Misreading Scripture Due to Hearsay   1 comment

Above:  St. Mary Magdalene at the Foot of the Cross (Circa 1528-1530), a Detail from a Pieta by Angelo Bronzino (1503-1572)

Luke 7:36-8:3 (The Jerusalem Bible):

One of the Pharisees invited him to a meal.  When he arrived at the Pharisee’s house and took his place at table, a woman came in, who had a bad name in the town.  She had heard he was dining with the Pharisee and had brought with her an alabaster jar of ointment.  She waited behind him at his feet, weeping, and her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them away with her hair; then she covered his feet with kisses and anointed them with the ointment.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself,

If this man were a prophet, he would know who this woman is who is touching him and what a bad name she has.

Then Jesus took him up and said,

Simon, I have something to say to you.

He replied,

Speak, Master.

Jesus said,

There was once a creditor who had two men in his debt; one owed him five hundred denarii, the other fifty.  They were unable to pay, so he pardoned them both.  Which of them will love him more?

Simon answered,

The one who was pardoned more, I suppose.

Jesus said,

You are right.

Then he turned to the woman.

Simon,

he said,

do you see this woman?  I came into your house, and you poured no water over my feet, but she has poured out her tears over my feet and wiped them away with her hair.  You gave me no kiss, but she has been covering my feet with kisses ever since I came in.  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.  For this reason I tell you that her sins, her many sins, must have been forgiven her, or she would not have shown such great love.  It is the man who is forgiven little who  shows little love.

Then he said to her,

Your sins are forgiven.

Those who were with him at table began to say to themselves,

Who is this man, that he even forgives sins?

But he said to the woman,

Your faith has saved you; go in peace.

Now after this he [Jesus] made his way through towns and villages preaching, and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of God.  With him went the Twelve, as well as certain women who had been cured of evil spirits and ailments:  Mary surnamed the Magdalene, form whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and several others who had provided for them out of their own resources.

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Each canonical Gospel contains an account–each quite similar, by the way–of a woman anointing Jesus.  The citations, for the record, are:

  • Luke 7:36-50
  • Matthew 26:9-13
  • Mark 14:3-9
  • John 12:1-8

In the Lukan account, an unnamed prostitute anoints the feet of our Lord at the home of Simon the Pharisee.  In the accounts from Mark and Matthew, however, an unnamed woman (without hint of bad reputation) anoints our Lord’s head at the home of Simon the Leper.  And, in the Johannine Gospel, Mary of Bethany anoints our Lord’s feet at her home.  There is certainly no hint of a bad reputation in John 12:1-8.

In the Lukan Gospel, immediately after 7:36-50, we read of various female disciples and financial backers of Jesus, among them St. Mary of Magdala, a.k.a. St. Mary Magdalene.  Tradition, begun by Pope St. Gregory I (“the Great”) associates the prostitute at the end of Luke 7 with St. Mary Magdalene.  This association is erroneous.  Yet many readers and students of the Bible insist that the Good Book labels St. Mary Magdalene a reformed prostitute.

We who grew up with the Bible and Bible stories learned a great deal, some of it erroneous.  If we are to learn accurately what the Bible says about any given topic, we need to turn off the proverbial tapes running inside our heads, stop skipping ahead in a “I already know this part” fashion, and pay very close attention.  I endeavor to do this, with mixed results, I am sure.  I invite you, O reader, to join me in striving to improve.  May our expectations not prevent us from learning what we need to learn in the canonized texts.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 23, 2011 COMMON ERA

PROPER 25, YEAR A–THE NINETEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES OF JERUSALEM, BROTHER OF JESUS

THE FEAST OF SHIRLEY GUTHRIE, PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGIAN

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on October 23, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/week-of-proper-19-thursday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-19-friday-year-2/

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One response to “Misreading Scripture Due to Hearsay

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  1. Pingback: Week of Proper 19: Thursday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 19: Friday, Year 2 « ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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