Jesus and the Samaritan Woman

by Leolaia 36 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • peacefulpete

    Could the wine miracle be added to the wedding scene? Notice the Pagan associations surrounding the wine miracle:

    The Epiphany is a feast of the Christian calender celebrated on January 6. The word comes from the Greek and means "manifestation," "appearance," or "revelation." The observance originated in the Eastern church, and at first celebrated the total revelation of God in Christ. Later it focused upon two events of Jesus' ministry, his baptism (Mark 1:9-11) and the changing of the water into wine at Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-12). Interestingly, a similar festival of Dionysus, the wine god, was kept on this day in the Aegean Islands and Anatolia. When the observance of January 6 spread to the West, it became associated with the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus (Matthew 2:1-12), an event that in the West originally formed part of the Christmas observance (Grollier).

    The date the Church celebrates the feast of the miracle of Cana is 6 January, the feast of the Epiphany. Epiphania means "appearance" in Greek and refers to the revelation of the Lord's power. In pagan antiquity 6 January was the day celebrating the revelation of a different divine power and wine miracles performed by a different god: It was the feast of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine: In fact the motif of the story, the transformation of water into wine, is a typical motif of the Dionysus legend, in which this miracle serves to highlight the god's epiphany. And hence it is timed to coincide with the date of the feast of Dionysus, from January 5 th to 6 th. In the ancient Church this affinity was still understood, when . the 6 th of January was taken to be the day that the marriage feast was celebrated at Cana. . Plainly put, in the legend of the marriage at Cana Jesus reveals his divine power in the same way that stories had told of the Greek god Dionysus (Ranke-Heinmann 1992 81).

    The 6th of January became for Christians the feast of the power revelation (epiphany) of their God, thereby displacing the feast of Dionysus's epiphany. As Bultmann says, "No doubt the story [of the marriage feast at Cana] has been borrowed from pagan legends and transferred to Jesus". On his feast day, Dionysus made empty jars fill up with wine in his temple in Elis; and on the island of Andros, wine flowed instead of water from a spring or in his temple. Accordingly, the true miracle of the marriage feast at Cana would not be the transformation by Jesus of water into wine, but the transformation of Jesus into a sort of Christian wine god (Ranke-Heinmann 1992 81). In fact the 'water into wine' is also stated to be one of the first of the many bizarre miracles of Dionysus (Briffault 3 130).

  • Leolaia

    PP....The evidence re the Epiphany feast nicely complements the internal evidence that the Cana story borrows from Dionysian legends, particularly in how John construes Jesus' miracle as a revealing of Jesus' coming glory (John 2:11-12; "He let his glory be seen"), and also the provenance of the publication of John in Asia Minor. I too see John as directly countering Thomasian docetism, but the main problem is that the Gospel of Thomas does not claim that Jesus lacked a fleshly body -- instead it indicates that Jesus was a spirit being who inhabited a fleshly body (29:1). Of course, such a situation was not unique to Jesus, as Thomas teaches that all people are the same way (cf. 22:4; 24:2-3; 87:1; 112:1; 114:2). It is thus unclear whether Thomas viewed Jesus' incarnation as at birth (as it is for everyone else in the human condition) or at his baptism when the divine spirit entered the fleshly body (cf. Ebionite adoptionism). The Thomas episode in John 20 suggests that Thomasian Christians believed that the spirit being left Jesus' body at death and when he appeared to his disciples afterward he did not have a physical body anymore. This would be more overtly docetic than the Gospel of Peter which has Jesus leaving his body behind on the cross (5:19), going off to "preach to those who sleep" (10:41), and returning to reinhabit the body in the tomb and emerging from the sepulchre with two angels (10:39-40).

    That's interesting about Mamortha....however, Josephus (Bel. Jud., 4.8.1) spelled it as Mabortha (and this reflects the actual Aramaic Mabarakta "blessed town"), so I'm not sure if Mamortha was the form known to the author of John; it was Pliny the Elder (Naturalis Historia 5:69) who spelled it as Mamortha: " Intus autem Samariae oppida Neapolis, quod antea Mamortha dicebatur." But I just found something totally astounding. As you know, Justin Martyr was himself a native of Neopolis (mod. Nablus) and that makes his report locating early proto-gnosticism in Gitton, a town a short distance from Neapolis (mod. Kiryet Jit), somewhat credible. Justin mentions Simon and Meander as the two Samaritan leaders at the forefront of the "heresy", and regarding Simon of Gitton Justin says:

    "And almost all the Samaritans, and a few even of other nations, worship him, and acknowledge him as the first god; and a woman, Helena, who went about with him at that time, and had formerly been a prostitute, they say is the first idea generated by him." (Justin Martyr, 1 Apology 1:26)

    Now all of this is getting to be too much of a coincidence! Here Simon is paired with a woman, as Jesus was paired in gnostic tradition with Mary Magdalene, both going about together in a ministry like Jesus and Mary, and extrabiblical tradition designated Mary as a former prostitute; moreover, John presents Jesus as claiming himself to be God, he declares himself as the Christ in almost the SAME TOWN Simon hailed from, the townspeople all believe in him and become his followers, and the woman who led in the conversion was herself a woman of ill repute (John 4:1-42). Might John be drawing on the local Simon legend, perhaps to refute the claim that Simon was the one who converted the town of Sychar (Shechem) to a new faith? I think so because Luke also draws on the same tradition in Acts 8:9-10 and says that "a man called Simon had already practised magic arts in the town and astounded the Samaritan people; he had given it out that he was someone momentous, and everyone believed what he said, eminent citizens and ordinary people alike declared, 'He is the divine Power that is called Megelleh.' " Compare that with John 4:39-42: "Many Samaritans of that town believed in him ... [saying], 'We have heard him ourselves and we know that he really is the Savior of the world.' " So Luke apparently solves the issue by turning Simon into a convert of Philip while John solves it by essentially implying that Simon is nothing more than a distorted memory of the real Christ who preached in Samaria.

    Irenaeus has more to say about Simon and his wife Helena. He says that Simon taught that Helena was his "first thought," i.e. Logos or Wisdom personified, and she created the angels and archangels for him but they became jealous of her and persecuted her, finally shutting her up "in a human body, and for ages passed in succession from one female body to another, as from vessel to vessel. She was, for example, in that Helen on whose account the Trojan war was undertaken; for whose sake also Stesichorus was struck blind, because he had cursed her in his verses, but afterwards, repenting and writing what are called palinodes, in which he sang her praise, he was restored to sight. Thus she, passing from body to body, and suffering insults in every one of them, at last became a common prostitute; and she it was that was meant by the lost sheep" (Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses 1.23.2). Simon met Helena in Tyre on a journey outside Samaria, and having recognized who she really was and realized her true history, he took her with him and "was in the habit of carrying her about with him, declaring that this woman ... was the mother of all." Now let's stop for a moment to witness the amazing parallels between this story and (1) the Johannine story of the Woman at the Well, and (2) the tradition about Jesus and Mary Magdalene. There is nothing about meeting Helena at a well; that trope was something evidently recruited by John from the OT. But like Jesus, Simon meets the woman on a trip outside his homeland, and the woman was of ill repute, "living with a man who is not [her] husband" (John 4:18). And like Jesus, Simon came to have "divine knowledge" of this woman's past history. Jesus tells her that he has already had five husbands (v. 18), and as already discussed in this thread, commentators have long noted that it is hard to believe that this woman had already been widowed or divorced five times in her adult life and is in her sixth relationship. But maybe we have here an echo of the Simon legend, that the woman he marries had already lived a sucession of past lives. And extrabiblical tradition portrayed Mary Magdalene as Jesus' companion, as someone involved in his ministry, and (for some) a former prostitute that Jesus had freed. And most remarkable is Simon's declaration that Helena was the "mother of all". How reminiscent that is to the view of Hippolytus and Cyril of Alexandria of Mary Magdalene being the "New Eve"! Now when we look at Irenaeus' description of Simon's theology, it is a dead ringer for pre-Johannine proto-gnosticism:

    This man, then, was glorified by many as if he were a god; and he taught that it was himself who appeared among the Jews as the Son, but descended in Samaria as the Father while he came to other nations in the character of the Holy Spirit. He represented himself, in a word, as being the loftiest of all powers, that is, the Being who is the Father over all, and he allowed himself to be called by whatsoever title men were pleased to address him.... For since the angels ruled the world ill because each one of them coveted the principal power for himself, he had come to amend matters, and had descended, transfigured and assimilated to powers and principalities and angels, so that he might appear among men to be a man, while yet he was not a man; and that thus he was thought to have suffered in Judaea, when he had not suffered. Moreover, the prophets uttered their predictions under the inspiration of those angels who formed the world; for which reason those who place their trust in him and Helena no longer regarded them, but, as being free, live as they please; for men are saved through his grace, and not on account of their own righteous actions. For such deeds are not righteous in the nature of things, but by mere accident, just as those angels who made the world, have thought fit to constitute them, seeking, by means of such precepts, to bring men into bondage. On this account, he pledged himself that the world should be dissolved, and that those who are his should be freed from the rule of them who made the world.... they have a name derived from Simon, the author of these most impious doctrines, being called Simonians; and from them "knowledge, falsely so called," (i.e. Gnosticism) received its beginning, as one may learn even from their own assertions." (Irenaeus, Adverses Haereses 1.23.1-4)

    In common with John (and the gnosticism that lay behind John), we find that according to Irenaeus: (1) both Simon and Jesus claimed to have come down from heaven (cf. John 3:13; 6:42, 51, 58), (2) both claimed to be the Son to the Jews (cf. John 3:16-17, 35), (3) both spoke at length about the Son and Father, (3) both are described in quasi-docetic terms, (4) both are said "to have suffered in Judea," (5) both were anticipated by the prophets (cf. John 1:23, 45; 5:46; 12:37-40), and most interestingly (6) both claimed to save men through grace and not on account of works (cf. John 3:16-17). The biggest difference with John is the modalism between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (though John 1:1 could be construed as quasi-modalist). Ignatius of Antioch, who appears to have drawn on similar Johannine traditions, was a clear modalist. There are points of contact also with Paul's proto-gnosticism, cf. the references to the world controlled by "powers and principalities and angels" (cf. Romans 8:38; Colossians 1:16; 2:15; Ephesians 6:12), and the phrase "Father over all" which resembles "God over all" being applied to Christ in Romans 9:5. The Simon tradition is certainly connected with the Jesus tradition and reflects the kind of proto-gnosticism in Paul and John. And the Woman at the Well scene, being set in the very neighborhood Simon was said to hail from, and constructed as a sort of courtship scene lifted directly from OT courtship scenes, involving a woman of ill-repute the Savior meets in a foreign land, seems to form part of this Samaritan proto-gnostic tradition.

  • Leolaia

    Navigator....Do you have a citation for Lamsa for the BYOB custom? According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (dated as it is): "There is a disappointing uncertainty as to the exact ceremonies or proceedings connected with marriage in Bible times. We have to paint our picture from passing allusions or descriptions, and from what we know of Jewish and Arabic customs." This source says that the house of the bridegroom was generally the location of the bridal chamber and marriage supper, and the Babylonian Talmud describes preparations for the feast taking at least three days in advance of the wedding (Ketubot 2a; 7b; 8a). Whether or not John and the Semeia Gospel knew actual Judean custom, it is implied in John 2:10 that it was the bridegroom's responsibility to "keep" (cf. teterekas) and then "set forth" (cf. tithesin) the wine to the guests. Since the "servants" (diakonois) and the "master of the feast" (arkhitriklinos) were the ones actually serving the wine and the "master of the feast" (that is, one intimately involved with planning and executing the feast) was the one complimenting the bridegroom for his wine, this would indicate that the wine that had already been served was provided by the bridegroom. Maybe the bridegroom had organized it in advance to have his male guests to bring along wine, but still he was the one the arkhitriklinos got the wine from. And that brings us to Mary: If it was the bridegroom who had to make sure wine was provided, why was Mary not going to the bridegroom to report the problem instead of going to Jesus? And what business was it of Mary's?

    As for Jesus being the bridegroom, John 3:28-29 makes it quite clear that at an allegorical level, Jesus is to be understood as the bridegroom. John 2:4 links Jesus' provision of the wine at Cana with the Passion (cf. 18:11), probably via the Eucharist (6:54-55). The symbolism seems to be pretty clear: (1) Jesus came down from heaven (his Father's house) to the earth which is where the bride-to-be lives (3:31; 6:51; 14:2). In Jewish betrothal custom, the man must go to the bride's house to propose; (2) John the Baptist is "the bridegroom's friend" and he introduces the bride-to-be (the disciples) to Jesus (3:28-29); (3) Jesus offers his bride a covenant replacing the old Law and living water to drink (4:14; 7:37-39; 13:34; 14:15; 14:2; 15:14-17). Jesus drinks of his cup of wine when he dies (cf. 18:11; 19:29-30) and the bride drinks when Jesus is glorified in the resurrection (7:39). This directly parallels the kiddushin custom: the groom-to-be presents his bride with a ketubah (marriage contract) and a cup of wine (over which are said the benedictions). Note that both are symbolized in the Cana story: the old Law represented by the jars of ablution water is replaced by superior wine that Jesus freely dispenses. The synoptics present Jesus as literally giving the cup of wine at the Last Supper while John has this occurring (i.e. dispensing the "living water") after the resurrection (20:22-23). Paul separately developed the notion of Jesus purchasing his Church (like a mohar or dowry) through his death, so that those comprising his bride must remain like virgins free from fornication (1 Corinthians 6:18-20; 2 Corinthians 11:2); (4) Jesus then returns to his Father and "prepares a place" for his disciples in his "Father's house," when that is done, he "will come again, and receive [his disciples] to myself" (John 14:2-3). This exactly parallels marriage custom, where the groom leaves his bride for a period of weeks or months and works on preparing the bridal chamber and a place for her move into. Then he returns to her house and takes her home for the wedding ceremony. The Cana story is then an allegory of how Jesus would provide abundant living water (i.e. eternal life) for those joining him in the marriage feast (cf. 145 gallons in John 2:6 -- more than enough for everyone!). Revelation 19:7-9 depicts the wedding and marriage feast in heaven between the Lamb and his bride. Although the Cana story prefigures Jesus' provision of living water for the eternity of his beloved disciples in his Father's house (cf. Revelation 21:6), Jesus' response in John 2:4 -- referring to the hour has "not yet come" -- points also to his role as the bridegroom offering wine to the bride at the betrothal, in advance of the wedding itself.

  • peacefulpete

    Martha as mother in law sounds plausable to me.

    The Simon connection is fodder for another thread. Very good stuff. Do we make the connections to Acts as suggested? Do we connect this Simon of Gitton with Simon Magnus? Was Simon Magnus a real person or the literary polemic caricature of Paul? What do the legends about the competition between Peter and SMagnus suggest? How does all this relate to the formation of the Jesus legend?

  • peacefulpete

    I too see John as directly countering Thomasian docetism, but the main problem is that the Gospel of Thomas does not claim that Jesus lacked a fleshly body -- instead it indicates that Jesus was a spirit being who inhabited a fleshly body (29:1). Of course, such a situation was not unique to Jesus, as Thomas teaches that all people are the same way

    I wasn't necessarily suggesting the issue was docetism. Perhaps the issue was between rival gnostic camps, one who accepted the book of Thomas and another that did not. Thomas is barely Gnostic to begin with, so this seems plausible.

  • Leolaia

    Whoa! Look at what I just found in the Pseudo-Clementines:

    There was one John, a day-baptist (one who baptizes every day), who was also, according to the method of combination, the forerunner of our Lord Jesus; and as the Lord had twelve apostles, bearing the number of the twelve months of the sun, so also he, John, had thirty chief men, fulfilling the monthly reckoning of the moon, in which number was a certain woman called Helena, that not even this might be without a dispensational significance. For a woman, being half a man, made up the imperfect number of the triacontad; as also in the case of the moon, whose revolution does not make the complete course of the month. But of these thirty, the first and the most esteemed by John was Simon. (Ps.-Clem. Homilies, 2:13)

    Now isn't that quite interesting for Simon and Helena to pop up in a tradition about John the Baptist? The reference to the thirty and the triacontad comes right out of Valentinian and Marcosian Gnosticism, and the reference to Helena as the "moon" and the lunar cycle of John's disciples recalls the tradition that Helena was also called Luna, and the later application to her of the similar-sounding name Selene who was identified in Syro-Phoenicia with Astarte. In this vein, note that Tyre was the city where Simon encountered Helena. The tradition of Justin Martyr that Simon and Helena were worshipped as gods might attest a local syncretism between Simon and Helena with the older mystery cult worship of Melqart and Selene-Astarte.

  • Narkissos

    Fascinating indeed.

    This reminds me the very strange feminine expression associated with Simon in Acts 8:

    "This man is the power of God that is called Great (hè dunamis tou theou he kaloumènè Megalè)"

    Sounds as the Mary/Helena character has been eliminated but her ghost still moans deep in the texture of the text...

    I used to hate "Luke" for his shallow theology. More and more I appreciate the incredible number of threads he has (unwittingly?) left showing...

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