abraham, whom they called their forefather since he was from Chaldea, and also Jacob since they were his descendants. But the Jews considered them Gentiles and thought they were as much an abomination as the rest of the Gentile world.… And so the woman, on being told, “Give me a drink,” very naturally asks, “How is it that you, being a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” … She knew he was a Jew from his appearance and speech. Observe how considerate she is here. For even if our Lord had been bound to abstain from dealing with her, that was his concern, not hers. The Evangelist does not say that the Samaritans would have no dealings with the Jews but that the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. The woman, however, though not at fault herself, wished to correct what she thought was done unlawfully. Homilies on the Gospel of John 31.2, 4.
Jews Would Not Even Use Their Vessels. Augustine: The Jews would not even use [the Samaritans’] vessels. And as the woman brought with her a vessel to draw the water, it made her wonder that a Jew sought a drink from her—something Jews were not accustomed to do. Tractates on the Gospel of John 15.11.
Christ Abolishes the Ceremonial Law for the Future. Chrysostom: But why did Christ ask for a drink when the law did not permit it? It is no answer to say that he knew ahead of time that she would not give it, for in that case, he clearly should not have asked for it. Rather, his very reason for asking was to show his indifference to such observances since, if he was going to induce others to abolish them, then it was even more important for him to pass them by. Homilies on the Gospel of John 31.4.
4:10a The Gift of God
Thirst Satisfied by the Holy Spirit. Augustine: He asks for a drink and promises to give a drink. He longs as one about to receive; he abounds as one about to satisfy. “If you knew,” he says, “the gift of God.” The gift of God is the Holy Spirit. Tractates on the Gospel of John 15.12.
Water and Spirit As Gift of God. Augustine: Is it shown in the sacred books that the Holy Spirit is called the “gift of God”? If people look for this too, we have in the Gospel according to John the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, who says, “If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink: he that believes on me, as the Scripture says, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” And the Evangelist has gone on further to add, “And this he spoke of the Spirit, which they should receive who believe in him.” And hence Paul the apostle also says, “And we have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” The question then is whether that water is called the gift of God, which is the Holy Spirit. But as we find here that this water is the Holy Spirit, so we find elsewhere in the Gospel itself that this water is called the gift of God. For when the same Lord was talking with the woman of Samaria at the well, to whom he had said, “Give me to drink,” and she had answered that the Jews “have no dealings” with the Samaritans, Jesus answered and said to her, “If you had known the gift of God and who it is that says to you, ‘Give me to drink,’ you would have asked of him, and he would have given you living water.” … Because this living water, then, as the Evangelist has explained to us, is the Holy Spirit, without doubt the Spirit is the gift of God, of which the Lord says here, “If you had known the gift of God, and who it is that says to you, ‘Give me to drink,’ you would have asked of him, and he would have given you living water.” For that which is in the one passage, “Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water,” is in the other, “shall be in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life.” On the Trinity 15.19.33.
The Drink Given Is the Gospel. Eusebius of Caesarea: And in that day it says, “Living water shall come forth out of Jerusalem.” This is that spiritual, sweet, life-giving and saving drink of the teaching of Christ. He speaks of it in the Gospel according to John, when instructing the Samaritan woman.… What was this drink, then, that came forth from Jerusalem? For it was there that its gospel went forth and its heralds filled the world. This is what is meant by the words “The living water shall go forth to the first sea and the last sea,” by which is meant the bounds of the whole world. That which is toward the eastern ocean is called “the first sea,” that toward the west is meant by “the last sea,” which, indeed, the living water of the saving gospel teaching has filled. He also taught about this when he said, “Whosoever shall drink of the water, which I shall give him, shall never thirst.” Proof of the Gospel 6.18.48–49.
Living Water Flows from Jerusalem. Eusebius of Caesarea: And in them too the rest of the prophecy was fulfilled, when on the day of our Savior’s coming living water came forth from Jerusalem. The fruitful living word of Jerusalem, yes, from Jerusalem itself, and was spread over all the earth, even to the utmost bounds of the world. The Lord and Savior himself speaks of this water to the Samaritan woman.… And he goes on to teach what advantage would accrue to everyone who tastes of the living spiritual spring. Those that drink of it, denying the many evil demons who ruled them of old, will confess their one Lord and King, and that the Lord, who once was known only to the Hebrews, will become King of all nations that believe in him from all the earth, and that his name will be one, encircling all the earth and the wilderness. And who is not struck at seeing this fulfilled? For the Christian name, derived from the name of Christ (and Christ was indeed the Lord) has encircled every place and city and land and the very nations that dwell in the wilderness and at the ends of the earth, as the prophecy foretold. Proof of the Gospel 10.7.7–8.
4:10b Living Water
Living Water Is Not Stagnant. Augustine: Water issuing from a spring is what is commonly called living water. Water collected from rain in pools and cisterns is not called living water. It may have originally flowed from a spring; yet if it collects in some place and is left to stand without any connection to its source, separated, as it were, from the channel of the spring. It is not called “living water.” Water is designated as “living” when it is taken as it flows. This is the kind of water that was in that fountain. Tractates on the Gospel of John 15.12.
The Living Water Is Christ’s Spirit and Power. Heracleon (via Origen): [Heracleon] is not wrong when he says that “the water that the Savior gives is of his spirit and power.” And he has explained the statement “But he shall not thirst forever” as follows with these very words: “For the life he gives is eternal and never perishes, as, indeed, does the first life that comes from the well; the life he gives remains. For the grace and the gift of our Savior is not to be taken away, nor is it consumed, nor does it perish, when one partakes of it.” … Now [Heracleon’s] interpretation of the “leaping water” is not unconvincing. He takes it to refer “to those who partake of that which is richly supplied to them from above and who themselves cause what is supplied to them to gush out for the eternal life of others.” But he also praises the Samaritan woman “because she demonstrated a faith that was unhesitating and appropriate to her nature, when she had no doubt about what he said to her.” Commentary on the Gospel of John 13.59–60, 62–63.
Human Nature Buds into a Virtuous Life. Cyril of Alexandria: Jesus calls the quickening gift of the Spirit “living water” because mere human nature is parched to its very roots, now rendered dry and barren of all virtue by the crimes of the devil. But now human nature runs back to its pristine beauty, and drinking in that which is life-giving, it is made beautiful with a variety of good things and, budding into a virtuous life, it sends out healthy shoots of love toward God. Commentary on the Gospel of John 2.4.
Ignorance of the Gift Is the Cause for Delay of Baptism. Caesarius of Arles: Not everyone knows the gift of God, because not all desire the living water, for if they did desire it they would never postpone the sacrament of baptism.… Do not delay the remedies of your salvation because you do not know when your soul may be demanded of you. Sermon 170.4.
4:11 The Well Is Deep
Title of “Lord” Implies Reverence. Chrysostom: Already, our Lord raises the woman’s low opinion of him, making her realize that he was no common person. She addresses him reverentially by the title of “Lord.” Homilies on the Gospel of John 31.4.
The Woman Does Not Understand. Theodore of Mopsuestia: However, since the woman did not yet understand these words and did not know what “living water” was, she said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?” The tone of her conversation changed. Above she had said daringly, “How is it that you, a Jew”; now she conveniently set the appellation “sir” before her words. Before she talked to him, suspecting that he would have transgressed the law because of his strong thirst. Then, when she understood from his answer and his peaceful words that he had not asked for water because he was oppressed by thirst, she attributed the right honor to his words. “From where do you give me, [she says], that living water? You have no bucket, and the well is deep.” Commentary on John 2.4.11.
Refreshing Water Drawn into Our Minds. Caesarius of Arles: Before the coming of the Lord, the well was also deep, and without a pail no one could draw water for himself. Our Lord, the living fountain, came to cleanse the hearts of all people, to quench their thirst and to satisfy their souls. Moreover, he did not look for a pail to draw the water, but of his own accord he poured himself into the minds of each one. Sermon 170.4.
Drinking from Jacob’s Well. Origen: The Scriptures, therefore, are introductions, and are called Jacob’s well. Once they have now been accurately understood, one must go up from them to Jesus, that he may freely give us the fountain of water that leaps into eternal life. But everyone does not draw water from Jacob’s well in the same way.… Some who are wise in the Scriptures drink as Jacob and his sons. But others who are simpler and more innocent, the so-called sheep of Christ, drink as Jacob’s livestock. And others, misunderstanding the Scriptures and maintaining certain irreverent things on the pretext that they have apprehended the Scriptures, drink as the Samaritan woman drank before she believed in Jesus. Commentary on the Gospel of John 13.37–39.
This Well Is the Grace of the Spirit. Ambrose: This well is clearly the grace of the Spirit, a stream proceeding from the living fountain. The Holy Spirit, then, is also the fountain of eternal life.… This water, the grace of the Spirit, is so refreshing. Who will give this fountain to my breast? Let it spring up in me, let what gives eternal life flow on me. Let that fountain overflow on us and not flow away.… How shall I keep this water so that it does not flow or glide away? On the Holy Spirit 1.16.180–81.
4:12 Greater Than the Patriarch Jacob?
Two Reasons Samaritans Claimed Jacob. Cyril of Alexandria: The Samaritans then were aliens (for they were colonists of the Babylonians), but they call Jacob their father for two reasons. They inhabited a country bordering on Jewish land and so, as neighbors, they were influenced by their worship and were accustomed to boast of the Jews’ ancestors. Besides, it was really true that the greater number of the inhabitants of Samaria were sprung from the root of Jacob. For Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, having gathered together ten tribes of Israel and the half-tribe of Ephraim, departed from Jerusalem in the time of the kingdom of the son of Solomon, and took Samaria and built houses and cities there. Commentary on the Gospel of John 2.4.
Jesus Is Greater Than Jacob. Chrysostom: When the woman objects, “Are you greater than our father Jacob?” Jesus does not reply, “Actually, I am greater,” which would make him sound like he is boasting since there was no proof at this point. Nonetheless, his answer implies it.… It is as if he said, If Jacob is honored because he gave you this water, what would you say if I give you far better water than this?… He makes the comparison, however, not to put Jacob down but to honor himself. Notice, Jesus does not say that the water is inferior or vile. Rather, he asserts a simple fact of nature: whoever drinks of this water shall thirst again. Homilies on the Gospel of John 32.1.
The Best Well Around. Chrysostom: It is as if she said, you cannot say that Jacob gave us this spring and then used another for himself. For he and his descendants drank from it, which they would not have done if they had another well that was better. Therefore, you cannot then give me water from this spring. And you do not have a better spring, unless you confess that you are greater than Jacob. Where then does the water come from then that you promise to give us? Homilies on the Gospel of John 31.4.
4:13 Those Who Drink of This Water Will Thirst Again
The Water That Satisfies. Theodore of Mopsuestia: There is a great difference, he says, between that water [in the well] and the water I promise to give. That [water], after they have drunk it, extinguishes their thirst for a short time. But then, when it has been consumed according to its nature, it leaves the one who shortly before had drunk it thirsty again. The water that I give is such in its nature that not only is it not consumed and does not leave the one who drinks it oppressed by thirst, but on the contrary, it becomes in him like a spring gushing up forever. The water from a spring does not run out, nor does it need to be brought from another place or to be introduced, but it constantly offers perpetual nourishment to those who want it. In a similar way also the virtue of this water provides the one who receives it with perpetual help and will always preserve him and not allow him to perish. Therefore the one who receives this grace will never reach death. He said what he did for good reason, because this is what the virtue of the Spirit is. And so we also receive from him the firstfruits of the Spirit with the hope of the future resurrection. Since now this operation is performed symbolically, we hope then to receive the perfect grace when, through his participation, we will remain imperishable. Commentary on John 2.4
Ideas That Do Not Satisfy and Ones That Give Eternal Life. Origen: One must investigate what is meant by “will thirst” in the statement “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again.” … What is meant in the first place would be something like this: he who partakes of supposedly profound thoughts, even if he is satisfied for a little while and accepts the ideas that are drawn out and that he thinks he has discovered to be most profound, will, however, when he has reconsidered them, raise new questions.… But [the Word] says, I have the teaching that becomes a fountain of living water in the one who has received what I have declared. And he who has received of my water will receive so great a benefit that a fountain capable of discovering everything that is investigated will gush forth within him. The waters will leap upward. His understanding also will spring up and fly as swiftly as possible in accordance with this briskly flowing water, the springing and leaping itself carrying him to that higher life that is eternal. Commentary on the Gospel of John 13.13, 15–16.
Pleasures of the World Never Satisfy Our Thirst. Augustine: Let us not overlook the fact that it is something spiritual that the Lord was promising. What does he mean when he says, “Whoever shall drink of this water shall thirst again”? It is true both for this water and what the water signified. Since the water in the well is the pleasure of the world in its dark depth: from this people draw it with the vessel of lusts. Stooping forward, they let down the lust to reach the pleasure fetched from the depth of the well, and they enjoy the pleasure and the preceding lust that they let down to fetch it. For he who has not dispatched his lust in advance cannot get to the pleasure. Consider lust, then, as the vessel and pleasure as the water from the depth of the well. When one has gotten into the pleasure of this world, whether it be food or drink, a bath, a show, an affair, is there any way he or she will not thirst again? Therefore, “whoever shall drink of this water,” he said “will thirst again.” But if he receives water from me, “he shall never thirst.” “We shall be satisfied,” it says, “with the good things of your house.” Of what water, then, is [Jesus] to give except of which it is said, “With you is the fountain of life”?37 For how shall they thirst who “shall be drunk with the fatness of your house”? Tractates on the Gospel of John 15.16.
4:14 The Water of Eternal Life
Immortality and the Holy Spirit. Apollinaris of Laodicea: He says that visible water can quench one’s thirst for a little while, but the unseen water cures one of thirst altogether because there is no longer a thirst for life when immortality is gushing forth on you. What follows clearly demonstrates that the Holy Spirit is what is freely being promised here, as the spiritual water spoken of here corresponds with the physical water spoken of.… The Spirit of wisdom, whose presence is unceasing, gives of its abundance freely. Fragments on John 17.
The Fire and Water of the Spirit. Chrysostom: Sometimes Scripture calls the grace of the Spirit “fire,” other times it calls it “water.” In this way, it shows that these names are not descriptive of its essence but of its operation. For the Spirit, which is invisible and simple, cannot be made up of different substances.… In the same way that he calls the Spirit by the name of “fire,” alluding to the rousing and warming property of grace and its power of destroying sins, he calls it “water” in order to highlight the cleansing it does and the great refreshment it provides those minds that receive it. For it makes the willing soul like a kind of garden, thick with all kinds of fruitful and productive trees, allowing it neither to feel despondency nor the plots of Satan. It quenches all the fiery darts of the wicked one. Homilies on the Gospel of John 32.1.
Baptism Extinguishes the Fires of Hell. Maximus of Turin: Frequently indeed we see that water poured out extinguishes a fire. But sometimes we see the opposite—that huge balls of fire consume streams of water and that the flames grow more vehement, drawing strength from the water as if from food, so that the water does not seem to put out the burning but to aggravate it. What, then, is that water that consumes flames but is not itself consumed? It is, I think, that which, flowing in the bath from the fountain of Christ is not consumed by sins but consumes the fires of Gehenna, and which, once poured out on people in baptism, itself both lives in them and puts out the fire of hell. It is clear that it lives in people from what the Lord says [here].… But in a wonderful way the water of Christ both vivifies and extinguishes by one and the same operation. For it vivifies souls and extinguishes sins. The souls are renewed by the refreshment of its bath; the sins are consumed by its surging stream. And as far as the higher grace of baptism is concerned, in the heavens a mystery is celebrated and in hell Gehenna is extinguished. In the one the waters flow; in the other the fire grows cold. In the one we are submerged in the bath; in the other we are set free from the underworld. Yet there is nothing astonishing if hell is opened by the sacrament of baptism since heaven is also unlocked. For these places are opened so that freedom and grace might come together in the bath of Christ—grace from heaven and freedom from hell. Sermon 22a.3.
The Spirit in the Word Suffices to Instruct. Cyril of Alexandria: We must know again that the Savior here calls the grace of the Holy Spirit water. If anyone drinks of this water, he will have the gift of the divine teaching constantly welling up from within him. He needs no admonition from others. Rather, it is enough to exhort those who thirst after the divine and heavenly Word that they are yet living in this present life and on earth along with the holy prophets and apostles. They are heirs of their ministrations of whom it was written, “And you shall draw water with joy out of the wells of salvation.” Commentary on the Gospel of John 2.4.
The Samaritan Woman More Receptive Than Nicodemus. Chrysostom: The woman immediately believed, showing that she was not only much wiser than Nicodemus but also more courageous. For when he heard ten thousand things like this, he neither invited any others to hear what he heard, nor did he himself speak openly [about his encounter]. But she exhibited the actions of an apostle, preaching the gospel to everyone she could and calling them to Jesus. She even drew out a whole city to hear him. When Nicodemus heard Jesus, his reaction was, “How can these things be?” And when Christ set before him a clear illustration utilizing “the wind,” even then he did not receive the Word. But this is not the case with the woman. At first she doubted, but afterwards, receiving the Word not by any regular demonstration but in the form of an assertion, she immediately hurried to embrace it. For when Christ said, “It shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life,” immediately the woman said, “Give me this water so that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” Homilies on the Gospel of John 32.1.
4:15 Give Me This Water, That I May Not Thirst
She Venerates Jesus More Than Jacob. Chrysostom: See how the woman is led step by step to a higher understanding. First, she thought Jesus was some lax Jew who was transgressing the law.… Then, when she heard about the living water, she thought it meant material water. Afterwards, she understands it as spoken spiritually and believes that it can take away thirst. However, she does not yet know what it is, only understanding that it was superior to material things … “The woman says to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst nor come here to draw.’ ” Observe how she prefers him to the patriarch Jacob for whom she previously had had such veneration. Homilies on the Gospel of John 32.1.
Labor Needed No More. Augustine: The woman is still focused on her bodily needs. She is delighted with the idea that she will never thirst again and takes this promise of our Lord in this way. And this too will be the case, although she will have to wait until the resurrection of the dead. But she wanted this now. God had indeed once allowed Elijah to neither hunger nor thirst for forty days, and if he could grant this for forty days, why not forever? This is what she longed for, to lack nothing and to be spared her hard labor, because she was coming to that fountain day after day, burdened with that heavy weight on her shoulders that was supposed to supply what she lacked.… Her poverty obliged her to work beyond what her strength could handle. If only she could hear the invitation, “Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you!” This is, in fact, what Jesus was saying to her. He was telling her that she did not need to work like this any longer, but she did not yet understand. Tractates on the Gospel of John 15.15, 17.
4:16 Go, Call Your Husband
The Value of Her Condemning Herself. Origen: She already had, as it were, something of the water that leaps into eternal life since she had said … “I have no husband,” having condemned herself on the basis of her association with such a husband. Commentary on the Gospel of John 13.50.
The Woman’s Haste to Receive the Gift. Chrysostom: Since the woman demonstrates some urgency in asking for the promised water, Jesus says to her, “Go, call your husband,” to show that he too ought to have a share in these things. But she was in a hurry to receive the gift and wanted to conceal her guilt (for she still imagined she was speaking to a man). “The woman answered and said, ‘I have no husband.’ ” Christ answers her with a timely rebuke, exposing her in regard to her former husbands and as to her present one whom she had concealed. Homilies on the Gospel of John 32.2
4:17–18 The Woman’s Marital History
An Illicit Union. Augustine: Understand that the woman did not have a lawful husband but had rather formed an illicit union with someone who was not her lawful husband.… And, just in case the woman might suppose that the Lord knew about this because he had learned this from someone—and not because he knew it by his own divinity—[he says], Listen to something that you have not said, “For you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband.” Tractates on the Gospel of John 15.20.
Christian Marriage Is Blameless. Cyril of Alexandria: The Savior was not ignorant that she had no lawful husband, and his inquiry about her husband was not the plea of one who needed hidden things revealed.… He had full knowledge of her circumstances and helpfully affirms her comment that she has no husband, although she had had so many. For it is not the union of pleasure but the approval of the law and the bond of pure love that makes marriage blameless. Commentary on the Gospel of John 2.4.
She Meets Her Sixth Husband. Romanus Melodus:
[Jesus says] “If you wish that I give you the streams of pure water,
Go, and call your husband; I shall not imitate your reproach;
I shall not say: ‘You are a woman of Samaria, and how is it that you ask for water?’
I do not increase your thirst; for I have brought you to thirst through thirst.
I exaggerated being thirsty and I was tormented by thirst in order that I might reveal you as thirsty.
Go, then, and call your husband and return.”
The woman said, “I think that I have no husband,” and the Creator said to her:
“Truly do you have none? You have five, the sixth you do not possess,
So that you may receive
Exceeding great joy and redemption.”
O wise enigmas! O wise characteristics!
In the faith of the holy woman is pictured
All the features of the church in true colors which do not grow old;
For the way in which the woman denied a husband when she had many,
Is just the way the church denied many gods, like husbands,
And left them and became betrothed to one Master in coming forth from the water.
She had five husbands and the sixth she did not have; and leaving the five
Husbands of impiety, she now takes Thee, as the sixth, as she comes
From the water,
Exceeding great joy and redemption.…
The espoused church of the nations, then, left these things,
And she hurries here to the well of the baptismal font
And denies the things of the past, just as the woman of Samaria did;
For she did not conceal what had formerly been true from Him who knows all in advance,
But she said, “… Even if I formerly had husbands, I do not now wish to have
These husbands which I did have; for I now possess Thee who hast now taken me in Thy net;
And I am by faith rescued from the filth of my sins
That I may receive
Exceeding great joy and redemption.”
Kontakion on the Woman of Samaria 9.11–12, 14.
4:19 You Are a Prophet
No Other Way to Account for Jesus’ Knowledge. Chrysostom: The woman is not offended at Christ’s rebuke. She does not leave him and go away—far from it. Her admiration for him is raised: “The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.’ ” … “I perceive” means “You appear to me to be a prophet.” And having come to this belief [that Jesus was a prophet], she does not ask any questions relating to life, health or sickness of the body.… She is not troubled about thirst; rather, she is eager to be taught. Homilies on the Gospel of John 32.2–3.
4:20 Our Ancestors Worshiped on This Mountain
“Our Fathers” Designates Abraham. Chrysostom: By “our fathers,” she means Abraham, who is said to have offered up Isaac here. Homilies on the Gospel of John 32.2.
Origins of Disagreement. Origen: On the statement “our fathers” and what follows one must understand the disagreement between the Samaritans and the Jews over the place they considered holy. For the Samaritans worship God on the mountain called Gerizim, because they consider it to be holy. Moses refers to this mountain in Deuteronomy when he says, “And Moses commanded the people in that day saying, ‘These shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people, when you have crossed the Jordan.’ ” … The Jews, on the other hand, because they think Zion is divine and God’s dwelling place, think it has been chosen by the Father of all. For this reason they say Solomon built the temple on Zion, and all the Levitical and priestly service is performed there. As a consequence of these assumptions, each nation has considered its fathers to have worshiped God, but one on this mountain and one on the other. Commentary on the Gospel of John 13.77–79.
4:21 Believe Me, the Hour Is Coming
Christ Calls for Faith. Chrysostom: Everywhere, beloved, we have need of faith. Faith is the mother of all good, the medicine of salvation in order to obtain any real good. Without it, it is impossible to possess any of the great doctrines. Those who try anything without it are like those who venture on the sea without a boat and are drowned because they can barely swim.… Similarly, those who try to figure things out before they have learned anything are prone to suffer shipwreck.… To insure that this does not happen to us, let us hold fast to the sacred anchor by which Christ brings over the Samaritan woman now. Homilies on the Gospel of John 33.1, 2.
Christian Worship Is Not Bound to a Particular Place. Cyril of Alexandria: Jesus equally condemns the foolishness of all, saying that the worship of both Jews and Samaritans shall be transformed to a truer worship. Jesus in effect says that people will no longer seek after a particular place where God properly dwells. Rather, Jesus is both able to fill and able to contain all things. And so, they shall worship the Lord “every one from his place,” as one of the holy prophets says. Jesus implies that his own sojourn in the world with a body is the time and season for a change of such customs. Commentary on the Gospel of John 2.4.
The Church Built Out of Living Stones. Origen: The Jews stand for those who think intelligently and salvation is from them. The Samaritans represent the heterodox. So they deify Gerizim, which means “separation” or “division.” The Jews, on the other hand, revere Zion, which signifies “watchtower.” … Inasmuch, then, as the hour mentioned by the Lord has not yet come when they worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem, one must flee the mountain of the Samaritans and worship God on Zion, where Jerusalem lies. Christ calls this Jerusalem the city of the great king. And what else would the city of the great king, the true Jerusalem, be than the church that is built of living stones? This is the place of the holy priesthood, the place where spiritual sacrifices are offered to God by people who are spiritual and who have understood the spiritual law. But when the fullness of time is imminent, when one is no longer in the flesh but is in the Spirit and everyone is no longer still in the type but is in truth, then one must no longer bring true worship and perfect piety to Jerusalem to be offered. Such a person has been prepared so that he is like those whom God seeks to worship him. Commentary on the Gospel of John 13.81, 83, 85.
4:22 Worship and Salvation from the Jews
Christ Born of the Jews. Augustine: Divergent walls have come to the cornerstone, the Jews from there, the Gentiles from here. You have seen and you know that the further walls are from the corner, the further they are from each other. As they approach the corner, so they approach each other. When they reach the corner, they join each other. Christ [as cornerstone] has joined Jews and Gentiles, who were far away from each other.…
Those who came from the Jews are to be counted as being part of a good wall because those who came did not remain in the ruin. We have become one, they and we; but in the One, not in ourselves. Of what lineage was Christ born? Of the Jews. That is what you find written: “Salvation is from the Jews,” but not only for the Jews. He did not say, after all, “Salvation is for the Jews” but “Salvation is from the Jews.” Sermon 375.1.
Salvation from the Jewish Scriptures. Origen: The “you” refers literally to the Samaritans but anagogically to all who are heterodox regarding the Scriptures. The “we” literally means the Jews, but allegorically it means, “I, the Word, and all who are changed by me receive salvation from the Jewish Scriptures.” For the mystery now revealed was revealed both through the prophetic Scriptures and through the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ. Commentary on the Gospel of John 13.101.
The Sanctuaries Will End. Theodore of Mopsuestia: It is proper for Jesus to say now, “Believe me,” after he had clearly demonstrated the truth of the words that he had spoken to her before. “The hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.” This, he says, is what you want to be instructed about. Know then that there will be a time when both places will end. However in order that it might not appear that Jews and Samaritans had to be considered equal (because he predicted the end of both their sanctuaries) he says, “You worship what you do not know,” that is, you Samaritans; “We worship what we know,” that is, we Jews. Then he adds, “For salvation is from the Jews.” He did not say “in the Jews” but “from the Jews.” In fact, salvation was not in them but from them because Christ in flesh came from them. Therefore, he says, the truth is by the Jews, but both sanctuaries will be emptied out. Commentary on John 2.4.21–22.
4:23 A Time That Is Coming and Now Is
Sons Worship the “Father.” Origen: Twice it is written, “The hour is coming.” The first time it is written without the addition of “and now is.” I think the first alludes to that purely spiritual worship that will begin at the time of perfection. The second, however, means, I think, the worship of those being perfected in this life so far as it is possible for human nature to progress. It is possible, therefore, to worship the Father in spirit and in truth not only when “the hour comes” but also when it “now is.” … For just as the angels do not worship the Father in Jerusalem because they worship the Father in a better way than those in Jerusalem, so those who can already be like the angels in their attitude will not worship the Father in Jerusalem but in a better way than those in Jerusalem.…
When, however, someone worships neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem, once the hour has come he worships the Father boldly because he has become a son. Therefore it is not said, “worship God” but “worship the Father.” …
True worshipers worship the Father in spirit and truth not only in the coming hour but also in the present. But those who worship in spirit, since they worship as they have received, worship at present in the pledge of the Spirit. But when they shall receive the Spirit in his fullness, they will worship the Father in spirit. Commentary on the Gospel of John 13.86–88, 99–100, 112.
God Is Adored Not in a Place but in Spirit. Ambrose: She learned the divine mysteries: that God is spirit and is adored not in a place but in spirit. She also learned that Christ is the Messiah and therefore that he who was still awaited by the Jews had already come. Hearing these things, that woman, who manifests the beauty of the church, learned and believed the mysteries of the law. Isaac, or the Soul 4.26.
Worshiping the Father in Spirit Is Worshiping the Trinity. Ambrose: What does it mean, then, that the Father is worshiped in Christ, except that the Father is in Christ and the Father speaks in Christ and abides in Christ? He does not abide, indeed, as a body in a body, for God is not a body.… So not an engrafting of a body is meant, but unity of power. Therefore, by unity of power, Christ is jointly worshiped in the Father when God the Father is worshiped in Christ. In the same way then, by unity of the same power the Spirit is jointly worshiped in God when God is worshiped in the Spirit.… When God is said to be worshiped in truth (by the proper meaning of the word itself often expressed after the same manner), it ought to be understood that the Son too is worshiped. So, in the same way, the Spirit is also worshiped because God is worshiped in Spirit. Therefore the Father is worshiped both with the Son and with the Spirit, because the Trinity is worshiped. On the Holy Spirit 3.11.82, 85.
The Father Seeks True Worshipers Through Jesus. Origen: If the Father seeks true worshipers, he seeks them through the Son, “who came to seek and to save that which was lost,” purifying and educating those whom he equips to be true worshipers through the Word and sound doctrine.…
God is a Spirit.… God, who brings us into the true life, is called Spirit, and in the Scriptures, the Spirit is said to make us alive. It is clear from this that “making alive” refers not only to ordinary life but to what is more divine. Commentary on the Gospel of John 13.119, 140.
4:24a God is Spirit
“Spirit” Distinguishes God from the Material World. Origen: In the language of the Gospel itself, it is declared that “God is a Spirit.” … To the opinion of the woman that God is rightly worshiped according to the privileges of the different localities … the Savior answered that anyone who would follow the Lord must lay aside all preference for particular places. He expressed himself as follows: “The hour is coming when neither in Jerusalem nor on this mountain shall the true worshipers worship the Father. God is a Spirit, and they who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” Observe how logically he has joined together the spirit and the truth. He called God a Spirit so that he might distinguish him from bodies; and he named him the truth in order to distinguish him from a shadow or an image. For they who worshiped in Jerusalem worshiped God neither in truth nor in spirit, being in subjection to the shadow or image of heavenly things. And such also was the case with those who worshiped on Mount Gerizim. Having refuted, then, as well as we could, every notion that might suggest that we were to think of God as in any degree corporeal, we go on to say that, according to strict truth, God is incomprehensible and incapable of being measured. On First Principles 1.1.4–5.
The Spirit Is a Being, Not Wind. Didymus the Blind: Since God cannot be seen, his incorporeal nature follows directly on his invisibility. For if God is unseen, then he must be incorporeal. And if this is the case, then the Spirit spoken of here cannot be air that has been set in motion. For among people a body reveals its spirit; however, we cannot say the same about God. Just as the Light spoken of here is not a physical light, but an intellectual light since it illuminates the mind, not the face, and just as he who is called Love is not a disposition but rather a Being who loves what he has made and takes care of it, so he does not address the Spirit as a blast of wind, but rather presents him as an incorporeal and life-giving Being. Everyone who has learned that “God is spirit” worships him spiritually “in spirit and truth” and no longer worships the God of all under the shadows of types. He makes a distinction between the letter and the spirit and distinguishes between the type and the truth. The letter and the type were useful for a time, but when the truth came, that is, when Christ arrived, all these things came to an end. Fragments on John 3.
God Is Spirit in Bringing Us True Life. Origen: Since we are made alive by the spirit as far as ordinary life is concerned—and what we usually mean by the term “life” concerns when the spirit that is in us draws, what is called, in the literal sense, the breath of life—I suppose it has been understood from this that God, who brings us to true life, is called spirit. In the scriptures, the spirit is said to make alive. It is clear that this “making alive” refers not to the ordinary life, but to the more divine life. For the letter also kills and produces death, but it is not death in the sense of separation of the soul from the body, but death in the sense of the separation of the soul from God, and from the Lord himself, and from the Holy Spirit. Commentary on the Gospel of John 13.140.
God Is Without a Body and Is Everywhere. Theodore of Mopsuestia: God is of an incorporeal nature and cannot be circumscribed into any one place. Rather, he is everywhere, and it is necessary that he be worshiped according to this understanding. The true worshiper is the one who honors him with the right intention and believes with a pure conscience that everywhere he can speak with the one who is incomprehensible. Commentary on John 24.23–24.
Freedom with Knowledge in Worship. Hilary of Poitiers: We see that the woman, her mind full of inherited tradition, thought that God must be worshiped either on a mountain, as at Samaria, or in a temple, as at Jerusalem.… The prejudices of both confined the all-embracing and illimitable God to the crest of a hill or the vault of a building. God is invisible, incomprehensible, immeasurable. The Lord said that the time had come when God should be worshiped neither on mountain nor in temple. For the Spirit cannot be shut up, as if in a cabin, or confined. It is omnipresent in space and time, and under all conditions it is present in its fullness. Therefore he said that they are the true worshipers who shall worship in the Spirit and in truth. And these who are to worship God the Spirit in the Spirit shall have the One for the means, the Other for the object, of their reverence. For each of the two stand in a different relation to the worshiper. The words “God is Spirit” do not alter the fact that the Holy Spirit has a name of his own and that he is the gift to us.… The imparted gift and the object of reverence were clearly shown when Christ taught that God, being Spirit, must be worshiped in the Spirit, and revealed what freedom and knowledge, what boundless scope for adoration, lay in this worship of God the Spirit, in the Spirit. On the Trinity 2.31.
4:24b Worship in Spirit and Truth
The Spirit in the Still Small Voice. Origen: In the [First] Book of Kings, the Spirit of the Lord, who came to Elijah, makes the following suggestions concerning God: “For he said, you shall go out tomorrow and stand before the Lord on the mountain. Beyond, the Lord will pass by as a great and strong wind destroying mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord. The Lord is not in the wind (but in other texts we find: “in the spirit of the Lord”). After the wind, an earthquake; the Lord is not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake, a fire; the Lord is not in the fire. And after the fire, the sound of a gentle breeze.” Perhaps, indeed, these words reveal how many must experience the fire of the direct apprehension of the Lord.… But who could more properly tell us about whom God is than the Son? “For no one has known the Father except the Son.” We too aspire to know how God is spirit as the Son reveals it, and to worship God in the spirit that gives life and not in the letter that kills. We want to honor God in truth and no longer in types, shadows and examples46 even as the angels do not serve God in examples and the shadow of heavenly realities but in realities that belong to the spiritual and heavenly order. Commentary on the Gospel of John 13.145–46.
The Theologian’s Prayer. Evagrius of Pontus: If you wish to pray, you have need of God, “who gives prayer to him who prays.” Invoke him, then, saying, “Hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come”49—that is, the Holy Spirit and your only begotten Son. For this is what he taught us, saying, “Worship the Father in spirit and in truth.” He who prays in spirit and in truth is no longer dependent on created things when honoring the Creator but praises him for and in himself. If you are a theologian, you will pray truly. And if you pray truly, you are a theologian. Chapters on Prayer 59–61.
Those Who Walk in the Spirit Are Worshiping in the Spirit. Origen: If there are many who profess to worship the Creator, there are some who are no longer in the flesh but in the spirit, because they walk in the spirit and do not fulfill the desire of the flesh. And there are others who are not in the spirit but in the flesh and wage war according to the flesh. If this is so, then one must say that those who worship the Father in spirit and not in flesh, in truth and not in types, are the true worshipers, and that those who do not so worship are not true worshipers. Commentary on the Gospel of John 13.109.
Illumination of the Spirit Enables Worship. Basil the Great: To worship in the Spirit implies that our intelligence has been enlightened. Consider the words spoken to the Samaritan woman. She was deceived by local custom into believing that worship could only be offered in a specific place. But the Lord, attempting to correct her, said that worship ought to be offered in Spirit and in truth. By truth he clearly meant himself. If we say that worship offered in the Son (the truth) is worship offered in the Father’s image, we can say the same about worship offered in the Spirit since the Spirit in himself reveals the divinity of the Lord. The Holy Spirit cannot be divided from the Father and the Son in worship. If you remain outside the Spirit, you cannot worship at all, and if you are in him you cannot separate him from God. Light cannot be separated from what it makes visible, and it is impossible for you to recognize Christ, the image of the invisible God, unless the Spirit enlightens you. Once you see the image, you cannot ignore the light; you see the light and the image simultaneously. It is fitting that when we see Christ, the brightness of God’s glory, it is always through the illumination of the Spirit. Through Christ the image, may we be led to the Father, for he bears the seal of the Father’s very likeness. On the Spirit 26.64.
Pray in the Temple After You Become the Temple. Augustine: “O for a mountain to pray on,” you cry, “high and inaccessible so that I may be nearer to God and God may hear me better. For he dwells on high.” … Yes, God dwells on high, but he is also considerate of the humble.… Come down so that you may come near him. But do you want to ascend? Ascend, but do not seek a mountain. “The ascents,” it said, “are in his heart, in the valley of weeping.” A valley has humility. Therefore, do everything within. Even if perhaps you seek some lofty place, some holy place, make yourself a temple for god within yourself. “For the temple of God is holy, which means you.” Would you pray in a temple? Pray in yourself. But first be a temple of God, for he in his temple hears the one who prays. Tractates on the Gospel of John 15.25.
Spiritual Prayer. Abraham of Nathpar: Do not imagine, my beloved, that prayer consists solely of words or that it can be learned by means of words. No, listen to the truth of the matter from our Lord: spiritual prayer is not learned and does not reach fullness as a result of either learning or the repetition of words. For it is not to a man that you are praying, before whom you can repeat a well-composed speech. It is to him who is Spirit that you are directing the movements of prayer. You should pray, therefore, in spirit, seeing that he is spirit. He shows that no special place or vocal utterance is required for someone who prays in fullness to God. On Prayer and Silence 1–2.
4:25 When Messiah Comes, He Will Teach Us All Things
The Samaritans Expected Christ Too. Chrysostom: How is it that the Samaritans expected Christ’s coming, since they only acknowledged the books of Moses? Their expectation came from the writings of Moses themselves.… Jacob prophesies of Christ, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet until he comes to whom it belongs, and he is the expectation of nations.” And Moses says, “The Lord your God shall raise up a prophet from the midst of you, of your brothers.”62 Homilies on the Gospel of John 33.2.
Messiah Will Level the Mountain and the Temple. Augustine: She says in effect, The Jews now contend for the temple, we for the mountain. But he, when he comes, will level the mountain, overthrow the temple and teach us how to pray in spirit and in truth. She knew who could teach her, but she did not yet know him that was now teaching her.… The Hebrew Messias is in Greek Christ and means in Latin the anointed one. Tractates on the Gospel of John 15.27.
False Christs Arose Among Samaritans Too. Origen: The Samaritan woman, who accepts only the Pentateuch of Moses, expects the coming of Christ as announced only by the law. The Samaritans probably expected the visitation on the basis of Jacob’s blessing on Judah, when he said … “A ruler shall not fail from Judah.” … We must not fail to remark that, as Jesus arose from among the Jews, not only saying that he was the Christ but also proving it, so also a certain Dositheus arose from among the Samaritans and declared himself to be the Christ who had been prophesied. Commentary on the Gospel of John 13.154, 162.
4:26 I Who Speak to You Am He
Jesus’ Gradual Revelation of Himself. Ephrem the Syrian: “If you are a king, why are you asking water from me?” It was not thus that he had first revealed himself to her, but rather first as a Jew, and then as a prophet, and after that as the Messiah. From degree to degree he led her and placed her on the highest degree. She first saw him as someone thirsting; and then as Jew; then as a prophet, and after that as God. As someone thirsting, she persuaded him; as a Jew, she recoiled from him, as a learned one, she interrogated him, as a prophet she was reprimanded, and as the Messiah, she worshiped him. Commentary on Tatian’s Diatessaron 12.18.
4:27 Talking with a Samaritan Woman
Jesus’ Treatment of Women. Origen: We learn that he is meek and lowly in heart and does not disdain to speak of such great matters with a woman carrying water who goes out of the city because of her great poverty and labors to draw water for herself. When the disciples arrive they are amazed, for they previously beheld the greatness of the divinity in him, and they marvel that so great a man was speaking with a woman. We, however, carried away with pride and arrogance, despise those below us and forget that the words “Let us make man according to our image and according to our likeness” apply to each person. Commentary on the Gospel of John 13.166–67.
Gender Equality in the Gospel. Cyril of Alexandria: He shows here, as the one Creator of all, that he does not give men only this life through faith but imparts this faith to women as well. Let him that teaches in the church follow this pattern and not refuse to help women. For in all things one must not follow one’s own will but the service of preaching. Commentary on the Gospel of John 2.5.
4:28 The Woman Left Her Water Jar
The Woman Leaves Carrying Other Water. Romanus Melodus:
But when the Merciful One was near the spring, …
Then the woman of Samaria, coming from her native village, Sychar, arrived, and she had her urn on her shoulders;
And who would not call blessed the arrival and departure of this woman?
For she departed in filth; she entered into the figure of the church as blameless;
She departed, and she drew out life like a sponge.
She departed bearing water; she became a bearer of God;
And who does not bless
This woman; or rather who does not revere her, the type of the nations
As she brings
Exceeding great joy and redemption?
Kontakion on the Woman of Samaria 9.5.
Before You Preach, Leave Your Water Jar. Augustine: Having heard, “I that speak with you am he,” and having received Christ the Lord into her heart, what could she do now but leave her water jar and run to preach the gospel? She cast out lust and hurried to proclaim the truth. Let those who would preach the gospel learn: let them throw away their water jar at the well. You remember what I said before of the water jar. It was a vessel with which the water was drawn, called hydria, from its Greek name, because water is hydor in Greek; just as if it were called aquarium, from the Latin. She threw away her water jar then, which was no longer of use but a burden to her, such was her eagerness to be satisfied with that water. Throwing her burden away to make Christ known, “she ran to the city and says to those men, ‘Come, and see a man who told me everything I ever did.’ ” Tractates on the Gospel of John 15.30.
The Samaritan Woman an Apostle. Origen: He also uses the woman as an apostle, as it were, to those in the city. His words to her are so forceful that she leaves her water jar to go to the city and tells them to her fellow townspeople.… I think there was a definite purpose why the Evangelist recorded that the woman left her water jar and went into the city. At the literal level, then, this shows the tremendous eagerness of the Samaritan woman, who forsakes her water jar and is more concerned for how she may benefit the multitude than for her more humble duty related to material things. For she was very benevolently moved and wished to announce the Christ to her fellow citizens by bearing witness to the one who told her “all I ever did.” And she invites them to behold a man whose speech is greater than man, for his appearance to the eye was human. So must we, too, therefore, forgetting things that are more material in nature and leaving them behind, be eager to impart to others the benefit of which we have been partakers. For by recording the woman’s commendation for those capable of reading with understanding, the Evangelist challenges us to this goal. Commentary on the Gospel of John 13.169, 173–74.
4:29 Could He Be the Christ?
The Work of an Evangelist. Chrysostom: As the apostles left their nets on being called, so she leaves her water jar to do the work of an evangelist by calling not one or two people, as Andrew and Philip did, but a whole city. Homilies on the Gospel of John 34.1.
One Need Only Taste of That Well to Feel as She Did. Chrysostom: She was not prevented by any concern for losing face from spreading around what had been said to her. For the soul, once kindled by the divine flame, does not consider glory or shame or any other earthly consideration: only the flame that consumes it.… She did not want them to trust only her own report but to come and make a judgment about Christ for themselves.… “Come, see a man, she says. She does not say, “Come and believe,” but “Come and see,” which is an easier matter. For she certainly knew that if they only tasted of that well, they would feel as she did. Homilies on the Gospel of John 34.1.
4:31 The Disciples Urge Their Rabbi to Eat
Diligence in Teaching the Gospel. Cyril of Alexandria: Having initiated the conversion of the Samaritans … Jesus focuses entirely on the salvation of those who are called and has no concern for bodily food, though wearied with his journey. In this way, he encourages the teachers in the churches and persuades them to disregard all fatigue and be more zealous for those who are being saved than caring for their own bodies. For the prophet says, “Cursed is he who does the work of the Lord with slackness.” Commentary on the Gospel of John 2.5.
4:32 Food to Eat That the Disciples Did Not Know
Jesus Replenishes Himself from the Father. Origen: And it is not out of place to say that not only do people and angels need spiritual food, but so too does the Christ of God. For, if I may put it this way, he is always replenishing himself from the Father, who alone is without need and sufficient in himself. Now the common person who is being taught receives his foods from the disciples of Jesus who are commanded to distribute food to the crowds, and Jesus’ disciples receive their food from Jesus himself.… The Son of God, however, receives his food from the Father alone, without the intervention of any other being. Commentary on the Gospel of John 13.219–220.
4:33 Who Brought Food?
The Disciples Do Not Understand. Augustine: It is no wonder that the woman did not understand what he said about the water when you consider the disciples did not understand about the food either. Tractates on the Gospel of John 15.31.
4:34 Doing the Will of God
Christ Hungry for Our Salvation. Chrysostom: He calls the salvation of men and women his food, showing his great desire that we should be saved. His desire for our salvation is as great as our desire for food. And see how often he does not express himself directly but figuratively. This necessarily makes it difficult for his hearers to comprehend his meaning, but it also gives a greater importance to that meaning once it is understood. Homilies on the Gospel of John 34.1.
The Will of God Is Repentance and Forgiveness. Ambrose: The food of a priest is the remission of sins. Therefore, the Prince of priests, Christ, says, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me.” What is the will of God but this: “When you turn and groan, then shall you be saved”? Letter 57 (to Simplicianus).
One Will. Origen: It is proper food for the Son of God when he becomes a doer of the Father’s will, that is, when he wills in himself what was also the Father’s will, so that the will of God is in the will of the Son, and the will of the Son has become indistinguishable from the will of the Father, and there are no longer two wills but one. It is because of this one will that the Son said, “I and the Father are one.”23 And because of this will, he who has seen him has seen the Son, and has seen also the one who sent him. … Only the Son has comprehended the complete will of God and does it. Commentary on the Gospel of John 13.228, 231.
Being Perfected and Made Ready for Solid Food. Origen: Perhaps the Savior was sent for the following reasons. First, that he might do the will of the one who sent him, having become his worker here, too, and second, that he might perfect the work of God, so that each one who has been perfected might be made fit for solid food and be present with wisdom. “Solid food is for the perfect, the mature, who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.” … And when each of us, a work of God, has been perfected by Jesus, he will say, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. As for the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.”27 Commentary on the Gospel of John 13.241–42.
The Work of the Father Is Not Yet Finished. Ambrose: But as Christ is not yet made subject [to the Father], so also is the work of God not yet perfected. For the Son of God said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.” How can anyone doubt that the subjection of the Son in me is still in the future when the work of the Father is still unfinished [in me] because I myself am not yet perfect? On the Christian Faith 5.13.169.
The Conversion of the World. Theodore of Mopsuestia: What is this work? It is the conversion of the human race. And quite appropriately, by speaking like a human being, he said that that work was more important than any corporeal food. He also said that he did the will of him who sent him because he had been entrusted with that work. Commentary on John 2.4.34.
4:35 Fields White for Harvest
“Lift Up Your Eyes.” Origen: “Lift up your eyes” occurs in many places in Scripture when the divine Word admonishes us to exalt and lift up our thoughts, and to elevate the insight that lies below in a rather sickly condition and is stooped and completely incapable of looking up, as is written for instance in Isaiah, “lift up your eyes on high and see. Who has made all these things known?”32 … No one who indulges his passions and clings to the flesh with a concern for material things has observed the command that says, “Lift up your eyes.” Such a person will not see the fields, even if they are “already white for harvest.” Commentary on the Gospel of John 13.274, 278.
The Fields of Salvation. Chrysostom: What the will of the Father is, he now proceeds to explain: “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes harvest?’ ” … He leads them, as his custom is, from low things to high.… Fields and harvest here express the great number of souls ready to receive the Word. The eyes are both spiritual and bodily, for they saw a great multitude of Samaritans now approaching. This expectant crowd he calls very suitably white fields. For as the corn, when it grows white, is ready for the harvest, so these were ready for salvation. But why doesn’t he say this in direct language?… Because, by making use in this way of the objects around them, he gave greater vividness and power to his words and brought the truth home to them. He also spoke in this way so that his discourse might be more pleasant and might sink deeper into their memories. Homilies on the Gospel of John 34.1–2.
4:36–37 Both Sowers and Reapers Rejoice
Moses as Sower and Apostles as Those Who Reap. Origen: It is my opinion that in the case of every art and science of the more important subjects of investigation, the one who discovers the first principle is the sower. Others receive and elaborate on these principles. They then hand on to others of a later time what they have discovered … who then take this up as if it were a harvest of the full fruit of the art or science they have received that has now reached maturity. But if this is true in the case of certain arts and sciences, how much more is it evident in the case of the art of arts and the science of sciences?…
Consider the possibility that those who “sow” are Moses and the prophets, since they wrote “for our admonition on whom the ends of the world have come,” and proclaimed the sojourn of Christ. And consider if those who “reaped” were the apostles who received the Christ and beheld the glory36 which agreed with the intellectual seeds of the prophets about him. These were reaped by the elaboration and grasping of “the mystery that has been hidden from the ages, but that is manifested in these last times,” and “in other generations was not known to the sons of men, as it is now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets.”
The seed [that is being sown] in this case is the whole plan related to the revelation of the mystery that has been kept silent for eternity and now has been made known through the prophetic Scriptures and the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ. At that time the true light made the fields white already for harvest by shining upon them.
According to this explanation then, the fields in which the seeds had been sown are the writings of the law and prophets that were not white to those who had not received the presence of the Word. They became such, however, to those who become disciples of the Son of God—those who obey him when he says, “Lift up your eyes and see the fields, for they are white for harvest.” As genuine disciples of Jesus, therefore, let us also lift up our eyes and see the fields that have been sown by Moses and the prophets, that we may see their whiteness and how it is possible to reap their fruit to eternal life. Commentary on the Gospel of John 13.302-3, 305-8.
Prophets and Apostles. Chrysostom: Who is “he that sows”? Who is “he that reaps”? The prophets sowed, but they did not reap; rather, the apostles are the ones who reaped. Yet, the prophets are not deprived of the pleasure and reward of their labors on this account, but they rejoice and are glad with us, even though they do not reap with us. For harvesting is not the same kind of work as sowing. I therefore have reserved for you what involves less work and greater pleasure, that is, harvesting instead of sowing, because there is a lot more hardship and work involved in sowing. At the harvest, the return is large and the labor not so great. In fact, it is quite easy. By these arguments Jesus here desires to prove that the desire of the prophets is that all people should come to him. The law was also utilized in this, and the prophets sowed the law for this same reason so that they might produce this fruit. Jesus shows, moreover, that he sent those prophets as well, and that there was a very intimate connection between the new covenant and the old. All this he effects by this one parable. Homilies on the Gospel of John 34.2.
Jesus Sows, and the Apostles Reap. Theodore of Mopsuestia: Jesus calls himself a sower because he has begun to teach and preach. He calls the apostles reapers because they have taken their start from him and have thus been able to offer men and women as fruits to God. Therefore he adds … “and the reaper is already receiving wages,” that is, not because the impetus and start of the work comes from me or because your labor will be without reward—which is not the case—but because you will also receive your wages according to your labor. So the benefit is held in common: it is mine because I sowed, but it is also yours because you reap. You rejoice in gathering the fruits, and I rejoice in seeing the seed grow. The truth of grace is revealed more clearly in this as well because, through the seeds sown by me, such a great power has been given to you that you will be enabled to lead many to faith because of the help you derive from me. And the fact that, empowered by me, you are able to do these things again confirms the excellence of my virtue. Commentary on John 2.4.36–37.
The Threshing Floor Is the Church. Cyril of Alexandria: The spiritual sowing indicates those who tilled beforehand by the voice of the prophets. The multitude of spiritual ears is those brought to the faith that is shown through Christ. But the harvest is white, in other words, already ripe for faith, and confirmed toward a godly life. But the sickle of the reaper is the glittering and sharp word of the apostle, cutting away the hearers from the worship according to the law and transferring them to the floor, that is, to the church of God. There, they are bruised and pressed by good works and shall be set forth as pure wheat worthy of the divine harvest. Commentary on the Gospel of John 2.5.
4:38 Sent to Reap
Jesus Cultivated the Prophets from the Beginning. Theodore of Mopsuestia: Even though he called himself the sower of the faith, the teaching of the faith nonetheless had its beginning before his coming in the flesh. It is obvious that it had already had a beginning through the prophets and the righteous ones who followed them. He also clearly shows that this beginning had been given by him as well. “I sent you, he says, to reap and enjoy the labor of others.” After they worked hard to enable the seed of faith to remain among men and women, you came, and from this crop you gather them and lead them to faith. I would have not invited you to reap and enjoy the work of others if that cultivation was not mine from the beginning. Some I entrusted with sowing, others with reaping. I did so according to time and the different phases of cultivation. Commentary on John 2.4.38.
4:40 The Samaritans Ask Jesus to Remain
Jesus Remains with Those Who Ask. Origen: John has not written that the Samaritans “asked him” to enter Samaria or to enter the city but “to remain with them.” … In what follows he does not say, “And he remained in that city two days” or “he remained in Samaria” but “he remained there,” that is, with those who asked. For Jesus remains with those who ask, and especially when those who ask him come out of their city and come to Jesus, as if in imitation of Abraham when he obeyed God who said, “Go forth out of your country and from your kindred, and out of your father’s house.” Commentary on the Gospel of John 13.345–46.
4:41 Many More Believed Because of Jesus’ Word
What Did Jesus Say to the Samaritans? Chrysostom: They acknowledge Christ not just as one of the many Christs but as the Savior. And yet, who did they see who had been saved at this point? They had only heard his words, and yet they spoke as though they had seen all these great and wonderful miracles. Why, then, don’t the Evangelists tell us what these words were and how admirably he spoke? By not doing so, they show that they pass over many important matters, and yet, by reporting the event itself, they lead us to understand everything. For he persuaded an entire people and a whole city by his words alone! On the other hand, when the hearers are not convinced, the Evangelists are obliged to provide the words of our Lord so that the failure may be seen as owing to the indifference of the hearers, not to any defect in the preacher. Homilies on the Gospel of John 35.1.
4:42 We Heard Him Ourselves
Direct Access to the Word. Origen: The Samaritans renounce their faith that was based on the speech of the woman when they discover that hearing the Savior himself is better than that faith, so that they, too, know “that this is truly the Savior of the world.” It is better indeed to become an eyewitness of the Word and to hear him [directly].… And so, there is nothing astonishing in the fact that some are said to walk by faith and not by sight, while others are said to walk by sight, which is greater than walking by faith.… Heracleon says, “People believe in the Savior first by being led by people. But whenever they read his words, they no longer believe because of human testimony alone, but because of the truth itself.” Commentary on the Gospel of John 13.353, 362–63.
The People Dismiss Their First Instructor for the Real Thing. Chrysostom: “And they said to the woman, ‘Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we have heard him ourselves and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.’ ” The pupils had gone beyond their first instructor … Notice how soon they arrived at the understanding that he had come for the deliverance of the whole world and could not therefore confine his purposes to the Jews but must sow the Word everywhere.… Their saying too, “The Savior of the world,” implies that they looked on this world as miserable and lost. They saw that whereas prophets and angels had come to save it, this was the only real Savior, the author not only of temporal but eternal salvation.… And notice how the woman had spoken doubtfully, “Is not this the Christ?” But they do not say, “We suspect” but “We know” that this is indeed the Savior of the world. Homilies on the Gospel of John 35.1.[ii]
[i] Martin, F., & Smith, E. (2006). Acts. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
[ii] Elowsky, J. C. (2006). John 1-10. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.