What Happened to the Woman at the Well?
On our way from Galilee to Jerusalem, we always make a stop with our Octagon Tour groups at this church, to see the place where Jesus met the woman at the well.
Location - Balata
Map Coordinates - 32.209372, 35.284964
Merged Gospels story - 30
This is the Church of Saint Photini in the city of Nablus, and this is the location of Jacob’s Well. Jacob was the father of the entire Jewish nation, the grandson of Abraham, and he settled here.
The nave of the church.
The Biblical Story.
In the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John we learn that on His way back to Galilee from Jerusalem, Jesus and His disciples stopped here to refresh themselves. It was here that He and a woman both came to this well at the same time, and the two of them struck up a conversation. This woman was from a race of people that the Jews despised - the Samaritans. We learn from the Bible that she had five former husbands, and that she was currently living with a man to whom she was not married. We don’t know her real name. However, history has given her a name - Photini, meaning the enlightened one, because, according to the Gospel of John, she was the first person in the world to whom Jesus revealed that He was the Messiah.
Jesus meeting “Photini” at the well.
The Clay Jar.
On a platform at the top of one of these pillars is a glass case containing a jar. This jar is either presumed to be the one that Photini used to gather her water, or it simply represents the jar that she carried at that time.
The clay jar of Saint Photini.
The Skullcap of Photini.
Near the front of the church, inside a glass case, is a fragment of a skull cap, and it is supposedly part of the remains of Saint Photini herself.
The skullcap of Saint Photini.
The Rest of the Story.
Photon’s story goes on from there. She had five sisters and two sons, and all of them became not only followers of Christ, but tireless evangelists. After the death of both the Apostles Peter and Paul, Photini and her family left their homeland, and traveled to Carthage, which is in modern-day Tunisia, in northern Africa, where she continued to proclaim the Gospel of Christ.
But what about the man with whom she was living when she met Jesus? He apparently didn’t end up in Carthage. In fact, after her encounter with Christ there is no mention of him at all. He appears to be totally gone.
While in Carthage, sometime around 63 AD, Photini was arrested and brought to Rome, where she and her family spent three years in prison. It is said that she won all of the prisoners in this Roman jail to Christ. But inevitably, at the hands of the cruel Emperor Nero, all the members of her family ultimately suffered the most indescribable tortures. And after this, Photini herself was thrown into a dry well, where she ultimately died – a fitting end of life for the woman who began a new life after meeting her Savior at a well.
An icon showing the imprisonment and murder of the family of Photini.
Saint Photini, the Mother of all Evangelists.
When she came to draw water, this woman, whose real name we do not know, was broken. But in the course of a two-minute conversation with Jesus, her entire narrative changed. To begin, not only was she the first person to whom Jesus revealed that He was the long-awaited Messiah, but, according to the Gospel of John, she was also the very first evangelist to the Samaritans. Today she is known as the “Mother of all Evangelists".
Jacob's Well, late 19th century.
A woman, a Samaritan, and a sinner. But with the touch of the Master, none of that mattered, and now she had a hope, and a future, and in the end, eternal life through Jesus Christ.
The Church of Saint Photini is actually the fifth church to exist on this site. The first three were destroyed by hostile armies. The fourth was demolished during an earthquake in 1927. Until just a few years ago the church had no roof. And there was an Orthodox priest here who was the guardian of the church at that time. His name was Father Philoumenos.
The Martyrdom of Father Philoumenos.
An icon in the church of Asher Raby killing Father Philoumenos.
On November 29, 1979, Father Philoumenos was murdered by a mentally deranged man named Asher Raby, who threw a hand grenade into the church that exploded. While trying to escape, Father Philoumenos was attacked by Raby, who killed the priest with an ax. There is an icon in the nave of the church depicting this event. The attacker then escaped and was not captured until three years later when another priest became the guardian of the church. His name was Father Justinos.
Myself with my son Dan and Father Justinos.
Asher Raby came back and tried to kill Father Justinos as well, but the priest broke the leg of the attacker, who was soon arrested.
The Sarcophagus of Philoumenos.
Today, the sarcophagus of Saint Philoumenos is in the front of the church. After the death of Philoumenos, Father Justinos set out to complete the restoration of the church, which was finished within the first decade of the twenty-first century.
The sarcophagus of Father Philoumenos.
Father Justinos laid all of the mosaics, and painted all of the icons in the church, including the great picture of Jesus high above on the dome.
To do this, he had to lie on his back, suspended on a scaffold, painting what is called the Christ Pantocrator, or Christ the Almighty. This particular image of Jesus is on the dome of virtually every eastern Orthodox church in the world.
There are many places in the Holy Land where we can be sure that we are standing within Jesus’ three-foot circle. This is one of them. In John 4:11 the woman who met Jesus told him that the well is deep, and deep it is – about 135 feet. You can still draw water from this well, and drink from it, just like Jesus did. Father Justinos once claimed to drink from this well every day.
The checkpoint into Nablus used to be so dangerous, when we first arrived at Jacob’s Well in 2006, we were the first tourists to visit the church in over a year, and the first non-Greek tourists to visit the church in over seven years. Fortunately today many visitors come here.