Daily Bible Nugget #519, John 2:4

The Nugget:

Joh 2:4  Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.

My Comment:

On a Facebook discussion group, Muslim posters called in question John’s account of Jesus addressing His mother by the term “woman.”

Here is the discussion as it has progressed so far:

Question to my Christian brethren.

According to St. John, in the fourth verse above, describing the marriage feast at Cana,
we are told that Jesus, peace and blessings be upon him, behaved insolently towards
his mother. He calls her “woman,” and to rub more salt into the wound he is made to
say “what have I to do with thee?” What connection is there between you and me, or
what have I got to do with you? Could he have forgotten that this very “woman” had
carried him for nine months, and perhaps suckled him for 2 years, and had borne endless insults and injuries on account of him? Is she not his mother? Is there no word in his language for “mother”?


My Reply:

That is a misreading of Scripture, for it fails to take into account the culture of the time. In today’s English, to address a person as “woman” might be considered disrespectful. That was not true at the time Jesus addressed His mother.

Muslim responder:

give reference please.

Jerome Smith according to the bible, Jesus is a Jew.
Jews follow the commandments of God given to Moses.
Num. 5 of the commandments is,
Honor your Father and your Mother.


By calling his mother WOMAN, he has broken the law and his own word.

My Reply:

Apparently you did not read my comment above carefully enough. You cannot properly read back into a culture over 2000 years ago a connotation that is now true of our culture and use of language. Our present use of any English idiom using the word “woman” has nothing to do with the connotation of the use of the word “woman” in polite address in the time of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Woman. Note: The term woman, so far from implying anything disrespectful, was employed as an honourable appellation, according to the usage of the Greeks; and was used by our Lord on the most affecting of all occasions, and when he evinced his exquisite sympathy and tender regard for this very parent, Joh 19:26, Joh 4:21; Joh 19:26, 27; Joh 20:13; Joh 20:15, Mat 15:28.

Muslim Responder:

You mean Jesus was polite by calling his mother a WOMAN?

PROVE IT with your culture 2000 years ago.


My Reply:

My statement of the FACTS is proof. I also cited long-respected scholarship in my comment from The Comprehensive Bible.

You can readily check commentaries and study Bibles that focus on aspects of the ancient culture of Bible times, such as the Cultural Reference Bible.

From the Catholic Commentary:

4. His answer has created three difficulties: (1) The term of address sounds severe, if not belittling; (2) the answer seems a refusal; (3) the reason given admits more than one interpretation. As regards the first: ‘Woman’ both in Gk and Semitic is a title not indeed of domestic intimacy (our Lord would not have used it at Nazareth) but of solemn honour. This honorific solemnity of the word on the lips of Jesus himself may be tested in Joh 4:21; Joh 20:15, but most of all in Joh 19:26, when he addressed his mother from the cross.

From Barnes’ Commentary:

Woman – This term, as used here, seems to imply reproof, as if she was interfering in that which did not properly concern her; but it is evident that no such reproof or disrespect was intended by the use of the term “woman” instead of “mother.” It is the same term by which he tenderly addressed Mary Magdalene after his resurrection Joh 20:15, and his mother when he was on the cross, Joh 19:26. Compare also Mat 15:28; Joh 4:21; 1Co 7:16.

From Vincent’s Word Studies:

Implying no severity nor disrespect. Compare Joh 20:13, Joh 20:15. It was a highly respectful and affectionate mode of address.

From Clarke’s Commentary:

Our Lord’s answer to his mother, if properly translated, is far from being disrespectful. He addresses the virgin as he did the Syrophoenician woman, Mat 15:28; as he did the Samaritan woman, Joh 4:21, as he addressed his disconsolate mother when he hung upon the cross, Joh 19:26; as he did his most affectionate friend Mary Magdalene, Joh 20:15, and as the angels had addressed her before, Joh 20:13; and as St. Paul does the believing Christian woman, 1Co 7:16; in all which places the same term, γυναι which occurs in this verse, is used; and where certainly no kind of disrespect is intended, but, on the contrary, complaisance, affability, tenderness, and concern and in this sense it is used in the best Greek writers.

John 2:4

Handbook on the Gospel of John:

Jesus’ use of “woman” (RSV) in direct address was normal and polite (compare Matt 15:28). It showed neither disrespect nor lack of love, as can be clearly seen by the parallel use in Joh 19:26. TEV has omitted mention of “woman” as a noun of address, because it is not necessary in English and tends to convey the impression that Jesus was disrespectful.

A number of serious problems are involved in translating “woman” literally. In some languages a man would address his own wife this way, and so this rendering cannot be employed here. In other languages, to address one’s mother as “woman” would be insulting; it could even be interpreted to mean that Jesus was denying that Mary was his mother. The closest equivalent in many languages is simply “my mother” or “mother,” but in others an equivalent expression showing proper respect would require the omission of any expression of direct address, as in TEV.

Newman, B. M., & Nida, E. A. (1993). A handbook on the Gospel of John (p. 57). New York: United Bible Societies.

From the Social Science Commentary on the Gospel of John:

The address Jesus uses here, “Woman,” sounds harsh to modern ears. Its use in Joh 19:26, however, makes clear that it is not. It may have been characteristic of Jesus (see also Joh 4:21; 8:11; 19:25; 20:13; Luke 13:10). The bond between mother and son is the closest interpersonal relation known in the Middle East. It is generally much closer than that of husband and wife. Hence, the mother of Jesus is able to presume upon Jesus to act as patron on behalf of this family.

Malina, B. J., & Rohrbaugh, R. L. (1998). Social-Science Commentary on the Gospel of John (p. 67). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

I have furnished documentation, old and new, that confirms what I wrote in the first place about the cultural difference in our day compared to how language was used in the time of Christ.

Jesus did not use “woman” in direct address as a term of disrespect, but just the opposite, as a term of honor.

Muslim Responder:

I can never agree in your philosophical explanation that calling your mother WOMAN is a term of honor.

I just want to give emphasis to this subject that it appeared only in the gospel according to john. And in this two separate occasions The writer John is not present or witness to the happenings.
This only means that he heard it from somebody else’s story.
Next is that the gospel according to john is much different from the three other gospels of matthew, mark and luke. Where after the baptism of Jesus, the spirit took him to the wilderness to be tempted by satan while fasting for forty days and forty nights
On the other hand john wrote that after three days from baptism Jesus and his disciples were invited to Cana wedding where he perform his first miracle where he called his mother Woman.

That,was a very far comparison of their gospel. Proving that the gospels are not words of God.

My Reply:

You are entitled to believe what you want. My purpose has been to provide evidence, in this case, abundant scholarly evidence, to show that you have misunderstood how the term “woman” is used by Jesus when he addressed his mother.

References to the use of the term “woman” are not confined exclusively to the Gospel of John. I already gave you the cross reference to Matthew 15:28.

Matthew 15:28
28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.
King James Version

The Gospel of John is different from the other three Gospel accounts on purpose. John wrote the Gospel of John long after the other three Gospels were written. John, therefore, was able to include details the other writers had not mentioned.

To suggest that John was not present at the scenes he gives witness to is very mistaken. John was present at the trials of Jesus. John was present at the crucifixion of Jesus. Read the Gospel of John carefully for yourself, and you will see that I am correct.

In context, “the third day” of John 2:1 is being counted in this narrative from John 1:43 when Philip was found. It is a week after what transpired in John 1:19. The chronology here has no reference to the baptism of Jesus, which is not recorded in John’s Gospel. Reading a good harmony of the Gospels, such as the one written by A. T. Robertson, will clarify the order of events mentioned in John and their relation to events recorded in the synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

Muslim Response:

I can say that you are drunk and are not fit to give lecture about what you are reading.

Where in the bible did you read that John was present during Jesus trial.

Only peter was present. He even denied Jesus three times.
And in crucification Jesus saw the disciple whom He loves together with his mother, that was Peter not John.

Calling other ladies a woman is but natural, compared to his own mother which is a sign of disrespect.

A T Robertson is not a disciple nor a writer in the bible how can you refer from his own opinion. The bible is the true reference not the explanation that was already twisted by other scholars or professors.

It is clearly mentioned in the bible the days from baptism to his schedule to Cana.
day 1: the baptism
John 1:33
I did not recognize him but he who sent me to baptize in water said to me. He upon whom you see the spirit descending upon him this is the pne who baptize in the holy spirit.
Day 2, 1st day after baptism
John 1:35
Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples.
Day 3, the second day after baptism.
John 1:43
The next day he purposed to go into Galilee.
Day 4 going to Galilee
John 2:1
On the third day (from his baptism) there was Cana of Galilee.

There was no chronology from John 1:19 where John de Baptist denying that he was Elijah and the prophet.

I can sense that christian scholars are foolish.
Just yesterday May 7, catholics commemorate the day when king herod of Jerusalem have ordered his soldiers to kill all children whose ages from two years below. This is to get rid of the messiah that was born in Bethlehem who will save the Israel from the rule of the Roman empire.
Romans invented the birthday of Jesus to be celebrated on December 25 the birthday of Zeus their myth god. Meaning that the census on Bethlehem lasted for 5 months and the family of Jesus stayed there until an angel ordered Joseph to flee to Egypt for safety.

My Response:

Thank you for your kind responses. I believe you will greatly benefit from reading the Bible more carefully and thoroughly yourself. I have read and studied the Bible very carefully and thoroughly. I am a recognized Bible scholar with three major standard Bible reference works published under my name.

To suggest that the “beloved disciple” is not John shows you or your sources have not carefully studied the New Testament record.

To suggest that John was not present during the trial of Jesus indicates either careless or inattentive reading of the New Testament. See John 18:15.

Remember that John does not usually name himself, but when he does refer to himself he does so by saying such a thing as “the disciple that Jesus loved” (John 13:23).

Muslim Response:

Jerome Smith then you are mistaken for the real disciple that Jesus loved is Judas Iscariot.

John 21:20
Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them.; the one who also had leaned back on his bosom at the supper and said, Lord who is the one who betrays you.
21 so Peter seeing him said to Jesus, Lord and what about this man.
22 Jesus said to him, If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!
23 therefore this saying went out among the brethren that the disciple would not die yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, if I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you.

If that was John, why would Jesus want him to die?

My Response:

Reading the Gospel of John very carefully, you will be able to learn that it is customary for John not to name himself. But he was the one leaning on Jesus’ breast. He is the one who arranged for Peter to be able to enter the judgment hall. He is the one that was at the cross when Jesus died, and gave his sworn legal testimony both at the end of the Gospel of John and also in his letter, the book of 1 John, to the fact that he was an eye witness and wrote what he saw himself take place.


At the end of John’s Gospel, John is correcting a mistaken conception that was common among some of the Christian believers, who misunderstood the meaning of what Jesus had said to Peter and what Jesus had said to John.


Jesus was not saying that he wanted John to die. What he did say gives a hint then and is seen to be the case now that Peter died before John did. John was the longest-living disciple, as far as any evidence we have.


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