I am trying to understand the position of the woman when she wipes and kisses the feet of Jesus.

In the Gospel of Luke it is recorded,

Luke 7:36-50 New International Version (NIV)

36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

The text informs the reader that the woman stood behind Jesus at his feet weeping, and appears to imply that the tears would fall on the upper part of his feet,as there is no mention that Jesus lifted his feet for her to dry and kiss the soul of his feet.

How is the reader of the text meant to understand what position the woman was in when this event happened? Did she move around to the front of Jesus when she dried and kissed his feet,or was she still behind him.

1 Answer 1


I have always assumed a kind of mezzanine floor situation, where a house has an upper floor that is partially exposed and only, say, five feet above the ground floor. Such arrangements exist in old cottages.

If the refectory table is on the upper floor, then it is quite possible for someone on the lower floor to access, from behind, the feet of someone sitting at the table.

Houses in the Middle East, and in many other parts of the world, are built in higgledy-piggledy fashion, such that parts of one house jut into the area of another, irregularly.

Perhaps the woman stood on stairs leading up to an upper floor and the table was not far from the stairwell.

  • 1
    I forgot all about this question. Thanks for the answer Nigel.
    – Bagpipes
    Mar 27, 2021 at 18:27

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