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ESV Luke 2:

28he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30for my eyes have seen your salvation 31that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

33And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35(and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

And how is it related to Mary's piercing?

Related:

In Luke 2:34-35, Is Simeon's Dedication Blessing Sympathetic towards Mary, or Against Her?

What is the significance of Mary's contemplation in Luke?

  • Curious also are the instances St. Luke feels the need to mention Mary's contemplating in her heart and 'thinking over' the prophesies and mysteries surrounding Christ. "[The angels appear at the birth of Jesus] But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart." "[Mary and Joseph have lost their Son] And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart." Maybe since only Luke mentions the prophesy, only he mentions something perhaps relevant to it: Mary, hearts, thoughts. Something we are supposed to connect. – Sola Gratia Sep 23 '18 at 14:24
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    Also, I think the parenthesis are contextually awkward. They aren't indicated by the context. There should be a period or semicolon after 'opposed.' – Sola Gratia Sep 23 '18 at 14:25
  • Unfortunately I don't feel as though I have an answer to this particular issue. Except to say that the sign of contradiction is the stumbling block of the cross + a suffering and glorious Messiah; and that thus the 'also' of 'and your soul also' must refer to a mutual pain at the Cross when the lance pierces the side of Christ, and Mary, His onlooking mother. The 'to the end that the thoughts of many hearts might be revealed' part, I'm not sure about. – Sola Gratia Sep 24 '18 at 11:42
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    No, there is a και and a δε. The de normatively becomes an and, and the kai therefore must be an 'also' or 'even.' – Sola Gratia Sep 24 '18 at 11:53
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The ESV has this:

ESV Luke 2:

34And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35(and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

Notice that the penultimate (next to last) clause is in parentheses. These are supplied by the translators so that the final clause will be logically connected to the previous verse rather than to the part about Mary. Some translations even move the text around:

NIV Luke 2:35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too."

In these translations the mention of Mary's suffering has no explanation. Nor does there appear to be any reason that the verse says "too", as if another piercing had been mentioned.

However, it can be read unmodified like this:

Modified NIV Luke 2:35

And a sword will pierce your own soul too so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.

In this reading the second line begins with an indication of purpose in that it says "so that" - the piercing (Mary's grief for the rejection and murder of her only son) has a purpose and that is to reveal the thoughts of many in relation to Christ's crucifixion.

There is a variant. The word "δὲ" is disputed. I have no formal education in Greek and this sentence structure is a tad confusing so I won't try to translate it but it looks to me like δὲ indicates discontinuity with the previous sentence:

SBL GNT Luke 2:35 καὶ σοῦ [a]δὲ αὐτῆς τὴν ψυχὴν διελεύσεται ῥομφαία, ὅπως ἂν ἀποκαλυφθῶσιν ἐκ πολλῶν καρδιῶν διαλογισμοί.

Footnotes: ΚΑΤΑ ΛΟΥΚΑΝ 2:35 δὲ Treg NIV RP ] – WH

So how is Mary's grief revealing the thoughts of many? Zechariah says that many will grieve over the rejection of Christ as one grieves over the death of their only son (IE: as Mary does):

NIV Zechariah 12:

10 "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. 11 On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be as great as the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. 12 The land will mourn, each clan by itself, with their wives by themselves: the clan of the house of David and their wives, the clan of the house of Nathan and their wives, 13 the clan of the house of Levi and their wives, the clan of Shimei and their wives, 14 and all the rest of the clans and their wives.

Also relevant:

NIV John 16:

19Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? 20Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.

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In answer to the first question, Jesus coming revealed what was in the hearts of many people, and whether they were truly following God or not. When he was born, people resposnded in various ways, either rejoicing or wanting him killed:

Some examples:

Shepherds hearing about and seeing Christ - Luke 2:8-20

Wise men and king Herod respond to Jesus birth - Matthew 2:1-18

Then when Jesus began his earthly ministry people loved him or hated him, they followed him or wanted him killed. So whether their hearts were turned to God or not was coming out into the open (1 Samuel 16:7 God looks at the heart).

Some examples -

Children of God and children of the devil - John 8:37-47

Jesus responding to the chief priests and elders - Matthew 21:28-31

Rich ruler loving money more than God - Luke 18:18-23

In answer to the second question about Mary's soul being pierced, I had thought it was referring to her seeing her son being rejected and killed.

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Simeon's Prophecy
In his book, Images of Judaism in Luke-Acts, Joseph B. Tyson claims Simeon's speech sets the stage in Luke-Acts on how the Jewish people will respond to the message of Jesus as Christ:

As an anticipation of the relation of the Christian message to Judaism,[emphasis added] the speech of Simeon in Luke 2:29-35 is the key passage in Luke 1-2. Indeed, it serves as a significant anticipation of a number of themes that will find expression later in Luke-Acts.1

Tyson agrees with Raymond Brown and others that Simeon's speech should be divided into two parts.2 The first affirms the promise Simeon would see the Messiah before he died. The second is this prophetic warning:

...the child Jesus is to be the cause of the fall and rise of many in Israel, and he is to be a sign that brings controversy and rejection among the Jews. The text requires us to understand that controversy and rejection of Jesus' message will occur within Israel; there is no suggestion that there is such a controversy among the Gentiles.3

This follows what Jesus said He would cause to happen:

51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12) [ESV] (also Matthew 10:35-36)

Mary's Piercing
Mary was not immune from the controversy and/or rejection and their effects:

31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3) (also Matthew 12:46-50 Luke 8:19-21)

The Gospel is silent on their purpose, who "His family" included, or their reaction to His words. But Mark and John make explicit reference to the initial rejection within Jesus' (and so Mary's) family:

And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” (Mark 3:21)

For not even his brothers believed in him. (John 7:5)

It is true some would believe (their rising) after Jesus' Resurrection, yet it is easy to see how the family's, relative's, and friend's immediate response to Jesus (their falling) would create division within these groups which would "pierce" Mary.

Mary's piercing should not be limited to the period of the Gospel, but should also include the type of reaction Paul expresses (the period of Acts) over Israel's partial acceptance of the Christian message:

1 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 9)

There should be little doubt Mary experienced both the problems of dealing with the immediate impact controversy brings to any family and the type of feeling Paul expresses as a believer mourning over relatives and loved ones who rejected the Gospel. Perhaps as a mother, her angst would be greater than Paul's.

Conclusion
Tyson agrees with Brown and others who (like the ESV) take the beginning of verse 35 as parenthetical, but they place that in continuity with the previous verse. Therefore, "so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” refers to the controversy and rejection Jesus will bring to the Jewish people:

Thus the sword that pierces the life of Mary is the sword of discrimination, discrimination between falling and rising. Says Brown, "This interpretation makes Simeon's prophecy of discriminatory judgment for Israel applicable to Mary as an individual Israelite, and more specially applicable to her as a member of Jesus' family...The child is set for the fall and rise of many in Israel (34c); but, as the emphasis on "fall" indicates, for the majority he is a sign that will be contradicted (34d) since, as they face him, the hostility of their inmost thoughts toward him will be revealed (35b)."4


Notes:
1. Joseph B. Tyson, Images of Judaism in Luke-Acts, University of South Carolina Press, 1992, p. 49
2. Raymond Brown, Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in Matthew and Luke, Doubleday and Co., 1977 as cited in Tyson, p. 49
3. Tyson, p. 51. [If "message" is not limited to Jesus but includes that from the Apostles, "Israel" should be "Israelites" as the same responses are found in Jewish communities outside of Israel.]
4. Brown as cited in Tyson p. 52

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The Virgin Mary never had doubts about her Son. From the very first instance of her conception of Jesus and Fiat in the annunciation of angel Gabriel. She knew that Christ Jesus will be a suffering servant in Isaiah. She was well versed of the scriptures for She was preselected by God to be the Mother of God the Son, THEOTOKOS. It was a common belief in the 1st Century Jews that the messiah will suffer as described in Isaiah the reason many accepted Him and understood the scriptures referring to Him. Yet many hoped He will be a POLITICAL MESSIAH TO FREE ISRAEL FROM ROMAN CAPTIVITY.

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One interpretation is that the thoughts of many hearts that would be revealed would be the doubt and temptation that would arise around Christ's passion and death among His followers.


Theophylact's commentary here is:

Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also, O Virgin. In one respect, sword means the anguish that was to result from the Lord's Passion; in another respect, the sword may be the doubt and temptation that the Virgin would experience, seeing the Lord crucified on the Cross. For she may have thought, "He was born seedlessly, He worked miracles, He raised the dead - how can He now be crucified, spat upon and killed?" That the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. . This means that the thoughts of many who fell into doubt would be uncovered and revealed, and having been rebuked, they would quickly find healing. The same will happen to you, O Virgin: your doubt concerning Christ will be uncovered and revealed, and then your faith in Him will be confirmed. In like manner, Peter's denial also was revealed, followed by the power of God who brought back Peter by repentance.*


* Explanation of the Gospel of Luke (tr. from Greek; Chrysostom Press, 2007), p. 36

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