The Samaritan Woman's Story

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by: Caryn A. Reeder

Most Christians have heard a familiar description of the Samaritan woman in John 4: she was a sinner, an adulteress, even a prostitute. Throughout church history, the woman at the well has been seen narrowly in terms of her gender and marital history. What are we missing in the story? And what difference does our interpretation of this passage make for women and men in the church? Caryn A. Reeder calls us to see the Samaritan woman in a different light. Beginning with the reception history of John 4, she pulls back layers of interpretation entangled with readers' assumptions on women and sexuality. She then explores the story's original context, describing life for women and expectations regarding marriage and divorce in the first century. With this clarified lens, Reeder's exegesis of the passage yields refreshing insights on what the Gospel says--and does not say--about the woman at the well. Throughout the book, Reeder draws connections between interpretations of this text and the life of the church. The sexual objectification of the Samaritan woman and minimization of her positive contribution has ongoing consequences for how women are seen and treated--including in the failure of many Christian communities to respond well to accusations of abuse. In the age of #MeToo and #ChurchToo, The Samaritan Woman's Story offers a bold challenge to teach the Bible in a way that truly honors the value and voices of women.