One of the most important conversations recorded in the Gospels is most certainly the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman. After a back-and-forth interaction involving a nuanced knowledge of ancient Samaritan and Judean religious traditions, the Samaritan woman finally asked the most important and pressing question that defined the Samaritan-Judean conflict of the day:

Our fathers worshiped on this mountain (Mt. Gerizim), but you “Jews” claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem (Mt. Zion).”

Jesus responded:

“Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…”.

But what concerns us the most in this article is His enigmatic phrase regarding salvation and the Jews:

“You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we (Jews) worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.”

The big question that many modern Christ-followers ask (even those who are very happy to find this statement in John’s Gospel) is this:

Given the fact that traditional Judaism rejects the Messiahship of Jesus, how are we to understand that “salvation is from the Jews”?

The answer is three-fold, but if you ask me, not very complicated.

First, our contemporary (Rabbinic) Judaism is not identical to the Judaism(s) of the first century. Therefore, we must not make the mistake of thinking that today’s rejection of Jesus as Messiah by Rabbinic Judaism means that there was no ideological home for Jewish Jesus-followers in first-century Judaism.

Second, biblical salvation had nothing to do with our contemporary Western concept of salvation as personal insurance from the fires of hell. Rather, it had to do with God’s uncontested rule on earth in the same way as His rule was already manifested in heaven. The eternal reign of righteous King Jesus over both Israel and the Nations was the salvation that the prophets of Israel spoke of and which the nations earnestly desired.

Third, Jesus’ phrase, “salvation is from the Jews” is simply a summary reference to the prophetic words spoken by the patriarch Jacob before his death. In a passage found in both Judean and Samaritan Torahs, Jacob declared:

“… the scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.” (Genesis 49:8-10).

The Jewish author of the Book of Revelation also linked Jacob’s blessing to Jesus, by clearly referring to Christ as, “the Lion from the tribe of Judah”.

So in the fourth gospel, which is otherwise very sympathetic to the Samaritan Israelites, Jesus clearly allied himself with Judean Israelites when he reminded the Samaritan woman that the role of a salvific leadership in the Torah was promised only to Judah and his family! None of Israel’s other children received the same honor.

When the Jewish Christ made His point, the Samaritan woman was satisfied with His answer. She speedily left to tell everyone in her hometown about her most unusual encounter with a most unusual Jew – one that they too would soon recognize as a long-awaited King and Savior of all Israel.

BEGIN YOUR JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY

50 COMMENTS

  1. Excellent post. I just finished completing Joshua Jipp's series on the Acts of the Apostles in Logos Bible Software, and I came away amazed at how clearly Luke shows that the move from a tribal Judaism to a global salvation offered to all people was one continuously linked process. There was no break between true Judaism and the church. We serve the Jewish Messiah Jesus who now reigns from heaven as the Davidic eternal King of kings.
  2. Jesus comment was that salvation is OF the Jews, not FROM the Jews, lets be precise. Salvation walked with the Jews, in the man Jesus, and yet a lot still deny it to this very day.
    • Noel, I’m not clear why it matters which Greek preposition translation is used, the argument above sustains either way. Further, the original language of this conversation was certainly not Greek, so hanging an alternative narrative on just one word is risky...
    • If we want to “be precise”. The Greek word is “ek”. It can be translated into English as “out of, from, by, away from”. KJV Translation Count: 921x The KJV translates in the following manner: of (366x), from (181x), out of (162x), by (55x), on (34x), with (25x)
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  3. Thank you for this article. Sometimes it is very easy to make everything hyper-spiritual, forgetting that there are very tangible and pragmatic aspects to GOD's salvation and redemption work, and becoming a part of HIS family. This interpretation is important too, in reminding us that when we accept Christ Jesus, we are accepting citizenship in GOD's Kingdom. We need to remember to think in Kingdom terms, despite everything we see happening in the world around us. We pray about that in The Lord's Prayer, but somehow, it often fails to resonate. Thanks for the reminder, Dr Eli!
  4. Praise G-d from who all blessings flow! Shalom! I always thought it was literally because our Lord was Jewish. I am so glad you reminded me of Judah. Now, I will remind my students of this prophecy. Shalom! Thank you!
  5. The comment has relevance to Christian believers who accept that Yeshua is Messiah. The Genesis verses have no relationship to Yeshua for the Jews who do not believe Yeshua is the awaited Messiah, the rejection of Yeshua as Messiah is based on their understanding of the characteristics and deeds that the Messiah will accomplish. The statement at the well is not proof to a Torah based believer that Yeshua is the long awaited saviour. Rejection of Yeshua doesnt negate that " salvation from the Jews". The Lion of the tribe of Judah and salvific leadership is still awaited.
  6. I am trying to figure out why the place (Mt. Gerizim) was so important to the Samaritans. I “think” my Bible says that Moses charged (sent messengers) to the people at that location (Deu 27:11). Is the Spirit in this context (John 4) associated with heavenly messengers (revelations)? The woman seems to be a messenger right there in her hometown, but what makes it heavenly in my mind is “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”
  7. Since we do not know when this reign of Jesus will occur these questions arise. 1. Is the kingdom spiritual/non physical in which believers belong while they are still alive similar to a football club/nation? 2. The kingdom is no more than a wish/dream of possibilities of what life on earth would be like with Jesus/messiah as ruler?
  8. For me, there is not contradiction nor problem. Jesus was a jew, and just as a single person and as his religious meaning, he is rooted and linked to the Israel's history and its religious meaning. Jesus is not a kind of God's avatar who could being born and belong to any other culture or part of the world but Israel. Even the rejection of the messiahship of Jesus by Israel as a whole very probably conveys a mysterious and deep meaning that keeps the never lost crucial role of the Elected People.
    • Re Jesus was born in Judea. Israel was the name until the Northern tribes rebelled against the King in Jerusalem. Many years later they were defeated and scattered And their identity is clouded. Today's Israel is actually Judea.
  9. Indeed, salvation is OF the Jews, not from them! My is question is , "Was the Messiah crucified or impaled on a stake? Second, "Who killed Him, the Jews or the Romans?
    • Hi Nkosinathi - in my opinion it was neither the Jews or the Romans. Jesus was the Lamb that was killed for us, so He was allowed to be killed by God. None of the participants in the crucifixion understood the part they were playing, but everything happened exactly according to God's will. He was crucified on the cross and then pierced in his side while still on the cross. If you want to understand more about the different signs and meanings it may be interesting to read or listen to some of Johathan Chan's teachings.

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