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I am not re-asking this question or this question, which concern the absolute number of times Jesus was anointed with perfume. I'm asking about a confusing fact from the Gospel of John, by itself, irrespective of the accounts in the Synoptics. In Chapter 11 Verse 2 of his Gospel, John refers to the anointing by Mary, sister of Lazarus, as a past event, but he doesn't describe the anointing itself until later, in Chapter 12 Verse 3. Is this simply an error in transmission of the Gospels over the millennia, or is John suggesting that Mary, the sister of Lazarus, performed this act twice?

I notice that none of the answers to either of the aforementioned questions refers to any scholarly work or interpretive school. I've looked around and couldn't find any references to other than lay-opinions. Are there any scholarly or "official" opinions on this?

  • Those are two visits. The first is when Jesus saved Lazarus. The 2nd visit is Jesus' return later. John 12:1 (NASB) "Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead." Mary anointed Jesus twice. – John Martin Dec 29 '14 at 19:17
  • @JohnMartin Thanks, but without scholarly support, all I can do is weigh your opinion by my own lights. I was hoping for something more connected to expert opinion. – SaganRitual Dec 29 '14 at 19:32
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I read this as one anointing.

John Carroll says in The Existential Jesus, page 228, that most scholars today assume that John did not write the fourth gospel, which means it must have been written long after the events portrayed. To the author of John, everything in the gospel had already happened at the time of writing, so we should not read this as a journal written and added to on a daily basis. In John 11:2, he for some reason felt it necessary for us to know that this was the same Mary as had (at the time of writing) anointed Jesus' feet in verse 12:3.

John's Gospel shows evidence of care in its composition. For example, whenever the author elaborates on a passage in Luke's Gospel, he usually takes some care not to directly contradict Luke, so that readers with access to both gospels would be able to reconcile them. So, I would not expect him to be so careless as to write 11:2 about a past event, with a second anointing occurring without purpose in 12:3.

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    Even if the Apostle John wrote it, it was still written down after the events described. John 1 opens with a statement that would not have been understood by its author until after the resurrection. There are other examples (e.g. John 6:64) that suggest that the book was not a diary but a complete composition that took place some time after all the events recorded in it. – mojo Dec 30 '14 at 6:10

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