The anointing of Jesus is an event reported by the Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John, in which a woman pours the entire contents of an alabastron of very expensive perfume over the head of Jesus. This event is a subject of considerable debate, as many scholars hold that it is actually two separate events; one occurring at the beginning of Jesus' ministry in which he offered forgiveness to a repentant woman, and the other in which he is anointed in preparation for his burial. Luke's gospel speaks of Jesus' feet being anointed by a woman who had been sinful all her life, and who was crying; and when her tears started landing on the feet of Jesus, she wiped his feet with her hair. Many biblical historians hold that this story could not have occurred only a few days before to the crucifixion, due to the numerous events that followed in Luke's gospel. John 12:1-8 names her Mary, and the text assumes her to be Mary, a sister to Lazarus, as it also identifies her sister Martha. Although the somewhat erotic iconography of the woman's act has traditionally been associated with Mary Magdalene, there is no biblical text identifying her as such. According to the Gospel of Mark 14:3 the perfume in his account was the purest of Spikenard.
Some of the onlookers are angered because the perfume could have been sold for a year's wages, which Mark enumerates as 300 denarii, and the money given to the poor. The Gospel of Matthew states that the "disciples were indignant" and John's gospel states that it was Judas who was most offended. John adds that he was bothered because he (Judas) was a thief and desired the money for himself. Jesus is described as justifying the action of the woman by stating that the poor will always exist, and can be helped whenever desired. While some scholars have criticized this response as lax morality, others have responded that due to his impending crucifixion, Jesus is simply explaining that what was done was not a choice between two moral acts, but a necessity, and would no more be criticized in Jesus' day as a modern man purchasing a coffin for a loved one, even though there are poor that could be fed instead.
Mark and Matthew say that this occurred while Jesus was in Bethany relaxing at the home of Simon the Leper, a man whose significance is not explained any further by surviving texts of Mark or Matthew. Some, who assume that the accounts in the four gospels are speaking of the same event, would identify the host as Simon the Pharisee, as mentioned in Luke's account. However, given the nearness to Jesus' crucifixion, and the fact that the host Simon is called a leper elsewhere, has caused this identification to come under considerable debate. Luke's gospel states that Jesus had been invited to dinner, though the location is not specified. The Gospel of John, identifies the location of the anointing prior to the crucifixion as the home of Lazarus and his two sisters. The Roman Catholic Church follows the Synoptic Gospels in the location of the event. John and Luke also differ from Matthew and Mark by relating that the anointing is to the feet rather than the head. This, some argue, points to the idea that Luke is speaking of an entirely different event.
The Scholars Version note to Mark 14:3-9 states: "…The disciples miss the point, which Jesus makes clear: the woman has signaled his impending death and burial. It must be unintentional irony when Mark has Jesus predict that this story will always be told in memory of a woman whose very name escapes him."
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