Two different women anointed Jesus; one was decent, the other was not
I have spoken with many people who confuse the two different cases
in which a woman anointed Our Lord, and as a result think that it only deals
with one case. Because of this confusion some consider that Mary, the sister
of Lazarus, the friend of Christ, was a prostitute, when in reality she was
a decent woman. It was the other woman, the one who anointed Jesus in
Lazarus and his sisters lived in
The passages in Mathew, Mark, and John tell us about the anointment of Jesus by Mary, but in the episode narrated in Luke it tells us about a different occasion involving an unknown woman. Lets look at the differences between the two cases to acquire a better understanding. As you read the differences between both cases, refer to the corresponding passages below.
a) The act of Mary pouring out the ointment, took place in her own home, where she lived with Martha and Lazarus. Therefore, it cannot be the same case reported in Lk 7:36-50, which took place in the home of a Pharisee named Simon, and the woman who anointed Our Lord did not live there.
b) The case of the woman mentioned in Luke occurred way before the case of Mary; it occurred towards the start of Jesus preaching, and in the case of Mary, towards the end of Jesus preaching, in the days leading up to his death. Therefore, the cases reported in Mt 26:6; Mr 14:3; and Jn 12:1 in themselves are the same, they report the same episode; but the case reported in Lk 7:36-50 is a different episode, because they occurred at different times.
c) In these three reports Mary, the sister of Lazarus, is criticized for pouring an ointment that could be sold and proceeds given to the poor; meanwhile in the episode of Luke the person who is criticized is Christ, for allowing himself to be touched by a sinner; they don't criticize the sinner for pouring the ointment.
d) In the three cases alike, the hosts are amicable, and believe in the divinity of Jesus; in the case of Luke the host is a Pharisee that is hostile towards him, and doubt the fact of him being a prophet, because he thought that Jesus did not know what type of woman was touching him.
e) In the three cases alike, it's the disciples who become angry, because they would have preferred selling the ointment and giving its proceeds to the poor; in the case of Luke no one is angry about the pouring of the ointment.
f) In the case of Lazarus's sister, the Lord defends Mary's action; but in the case of Luke the same defense does not exist. What we see there is a demonstration of his divinity and his forgiveness; a demonstration and forgiveness that does not exist in the other three cases. Compare the four passages.
g) In Luke Jesus links the anointment or pouring of the ointment with the sins committed by the woman, her forgiveness, and the lack of hospitality by the Pharisee. And in the other three cases Jesus links the anointment with his sepulture only.
h) In the three cases alike, those in Mathew, Mark, and John, the Jews are amicable with the two sisters, they deal with them, they consider them worthy, they console them and keep them company; they were not considered public sinners. In the case of Luke, the one who anointed the feet of Jesus was considered a public sinner unworthy of associating with the Jews.
i) We know that the case of the sinner occurred in the north, because in Lk 7:1 we see that it mentions Capernaum, and in 7:11 is mentions Nain, two cities from the north, consequently, the episode of the sinner occurred in the north. Bethany, the city of Mary, was in the south.
Case in Mathew.
"6 Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, 7 There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. 8 But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? 9 For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. 10 When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? For she hath wrought a good work upon me. 11 For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. 12 For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. 13 Verily I say unto you: Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her." (Mt 26:6-13)
The Case in Mark.
The Case in John.
"1 Then Jesus, six days before the Passover,
The Case in Luke
"36 And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat. 37 And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, 38 and stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying: This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him, for she is a sinner.
40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith: Master, say on. 41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors; the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? 43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him: Thou hast rightly judged. 44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon: Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet, but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. 45 Thou gavest me no kiss, but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint, but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.
47 Wherefore I say unto thee: Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much, but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. 48 And he said unto her: Thy sins are forgiven. 49 And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves: Who is this that forgiveth sins also? 50 And he said to the woman: Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace." (Lc 7:36-50)