Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Commentary on the Gospel of John According to the Aramaic Peshitta: Chapter 4

Now Yeshua knew that the Pharisees had heard that he made many disciples and was baptizing more than Yukhanan (though Yeshua was not baptizing, rather his disciples). And he left Yehuda and arrived again at Galeela, but he had to pass through Shamria. - John 4:1-4
              
  Jesus did not have a small following as many have taught. This verse makes it clear that many people believed Jesus to be the Messiah that they were waiting for. When John says that Jesus didn’t baptize Himself, he was not contradicting what he said before, he was merely clarifying. The idea that he would contradict himself in between verses 1 and 2 is ridiculous.
           
   The Aramaic in this verse does not say “he had occasion to pass in the midst”, but “he had to pass through” (as Paul Younan translates). Etheridge and Lamsa also translate in a similar manner. Geographically speaking, Jesus did not have to go through Samaria to get back to Galilee. This is reflecting a spiritual unction, much like when the Holy Spirit took Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1; Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1). He felt like the Father was telling Him to go through Samaria.

And he came to a city of Shamria which is called Shekar, on the side of a field that Yaqub had given to Yosip his son. And there was there a spring of water that [had belonged to] Yaqub, and Yeshua was tired from the effort of the road and he sat on the well. And it was the sixth hour and came a woman from Shomrin to draw water, and Yeshua said to her, "Give me water to drink." For his disciples had entered into the city to buy for themselves food. That Shamaritan woman said to him, "How is it, you are a Yehudean, and from me you ask to drink? For I am a Shamaritan woman." For the Yehudeans to not have social dialogues with the Shamaritans. – John 4:5-9
             
     This well is not mentioned specifically in the Torah, but this is referring to Genesis 33:18-20. The fact that Jesus got tired is a clear bit of evidence that the incarnation caused God to become a genuine human being, with the limitations that we all have. Jesus was also thirsty and in need of refreshment. The Samaritans were descendants of both Hebrews and Assyrians, so they were shunned by the Jewish people. Jesus though, is crossing over the religious and ethnic boundaries commonly used by the religious institution of the day.

Yeshua answered and said to her, "If only you had known the gift of God, and who this is who said to you, 'Give me to drink,' you would have asked him and he would have given you living waters." That woman said to him, "My Lord, you have no bucket and the well is deep. Where are your living waters? Are you greater than our father Yaqub, he who gave us this well and from it drank his sons and his sheep?" Yeshua answered and said to her, "All who drink from these waters again will thirst, but everyone who drinks from the waters that I give to him will not thirst forever, but those waters that I give will become in him a spring of water that will spring up into life that is eternal."– John 4:10-14
          
    What this gift of God is, is a subject of debate. Some think that the gift of God is Jesus Christ Himself and some think that the gift of God is the Holy Spirit that He baptizes us with for salvation. I personally subscribe to the latter notion (even though Jesus is also the gift of God to humanity). Similar to Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman is missing the spiritual meaning behind the Lord’s words. He is telling her the He will send the Holy Spirit into her life if she comes to know (and believe) that He is the Messiah, the Son of God. He is also implicitly claiming to be greater than the patriarchs, which was a shocking thing for the Jews and Samaritans of the day. We all need a drink of the water of God, and if you get a taste of it, nothing else will satisfy.

That woman said to him, "My Lord, give me from these waters that again I will not thirst, nor have to come [and] draw from here." Yeshua said to her, "Go. Call your husband and come here." She said to him, "I have no husband." Yeshua said to her, "Well you have said, 'I have no husband', for five husbands you have had and the one that you have now is not your husband. This you have spoken is true."  – John 4:15-18
      
        He has the woman intrigues now, but she still does not comprehend the words of Jesus. He tests her by asking her to bring her husband, and she passes the test by telling Him the truth. Jesus knew these things by revelation from God (John 12:49). This is not a denial of His deity, but an affirmation of His genuine humanity and office as a prophet. The fact that she had five husbands would make most Rabbis look down on her.

That woman said to him, "My Lord, I see that a prophet you [are]. Our forefathers in this mountain worshiped, and you say that in Urishlim is the place that it is necessary to worship." Yeshua said to her, "Woman, believe me: is coming the hour that not in this mountain nor in Urishlim will they worship the Father. You worship something that you do not know, but we worship what we know, for life from the Yehudeans is. But is coming the hour, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. Indeed, for the Father, He such seeks worshipers as these. For God is Spirit, and those who worship Him, in spirit and in truth must they worship. That woman said to him, "I know that the Messiah is coming. And when he comes he will teach us everything." Yeshua said to her, "I am the one speaking with you." And while he spoke his disciples came and were amazed that with a woman he spoke, but no man said, "What do you want?" or "Why do you speak with her?" And the woman left her water jar and went to the city and told the people, "Come see the man who told me every thing that I have done! Is he the Messiah?" And people went out from the city and were coming to him. – John 4:19-30
         
     After Jesus’s undeniable demonstration of prophetic ability, she decides to ask Him for His opinion on the day’s big religious questions. The Samaritans believed that God had chosen the mountain they lived around, rather than the temple of Jerusalem. This is because their version of the Torah says so.  The Samaritans, like the Jews, also expected the Messiah to come. When Jesus says that salvation (Aramaic: Lives) comes from the Jewish people, He is telling her that the Messiah would rise from the Jewish people to save humanity from their sins. God tells us that we should worship God with our spirits (not with fleshly means), and that we should worship Him sincerely (in spirit and in truth) because He is Spirit. God is holy (I Peter 1:16) and God is Spirit (Rukha haw gir Alaha 0hl0 ryg wh 0xwr). From these verses, we can deduce that God the Father is the Holy Spirit.

       Unlike the Jews, the Samaritans were expecting a prophet and teacher, not a military leader. Jesus told her that He was the Messiah that they were waiting for. The disciples arrived and were shocked to see Jesus crossing such big boundaries that had been set up by religious tradition, but they respected Him enough to not question His actions in this instance. The Samaritan woman believed Him instantly, and in her shock and excitement she left behind her burdens (her bucket) and went to tell her fellow Samaritans. This makes me think of the fact that there are times that Christians reach where we are so in love with Christ that we are willing to give up everything, even our lives, to get closer to Him and to bring His message to the world.


     The phrase that Jesus uses for “I…am He” is ena ‘na (0n0  0n0), which is primarily used by God or concerning God. David Bauscher, translator of The Original Aramaic New Testament in Plain English, states that 97% of the time it is used in the Peshitta Old Testament, it is used by God. Paul Younan, in a footnote on John 8:13, says, “In Semitic thought, the phrase ‘Ena-na’ (I am) conveys a thought of eternal existence reserved only for God.”

And in the midst of these things were beseeching him his disciples and saying to him, "Our Master, eat." But he said to them, "I have food to eat of which you do not know [of]." The disciples said among themselves, "What? Has a person brought to him something to eat?" Yeshua said to them, "My food is that I do the will of him who sent me and [that] I complete his work. Do you not say that after four months comes the harvest? Behold, I say to you: lift up your eyes and see the fields that are white and have ripened for the harvest already. And he that reaps receives a wage and gathers fruit unto life that is eternal. And the sower and the reaper together will rejoice. For in this is an instance of truth, that one is sowing and the other one is reaping. I have sent you to reap the thing that you had not did labor, for others tired and you have entered into their labor."  – John 4:31-38
          
    This is another moment where the people missed Jesus’s spiritual words. Jesus dedicated His life to doing the work of God and that was His top priority. He then proceeds to preach about the time of salvation coming to all people and not only to the Jews. When He says that they will be entering into the labor of others, He is saying that the Gentiles (including the Samaritans) will enter into the promises of the Jews through Christ’s advent.

And from that city many Shamaritans believed in him because of the word of that woman who testified that, "He told me everything that I have done." And when those Shamaritans came to him, they were beseeching him that he remain with them, and he remained with them two days. And many believed in him because of his word. And they were saying to that woman that, "From henceforth it is not because of your word we believe in him, for we have heard and know that this is truly the Messiah, the life-giver of the world." And after two days Yeshua went out and went to Galeela, for Yeshua testified that a prophet in his own city is not honored.  – John 4:39-44
           
   It is truly amazing how one woman was able to influence a great amount of people to believe in Jesus. This is an example that we should follow to this day. All it takes is one person to plant the seed of God’s Word, and it will multiply. When they said that they did not believe because of the woman’s testimony, they were not denying that her testimony had something to do with it. John was telling us that the Samaritan woman’s testimony lead to the events that caused them to believe in Christ. They saw for themselves and believed Jesus because of both what the woman said, and because of Jesus’s holy words. The phrase “Life-Giver” is a literal translation of the Aramaic word Makhineh (hnyxm), which can also be translated as “Savior”, but it does not show the full meaning of the Aramaic. Jesus is the giver of eternal life, so He is justly called the Life-Giver.

And when he came to Galeela the Galileans received him who saw all the miracles that he did in Urishilm during the feast, for they also had come to the feast. And came again Yeshua to Qatneh of Galeela, where he had made the water [into] wine. And there was in Capurnakhum a servant of a certain king whose son was ill. This man heard that Yeshua was coming from Yehuda to Galeela, and he went to him and was beseeching him to come down and to heal his son, for he was near to dying. Yeshua said to him, "If miracles and wonders you do not see, you will not believe." That servant of the king said to him, "My Lord, come down before my boy dies." Yeshua said to him, "Go. Your son is alive." And that man believed in the word that Yeshua spoke to him and he departed. And while he was going down, his servants met up with him and brought him hope, and said to him, "Your son lives." And he asked them at what time he was made whole. They said to him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him." And his father realized that in that same hour, that in it Yeshua said to him that, "Your son lives," and believed he and all his house. Again, this is the second miracle [that] Yeshua did when he came from Yehuda to Galeela. – John 4:45-54

     This event is very similar to the Matthew and Luke’s account about Jesus healing a Roman centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10). While it is similar and does not necessarily contradict the event recorded in the other Gospels, it seems to be a different event, but there are several scholars that believe it to be the same event. The Gentiles and Jews alike desired for Jesus to show them something to prove that He was who He said He was (Matthew 12:38; Luke 23:8). Jesus didn’t refuse to do miracles, but was disappointed at the fact that many would not believe in Him without miracles. This is the second sign recorded by John, but this isn’t only the second miracle that Jesus did, as John tells us that Jesus did several miracles in between this and the first miracle at Cana (John 2:1-11; John 2:23; John 4:45). This miracle tells us that Jesus can do whatever we need Him to do over distances, and not just by touching us. His Word is powerful if we have faith (like this nobleman did) in it. Our God is a mighty God!