John 4:8 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

John 4:8, NIV: "(His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)"

John 4:8, ESV: "(For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.)"

John 4:8, KJV: "(For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)"

John 4:8, NASB: "For His disciples had gone away to the city to buy food."

John 4:8, NLT: "He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food."

John 4:8, CSB: "because his disciples had gone into town to buy food."

What does John 4:8 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Verse 8 is an important setup for the lesson Jesus will teach after the Samaritan woman leaves. All of the disciples will enter the town, and none of them will return with anyone new. These men, already disciples of Jesus, will not tell anyone else about Him today. On the other hand, an immoral, outcast, half-Jewish woman will bring a large portion of the town (John 4:29–30; 35). This is not completely surprising, given the general Jewish hatred for Samaritans. Jesus had quite a bit of work to do giving His disciples the right mindset. Still, this later incident would probably be a bit embarrassing for the men travelling with Christ.

The fact that Jesus and the Samaritan woman are alone also helps explain other quirks of this passage. The words recorded in the conversation seem much more like a summary than a transcript. This is the principle of ipsissima vox, meaning "the very voice" of Scripture. In short, this means that some passages of the Bible are accurate summations of a conversation, rather than a word-for-word record. If Jesus and the woman were alone, the content of the conversation was probably told to the disciples, including John, at some later time.

Also, the fact that there were no other men at the well explains the tone the Samaritan woman takes in the conversation. More than likely, she would never have approached the well, alone, with a crowd of strange men nearby. She might not have known Jesus was there. She certainly seems surprised that He wants to talk to her. Being alone, she probably was not expecting to see anyone there, and wondered what He had in mind.