Monday, June 29, 2009

The Public Sinner

This is a repost from 2006, but the subject is timeless. It came up in conversation at the meet-and-greet on Friday night at the conference (that being the sort of crowd that we were). I remembered this post and thought y'all might appreciate it as well. (If there were any comments from the original post they will show up as well.)
Women in the Bible For Dummies has a very interesting theory discussing the speculation about the identity of the mysterious female whose story begins in Luke 7:37. She washed Jesus' feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and then anointed them with costly perfume. The women is never named. Then why would tradition name her as Mary Magdalene?

Frankly, I always thought that Mary Magdalene got a raw deal when she was never named as a harlot but that label was put on her anyway. I was fascinated to see that when the various Gospel stories of this event are compared there actually was another Mary who fits the bill and is actually named in one of the stories.

This is a Mary I never would have thought it of but, you know, it kinda makes sense.

This is a lengthy excerpt but I was so interested that I thought maybe some of you might like it as well.
John's Gospel (12:3) relates another account of a woman anointing Jesus' feet with expensive aromatic ointment and drying them with her hair. John identifies this woman as Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. (Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9, tell similar stories about a woman anointing the feet of Jesus from costly perfume in an alabaster jar, but again this woman remains nameless.) Only John identifies the woman as Mary, the sister of Martha, but only Luke classifies the woman as a public sinner. (In addition, Luke 7:37-50, which outlines the story of the public sinner and washing of feet, later mentions Mary Magdalene by name in the very chapter along with Joanna, Susanna, and Chuza.

Could more than one woman have anointed the feet of Christ? Possible, but somewhat improbable. The humble act of drying someone's feet with one's own hair and then anointing those same feet with costly oil isn't a common practice. In fact, it's so rare, uncommon, and unusual that all four Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) mention it. The mystery of why the woman is nameless in three Gospels and called Mary only in John remains. Washing feet was a humble act in itself, but having a woman touch a man, especially a rabbi, and having her dry his feet with her hair and then anoint them with expensive perfume is so extraordinary that it is improbably (but not impossible) that his happened more than once.

If all the stories involve one particular woman, the next question is, could this other Mary, the sister of Martha, also be the same unidentified public sinner that Luke mentions? If so, the latter Mary had been a very naughty girl, at least at one time. If she were the forgiven sinner, it would explain why she was so attentive and entranced when Jesus came to visit their home, even to the extent of annoying her sister, Martha (Luke 10:38-42). Ahh, yet another theory to ponder.

Because John's Gospel names the woman who washes the feet of Jesus as being Mary and this act takes place in the home of Martha and Lazarus, one could assume it was Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus and not another Mary who did it. the nameless woman in Luke's Gospel is identified as a "public sinner." So either there were two women who separately anointed the feet of Jesus in the same unusual and unique way, or the public sinner and Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus are one and the same.

No comments:

Post a Comment