How to Read the Bible: The Importance of Genre

Come, Follow Me - For Individuals and Families

At the risk of losing your interest right from the beginning… yes, genre. But stick with me because understanding genre will really help you as you make your way through the Bible.

And since were on the topic of genre, I’m including pictures of ancient libraries. The three largest ancient collections (that we know of) were held at the Library of Alexandria in Egypt, the Library of Pergamon in Turkey, and the Celsus Library of Ephesus in Turkey. Large libraries in antiquity were more of a symbol or display of power and status rather than a place of learning for the masses. Their contents were often confiscated or acquired during war.

Side note: Did you know Christopher Columbus’s son tried to assemble one of the world’s largest libraries? And the book containing the catalog of his whole library was just discovered in Copenhagen three weeks ago??! So cool. Read about it here.

LEARN

So let’s talk genre. Why, you say? Imagine that a group of people, 1000 years from now, discover and read the Harry Potter books. Since they just dug it out of the ground and have no idea what they are reading, they decide the Harry Potter books must be a historical non-fiction collection. Can you imagine what their reaction would be while reading?! They might be confused and a little troubled, at the very least! Maybe after these people continue digging, they can find cars, cell phones, or buildings that date to our era that help them understand the kind of people we were. I wonder what they would think if they uncovered a bunch of LDS church buildings, each with a basketball court in the middle. Would they think we worship basketball?! I guess that wouldn’t be wrong in some cases… 😉

Back to the point… As a reader of the Bible, you are picking up a collection of books that are thousands of years old. (That blows my mind every time I think about it!) Remember that we don’t know all the details of ancient Israel. Understanding the Bible is like putting together a giant puzzle with thousands of pieces. In this puzzle, we add all the pieces of knowledge from archaeology, ancient texts, ancient languages, surrounding empires, etc., and scholars and theologians try to make their best educated decisions as they go.

Do you remember the scene in National Treasure where Nicholas Cage’s character has the glasses with the different lenses on them? As he changes the lenses different things appear on the paper. Without realizing it, you are reading the Bible through a hypothetical set of glasses just like this. The multiple lenses on your glasses include your personal viewpoints, life experiences, perspectives, culture, expectations, and understanding of God. You impose all those things onto what you are reading which can make the Bible confusing to modern readers. As you study and better understand the ancient history, languages, styles of writing, archaeology, etc., surrounding the Bible, you will be able to remove your modern lenses and try to replace them with the lenses of ancient peoples and authors. Just like in National Treasure, different things will begin to appear on the paper for you and your understanding will increase. Again, this is hypothetical, but hopefully you catch my drift.


“The Great Library of Alexandria” by O. Von Corven

THE BIBLE IS A COLLECTION OF BOOKS

It is important to understand that the Bible is a collection of different books written by different authors. It may be easier to look at the Bible as an ancient library, or a collection of sixty-six ancient books. After all, the word Bible comes from the Greek word biblia, meaning “books.” These books were written separately during a span of over a thousand years.

The authors of the Bible each had differing views, perspectives, governments, and cultural experiences from their particular day and age. This is why I don’t get too worked up when the Bible contradicts itself. Again, the Bible was written during a period of over a thousand years. Imagine what life was like 200 years ago from today, or 500 years ago. It was a very different world than what it is today. This was true for the ancient world as well. So just remember as you go: different authors, different time periods, different editors, and different books.

This shouldn’t be an unfamiliar concept to LDS readers of the Bible. The Book of Mormon has many different books, many different authors (many of which identify themselves), spans many hundreds of years, and Mormon goes through the collection of books and serves as redactor (or editor).

GENRE

Modern day libraries separate books by genres such as fiction, non-fiction, biographies, children’s literature, etc., both for organization and to help the reader know what they are reading. The authors also give me clues as to what genre I am reading. If I pick up a book that starts with the words “Once upon a time,” it is a clear clue from the author and I can prepare myself to read a fairy tale. If I read something that starts with the words “Four score and seven years ago,” the education in my country has taught me that I am about to read a speech.

Similarly, the Bible is a collection containing multiple genres. These genres include ancient legal codes, poems, chiasmus, songs, prayers, writings, parables, conquest narratives, etc. Many of the Biblical authors use cultural references that wouldn’t be firsthand knowledge to us, but we can learn. The authors also leave clues about the genre to the reader as well. You have a responsibility to determine, as best you can, the genre of what you are reading and the Bible will suddenly become much less confusing.

DIG DEEPER

TRUTH CAN BE TAUGHT IN FICTION

Here’s where we often get tripped up: If “we believe the Bible to be the word of God as long as it is translated correctly” (Articles of Faith) then shouldn’t the Bible be 1,000% historically accurate? And filled with facts? Shouldn’t we be able to read every story literally?

LDS scholar Ben Spackman explains it this way go his classes: “I start off by saying, ‘Are Jesus’s parables true?’ And it’s pretty unanimous that people say, ‘Yes.’ I say, ‘Okay, when Jesus talks about the man who went down to Jericho and got robbed and the Good Samaritan came by, is he describing a historical event that actually happened?’ Most people will say, ‘No.’ ‘So Jesus, when he tells parables, he’s telling us stories that didn’t happen.’ ‘Well, yeah.’ ‘Okay, but we still say they’re true.’ ‘Well yeah.’ What we have with parable is a genre where its truth is not dependent upon its historical value.”

Modern day parents teach their kids truths and important lessons through fictional books all the time. We love books that have a moral to the story. Parents still read their kids Aesop’s Fables who, by the way, was Greek and estimated to have written in the 6th century BCE, the same era where some of the Biblical writings come forth.

Bible scholar Sheldon Greaves says the first time we have evidence of the Bible being read in a literal interpretation isn’t until the 1500’s AD. But don’t fret… Of course there is historicity in the Bible that we can take at face value. Of course plenty of the characters were literal people. But don’t lose your faith over a story you thought was historically accurate only to find it was a parable. You just mixed up the genre, no worries. The fun part comes when the story has a cooler meaning than you originally thought.

The Bible is sometimes colloquially referred to as “God’s Best Seller,” except God Himself didn’t sit down and write it. He inspired mortals to write it and inspired mortals to edit it. The scriptures are the word of God told through the writing of mortals. As such, the ancient scriptures, including the Book of Mormon, are considered so precious to the human family that they have been painstakingly preserved and brought forth out of obscurity for our benefit. They are such a treasure.

THINK

Bible scholar David Bokovoy says, “…Rather than a manual that perfectly defines God, religion, and morality, the Old Testament should be used as a springboard lifting its readers to further levels of enlightenment as we consider the various ways different groups of Israelite authors understood divinity.”

Here’s the question: WHY DO YOU CARE about how a group of ancient people understood divinity thousands of years ago??

2 Nephi 29:4 says, “…they shall have a Bible; and it shall proceed forth from the Jews, mine ancient covenant people” (emphasis added).

Through the ages, God has made covenants with His children…
In the Bible we read of men and women in the Old World who were identified as children of the covenant. What covenant? “The covenant which God made with [their] fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.”…In the Book of Mormon we read of people in the New World who were also identified as children of the covenant…To the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Master declared: “Abraham received promises concerning his seed, and of the fruit of his loins—from whose loins ye are…This promise is yours also, because ye are of Abraham.”

With this renewal, we have received, as did they of old, the holy priesthood and the everlasting gospel…Ours is the responsibility to help fulfill the Abrahamic covenant. Ours is the seed foreordained and prepared to bless all people of the world…After some 4,000 years of anticipation and preparation, this is the appointed day when the gospel is to be taken to the kindreds of the earth. This is the time of the promised gathering of Israel. And we get to participate! Isn’t that exciting? 

Covenants, Russel M. Nelson

As you read the following paragraph, choose from the three options below which group you think I am describing:

  • Ancient Israelites
  • Nephites
  • Latter-day Saints

This people were gathered and sent to a promised land. Prophets were called. The priesthood was given. The gospel was continually revealed as the people learned and transformed. Temples were built. Covenants were made. They were asked to prepare the world for the coming of Christ.

Which is the correct answer? Tricked ya… the answer is ALL OF THEM! From an LDS perspective, we have all been assigned the same job. Why wouldn’t we do all that we can to learn from the successes and failures recorded in the Bible and Book of Mormon?! Can you see how it is no wonder why the scriptures have been preserved for the latter-day? We have so much work to do. It is incredible that we have these ancient scriptures and peoples to learn from.


Façade of the Celsus Library in modern-day Selçuk, Turkey. Completed c. 117 CE.

Holy Week

Come, Follow Me - For Individuals and Families

It’s Holy Week! I want to share a few of my favorite Holy Week resources with you. I’ve included a few to stretch your brain.


Agony in the Garden by Frans Schwartz, 1898

The Small Seed has a free downloadable poster complete with pictures and descriptions for each day of the week. This is a wonderful visual and daily reminder for all ages, but especially kids. Find the Easter Week download here. Did I mention it’s FREE? And amazing?! I printed mine off at a copy shop several years ago and reuse it every year. I suggest getting it laminated so pictures can be easily taken off and on.

If you want a more in depth study on Holy Week, read daily posts by BYU Professor Dr. Eric Huntsman here.

To learn more about the symbol of the cross and how it plays a role in our individual discipleship, listen to this LDS Perspectives Podcast with BYU Professor Dr. Gaye Strathearn.

The Savior’s Final Week by Andrew C. Skinner is a must read. The book is a 3-in-1 omnibus containing Skinner’s previously published Gethsemane, Golgotha, and The Garden Tomb.

ChurchofJesusChrist.org has a whole page of Easter resources including videos, stories, conference talks, music, and activities for kids. Find the page here.

Lesson 11: “These Twelve Jesus Sent Forth”

Come, Follow Me - For Individuals and Families
LEARN

Read March 11-17 Come, Follow Me – For Individuals and Families lesson here.

Attestaments focus: Matthew 10

DIG DEEPER

THE TWELVE APOSTLES

Listen. I’ve just been over here nerding out over the amazingness that a temple opened in Rome, Italy. And that ALL of the modern-day apostles attended the dedication. And that we’re studying the New Testament at the same time. And we’re assigned to learn about the first apostles called by the Savior this week in Come, Follow Me. I can only imagine the rejoicing in heaven by those early apostles and early Christians who suffered such severe persecution in Rome. This truly is a historic moment.

And can we talk about this picture? What a statement. While in Rome, Elder Renlund said, “We know that two former-day apostles, Peter and Paul, were here…and then to have modern-day apostles here, all of us, is just a moving experience, in some ways paying homage to them and homage to the gospel we all preach.” The original church that Jesus Christ established in the meridian of time has been restored to the earth. What an amazing time to be alive!

And have you read this quote by President Nelson?

“This is a hinge point in the history of the Church. Things are going to move forward at an accelerated pace of which this is a part. We think the Church is an old Church. It’s 189 years old. But it’s only the beginning. Just project out what the next future will be and the Church is going to have an unprecedented future. Unparalleled. We’re just building up to what’s ahead now.”

President Russell M. Nelson

Unreal. And I know…that was a lot of sentences starting with the word “and!” I’ll settle down now. I’m just excited! But in light of everything, I think it’s worthwhile to learn more about the original apostles called by the Savior. These original apostles were first hand witnesses to Jesus and some write and assign words to His personality, His behaviors, and His miracles.

The Apostle Paul taught that faithful Saints are “of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:19–20; emphasis added).

Statues of Peter, James, and John in the Rome Italy Temple Visitors’ Center

THE ORIGINAL TWELVE APOSTLES CALLED BY JESUS

The night before Jesus called the twelve, “he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles” (Luke 6:12-13).

Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphæus, and Lebbæus, whose surname was Thaddæus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.

Matthew 10: 2-4

Side note: Names in the Bible often reflect the personality of the person or qualities they develop over time, so we can learn about their individual character as we consider the meaning of their names.

SIMON PETER

  • Alternate Names and Meaning: Simon bar Yonah means “son of a man named Jonah.” Also called Cephas in Aramaic or Petros in Greek which means “stone or rock.”
  • Hometown: Bethsaida
  • Family Info: Son of Jonah, brother of Andrew. Married.
  • Occupation: Successful fisherman, with brother Andrew and business partners James and John.
  • Death: Crucified upside-down in Rome. Tradition is that he chose to be crucified upside-down as he didn’t feel worthy to be killed the same way as Jesus.
  • Interesting Facts: Appeared to Joseph Smith in 1829, along with James and John.

ANDREW

  • Alternate Names and Meanings: From the Greek Andreas, means “manly.”
  • Hometown: Bethsaida
  • Family Info: Son of Jonah, brother of Simon Peter
  • Occupation: Successful fisherman, with brother Simon Peter and business partners James and John.
  • Death: Tradition holds that Andrew was crucified on a cross turned on its side.
  • Interesting Facts: Andrew had been a follower of John the prophet (or John the Baptist). He believed John’s testimony of Jesus, told his brother Simon Peter, and brought him to Jesus. Andrew is mentioned with the feeding of the five thousand and the ascension of Jesus.

JAMES

  • Alternate Names and Meanings: Ya’akov in Hebrew. He and his brother John were called Boanerges meaning “sons of thunder,” likely in reference to when they suggested to bring fire down to destroy villagers (Luke 9:54) who refused Jesus hospitality in Samaria, or their zeal in service of the Lord.
  • Hometown: Bethsaida
  • Family Info: Son of Zebedee, brother of John
  • Occupation: Fisherman, in business with brother John, Simon Peter, and Andrew.
  • Death: Beheaded by Herod Agrippa. He was the first martyr apostle.

JOHN

  • Alternate Names and Meanings: Yohanan in Hebrew, means “God is gracious.” Also called “the Beloved” and “the Revelator.”
  • Hometown: Bethsaida
  • Family Info: Son of Zebedee, brother of James
  • Occupation: Fisherman, in business with brother James, Simon Peter, and Andrew
  • Death: Is a translated being, granted the wish to remain on earth as a ministering servant until the Second Coming. Read D&C 7 right this minute! It is a translation of a record written by John himself regarding his desire to stay on the earth. Amazing!
  • Interesting Facts: John is never actually named in the gospels as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” but this character is traditionally assigned as John. “The disciple whom Jesus loved” leaned on Jesus’s bosom at the Last Supper, stood at the foot of the cross of Jesus, took care of the mother of Jesus after the crucifixion, ran to the tomb of Jesus when he heard it was empty. He is the author or source for the Gospel of John, Revelation, and three epistles. John was banished to the Isle of Patmos in about A.D. 93 or 94.

PHILIP

  • Alternate Names and Meanings: Greek, means “lover of horses.”
  • Hometown: Bethsaida
  • Death: Tradition holds that Philip was crucified.
  • Interesting Facts: Friend of Andrew and Peter. Philip believed in their testimony and he was introduced to Jesus. Philip then told his friend Nathanael of Jesus. Was possibly the only apostle that Jesus personally sought out and to hear the words “Follow me” from Jesus. Philip is mentioned in connection with the feeding of the five thousand.

NATHANAEL

  • Alternate Names and Meanings: Hebrew, means “Gift of God.” Also called Bartholomew.
  • Hometown: Cana of Galilee
  • Family Info: Bar Tolmai (notice the same sounds in Bartholomew) means son of Tolmai in Hebrew.
  • Death: Tradition holds that Nathanael was skinned alive.
  • Interesting Facts: Was told of Jesus by his friend Philip. Nathanael’s first reaction to the news is, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” But Nathanael accepts the invitation to “Come and see”. In his first conversation with Jesus, Nathanael declares, “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.” Jesus goes on to tell him, “Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.” (See John 1 for the amazing conversation between the two.) Nathanael sees the risen Jesus after His resurrection.

THOMAS

  • Alternate Names and Meanings:  Didymus, which may have been his surname. Didymus in Greek and Thomas in Aramaic each mean “twin.”
  • Death: Tradition holds that Thomas was killed by the spears of four soldiers.
  • Interesting Facts: Thomas is referred to as “Doubting Thomas” due to his doubt of the actuality of a risen Jesus as he wasn’t with the apostles when they first saw Him. Eight days later, the resurrected Jesus returned again to the apostles and Thomas was able to see Him. Thomas expressed his belief, to which Jesus replied, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou has believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” Thomas is mentioned in the raising of Lazarus as a witness. Thomas was willing to accompany Jesus into areas of intense persecution exclaiming, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

MATTHEW

  • Alternate Names and Meanings: Greek Mattathias or Hebrew Mattithyah means “Gift of God.” Also called Levi and the Publican.
  • Family Info: Son of Alphaeus, brother of James the less.
  • Occupation: Tax collector
  • Death: Tradition holds that Matthew was stabbed by a sword in Ethiopia.
  • Interesting Facts: Wrote the Gospel of Matthew. The Hebrew name Levi connotes his priestly lineage of the house of Israel. Very active in his apostolic duties after the death of Christ.

JAMES

  • Alternate Names and Meanings: Also called “the less” to distinguish him from James, son of Zebedee.
  • Family Info: Son of Alphaeus, brother of Matthew
  • Death: Tradition holds that James was crucified in Egypt or that he was stoned and clubbed to death.

JUDAS

  • Alternate Names and Meanings: Yehuda or Judah in Hebrew or Judas in Greek. Sometimes referred to as “not Iscariot” so not to be confused with Judas, the traitor. Also called Lebbaeus, meaning “root” in Arabic, or Thaddaeus, which is the Hebrew root meaning “heart.”
  • Death: Tradition holds that Judas was crucified.

SIMON

  • Alternate Names and Meanings: The Canaanite or the Zealot, from the word Zelotes. Zealots were a Jewish sect which advocated a violent overthrow of Roman rule.
  • Death: Tradition holds that Simon was crucified.

JUDAS ISCARIOT

  • Alternate Names and Meanings: “Iscariot” was a name assigned to him from the Hebrew ish Karioth, which means man from Kerioth
  • Hometown: Kerioth
  • Family Info: Son of Simon
  • Occupation: Treasurer of the Quorum
  • Death: Suicide by hanging
  • Interesting Facts: Judas Iscariot was the only apostle called from Judea as all others were from Galilee. Betrayed Jesus to the Sanhedrin for 30 pieces of silver.

MINI HISTORY LESSON

The Apostles were killed during a time when the entire Church was being persecuted. Nero, a Roman emperor, was the first to make laws to exterminate Christians, in about A.D. 65. Under his reign, thousands were cruelly killed. A second round of persecutions began in about A.D. 93 under Emperor Domitian. Succeeding emperors continued torturing and killing Christians. As a result of these persecutions, thousands of Christians were martyred. Many others apostatized.
In about A.D. 324 Constantine became the emperor of the Roman Empire. He made Christianity a legal religion, stopping centuries of persecution. His actions linked the church to the government, and corrupt church leaders began seeking power and the honors of the world.
Teachers within the church began to adopt false religious concepts from Greek philosophy and pagan religions. False ordinances and ceremonies were also introduced. Even though the church still taught some truth, the true Church of Christ and the priesthood were no longer on the earth. And as Christianity spread to various parts of the world—including to Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas—new churches were formed and grew. None of these churches, however, was the true Church, since the Lord had already taken priesthood authority and priesthood keys from the earth.

Read the rest of the article “What Happened to Christ’s Church?” here.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

  • Talmage considers each apostle individually in this chapter: “Chapter 16: The Chosen Twelve,” Jesus the Christ (2006), 217–229.
  • BYU New Testament Commentary has listed additional sources to learn further about some of Christ’s closest disciples here.
  • Read tons of quotes from modern prophets and apostles testifying of the divine calling of an apostle and that Jesus is the Christ here.
  • Listen to a really excellent podcast about discipleship here.
THINK

The mere utterance of a few simple words to deny Christ would have stopped a violent and incredibly painful death of many of the apostles. But they were first hand witnesses to the life, miracles, and ministry of Jesus. They knew Him. They were strengthened by Him. They were His friend. And they loved Him. They simply could not deny that He was the Christ.

Do the apostles’ accounts and testimony of Jesus help you have a stronger faith in Jesus and what He is capable of? I hope so.

The first twelve apostles “provide us a mirror in which we can view our own walk with the Lord, seeing how the seeds of our testimony were planted and how we can share that witness with others. The titles that these first disciples give Jesus reflect what we as disciples should believe about him, and their choice to follow him and share their faith show us we should do.” Becoming The Beloved Disciple by Eric Huntsman, page 17.

Lesson 7: “Ye Must Be Born Again”

Come, Follow Me - For Individuals and Families
LEARN

Read February 11-17 lesson here.

This lesson will focus on the “Christ offers me His living water” section from Come, Follow Me.

DIG DEEPER

I’m pretty sure this is an actual picture of me this week. (Jokes.) I’m sorry this lesson is posted so late in the week, but its been a rough one, folks. I know you can relate because we all go through times when we feel like this. When you have days where you feel “heavy laden,” what can you do to pull yourself back up? Does the Savior truly give you rest?

What was the cause of so much contention between the ancient Jews and Samaritans?

The story of the woman at Jacob’s Well took place in a village called Sychar in Samaria (John 4:5). By this time the Jews had long since had “no dealings with the Samaritans” (John 4:9). The history here goes back to when the 12 tribes settled in Israel. After King Solomon died around 930 BCE, the United Kingdom was divided among the 12 tribes. Ten tribes settled in the Northern Kingdom, thereafter referred to as Israel, while the remaining two settled in the Southern Kingdom, or Judah. The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh settled the area of Samaria in the Northern Kingdom. Notice Jerusalem is in the Southern Kingdom. Jeroboam, was the first king of the Northern Kingdom and was often at war with Judah. The Northern Kingdom frequently fell into apostasy and worshiped pagan gods, including the Canaanite storm god Ba’al. The divisions and hostilities between the two kingdoms only escalated from here.

***I’m going to make an interjection here that may be helpful. It was a common understanding during this time that particular gods only ruled over certain pieces of land. It was not a common belief that god/s could be everywhere at once and care for everyone. For example, it was understood that the victor in a war or battle won because their deity or group of deities were stronger than the other group’s deity. So since the tribes were in Samaria, an area they presumed to have different gods, they began to listen to Samaritans who told them that they needed to worship their gods, such as Ba’al, in order to provide the rain water necessary for their survival. So they did. In doing so, they disregarded much of what Yahweh (or Jehovah) had taught them. Sometimes they remembered to worship Yahweh, but often did so in an incorrect manner. You can read the story of Jeroboam, the first king of the Northern Kingdom, and his worship of false gods here.


Sacrifice of Jeroboamby Claes Moeyaert, 1641

Around 721 BCE, the Assyrians, under Sargon II, conquered the Northern Kingdom and the ten tribes were scattered. This was a common war tactic at the time. The idea was if you deport the conquered peoples, the less likely it will be that they come back together to revolt. The Assyrians brought several groups into Samaria to live and mixed with the remaining Israelites.

Sargon II

Alexander the Great conquered the land in 332 BCE and brought Greek colonies to Samaria. Worship practices and scripture between the two groups became different as well. For example, the Samaritans accepted the Pentateuch, but but not the other writings of the Old Testament. The Samaritans claimed their Israelite heritage, but Jews of Jerusalem viewed Samaritans as unclean, genealogical mixed-bloods.

Alexander Mosaic

By Jesus’ time, hundreds of years of bitter history between the Jews and Samaritans resulted in deep-rooted, harsh feelings toward one another. For the Jews, a term of ultimate insult was to call someone a Samaritan. This feeling is recorded in John 8:48: “Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and has a devil?”

(Remember Jesus’ parable of a half-dead Jew laying on the side of the road and the Good Samaritan had compassion on him? Wow, what a poignant lesson in love.)

Back to the story … It is unclear why Jesus took the route through Samaria back to Galilee, rather than through the Jordan valley. It was possibly due to mounting hostilities toward him in Judea, but likely because he knew of a certain woman in Samaria and the important role her testimony would play in converting many in her village. Either way, Jesus did not avoid the Samaritans as did the rest of the Jews.

Jesus’ talking to the woman of Samaria broke all of the complicated societal boundaries. It would have been uncommon for a man to be alone with a woman that was not family. Divorce had become common in the ancient Middle East, yet, only the men were given the authority to initiate a divorce. A meaningless reason to initiate the divorce would have been enough. Still, a woman having five husbands would have been unusual. Society would have considered her an outcast, which is likely the reason she was drawing water in the middle of the day. It is possible that Jesus sent his disciples away in order to have an uninterrupted conversation with her free from protests.

Further, Samaritans were viewed as permanently ritually impure. Jesus asked for a drink and the woman of Samaria was surprised because she knew that he would become ritually impure by drinking from her vessel. Then Jesus replied, “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.”

Have you considered the importance of the word “living” waters? Water from a jug or a pond can become stagnant. Living waters are a continual source of clean, fresh nourishment. Jesus emphasized, “…the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). What a gift.

THINK

I love that Jesus sought out this woman of Samaria, an outcast of outcasts. He knew her heart and in turn, she played an important role in her village by bringing others to Christ, as true disciples do. Can you imagine how differently she must have felt about herself after that experience? The people that deemed her an outcast were suddenly considering the importance of what she had to say. Her soul certainly would have found rest. I hope you know that just like the Samaritan woman, Jesus knows you and seeks to give you rest as well. He is more intimately involved in your life than you could ever imagine.

How can you actually draw from Jesus and His living water? What are sources of living water?

The scriptures are certainly a source of living water. As you read them, the Spirit will testify to you of their truthfulness. When I dig deeper into the history, the more I understand the scriptures, which allow me to better understand the Savior and the impact of His teaching.

What can you do to become closer to Christ? Learn of Him.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:29).

When you partake of the bread (of life) and (living) water this week in Sacrament, consider what you can do to partake more fully in what Jesus is offering.

TEACH

The best lesson you could teach this week is to show love others more fully than before. Follow Jesus’ example of uninhibited love and try to remove the filters of ill feelings and societal prejudices and viewpoints from your eyes as you interact with others.