Caryn Reeder – The Samaritan Woman’s Story after #ChurchToo

Episode: Erin speaks with Caryn Reeder about the Samaritan Woman, the reception history of John 4, and its impact on the experiences of women in the church today, which Caryn treats in her newest book: The Samaritan Woman’s Story: Reconsidering John 4 after #ChurchToo, published by IVP Academic.

Guest (adapted from Westmont’s website): Dr. Reeder earned a B.A. from Augustana College, an M.A. in biblical studies from Wheaton College, and an M.Phil. in Old Testament and Ph.D. in New Testament from the University of Cambridge. She came to Westmont in 2007. Her research interests include the household, gender, and violence in the Bible and biblical worlds. Her recent research addresses women, children, and warfare in the Gospel of Luke, and the interpretation of the story of the Samaritan woman in the context of women’s lives in the church. She also teaches in the Gender Studies program. She’s the author of The Enemy in the Household: Family Violence in Deuteronomy and Beyond (IVP Academic) and The Samaritan Woman’s Story: Reconsidering John 4 after #ChurchToo (IVP Academic), discussed in this episode.

Book (from the publisher’s website): Most Christians have heard a familiar description of the Samaritan woman in John 4: she was a sinner, an adulteress, even a prostitute. Throughout church history, the woman at the well has been seen narrowly in terms of her gender and marital history. What are we missing in the story? And what difference does our interpretation of this passage make for women and men in the church?

Caryn A. Reeder calls us to see the Samaritan woman in a different light. Beginning with the reception history of John 4, she pulls back layers of interpretation entangled with readers’ assumptions on women and sexuality. She then explores the story’s original context, describing life for women and expectations regarding marriage and divorce in the first century. With this clarified lens, Reeder’s exegesis of the passage yields refreshing insights on what the Gospel says—and does not say—about the woman at the well.

Throughout the book, Reeder draws connections between interpretations of this text and the life of the church. The sexual objectification of the Samaritan woman and minimization of her positive contribution has ongoing consequences for how women are seen and treated—including in the failure of many Christian communities to respond well to accusations of abuse. In the age of #MeToo and #ChurchToo, The Samaritan Woman’s Story offers a bold challenge to teach the Bible in a way that truly honors the value and voices of women.

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If you enjoyed this episode … Check out our interview with Dr. Reeder about family violence in the Bible. 

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