The Anointed One

von Carolsfeld, Jésus est oint à Béthanie
Julius von Carolsfeld, Jésus est oint à Béthanie¤

In his Dialog with Trypho, 86, Justin Martyr suggests that οἱ βασελεῖς πάντες καὶ οἱ χριστοὶ ἀπὸ τούτου μετέσχον καὶ βασιλεῖς καλεῖσθαι καὶ χριστοί (all the kings and messiahs had, by this one [= Messiah Jesus], a share in being called both kings and messiahs [i.e., anointed ones]). Yet, Matt 26:6–13 (cf. Mark 14:3–9; Lk 7:37–39John 12:1–8) seems to ask its readers to connect Jesus to messiahship via a rather surprising route—namely, by an unnamed female character (France, Matthew, 361; Keener, Matthew, 618; Thiemann, “The Unnamed Woman,” ThTo 44.2 [1987]: 183–86; cf. John 12:1–8; Barrett, John, 2nd ed., 409; Gundry, Matthew, 522; Köstenberger, Theology, 232–32; Lightfoot, Commentary, 2:341; Platt, “Ministry,” ThTo 32.1 [1977]: 30–32). Irrespective of whether this unnamed woman understands the full significance of her action, including how Jesus connects it to his upcoming burial (Matt 26:12),* Jesus’ response to the disciples’ objection (Matt 26:8–13) clearly vindicates the woman’s actions also in connection with the proclamation of τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦτο ἐν ὅλῳ τῷ κόσμῳ (Matt 26:13; this gospel in the whole world; Coakley, “The Anointing at Bethany,” JBL 107.2 [1988]: 243, 249, 255; Ford, “Matthew 26:6–13,” Int 59.4 [2005]: 401; Thiemann, “The Unnamed Woman,” ThTo 44.2 [1987]: 183–86; cf. Matt 24:14; 28:18–20). Jesus thus sets the woman’s memorial in the context of her fitting, if perhaps dimly anticipatory, recognition of his soon-coming death and all of the messianic significance with which he himself viewed that sacrifice (Matt 16:13–28; Ephraim, On Our Lord, 47 [NPNF2 13:326–27]; Keener, Matthew, 618).


  • I.e., even in the event that, from the woman’s perspective, πρὸς τὸ ἐνταφιάσαι με (Matt 26:12; toward my preparation for burial) indicates only the result of her action as Jesus interprets it and not also her purpose, to whatever extent, in the action when she performed it (BDF, §402.5; Wallace, Greek Grammar, 611).

¤ In relation to Matthew’s description of the scene, von Carolsfeld’s woodcut contains at least the adaptation from Jesus’ reclining at table (Matt 26:7; cf. Mark 14:3) to his sitting on a stool.

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