IN DEFENSE OF TWO DINNERS AT BETHANY DURING
JESUS' LAST WEEK IN JERUSALEM

There is controversy among Bible scholars over how many times Jesus was anointed and the apparent discrepancy over what day St. John recorded Jesus' dinner in Bethany as opposed to the Synoptic Gospels. The accounts agree if there were two different dinners at Bethany the last week of Jesus' life recorded in the Gospels and 3 different anointings at 3 different times by 3 or possibly 2 different women (Mary of Bethany may have anointed Christ twice: once on Saturday and a second time on Wednesday of the last Passover holy week).  Each anointing of Christ symbolized the 3 holy offices He fulfilled as God's supreme Prophet, High Priest, and Davidic King:

There are similarities and differences between the two accounts of Jesus being anointed His last week in Jerusalem in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark during the dinner at Bethany two days before the Passover sacrifice compared with the Gospel of John's account of the dinner at Bethany six days before the Passover:

John 12:1-13 Matthew 26:1-16 Mark 14:1-11
The event takes place six days before Passover at Bethany before Jesus' entry into Jerusalem on Palm [Passion] Sunday (Jn 12:1; 12-19). The event takes place two days before Passover (Mt 26:2) at Bethany (Mt 26:6) after Jesus' entry into Jerusalem on Palm [Passion] Sunday (Mt 21:8-11). The event takes place two days before Passover at Bethany (Mk 14:1) after Jesus entry into Jerusalem on Palm [Passion] Sunday (Mk 11:1-10).
Prior to the dinner, Jesus had not arrived in Jerusalem and the people were looking for Him (Jn 11:55-56). The chief priests and Pharisees were looking for someone to inform them about Jesus' whereabouts so they could arrest Him (Jn 11:57). Jesus taught at the Temple and cured the sick every day that week (Mt 21:14-26:1).  He announced his coming arrest and crucifixion to His disciples. The chief priests and elders conspired to arrest and kill Him (Mt 26:2-5). Jesus taught at the Temple every day that week (Mk 11:11-13:47). The chief priests and scribes conspired to arrest and kill Him (Mk 14:1-2).
The dinner was in Bethany "... where Lazarus was ... Martha waited on them ..." (Jn 12:1-2). Dinner was in Bethany at the home of Simon the Leper (Mt 26:6). Dinner was in Bethany at the home of Simon the Leper (Mk 14:3).
Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and Jesus' Apostles attend (Jn 12:1-3, 4). The disciples/Apostles are present as guests (Mt 26:8). Those who attend are unnamed with the exception of Simon, the host (Mk 14:3).
Mary of Bethany has "ointment of pure nard" (Jn 12:3).* Unnamed woman has "an alabaster jar of very expensive ointment" (Mt 26:7).* Unnamed woman has "an alabaster jar of ointment of pure nard" (Mk 14:3).*
Mary of Bethany anoints Jesus' feet and wipes His feet with her hair (Jn 12:3). The woman anoints Jesus' head (Mt 26:7). The woman anoints Jesus' head (Mk 14: 3).
"Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples", protests the waste (Jn 12:4). Disciples are indignant over the waste (Mt 26:8). Some who were there were indignant over the waste (Mk 14:4).
Judas says the jar is worth 300 denarii and protests it should be given to the poor (Jn 12:4-5). Could have been sold at a high price and given to poor (Mt 26:9). Worth over 300 denarii and should be given to the poor (Mk 14:5).
Jesus defends Mary and says "Let her keep it for the day of my burial"** (Jn 12:7). Jesus defends the woman as doing a good work (Mt 26:10). Jesus defends the woman as doing a good work (Mk 14:6).
"The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me." (Jn 12:8). "For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me" (Mt 26:11). "For you always have the poor with you ... but you will not always have me" (Mk 14:7).
  "In pouring this ointment on my body she has done it to prepare me for burial." ** (Mt 26:12). "She had done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burying."** (Mk 14:8).
  "... wherever this Gospel is preached ... what she has done will be told in memory of her" (Mt 26:13). "... wherever the Gospel is preached ... what she has done will be told in memory of her" (Mk 14:9).
Jesus enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (Jn 12:12-15). Judas betrays Jesus (Mt 26:14-16)+ (Jesus' "hour" has come). Judas betrays Jesus (Mk 14:10-11)+ (Jesus' "hour" has come).

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2007 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

* same word in Greek, muron, is used in all three accounts.

**note the difference between "to keep it for the day of my burial" in the Gospel of St. John and "she did it to prepare for the day of my burial" in St. Matthew's Gospel and "has anointed my body beforehand for its burial" in St. Mark's Gospel.

+Luke also records Judas' betrayal just prior to the Last Supper in Luke 22:1-6.

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2007 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.