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In Luke7:36-50, Luke mentions
the account of a woman who washed
Jesus feet while he was a dinner guest
at the home of Simon the Pharisee. What
more do we know about this woman? What
is the context of the scene? What kind
of oil might she have had in her box?
What did she do after this?
What we know for sure about this woman
is only what is written in these verses.
She came to a dinner party and washed
Jesus' feet with her tears, dried
them with her hair, and poured ointment
all over them. There is much that
can be read "between the lines."
For example, this story immediately
follows a comment about wisdom and
an accusation that Jesus eats with
publicans and sinners.
The first interesting point is that
there is no outrage over the woman's
arrival. One scholar suggests that
poor people were allowed to come to
large banquets for the leftovers.
Her presence, then, was not the problem.
The problem is that she touched a
guest. She is identified as a sinner
-- one who broke the law of Moses.
There were many options for sinning,
though prostitution is most commonly
assumed (and it is only an assumption).
Whatever her sin, she was well known
for it, and she exhibited great courage
in even daring to enter a Pharisee's
house. But high, upstanding, moral
citizens, like Pharisees, didn't associate
with sinners. It was unclean. This
was Simon's problem with Jesus. Jesus
didn't obey these rules, and that
made Simon not want to associate with
Jesus (which is why he didn't kiss
him when Jesus arrived, etc.). Not
only was it unacceptable for the unclean
woman to be so close, it was even
more deplorable for her to make physical
The fact that the woman's hair was
loose is generally seen as a sign
of her stature in the community. "Nice"
women wore their hair bound up; but
even this is not a "for sure"
thing. She brought an "alabaster
box of ointment." Most likely
this was really an alabaster jar of
oil. Such a jar would have been a
vase of white, fine-grained gypsum.
The jar would have had a long neck,
which would have to be broken to get
at its contents. That meant the oil
had to be used all at once. The oil
is not identified, although the fact
that it was kept in such a lovely
jar might attest to its value.
Since this was a banquet or a fancy
meal, all the guests would have left
their sandals at the door and would
be reclining on couches arranged in
a circle around the food. This would
have given the woman easy access to
Jesus' feet, which she kept washing,
drying, kissing, and anointing. All
the verbs are in the present tense,
indicating continuous action. After
Jesus rebuked Simon with the parable
of the debtors, he said to him, "Her
sins, which are many, are forgiven."
His words could mean that because
of what she had been doing to his
feet, now her sins were forgiven.
Or they could mean that it was obvious
that her sins had been forgiven because
of what she had been doing to his
feet. In either case, when he repeats
to her that her sins are forgiven,
it's like saying, "Indeed, your
sins have been forgiven." Then
he tells her to go in peace. We assume
that she does, and technically, that's
the last we know of her.
Many have assumed that this was Mary
Magdalene, in part, because she is mentioned
at the beginning of chapter 8 as being
one of the women who were following
along with Jesus. It says "seven
devils" went out of her. Since
we've just read about a sinning woman,
it's easy to see the connection. But
demon possession was not necessarily
considered sinful. Furthermore, we have
no evidence of the "sinning"
woman becoming one of Jesus' followers.
It is also tempting to see this incident
as a variation on the anointing stories
in the other gospels (see Matt. 26:6-13;
Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-8). Unfortunately,
all of the others occur just before
Jesus' arrest and crucifixion. In contrast,
Luke describes a totally different setting
and has a different point to make. (Luke
does not have another anointing before
Jesus' death.) The purpose of this account
is once again to demonstrate Jesus'
authority to forgive sins and to demonstrate
that God is no respecter of persons.
Divine forgiveness is readily available
to any repentant heart.
Mary Jane Chapin
But God commendeth his love toward
us, in that, while we were yet sinners,
Christ died for us.
Can you give some background behind
First we will do the two-minute background
on Romans. It is one of Paul's undisputed
works, written in the late 50's CE.
The purpose of the letter was his
anticipated visit to Rome. He knows
some of the Christians in Rome (though
he has never been there, and hence,
did not start this church), and he
is preparing them for his visit. Romans
is his longest letter and his most
complete treatise on his view of the
Christian faith. It is not known whether
his choice of topics was in response
to information he had received about
the situation in Rome or whether he
was just putting forth ideas that
he thought might be helpful to any
Like many of Paul's letters, Romans
is comprised of two main sections:
chapters 1-11 are theological; 12-16
are more practical. There are dozens
of ways of subdividing each section.
Suffice it to say that his central
theme is all about what God is doing
through the redemptive act of Jesus.
This letter reveals God's way of righteousness,
a divine righteousness that is based
on a principle of faith and presented
to all for their acceptance by faith.
In 1:18-3:20 he puts forth the universal
need for righteousness. 3:21-5:21
is God's provision for meeting this
need. 6:1-8:39 discusses moral obligations
for those living in holiness. 9:1-11:36
addresses the problem of Judaism's
rejection of the gospel. Chapters
12-16 discuss the ethics evident in
a Christian way of life.
5:8, then, comes in the section of God's
provision for meeting mankind's need
for righteousness. This is all based
on grace, on God's initiative. Those
who have accepted God's initiative are
righteous, justified by faith. The first
result is that they have "peace
with God" (v.1) -- another gift
from God, given out of love and not
based on merit. This peace comes as
a gift through our Lord Jesus Christ.
V.2 has Christ ushering the faithful
into their new state of grace before
God, thereby reinforcing their hope
in ultimate salvation. And if times
are tough, that's fine because they
will rejoice in tribulations in the
knowledge that such trials lead to patience
and strength in hope (v 3-5). The faithful
are so without merit here because before
any of them got it, Christ died for
their sins (v 6). Verses 7 and 8 go
together. For whom would you lay down
your life? A good man, a really good
man? Perhaps. But before any of the
faithful were good, God's love is seen
in commending Christ to lay down his
life for them. Awesome, isn't it?
Paul continues this chapter by noting
that if God could do something so
remarkable for us while we were all
still sinners, how much more will
He do now that we have been reconciled!
And having been reconciled with God
through Christ, we can rejoice in
his abiding love every day. Paul goes
on to contrast Adam and Christ, saying
that Christ is the New Adam from whom
we derive righteousness and eternal
Mary Jane Chapin
One of my high school students mentioned
a few weeks ago that he had seen a
documentary on the Discovery Channel
(I think), which reported that Judas
was not a traitor or betrayer of Jesus.
The reason given, evidently, was that
the word "betrayed" or "traitor"
was mistranslated when the King James
Version of the Bible was written.
I read through the references in the
Bible related to Judas and felt that
the story of his betrayal was too
significant for a single word to have
made a difference in the overall translation.
I have emailed Discovery about this,
but have not received a response yet.
This is not a big deal; however, I
do try to follow-up on some of these
reports and give a balanced response
back to the students. I am aware that
the scholastic, literal, material
mentality would try to discredit the
Bible or rob it of its spiritual import
and negate its historical impact on
the world. However, I just wondered
if you had a response to this or if
you were aware of the report and the
thrust behind it.
I am not aware of the report on Judas
on the Discovery Channel. However,
the root word used for "betray"
is didomi, which simply means
"to give or offer." The
full word is paradidomi. When
it is used with para (as in
paradidomi), it means to "hand
over, give (over), deliver, entrust"
anything to anyone. It is also the
word commonly used for passing down
traditions, documents, etc. It has
a totally benign meaning. When used
of a person, it generally means to
"hand that person over, turn
over, give up (as in hand over into
the custody of)." The KJV translates
this word as "betray," or
"deliver." (The context
determines their choice.) Jesus uses
paradidomi when he predicts
his passion, telling them over and
over (in all the gospels) that he
will be "betrayed" or "delivered
unto" to the authorities.
No one would argue that Judas "handed
Jesus over" to the authorities.
But a careful reading of the stories
raises some questions. Jesus predicts
his passion several times to the effect
that he would be delivered up to the
authorities. When "his hour"
comes, he tells the disciples that
one of them will paradidomi
him to the authorities. They all respond
by asking, "Is it I?" --
a rather remarkable response. In both
John and Matthew, Jesus identifies
Judas as the one, presumably in the
presence of all the disciples. The
question to be asked is, if this was
seen as a "betrayal," why
didn't the other disciples attack
Judas, tie him down, and prevent him
from going out? But no, there isn't
a single word of protest, and Judas
slips out. To do what? Betray? Hand
Some scholars now argue that Judas
was a radical and zealous follower,
that he decided it was time to push
the envelope. He was eager to get
the revolution started, and neither
he nor any of the other disciples
ever expected anything less than a
full victory. Perhaps it wasn't a
betrayal at all. He simply provided
the spark that was meant to light
the flame toward victory. Of course,
things didn't quite turn out that
The gospels are clear in their portrayal
of Judas. They present him as someone
who didn't understand Jesus' true
mission and who turned him in, possibly
out of frustration. In so doing, he
"betrayed" his closest friend.
Perhaps. But from a theological point
of view, they are also clear that
this outcome was always part of God's
grand plan. Jesus had to die so that
he could rise up. Judas happened to
be the one to get the ball rolling.
Not that this in any way absolved
him from full responsibility for his
own actions. Judas alone bore the
guilt of what he had done -- hence
his untimely death. As for Jesus,
well, he knew what would happen to
him from the beginning and he let
it all play out. He was obedient to
God's plan of salvation, telling Judas
to "do what you are to do quickly."
(John 13:27) Is it any wonder that
the actions of Judas have received
new attention over the past few years?
Mary Jane Chapin