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Bethany links

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  • Kevin O'Brien
    Tom Butler, You wrote: In reference to Jn. 11: 2, where the story about Mary of Bethany anointing the feet of Jesus is acknowledged before it is told (Jn. 11:
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 9, 2001
      Tom Butler,

      You wrote:

      In reference to Jn. 11: 2, where the story about Mary of Bethany anointing the feet of Jesus is acknowledged before it is told (Jn. 11: 55-12: 8), a significant sign is being offered to the discerning reader: that the story of the raising of Lazarus and the account of the anointing are linked together.


      They certainly are but in this way.

      The whole Bethany household was in mourning for Lazarus. During the mourning period, the normal custom of Anointing oneself was suspended until the stipulated period had passed; then anointing onself at the main meal was resumed (implicit in 2 Sam 12.20 and 14.2; explicit in Dan 10.3).

      Lazarus' restoration to life resulted in those at Bethany prematurely and unexpectedly resuming the custom. That is why we have the very strange intrusion into the non-Lukan Gospels of a sudden Anointing. Among other consequences for correct exegesis there is an implicit reference to the Lazarus marvel in those Gospels., upon which scholars like Schmiedl early last century said:

      No satisfactory explanation can ever be given as to why the Synoptists should have nothing to say concerning this greatest of all miracles.

      Like the resumption of anointing oneself prematurely (above) this assertion of Schmiedl is also premature. The solution to Schmiedl's problem hitherto seemed beyond reach because it was not adverted to then and is still not adverted to that Mark or Matthew have chosen not to present the actual historical and miraculous restoration to life of Lazarus, which after all at the time they later wrote was common coin but its circumstantial effects as presented above. There is a world of difference between recording actual detail of some historical event or incident and recording its circumstantial effects in a substitute passage. The Fourth Gospel gives us the original detail and the historical event; the Synoptists give us a substitute passage of what was given originally in detailed history. Needless to say, this brings to notice the priority question between the Fourth Gospel and Mark/Matthew! (Schmiedl, Encyc. Biblica, Art. 'John, Son of Zebedee', 20 (b).

      You wrote:

      In fact it can be shown that these two stories are also linked to the story of the washing of the feet of the disciples by Jesus that occurs in Jn. 13.

      Comment: If you mean "geographically linked" to a Bethany Last Supper, I am 100 % with you. But that scenario involves the deletion of Mark 14.12-16 along with its upper room, watercarrier, water etc. as well as Luke 22.15. If you mean symbolically or theologically linked, I draw the line. Please get the history and the historicity settled (involving as they do, the time-space continuum) and then apply symbolism and/or theology.

      I include the following "link" between the two events on Simon the Leper's Bethany property and the Last Supper which you rightly sense, exists in the Gospel.

      'What prompted Jesus to wash his disciples feet at the Last Supper'?

      Answer: In the house of Simon the Leper in "Bethany", in the same room in that house with the same room decor, even down to the finest detail in that room, the same furniture reclining arrangements in that room, the same illumination torches on the wall, most probably the same personnel present, Jesus remembered at the Last Supper what happened less than a week before, as described so vividly in John 12.18: that is, Mary of "Bethany" attended his feet. So, by association of ideas, prompted by his being in the same dining room at "Bethany", he attended his disciples" feet in washing them! This judgment is further very strongly supported if not clinched scripturally by Jesus" statement at that point at the Last Supper as reported in John 13.14-15:

      If I your Lord and Master have washed your feet, you should wash each other's feet.

      Continuity of thought, theme and action are all here present. Jesus may be thinking of an unbroken series of the same linked theme: "In attempting to imitate the woman in Simon the Pharisee's house in Galilee, Mary attended my feet several nights ago in gratitude for my restoring her brother Lazarus to life. Tonight, I've just washed your feet as a lesson against pride. Pass it on! From now on, for the same lesson against pride, like vying for places of honour in this dining room, you're to wash each other's feet no matter what it costs you with your distorted ideas on personal social status and rank".

      We have in this scene what an investigative body at a legal hearing in a common law country holding criminal court proceedings would recognize as 'similar act evidence'. There is no evidence to the contrary pointing to the supposition that another place is involved. All the evidence indicates instead that the 'Bethany' dining room of Simon the Leper is the venue for the two events. The court hearers would naturally recognize the same 'locus' for that same 'similar act'.

      You wrote:

      These three stories comprise what I call the Ordination Trilogy of the Gospel of John. They tell how Jesus systematically prepared his disciples (focusing upon Mary and Martha of Bethany in chapters 11 and 12) to become the new priests in the new temple (his own body), authorizing them to perform the new ritual of sacrifice (the Eucharist) in place of the festivals of sacrifice.

      Comment: There would be millions of readers of the Fourth Gospel owning to the "sensus fidelium" who would disagree with you Tom, but we'll leave that debate to another time, I suggest!


      Kevin O'Brien


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