Skip to main content

The Feast in the House of Simon

Rossetti's Mary Magdalene at the door of Simon the Pharisee, 1858
Rossetti's Mary Magdalene at the door of Simon the Pharisee, 1858

The story of the feast in the house of Simon the Pharisee is told at Luke, 7, 36–50. A Pharisee was a member of a strict Jewish sect, and it is clear from Luke's narrative that Simon has invited Jesus to his house to challenge him on points of Jewish law.

In Rossetti's drawing he is the archetypal hypocrite. We see him visible just inside the doorway of his house, disapproving of the revelry going on outside, and yet lavishly dressed and waited upon by a serving girl.

In Luke's account the woman who anoints Christ's feet is not referred to by name, but from an early stage was identified as Mary Magdalene.

And one of the Pharisees desired of him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat.

And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,

And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with ointment.

Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.

And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.

There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.

And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore which of them will love him most?

Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.

And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into this house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.

Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.

My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.

Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven: for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.

And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.

And they that sat at meat with him, began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also?

And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.

Other highlight objects you might like

Other pathways and stories you might like

Sign up for updates

Updates about future exhibitions and displays, family activities, virtual events & news. You'll be the first to know...

University of Cambridge Museums logo
Cambridge City Council logo
Arts Council England Logo
Research England logo
The Technology Partnership logo
Brewin Dolphin Logo