Who exactly was Simon “the Leper”?
As we approach another anniversary of Christ’s [Yahshua’s] torture and death, it is timely that we clear out the existing old-time great confusion surrounding His anointing at a dinner supposedly hosted by the Leper named Simon.
HERE ARE SOME VERY DISTURBING AND CONFUSING QUESTIONS:
First of all, let us consider the laws concerning Lepers in Israel which was still enforced at the time of Christ on earth as detailed in the whole Leviticus 13 chapter. Specifically, please note that a Leprous person’s head should be shaved (Leviticus 13:45); his clothes are to be torn and burned with fire, and he shall cry aloud saying: “Unclean!, Unclean!” (Leviticus 13:45, 52, 57); and he shall dwell alone outside the camp of Israel while sick with leprosy (Leviticus 13:46).
In the case of healed lepers, they are no longer called “leper” from the time they are declared by the examining priest as “clean” (Leviticus 13:23, 28, 37, 39, 41,58).
With these existing laws on leprosy in mind, we are forced to ask the following:
- How come that among all people, a leper should host Christ a dinner?
- Were lepers then allowed to associate with non-lepers near Jerusalem?
- Did this outcast leper then have enough wealth to throw a dinner party?
- Was Simon “the Leper” who invited Christ for dinner also then a Pharisee?
- How could an outcast leper be at the same time be a wealthy Pharisee?
- Is the woman who anointed Him in preparation for His death an immoral woman?
When we read all the present Greek-based translation of our English Bibles in the four Gospel accounts and simply put together what we read, we just cannot escape asking those disturbing questions. Not only are those questions valid, but they are all confusing. As a result, some seemingly obvious answers will sadly lead us to teachings contrary not only to plain common sense, but also to contradict long-held biblical commands concerning the dreaded disease of leprosy!
The four Gospel writers each talked about this seemingly unusual event in: Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; Luke 7-36-50; and John 12:1-8; which in summary involved Christ being in a dinner, wherein a woman’s anointing of Him, drew criticism from guests and on-lookers.
HOW DO WE MAKE SENSE OF THIS PUZZLING EVENT?
A careful analysis of the narratives will show that there were actually two such completely different occasions which should never be mixed-up, nor confused with each other.
THE FIRST ANOINTING EVENT is described only in Luke 7:36-50.
As a Gospel-writer historian, Luke usual narrates events in a chronological order. This particular dinner event was hosted by a Pharisee who was also named Simon, quite early in the ministry of Christ. Please note here that “Simon” was a common name for a male at that time. In fact, there are nine (9) persons named “Simon” in the New Testament account alone. For a complete listing of such, please see APPENDIX-1 at the end of this article.
In this early account, there was still no mention of the criticism of Judas Iscariot. In fact, the 12 disciples were just more recently selected and named (Luke 6:12-16). And John the Baptizer was still alive then (Luke 7:18-35). In this dinner, it was the host (a Pharisee named Simon) who criticized Christ’s seeming ignorance as a prophet, and the woman’s [shameful] action.
A brief background of this narrative relates a sinful woman in that city, who upon learning that Christ was dining in the house of that Pharisee named Simon, boldly went in uninvited. It is also helpful to explain at this point that contrary to our modern culture today, they did not have elevated dining tables surrounded with equally tall dining chairs. In those days, (as illustrated in paintings of the eating habits of Roman nobles at that period of time), guests simply reclined on low couches on the floor as they ate, with their feet extended behind their backs.
Obviously, this unnamed woman (long stricken with conscience of guilt), prepared to boldly seek cleansing and forgiveness for her many sins; brought with her an alabaster flask of fragrant oil. Upon arrival, she immediately and profusely wept behind at Christ’s feet, washing His feet with her tears and then wiped them up with her loosened hair (a symbol of being a humbled woman), and then poured the fragrant oil upon His feet.
[Note: unlike the other account, there was no mention about the cost of the fragrant oil here, nor that it should have better been sold.]
Naturally, Christ’s self-righteous Pharisee-host criticized such a bizarre embarrassing scenario. He questioned in his mind whether Christ was really a prophet to know who and what kind of woman was touching Him? But Christ, reading his mind, diplomatically put this whole scenario into a nice perspective by relating a story concerning two debtors, with one owing 500 denarii, while the other, only 50. Then Christ asked him, after both were forgiven of their debts; who among the two will love their creditor more? The Pharisee obviously answered correctly.
With that, Christ illustrated the failures of his host in contrast with the deeds of the woman who believed she sinned more. Then He pronounced forgiveness upon all her sins, and to go in peace. With Christ pronouncing forgiveness, He was again criticized for His authority to forgive sins.
This woman was most tactfully unnamed by Luke for good reasons. But in the very next account Luke talked about some of the women who supported Christ’s ministry. Just two verses after Luke 7:50; Luke named the first woman as Mary of Magdala (Mary Magdalene) who became among the most ardent supporter of the Messiah (Luke 8:2, 3). Perhaps as a coincidence, or by direct association, or process of elimination, there seems no one else who might fit the description of that woman? But the Bible is silent on this.
[For your information, there are six women called “Mary” in the New Testament alone. For details, please read APPENDIX-2 at the end of this article.]
THE SECOND ANOINTING EVENT described in the accounts of Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; and John 12:1-8
This second anointing event happened very late towards the end of Christ’s ministry; when plots to kill Him were ready for execution—within the final week of His physical life on earth.
In this later event, there was already negative attitude against Him, criticizing even the perceived waste of the expensive ointment poured upon Him, especially coming from Judas who was now trying to find a way or an excuse to betray Him to the top religious leadership then.
The place of this particular dinner was now in Bethany, a town very close to Jerusalem.
The three Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, and John) all priced the oil at 300 denarii.
But this dinner event was recorded as a parallel account by both Matthew and Mark.
JOHN FILLS IN THE MISSING DETAILS
John says that the one who hosted this dinner was actually Simon “the leper.”
Lazarus was with Christ at the table, while his sister Martha served.
John identifies the woman who poured this costly ointment as Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus. Apart from Matthew and Mark mentioning that the woman anointed Christ on the head; John adds that Mary also poured the costly oil on Christ’s feet (John 12:3).
While this Mary also wiped Christ’s feet with her hair; this Mary did not weep; unlike the woman in the earlier account of Luke.
Putting together facts from this narrative, we now reckon that this particular Simon “the leper” from Bethany was none other than the father of the three siblings: Lazarus, Martha, and Mary.
This conclusion is supported by two other authoritative references which say:
“It has even been suggested that Simon was the father of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus”
(Page 1251, The International Bible Commentary, F.F. Bruce, Editor, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan); and
“By comparing with John 12:1-8, a reasonable deduction is that he [Simon] was the father of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary.” (Page 1477, The Annotated Study Bible, KJV, Thomas Nelson Publishers)
WHY IS THIS SIMON CALLED “THE LEPER”?
Checking with all the English Bibles based on the Greek translation; and using all concordances, dictionaries, and commentaries which are also all based on the Greek translation, we have no other answer—except to accept that Simon was really a “leper” or more precisely “the leper.”
But this does not answer some of our original questions:
Why of all people living near Jerusalem, a “leper” should host this final dinner for Christ?
And why does this particular “leper” have such wealth to be able to host a dinner party?
And IF this Simon of Bethany was indeed the father of: Lazarus, Martha, and Mary; how come that this “leper” was allowed to live with his non-leprous children?
THE CORRECT ANSWER TO THIS OLD-TIME PUZZLE COULD ONLY BE FOUND IF WE READ FROM THE HEBREW-ARAMAIC ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT
Sadly, the Greek translators reading from the original Hebrew-Aramaic manuscript, failed to properly interpret what they were reading. And please remember that both the Hebrew and Aramaic languages do not have vowels in their alphabet.
Therefore, the translator simply mis-read the word GRBA [gimel-resh-beyt-aleph]. If one pronounces it as “gar-bah” it means” leper.” But using the very same letters, if one pronounces it as “gar-ah-bah” it now means “jar-maker” or a “potter.”
As solid proof, the Hebrew Roots Bible consistently translates “Simon the leper” as “Simon the potter.”
Very obviously, this Simon of Bethany was NOT the leper, but rather, the [only] “jar-maker” or “Potter” in all of Bethany. And since he has the business monopoly in that area, he was obviously a well-known, prosperous businessman or artisan. As a result, among expensive things in his house, he owned an alabaster flask of fragrant oil (which was worth a year’s wage), which his daughter Mary poured upon Christ’s head and feet. Thus, with his wealth, he and his family could happily afford to host a final dinner for their close friend—Christ; recalling that this very same person raised his son Lazarus from the dead.
ANOTHER POINT OF CORRECTION
Among the Hebrew people, none ever used the name “Lazarus” even if we check starting from the ancient genealogies in the Old Testament. It is a foreign name to them. The only two places where we find that name in the New Testament is in the story of “Lazarus” and the Rich Man (Luke 16:20-25); and the man named “Lazarus” whom Christ raised from the dead in Bethany (John 11:1; 12:1). That name “Lazarus” which we find only in the New Testament is actually a Greek corruption of the Hebrew name “El’azar” which is also commonly known as “Eliezer” (Genesis 15:2; Exodus 18:4; 1 Chronicles 7:8; 2 Chronicles 20:37; Ezra 8:16; Luke 3:29).
The Greek translators corrupted that name “El’azar” into “Lazar” then added the common Greek ending of names “-os”; such that the final product of that name became “Lazar-OS” (Lazarus).
Proof of using the correct Hebrew name “El’azar” (Luke 16:20…; John 12:1…) is found in The Scriptures [Bible] published by The Institute for Scriptural Research].
A second source of proof in correcting this erroneous name is found in The AENT [Aramaic English New Testament], by Andrew Gabriel Roth, Netzari Press, page xiv.
There were two different and separate anointings of Christ while He walked this earth. The first one was at the beginning of His ministry; soon after the selection and naming of the 12 disciples, and when John the Baptizer was still alive. That dinner was hosted by a Pharisee also named “Simon,” and the anointing was from a woman who wept bitterly for her many sins, and anointed Christ’s feet [only] with fragrant oil; and with faith, she sought forgiveness from Christ—which He did, and told her that all her sins were forgiven and that she can go in peace.
The second anointing was during the final week of Christ’s ministry on earth. This was hosted by Simon the Potter [jar-maker] in Bethany who was also the father of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. The apostle John identifies this daughter Mary as the one who anointed Christ’s head and feet with a very expensive ointment which was worth a year’s wage for a working man.
This second anointing was prophetically meant to prepare Christ’s body for burial (Matthew 26:12; Mark 14:8; John 12:7), but Judas took issue with that act; claiming that it would have been better to have sold it and that the money were given to the poor—not that he cared for the poor but was a thief [as the apostle John said], and was planning to betray Christ.
Many problems of misinterpretation originated from a poor or erroneous translation from the original Hebrew-Aramaic text into the Greek language. Sadly, apart from Latin, the competing Greek translations became the dominant source from which Bible translators produced the English Bibles we commonly use today.
When we depart from Paul’s admonition that “to them [the Jews] were committed the oracles of God” (Romans 3:1, 2), we are bound to encounter a lot of mistakes, and this is just one more.
For more detailed information on this important translation topic, please be sure to read the eye-opening article: “25 Irrefutable Reasons Why the New Testament Was NOT Originally Written in Greek.”
“SIMON” THE MOST COMMON NAME IN THE NEW TESTAMENT:
- Simon, also called Peter (Matthew. 4:18; 10:2)
- Simon, of Bethany; related to: Lazarus, Martha, and Mary (Matthew 26:6)
- Simon, of Cyrene (Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21)
- Simon, father of Judas Iscariot (John 6:71; 13:26)
- Simon Magus, the sorcerer (Acts 8:9, 13, 18, 24)
- Simon, the tanner (Acts 9:43; 10:6, 32)
- Simon, half-brother of Christ (Matthew13:55; Mark 6:3)
- Simon, the Pharisee who invited Christ to dinner (Luke 7:36, 40, 43, 44)
- Simon, the Canaanite [not that he came from Cana or Canaan, but means “Cananaean” a party among the Zelotes group] (Matthew 10:4; Mark 3:18) [who is also the same person as Simon the Zelotes] (Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13)
MARY’S IN THE NEW TESTAMENT: (a common woman’s name)
- Mary, mother of Christ (Luke 1:27); and her cousin also called Mary
- Mary, mother of James, wife of Alpheus [Cleopas] (Luke 6:15; John 19:25
- Mary, sister of Martha and brother Lazarus (Luke 10:39)
- Mary, the mother of John Mark (Acts 12:12)
- Mary, a Christian woman in Rome (Romans 16:6)
- Mary Magdalene (Luke 8:2; Mark 16:9; Matthew 28:1; John 20:11)