Q310 : Was the Samaritan Woman in John 4 an Adulteress?

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Q310 : Was the Samaritan Woman in John 4 an Adulteress?

I have a couple of questions on John 4:18 which I am hoping you might be able to assist with.

The KJV text says: “For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.”

Now my questions:

  1. Why do several translations, including the NET Bible, translate “now hast” in the verse as “living with”? I have looked up the meaning of the verb echo in several dictionaries and cannot find the meaning “to live with” as one of the meanings of echō. Might the translation of “now hast” as “living with” not be based of an a priori assumption that the woman was sexually involved with this 6th partner?
  2. Would it be safe to understand the “he” in the verse as “husband” since the “he” appears to draw from the earlier “five husbands”? I know that Jesus expressly says the “he” is not “thy husband.” But this may be similar to Mark 6:17-18 where it is said that: “For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Hernias' sake, his brother Philip's wife: for he had married her. For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have (same verb as 'has' in John 4:18) thy brother's wife.” (emphasis mine) So, John could have rightly told Herod: “...she whom thou now hast is not thy wife.” In the same way, could it not be that Jesus was saying to the Samaritan: “the husband you now have is not your husband, but another's”?
A310 : by Tony Garland

The Greek verb ἔχω [echō] has a broad range of meaning, generally depending upon the context:

. . . with a basic meaning have, hold, with a wide range of meanings derived from the contexts and accompanying terms; the following are represented; I. active, transitively; (1) as using the hand to grasp something have, hold (RV 1.16); (2) of clothing, weapons, etc. have on, wear (JN 18.10); (3) literally and figuratively, as holding something safely keep, preserve (1T 3.9); (4) of emotional states taking hold of someone seize, grip (MK 16.8); (5) legally, of property have (at one’s disposal), possess, own, enjoy(MK 10.22); (6) of a binding or close relationship with a person have (a husband), be married (JN 4.17); have (a friend) (LU 11.5); have (a master) (CO 4.1); . . .1

The Greek behind the KJV reading (John 4:18) of "for thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not they husband" could be more literally translated as “for five men you have had and the one you are having now is not your man.”  The word translated “husband” ἀνήρ [anēr] can also be translated “man” — and, like “having (ἔχω [echō]),” has a meaning which depends heavily upon the context.

It seems all we can conclude with certainty is that this woman had a series of sexual relations with various men and that the man she currently “had” was “not her man.”  It may also have been true that he was married to another woman—but the interchange gives us no additional information to conclude this was the case.  In situations like this, we are best served by not going beyond what can clearly be established from the text:

  1. She had previous sexual relationships with five different men. Although these could have been legitimate marriages, the context and number imply otherwise.
  2. The man who presently shared her bed was not her husband.


1.Ref-0380, 184


Ref-0380Friberg, T., Friberg, B., & Miller, N. F. Vol. 4: Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament. Baker's Greek New Testament library. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000).

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