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Q. Why Is The Story Of The Woman At The Well Only In John’s Gospel?

Why does the incident of the Samaritan woman at the well only appear in the Gospel of John? (John 4:1-42) Do you have articles on which deals with this question?



Dear *****,

Thanks for your questions. There are many articles on which deal with John chapter 4:

I’m not certain that you will find the answer to your question there, however, as it is really a more general one, in my opinion. So let me try to address it.

First, let’s take a look at what John says at the end of this gospel:

30 Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. John 20:30-31 (NASB)

24 This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true. 25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they *were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself *would not contain the books that *would be written. John 21:24-25 (NASB)

Notice as well how Luke introduces his gospel:

1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, 3 it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; 4 so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught. Luke 1:1-4 (NASB)

The Bible claims that the Holy Spirit directed each writer in the Bible, so that the outcome was the Word of God, accurate, authoritative, and without error in the original manuscripts:

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased”— 18 and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. 19 So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. 20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. 2 Peter 1:16-21 (NASB)

15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:15-17 (NASB)

There would be no need to have four gospels if each one merely repeated what was said by the others. And so we have four accounts, each of which has a different writer, a somewhat different audience (Jew, or Gentile), and a particular emphasis which each author is seeking to create.

There are certain events which every one of the four Gospels includes, such as the arrest, trial(s), crucifixion, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The feeding of the 5,000 is also found in every gospel. But there are other events, such as the transfiguration of our Lord, which are found in some, but not all, of the gospels. Some events are found in only one gospel: the indication that it was Peter who struck the ear of the high priest’s slave and cut it off (John 18:10); the bare naked escape of the young man at Jesus’ arrest (Mark? in Mark 14:51-52). While Mark calls our attention to the Syrophoenician woman in his gospel (Mark 7:24-30) it is Matthew who tells us she is a Canaanite (Matthew 14:22).

Each author has a huge amount of data to draw upon to include in his book, but restricts himself to that information which best contributes to the argument he is seeking to present. The inclusion of the Samaritan woman at the well adds a great deal to John’s account. In chapter 3, Jesus presents the gospel to Nicodemus, a highly respected Jewish teacher (John 3:10). Now, in chapter 4 Jesus finds it necessary to pass through Samaritan territory, and even more shocking to speak to a woman whose character is far from godly (see John 4:16-18, 27). What a beautiful preview of the salvation which our Lord is going to bring to the Gentiles, as well as the Jews.

Why is this story only in John? Because it was essential to John’s message, but not to the message of the other gospel writers. And remember, there were many, many stories which none of the gospel writers chose to include in their gospels.

I hope this helps,

Bob Deffinbaugh

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