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Woman at the Well

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Category: Bible


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.

Scholars have noted that this story appears to be modeled on a standard betrothal ‘type scene’ from Hebrew scripture, particularly that of Jacob in Genesis 29. 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. Jo-Ann A. Brant, for example, concludes that there is “near consensus among literary critics that the scene at Jacob’s well follows conventions of the betrothal type-scene found in Hebrew narrative.”

Other scholars, however, note significant differences between John 4 and betrothal type-scenes in the Hebrew Bible. For example, Dorothy A. Lee lists several discrepancies between Hebrew betrothal scenes and John 4: “the Samaritan woman is not a young Jewish virgin and no betrothal takes place; the well is not concerned with sexual fertility but is an image of salvation (see Isa. 12:3); Jesus is presented not as a bridegroom but as giver of living water.”

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