‘And Many Other Women’ Part V

October 27, 2004 | one comment
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I wrote my thesis on Mark 14:3-9, so there’s a lot that I want to say about it, but for now, I’m only going to talk about its relationship to Mark 12:38-44.

There are a lot of similarities between the two passages. Both have a ‘verily’ saying for example. That ‘verily I say unto you’ phrase is a form of verbal underlining that means ‘what I am about to say is reeaaally important. ‘ Both involve women, and both involve women parting with their money. Enough similarities to encourage the listening audience (the best guess is maybe a 6-10% literacy rate among early Christians, meaning most were encountering the Gospels by hearing them, not reading them) to compare the stories. The structure of the text also encourages that comparison:

scribes denounced (12:38-40)
widow’s mites (12:34-44)
instructions for disciples (all of 13)
anointing story (14:3-9)
plot to kill Jesus (14:10-11)

You’ll notice that 12:38-40 and 14:10-11 also have to do with the (mis) use of money. When chapter 13 is read as instructions on How to Be A Disciple, the widow and the anointer serve as examples illustrating Jesus’ teachings. The scribes and Judas show What Not to Do. In other words, the teachings in 13 are surrounded by positive and negative examples of those teachings. And while I have too much class to point it out, you’ll also notice that the positive examples of discipleship are (unnamed) women while the negative examples of discipleship come from the Jewish (scribes) and Christian (Judas) male leadership circles.

One more point, perhaps the most important one: if you compare the value of the widow’s mites with the value of the anointing oil, you find that the mites were worth 1/19,200 what the oil was worth. Almost comical. But not quite. Notice that Jesus praises both women. Important lesson here. Each gave everything that she could, and that was enough.

Forgive me for not responding to any comments on this thread; I’ll be netless for a few days.

One Response to ‘And Many Other Women’ Part V

  1. Joe Spencer on October 28, 2004 at 2:36 pm

    I’m interested in chapter 13, as suspended between these two sets of comparisons. It is certainly on how to be a disciple, if not on how to be a VERY FAITHFUL disciple, but it seems to be about more than that. I wonder how the content of chapter 13 relates to the incredible examples of the women on both its extremes. The text mentions no women as part of the crowd in 13, and in fact it seems clear that the audience was really only the four earliest disciples. Most of the content is awful prophecy of the impending doom in Jerusalem. This must have some bearing on the readings of the two stories concerning the women.

    It is interesting in this connection that the women give ridiculously. The widow’s two mites are apparently all she had, leaving her without means for further living. The woman with the anointing oil was giving up something (as pointed out) of incredible value, but only to clean someone’s feet (although it is given that that someone is Jesus Christ). The willingness emphasized here seems to be a willingness to give up everything, especially because of the impending circumstances (the woman anoints Jesus for His burial). Perhaps the near doom for Jesus’ mortal life is connected to the near doom for the whole city. Are the apostles implicitly being instructed to give up everything because there remains no need for belongings?

    Very interesting points, Julie.

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