The Bridegroom at the Well

Third Sunday of Lent (A): John 4:5-42

I’ve always enjoyed word play. Puns, crosswords, cryptograms, Scrabble –  just about any game involving words. Psychologists tell us that people on the autism spectrum tend to like word play even more than people in general. Puns and word games come standard with us Aspies, so to speak!

But we’re not alone. The Bible is filled with examples of puns and word play. Very often, the naming of a person or place involves a play on words. Adam, on seeing Eve: “This one shall be called ‘woman’, for from ‘her man’ this one has been taken”. In Hebrew, ‘woman’ and ‘her man’ sound almost the same. Jesus, to Simon: “You are ‘Peter’, and upon ‘this rock’ I will build my church.”  Again, ‘Peter’ and ‘this rock’ sound almost the same in the original. John, writing out of a rich Biblical tradition, will also use plays on words as a means to draw out deeper meanings. Jesus tells Nicodemus, “You must be born ‘again’.” In Greek, the word translated as ‘again’ can also mean ‘from above’, depending on context. Nicodemus objects, understanding the word in its usual, literal ‘again’ meaning. Jesus then explains further, using the meaning ‘from above’. The Biblical authors used puns and word play not merely because they may have enjoyed it. It served a purpose. It is a reminder that they are writing about realities that cannot be adequately expressed in words. To show this, the Biblical authors used word play to show the reader that there is always more to life, and to God, than we might assume at first glance. Word play is an invitation to “come and see”, to go deeper.   Continue reading “The Bridegroom at the Well”