By Carl Heinrich Bloch ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

But He needed to go through Samaria. - John 4:4 NKJV

This is a fascinating verse. My standard NASB does not do it justice, at least in my uneducated and non-scholarly opinion.

And He had to pass through Samaria. - John 4:4 NASB

The problem is in the little phrase “had to.”

Other translations give us:

It was necessary for Him to go through Samaria. AMP
And he must needs go through Samaria. KJV
and it was behoving him to go through Samaria. YLT

Honestly, most translations go with “had to” but that is so weak, and does not seem to bring the full import of the idea in the original.

[Standard Disclaimer] Now, I will say what I have said many times before – I am not a scholar – just a student with some resources – and I understand that I don’t understand. I am not expert in original languages. I don’t speak Greek, nor could I tell you how different Greek is from Aramaic. So – buyer beware…. [End Disclaimer]

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon[i] has some fascinating definitions for this word.

The one he applies to this text is:

“Necessity brought on by circumstances or by the conduct of others toward us.”

But check out some of these other renditions:

“Necessity in reference to what is required to attain some end.”

“Necessity of law and command, of duty, equity”

And here is the one that I love:

“Necessity established by the counsel and decree of God, esp. by that purpose of His which relates to the salvation of men by the intervention of Christ and which is disclosed in the O.T. prophecies.”

As in:

"How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?" - Matthew 26:54 NASB

In fact – Thayer points out that there is a Greek synonym for the “necessity” word, which suggests the necessity, arises from circumstance. The word John used here implies “moral obligation which arises from divine appointment.”

TMI? – sorry.

Here’s the thing. Most Jews didn’t go through Samaria to travel between Galilee and Jerusalem. They would take a thirty-mile detour to skirt the region. They would add a day and a half to their journey just to avoid getting Samaritan dust on their sandals. So strong was their prejudice and deep their hatred for the Samaritans they would cross the Jordan twice to avoid contamination. As I understand it by the year 66 AD (about 35 years later) the Jews declared all Samaritans unclean and prohibited them even from the outer courts of the temple, where even the 'gentile dogs' were permitted.

If Jesus were a ‘good Jew’ the text should read, “It was necessary for Him to avoid Samaria.

Why then, was it necessary for Jesus to go through Samaria?

Come back next time and find out.

Ben NelsonThanks for stopping by today.

Walk with the King today.



[i] "Greek Lexicon :: G1163 (NASB)." Blue Letter Bible. Accessed 1 Jul, 2014.

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