As I was thinking about the cultural view of women's hair in the modern Middle East, and in the Ancient Near East too, it raised significant questions for me about the story in Luke 7:36-50 (I'm interested in added cultural or historical context which could help me better understand the act of washing a man's feet with a woman's hair, and what the implications for Jesus' ministry may have been).
Luke 7:36–50 (ESV): 36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” 41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
In the text, there is some obvious discomfort on behalf of Simon the Pharisee, who is concerned directly about the kind of woman that is touching JESUS' feet. Am I correct to understand too, per Jewish customs (read Ketuboth 72), that there would also have been some controversy or discomfort because of the act itself, specifically the use of her hair?
Would JESUS potentially have been seen as a sinner, for allowing Himself to be identified with her adulterous and uncovered hair? Was this kind of exposure or touching considered culturally inappropriate? Could the act have been misconstrued as possibly sexual in nature? Or was this perfectly understood as an act of penance?
Could the use of her uncovered hair have been regarded as a symbolic representation of her identity as an adulterous woman?
And who is considered a woman who violates the precepts of Jewish women? One who, for example, goes out of her house, and her head, i.e., her hair, is uncovered... § The mishna stated: And who is considered a woman who violates the precepts of Jewish women? One who goes out and her head is uncovered. The Gemara asks: The prohibition against a woman going out with her head uncovered is not merely a custom of Jewish women. Rather, it is by Torah law, as it is written with regard to a woman suspected by her husband of having been unfaithful: “And he shall uncover the head of the woman” (Numbers 5:18). And the school of Rabbi Yishmael taught: From here there is a warning to Jewish women not to go out with an uncovered head, since if the Torah states that a woman suspected of adultery must have her head uncovered, this indicates that a married woman must generally cover her head.
My goal in all of it is to further my understanding of times and customs that lend to the understanding of the text. Thank you all in advance for both your time in reading this and any responses given!