The Woman with the Alabaster Jar: Some questions about the Bethany/Anointing narratives in the Gospels.

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
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rakovsky
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Re: The Woman with the Alabaster Jar: Some questions about the Bethany/Anointing narratives in the Gospels.

Post by rakovsky » Thu Jan 11, 2018 8:17 am

Diogenes the Cynic wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:40 pm
Ok, so basically I'm just wondering what kind of work or speculation has gone into the following questions.
  • Why does Luke change the anointing from the head to the feet? Is Luke uncomfortable with the anointing of the head because of its latently subversive political/regnal implications? Is he uncomfortable with a woman doing the anointing?
Couldn't these be different incidences at different times? In Mark and Matthew, the incidents are near Jesus' Passion and the end of the gospels, whereas in Luke and John, the incidents are in the middle of their works. Perhaps first time (Luke and John), the anointing is on the feet, whereas the second time the anointing is on the head.
  • Why does Luke alone ignore the issue of the expense of the oil and change it into a lesson on slut shaming instead?
Luke also seems to address the issue of expenses, saying “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
  • Why does John want to tie the woman to Lazarus - a character of John's own invention (albeit appropriated from a parable in Luke)? Is John doing this to make further comment on the Parable of John and the Rich Man?
Luke doesn't seem to treat Lazarus as if he were only a parable. Luke says:
"Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead."

The two incidents are anointing Jesus' feet in Lazarus' house, whom Jesus had raised, and anointing Jesus' head before Jesus' death.

The first anointing is an anointing for Jesus to travel and go on his mission, whereas the second is an anointing for his death. Jesus is the "anointed", the Christ. In Greek Orthodoxy, for example, IIRC the head, throat and hands are anointed in a healing ritual if the person has an illness. There is a ritual for healing with oil. Also when a person becomes a Christian, they are anointed with oil after baptism, in a ritual which is called "Chrismation".

  • What do you suppose Mark's purpose was in telling this story in the first place? It has to be at least partially invented because Jesus' self-awareness of his own death cannot be historical.
I don't know how one would prove that it was not historical. I believe that the Old Testament prophecies do predict the Messiah's killing and it looks like Jesus was aware of this.

It doesn't seem necessary merely as a means to have Jesus predict his own death. Mark has already had him do that in 9:31.
Mark could have him repeatedly make the prediction to emphasize it.
Did he do it as a way to get Jesus literally anointed?
Maybe.
Why bother with adding extraneous conflict to that? Is it a way to give Judas a motive for betrayal? Possibly, but it's interesting to note that Mark only says that "there were some [ἦσαν δέ τινες] who were indignant within themselves." He does not specify Judas, although he does have Judas, who he has never mentioned before and now only identifies as "one of the twelve," go to the priests to finger Jesus. If he had specifically wanted to prosecute Judas, it seems like he would put a little more on the front end.
Sometimes Mark is not clear in the events he refers to - he appears to openly hide specifics, like the time when Jesus gives instructions to find a water carrier when he wants to get a guest room in Jerusalem. The back story with the water carrier appears hidden.

My research on the prophecies of the Messiah's resurrection: http://rakovskii.livejournal.com

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Re: The Woman with the Alabaster Jar: Some questions about the Bethany/Anointing narratives in the Gospels.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Thu Jan 11, 2018 8:23 am

Diogenes the Cynic wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:40 pm
I've been puzzling over these narratives for a while and have some questions.
I know the feeling....
Ok, so basically I'm just wondering what kind of work or speculation has gone into the following questions.
  • Why does Luke change the anointing from the head to the feet? Is Luke uncomfortable with the anointing of the head because of its latently subversive political/regnal implications? Is he uncomfortable with a woman doing the anointing?
  • Why does Luke alone ignore the issue of the expense of the oil and change it into a lesson on slut shaming instead?
  • Why does John want to tie the woman to Lazarus - a character of John's own invention (albeit appropriated from a parable in Luke)? Is John doing this to make further comment on the Parable of John and the Rich Man?
  • What do you suppose Mark's purpose was in telling this story in the first place? It has to be at least partially invented because Jesus' self-awareness of his own death cannot be historical. In fact, it has an apologetic feel to it, as does Jesus' rather lame rejoinder about the poor always being with you (a line which may be an allusion to Deuteronomy 15:11 - "For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’') Since no part of Jesus' response appears to be historical, why did Mark invent the first part? It doesn't seem necessary merely as a means to have Jesus predict his own death. Mark has already had him do that in 9:31. Did he do it as a way to get Jesus literally anointed? Why bother with adding extraneous conflict to that? Is it a way to give Judas a motive for betrayal? Possibly, but it's interesting to note that Mark only says that "there were some [ἦσαν δέ τινες] who were indignant within themselves." He does not specify Judas, although he does have Judas, who he has never mentioned before and now only identifies as "one of the twelve," go to the priests to finger Jesus. If he had specifically wanted to prosecute Judas, it seems like he would put a little more on the front end.

    Could there something historical about this? Maybe Jesus was starting to go a little bit Hollywood or show some base, human tendencies? Maybe there is memory of a real spat here? Possibly somthing that was remembered as having caused genuine conflict or generated disillusionment among some followers? What would be a reason for complete literary invention on the mythicist theory?
I do not have answers for these questions, at least not for most of them. I do, however, have a few observations.

First, John has this to say about this woman even before he gets to the anointing itself in his narrative:

John 11.1-2: 1 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.

That John identifies Mary in this way, by her connection to an incident he has not even recounted yet, seems to imply that he is writing for people who have already heard this story. John seems to make a habit of deliberately correcting the synoptic record, telling his readers what is "really" happening behind the scenes or in the gaps that the synoptics leave (such as the space between Jesus' baptism and John's imprisonment).

Second, neither the Marcan nor the Matthean pericope you quote in the OP comes across as telling us the whole story. Both of them frame the anointing with the story of Judas deciding to betray Jesus, but neither tells us why Judas did this. John does his usual thing here of knowingly filling in details behind the scenes, telling us that it was Judas who was offended by the woman's action and Jesus' reaction. But Matthew, Mark, and John all agree in making this event pivotal in the plotting against Jesus. For Matthew and Mark it was (for reasons unknown) apparently the catalyst for Judas offering his services to Jesus' enemies; John, on the other hand, while making the raising of Lazarus (in Bethany) the immediate reason for Jesus' enemies final (and successful) search-and-destroy mission against Jesus (11.53), still takes the opportunity after the anointing to point out that Lazarus, too, was a target (12.10-11). So all three agree in their own very separate ways that something taking place in Bethany was the key to the plot against Jesus.

Third, Matthew and Mark have Simon the leper hosting a meal at which the poor are mentioned. I think that these details derive from the nature of Bethany itself, the name of which is probably derived from the Hebrew for "house of poverty" or "house of affliction." And the Qumran scrolls speak of three villages/places to the east of Jerusalem designated for the housing of lepers and other unclean people; the scrolls do not give the names of these three places, but the geographical details that they do give would make Bethany a prime suspect. I have more details elsewhere on this forum: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=3639.

Fourth, should we be convinced yet that John based his Lazarus character on Luke's parable? What keeps the relationship from going in the other direction, with Luke creating a parable out of stories about Lazarus? (He may have done the same thing to Mark's fig tree.) I have no argument to make here (yet) one way or another; I just wonder what we have to hand which would help us decide the issue.

Just my scattered thoughts.

Ben.
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Re: The Woman with the Alabaster Jar: Some questions about the Bethany/Anointing narratives in the Gospels.

Post by archibald » Thu Jan 11, 2018 9:12 am

I have a theory. On his first visit to the big smoke, Jesus went to a prossie for a 'massage' and the gospel writers covered up this embarrassing incident by making it all symbolic.

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Re: The Woman with the Alabaster Jar: Some questions about the Bethany/Anointing narratives in the Gospels.

Post by Giuseppe » Thu Jan 11, 2018 9:22 am

The woman represents a heretical gnostic sect (the same having Mary Magdalene as mascotte). This heretical sect practiced the ritual of the burial of Jesus. So the evangelist was remembering the conflict between the Jewish Christians and this lost Gentile ritual.
Nihil enim in speciem fallacius est quam prava religio. -Liv. xxxix. 16.

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Re: The Woman with the Alabaster Jar: Some questions about the Bethany/Anointing narratives in the Gospels.

Post by archibald » Thu Jan 11, 2018 9:47 am

Your book is not going to sell as many copies as mine will.

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Re: The Woman with the Alabaster Jar: Some questions about the Bethany/Anointing narratives in the Gospels.

Post by Charles Wilson » Thu Jan 11, 2018 9:53 am

It's Queen Salome, whose husband Alexander Jannaeus is near death. He has a "Quartain Ague" (He may be really stinky here because of this). She is about to be moved into the Low Rent District and "petitions" Jannaeus to provide for her after his death. He provides the method - enter "Queen Salome" - and the Pharisees are given full run of the bureaucracy, to the detriment of Judea.

If you are playing "Match-'em-up", this corresponds to Revelation 8:1 (RSV):

[1] When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

As usual, don't look to the skies, look to the ground and the Histories.

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Re: The Woman with the Alabaster Jar: Some questions about the Bethany/Anointing narratives in the Gospels.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Thu Jan 11, 2018 10:39 am

archibald wrote:
Thu Jan 11, 2018 9:47 am
Your book is not going to sell as many copies as mine will.
:lol:
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Re: The Woman with the Alabaster Jar: Some questions about the Bethany/Anointing narratives in the Gospels.

Post by Stefan Kristensen » Thu Jan 11, 2018 11:46 am

For the gMark incident, I think an important motivation for the passage is to position Jesus’ death and resurrection as his messianic enthronement. Mark uses the burial annointing as a ‘type’ or symbol or, perhaps more correctly, a parable for the royal annointing of Jesus “Christ”. This ‘parabolic’ image is perfectly in line with the general story, that the Messiah is enthroned through his death and resurrection.

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Re: The Woman with the Alabaster Jar: Some questions about the Bethany/Anointing narratives in the Gospels.

Post by Diogenes the Cynic » Thu Jan 11, 2018 11:11 pm

archibald wrote:
Thu Jan 11, 2018 9:47 am
Your book is not going to sell as many copies as mine will.
How did you know I was writing a book?

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Re: The Woman with the Alabaster Jar: Some questions about the Bethany/Anointing narratives in the Gospels.

Post by Diogenes the Cynic » Thu Jan 11, 2018 11:23 pm

Paul the Uncertain wrote:
Thu Jan 11, 2018 3:16 am


That's just John. And if my gaydar is at all calibrated, Mary B. is wasting her time with John's Jesus.
So you believe that whole thing about "feet" being code for something else?

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