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Jesus and the Woman at the Well

Only the Gospel of John tells the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. Yet it is one of the longest and most memorable in the New Testament. Named “Photine” (“the luminous one”) in the Orthodox tradition, this woman has, as we say, a history. No shrinking violet, she both challenges and listens intently to Jesus. Then she does not hesitate to act, bringing her friends from town to see and hear this amazing man. The encounter is a traditional and moving subject for icons. Though Jesus asks her for some water, the icon shows the truth beneath the surface: he offers the true, everlasting water of life, while Photine’s town rises in the barren background, symbolic of her former life without Christ.


Tempera and gold leaf on wood; 13” x 17"; 2013. Private collection, Vermont.

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