Friday, March 28, 2008

More on the Anoiting of Jesus by Mary

I have told the story of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet using the passages found in Matthew 16, Mark 14 and John 12.

There is another story of a woman who anointed Jesus’ feet that is found in Luke 7. Sometimes it’s confusing because some of the scene is similar: alabaster jar of perfume, wiping Jesus feet with hair, house by a man named Simon, etc. But that story happened in the region of Galilee earlier in the public ministry of Jesus and Luke is notorious for historical details and chronological order . It’s also a story of forgiveness experienced by a sinful woman where the other three are clearly about a woman preparing Jesus for his burial. So it’s not the same scene. (Sorry Paul Eshelman but Luke’s account is also not of Mary called Magdalene either because he introduces her in the next chapter as one of Jesus’ supporters and could have said she was the woman in the story but doesn’t.)

While most scholars equate the anointing for burial account found in the other 3 gospels as one, it could be two different occasions. There are several similarities in Matt., Mark and John’s accounts: Bethany, alabaster jar of pure nard, rebuke about money could have been used for poor, Jesus’ words of defense and explanation of why she did this.

And yet there are several key differences. Mark and Matthew are almost totally alike with Mark going into more details. John’s is a little different. M & M set the scene in Simon’s house while John only lets us know that Lazarus and Martha are there. M & M don’t give the name of the woman and John tells us it’s Mary B. M& M say she poured the perfume on his head. John says she poured it on his feet and washed them with her hair. Mark says some of those present were indignant. Matthew narrows that down to the disciples. John narrows it further and puts the blame on Judas I.

But the biggest difference is that John says this happened six days before the Passover and right before his triumphal entry. Both Mark and Matthew place it after the triumphal entry and Mark clearly says its two days before the Passover.

So could it be that 6 days before the Passover, Mary anoints Jesus feet for burial and Judas alone rebukes her and then 4 days later at another meal in Bethany, an unnamed woman anoints his head for burial with a similar expensive perfume and the disciples pick up on the rebuke not hearing Jesus’ answer earlier in the week to Judas? I don’t know that sounds a little far-fetched. Besides the greatest evidence to me that this is the same story is that in the chapter before John tells this story. John lets us know that the Mary who brother lay sick was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. Now how could John explain to his readers that this was that Mary when he hasn’t told that story yet? My only conclusion is that the words of Jesus, ‘wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her’ have preceded John’s written record of the gospel. So that to me means that John in Chapter 11 is refering to the story told earlier by Mark and Matthew. A story he would write about in chapter 12.

I actually heard someone I respect explain John’s introduction of Mary in chapter 11 by combining all 4 gospel accounts mentioned earlier. In like something straight of a Christian Fiction Novel, he weaved a story of Mary running away from home, becoming a prostitute in area around Galilee, anointing Jesus and coming back home. His reasoning was to explain John 11:2. While a good story of forgiveness, reconciliation and reasoning as to the depth of Mary B.’s love, this speaker disregarded the fact that Luke introduces Mary B. in chapter 10 and doesn’t say she was the unnamed woman from 3 chapters earlier. Sorry but that’s pure fiction.

How do I answer the discrepancy of dates where Mark clearly says its 2 day before the Passover and John clearly says its 6 days before? I just know that Matthew, Mark and John don’t value chronological order the way I, Luke and other historians might. (Okay I just majored in history, not really a historian but sounds cool to say I am.) All the gospel writers are weaving a story with a purpose. Some details are not as important as major facts. Perhaps M& M just wanted to place the story well within the Passion Week. Perhaps for John, it was easier just to place this story right after he introduced Mary, Martha and Lazarus. That would allow him to set in motion the motivates of the chief priests and Judas I’s actions.

I don't know but far easier for me to believe its the same story that there being two very similar scenes where each writer only writes about once.

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