Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Which Simon Is Which?

Biblegems #15
Is Simon the Leper in Matthew 26 the same person as the Simon mentioned in the other three Gospels?

The name “Simon” comes up 74 times throughout the four Gospels, so it’s no wonder that there is some confusion as to which “Simon” is which, or if they are all one and the same person!

Matthew 26:6-7 tells us that, “While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.” Anointing was a common practice in Bible times, and done for a variety of purposes (Ps. 23:5; 133:2; Is. 1:6; Ps. 104:15; Lev. 14:17-18). Also at the house with Jesus were his disciples (v.8), and perhaps several others not mentioned by name (Mk. 14:4).

“Simon the Leper” is referred to only in Matthew 26:6 and Mark 14:3. Jesus was eating at Simon’s home in Bethany of Judea on the Mount of Olives two days before the Passover. Simon was likely present. If so, he had been healed of his leprosy, perhaps by Jesus, because Jewish law would otherwise have required him to be quarantined outside the village and prohibited him from any social contact whatsoever.

During the meal a woman anoints Jesus’ head with expensive perfume, and is then rebuked by many at the table, possibly even Simon himself, for being wasteful (Matt. 26:7-9). Jesus, of course, commended the woman and prophesied that she would always be remembered for her kindness whenever the gospel was told (Matt. 26:13).

A similar account is recorded in John 12:1-8, and another in Luke 7:36-40. But these two events are not identical. The woman in John’s Gospel is Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, and that anointing takes place six days before the Passover. The anointing in Mathew and Mark takes place two days before the Passover. The events also take place in two different homes in Bethany.

The anointing of Jesus in Luke 7:36-40 probably occurred two years earlier, during Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, not Judea. The woman in this case had once been a prostitute. She anointed Jesus at the home of Simon (a Pharisee, not a leper). She anointed Jesus feet, not his head, and dried them with her hair. No one complained about the cost this time, but took offense that Jesus would allow a sinful woman to touch him.

So, in answer to the question, these are three different Simons associated with three different women who performed a very common act of kindness for Jesus in different locations and at different times of Jesus ministry.

Do you have a question for Biblegems? You can submit your question by writing it in the comment box below. Look for new Biblegems next Tuesday!

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