Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman in John 4 draws on themes of Roman imperialism and Samaria’s colonial history. The Samaritan townspeople call Jesus “the Savior of the world” (4:42), a title used for Roman emperors from Julius Caesar to Hadrian. They go out to meet Jesus and welcome him to their town, a practice used to welcome emperors and other dignitaries. Using a title of empire-wide significance emphasizes that Jesus now transcends older national divisions. The Samaritan woman speaks as an individual and representative of her people. Her personal history with five husbands parallels her national history of colonization by five nations and their introduction of foreign worship. Her current situation with a sixth figure might also point to the continuation of her people’s colonial experience with Roman domination and the imperial cult at Sebaste. By calling Jesus “Savior of the World” the Samaritan townspeople show that Jesus fulfills and surpasses their national hopes. They move beyond a form of worship tainted by charges of idolatry to true worship of God, and beyond a national identity defined by colonial powers to become true people of God.
Journal of Biblical Literature
Koester, Craig R. “‘The Savior of the World’ (John 4:42).” Journal of Biblical Literature 109, no. 4 (1990): 665–80.
Koester, Craig R., "'The savior of the world' (John 4:42)" (1990). Faculty Publications. 24.