Samaritan woman at the well

The Samaritan woman at the well is a figure from the Gospel of John, in John 4:4–26. In Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic traditions, she is venerated as a saint with the name Photine (also Photini, Photina, meaning "the luminous one" from φως, "light").

Angelika Kauffmann - Christus und die Samariterin am Brunnen -1796.jpeg
The Water of Life Discourse between Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well by Angelika Kauffmann, 17–18th century

Biblical account

St Photina
Eastern Orthodox icon of Saint Photine meeting Christ

The woman appears in John 4:4–42:

But he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink', you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." The woman said to him, "Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?" Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life." The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water."

Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come back." The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the man you are now living with is not your husband. What you have said is true!" The woman said to him, "Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us." Jesus said to her, "I am he, the one who is speaking to you."[1]

This episode takes place before the return of Jesus to Galilee.[2] Some Jews regarded the Samaritans as foreigners and their attitude was often hostile, although they shared most beliefs, while many other Jews accepted Samaritans as either fellow Jews or as Samaritan Israelites.[3] The two communities seem to have drifted apart in the post-exilic period.[4] Both communities share the Pentateuch, although crucially the Samaritan Pentateuch locates the holy mountain at Mount Gerizim rather than at Mount Zion, as this incident acknowledges at John 4:20.

The Gospel of John, like the Gospel of Luke, is favourable to the Samaritans throughout, and, while the Matthaean Gospel quotes Jesus at one early phase in his ministry telling his followers to not at that time evangelize any of the cities of the Samaritans,[5] this restriction had clearly been reversed later by the time of Matthew 28:19. Scholars differ as to whether the Samaritan references in the New Testament are historical. One view is that the historical Jesus had no contact with Samaritans; another is that the accounts go back to Jesus himself. Note that in Acts 1:8, Jesus promises the apostles that they will be witnesses to the Samaritans.[6]


Scholars have noted that this story appears to be modelled on a standard betrothal scene from Hebrew scripture, particularly that of Jacob in Genesis 29.[7] This convention, which would have been familiar to Jewish readers, following on from an earlier scene in which John the Baptist compares his relationship to Jesus with that of the friend of a bridegroom.[2]

This Gospel episode is referred to as "a paradigm for our engagement with truth", in the Roman Curia book A Christian reflection on the New Age, as the dialogue says: "You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know" and offers an example of "Jesus Christ the bearer of the water of life".[8] The passages that comprise John 4:10–26 are sometimes referred to as the Water of Life Discourse, which forms a complement to the Bread of Life Discourse.[9]

In Eastern Christian tradition, the woman's name at the time of her meeting Jesus is unknown, though she was later christened "Photina". She is celebrated as a saint of renown. As further recounted in John 4:28-30 and John 4:39-42, she was quick to spread the news of her meeting with Jesus, and through this many came to believe in him. Her continuing witness is said to have brought so many to the Christian faith that she is described as "equal to the apostles". Eventually, having drawn the attention of Emperor Nero, she was brought before him to answer for her faith, suffering many tortures and dying a martyr after being thrown down a dry well. She is remembered on the Sunday four weeks after Pascha, which is known as "the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman".

In Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Mexico, a celebration of the Samaritan woman takes place on the fourth Friday of Lent. The custom of the day involves churches, schools, and businesses giving away fruit drinks to passers-by.[10]

Cultural references

In visual art

Augustins - Jésus et la Samaritaine - Gervais Drouet - RA 516

Samaritan woman at the well 1651 by Gervais Drouet

Duccio di Buoninsegna - Christ and the Samaritan Woman - Google Art Project

Christ and the Samaritan Woman, by Duccio di Buoninsegna

Franceschini, Giacomo - Gesù e la Samaritana al pozzo

Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well, by Giacomo Franceschini


Christ and the Samaritan Woman, by Stefano Erardi

Jan Joest von Kalkar - Christus und die Samariterin am Jakobsbrunnen

Christ and the Samaritan Woman, by Jan Joest van Kalkar

Guercino - Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well - WGA10946

Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well, by Guercino

Josef von Hempel - Christus und die Samariterin

Christ and the Samaritan Woman, by Josef von Hempel

Lucas Cranach d.Ä. - Christus und die Samariterin (Leipzig)

Christ and the Samaritan Woman, by Lucas Cranach the Elder

Carl Heinrich Bloch - Woman at the Well

Woman at the Well by Carl Heinrich Bloch

In music

See also


  1. ^ "John 4:4–26 NRSVA - But he had to go through Samaria. So he - Bible Gateway". Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  2. ^ a b Lincoln, Andrew T. (2005). The Gospel According to Saint John. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers. pp. 170–1. ISBN 1-56563-401-2. OCLC 61129929. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  3. ^ V. J. Samkutty. The Samaritan Mission in Acts (Library of New Testament Studies 328; A & C Black, 2006). p. 81. Retrieved 19 October 2015. See also Alan David Crown, Lucy Davey, and Guy Dominique Sixdenier, eds., Essays in Honour of G.D. Sexdenier: New Samaritan Studies of the Société D'études Samaritaines (Studies in Judaica 5; Sydney: Mandelbaum / University of Sydney, 1995), 134; Jonathan Bourgel, " John 4 : 4-42: Defining A Modus Vivendi Between Jews And The Samaritans", Journal of Theological Studies 69 (2018), pp. 39-65 (
  4. ^ Ferguson, Everett. Backgrounds of Early Christianity. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 534.
  5. ^ V. J. Samkutty, The Samaritan Mission in Acts (Continuum, 2006), page 85.
  6. ^ V. J. Samkutty, The Samaritan Mission in Acts (Continuum, 2006), pages 100–101.
  7. ^ Kevin Quast, Reading the Gospel of John: An Introduction (Paulist Press, 1991) page 29.
  8. ^ Pontifical Council for Culture; Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (2 March 2003). Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian reflection on the "New Age". Vatican City: Internet Office of the Holy See.
  9. ^ Barrett, C. K. (1978). The Gospel According to St. John: An Introduction With Commentary and Notes on the Greek Text (2nd ed.). Philadelphia: The Westminster Press. p. 12. ISBN 0-664-22180-7. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  10. ^ "La Samaritana 2011 en Oaxaca" (in Spanish). Vive Oaxaca. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  11. ^

Unannotated references

External links

A Christian Reflection on the New Age

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The document's title is Jesus Christ, the bearer of the Water of Life. The document discusses the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, which it characterizes as "a paradigm for our engagement with truth".The document considers the New Age based on "weak thought" and emphasizes the differences between Catholic thought and the New Age. According to the review of the document in The Tablet, "there is never any doubt in the document that New Age is incompatible with and hostile to the core beliefs of Christianity."Expressing general agreement with the views expressed by the document, Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, said that there would be widespread agreement among Baptists that New Age ideas are contrary to Christian tradition and doctrine.

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Jesus and the Samaritan Woman is a 1742 painting by Jean-François de Troy of the Samaritan woman at the well. It is one of a series of six paintings by the artist for Pierre Guérin de Tencin and his archepiscopal palace at Lyon - the others were The Death of Lucretia, The Death of Cleopatra, The Judgement of Solomon, The Idolatry of Solomon and The Woman Caught in Adultery. It is now at the Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon.

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Although there is no clear source of information about Nicodemus outside the Gospel of John, the Jewish Encyclopedia and some historians have speculated that he could be identical to Nicodemus ben Gurion, mentioned in the Talmud as a wealthy and popular holy man reputed to have had miraculous powers. Others point out that the biblical Nicodemus is likely an older man at the time of his conversation with Jesus, while Nicodemus ben Gurion was on the scene 40 years later, at the time of the Jewish War.

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New Testament people
Jesus Christ


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