The first two gospels portray Jesus being anointed by an unnamed woman in Bethany in order to “prepare him for burial.” In the third gospel that scene has been removed and replaced with another, set earlier, of an unnamed woman anointing Jesus’ feet.
How do we know the Gospel of Luke was rewriting the Bethany anointing scene and not adding a totally different episode? The answer lies in the clues the third evangelist left us. Both scenes share the following:
- Jesus in the house of Simon
- Jesus is reclining at table
- An unnamed woman
- An alabaster jar of ointment
- Others are indignant at what Jesus allows the woman to do
- Jesus and the woman are the only ones who understand the meaning of the event until Jesus explains
And then there are the syzygies, the paired opposites:
- leper and pharisee
- anointing head and anointing feet
- one anointing is of the kind done by a priest to anoint a king; the other by a lowliest servant to welcome a guest
- the monetary value of the ointment is the focus of the offence in one story; the analogous monetary value of “forgiving and loving much” is the lesson presented in the other
- one woman is offered worldly “fame” (though unnamed!); the other woman is given salvation
We have enough DNA to identify Luke’s story as derivative of the one found in Mark and Matthew. (Thomas Brodie further identified 2 Kings 4:1-37 as an additional source.) Clearly the author of the third gospel did not believe he was reading a “historical memory” in the earlier gospel(s) or that he was composing a version of history. The author recognized the earlier narrative as composition with a certain message that could be erased and rewritten in the interests of preaching another message deemed more appropriate.
So what was the alternative message? Why was the theme of the first account “repealed and replaced”? Continue reading “Why Did Luke Replace the Anointing of Jesus at Bethany with the Sinner Woman Washing His Feet?”