Philip Jenkins on the Four Anointing Episodes in the Four Gospels

Those familiar with the Gospel narratives undoubtedly know about the four different stories of Jesus’ anointing that appear within them. In Mark, the anointing takes place at Simon the leper’s house just prior to the Last Supper (Mark 14:3-9). Matthew agrees with the location and the timing (Matthew 26:6-13). In Luke, the anointing takes place at Simon the Pharisee‘s home and takes place long before Jesus even enters Jerusalem (Luke 7:36-50). In John, the anointing takes place in the home of Lazarus just before Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem. If you haven’t read the passages, please do so and you will be surprised how different the Lukan narrative is from the Markan and Matthean versions as well as how the Johannine narrative is different from all of them.

What seems crucial is that even though these stories differ in many details, they all agree on at least two things: 1) Jesus was anointed in a home and 2) that home was in Bethany. I could spill a lot of digital ink writing about these passages, and I may do that at some point, but I want to point the reader to an interesting blog piece from 2016 written by New Testament scholar Philip Jenkins as he has some very interesting things to say. He writes,

Putting all this together, then, then, none of the stories is a precise transcription or record of a single event. Each recounts a core story, although with different ways of presentation, and distinct messages.

That conclusion seems hard to avoid. You could, I suppose, claim that the different passages are describing separate events at multiple times, perhaps featuring different women, and each episode had a different quality or purpose. To me, that seems vastly less likely than the interpretation I suggested earlier, namely that the stories as we have them are variants on a single theme. That comment applies to versions as radically distinct as those found in Mark, Luke and John.

You can read the rest here.

Featured image: By Alexander Bida – WCG, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2564292

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