On Or Beside? Which Is Correct?

Q. Could you tell me why the King James Version says that Jesus sat ON the well in John 4:6 while most other versions say BESIDE the well?

A. The Greek word in question is “epi”. Its primary meaning is on or upon. An example is in Acts 2:3 where what seemed to be tongues of fire came upon (epi) each of the disciples.

But out of the 896 times “epi” appears in the New Testament, 339 are given miscellaneous translations such as above, beyond, and beside, indicating a wide range of meaning. My guess is that since people rarely sit on or upon a well, the other translations chose the word “beside” out of a desire for clarity. So while the King James is technically the most correct, the other versions really aren’t incorrect.

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