Luke

7:36-50

The mission of the Messiah, 1:5-9:50

4. The dawning of the kingdom in the acts of Messiah, 6:12-7:50

vi] Kingdom entered by faith - a churchman and a prostitute

Synopsis

Jesus is invited for a meal at the home of a prominent Pharisee. At the meal, a prostitute who has obviously heard and responded to the gospel, draws near to Jesus, washes his feet with her tears, wipes them with her hair, and anoints them with ointment. Simon, the Pharisee, is shocked that Jesus is unaware of what type of woman this is. Jesus responds with a teaching parable and then reaffirms the woman's forgiveness.

 
Teaching

The passage before us is a very beautiful one. As well as identifying the one who is the source of forgiveness, it illustrates, in the loving act of a prostitute, the profound truth that a person who has experienced great forgiveness responds in great love.

 
Issues

i] Context: See 6:12-16. The story of the churchman and the prostitute serves as the sixth episode of the fourth section of Luke's gospel, The dawning of the kingdom in the acts of Messiah, 6:12-7:50. In this episode we learn that even the faith of a prostitute serves as the basis for covenant standing.

 

ii] Structure: This passage, The forgiveness of a sinful woman, presents as follows:

Anointing, v36-38;

Reaction of Simon, 39;

Jesus and Simon, v40-43:

A lesson on forgiveness, v44-47:

"he who is forgiven little, loves little."

Jesus pronounces forgiveness, v48;

Response of the guests, v49:

"who is this who even forgives sins?"

Pronouncement, v50:

"your faith has saved you, ...."

 

iii] Interpretation:

In this story Luke reminds us that the benefits of the kingdom extend to Gentiles and evil-livers (even prostitutes) who have faith. We see the rich, the satisfied, the religious churchmen of the day, reject the redemptive purposes of God, while the outcasts (the "lost", the "last") accept the free offer of God's grace of forgiveness in Christ. As well as identifying the ground of covenant inclusion, the loving act of this prostitute illustrates the profound truth that a person who is loved much (here forgiven) loves much.

This episode certainly does not teach that a person who loves much is forgiven much; forgiveness is the driving force behind this woman's act of love. Even so, at the center of this love is faith. The passage develops the saying "wisdom is proved right by all her children", v35 - God's wise ways are proved right by those who accept/believe His wise ways. Verses 31-34 illustrate the many who do not accept/believe Gods' wise ways. The prostitute serves as an example of one who does accept/believe. She believes that God's mercy is hers for the asking. So, having asked in faith, Jesus pronounces that she is "saved". Jesus is the one who "forgives sins and receives, regardless of class, all who have faith", Ellis.

 

iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

 
Text - 7:36

The story of a forgiven woman, v36-50: i] The anointing, v36-38: The scene is very typical of a Sabbath meal following a morning synagogue service. The visiting speaker, in this case Jesus, is invited to lunch at the home of one of the key religious members of the community. The meal would be served on the patio (verandah) with uninvited village locals gathering beside the patio to hear anything the important guest had to say. The poor and outcast could also be present and would be allowed to eat anything that remained. The woman is described as an "evil liver" ("a sinner"), probably a prostitute. While Jesus reclined at the table she wiped his feet with her tears and hair and anointed them with perfume. Tradition has it that she was Mary Magdalene, but there is no evidence to support this view.

de "now / when" - but, and. transitional - left untranslated.

twn Farisaiwn (oV) gen. "[one] of the Pharisees" - The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

hrwta (erwtew) imperf. "invited" - was asking. The extended time between the asking and the accepting prompts the imperfect tense, and is completed when Jesus "went", aorist. Only Luke records such invitations by Pharisees and of Jesus' willingness to share table fellowship with them.

iJna + subj. "to [have dinner]" - that [he might eat]. Forming a dependent statement, indirect speech, expressing what he asked.

met (meta) + acc. "with [him]" - Expressing association.

eiselqwn (eisercomai) aor. part. "so he went" - having entered. The participle is probably attendant circumstance expressing action accompanying the verb "reclined"; "he went .... and sat down ....."

 
v37

kai idou gunh "when a woman / a woman" - and behold a woman. Subject of the verbal phrases and clauses that make up v37, 38; "There was a woman"

hJtiV hn en th/ polei aJmartwloV "who had lived a sinful life in that town" - who was in the city a sinner. A relative clause to "a woman." The sense is "who was a well known prostitute." "In the city" = she was a local resident. "A sinner" = an evil living woman. It is often argued that she was Mary Magdalene, even possibly one in the same with Mary of Bethany. Yet, just because each gospel has an anointing story doesn't mean it was the same person doing the anointing on each occasion. Note the profound differences between Luke's story and the anointing recorded by John. As Origin, many years ago noted, Jesus was probably anointed by different women on a number of different occasions.

epignousa (epiginwskw) part. "learned" - having known. This participle is best treated as adverbial, probably temporal; "when she found out that Jesus was at table in the house of the Pharisee", Moffatt.

oJti "that [Jesus was eating]" - that [he reclines at table]. Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what she found out. "She had discovered that Jesus was having a meal at the Pharisees home."

komisasa (komizw) part. "she brought [an alabaster jar]" - having brought [an alabaster]. This participle, along with "having stood", are attendant circumstance expressing action accompanying the main verb "she began" with its complementary infinitive "to wet", v38; "She brought ...... and stood ...... and began to .....". Either a scented rubbing oil, anointing oil, or a more concentrated oil for embalming. Alabaster was used for expensive scents as it was believed that it preserved the perfume.

murou (oV) gen. "of perfume" - of ointment. The genitive is adjectival, of content; "full of / containing perfume."

 
v38

stasa (iJsthmi) aor. part. "she stood" - standing. Attendant circumstance participle.

opisw para "behind him, at [his feet]" - back beside, at [the feet of him]. Spacial; "as Jesus was reclining, she stood behind him, adjacent to his feet." It appears that the meal was on the verandah of the home, probably facing the inside courtyard. It was not unusual for members of the local community to be invited to gather in the courtyard of a prominent citizen while he was entertaining a public identity. The crowd would be gathered, listining to the conversation. So it would be reasonably easy for the woman to step forward and tend Jesus' feet, although convention would have demanded that "a sinner" not be present.

klaiousa (klaiw) pres. part. "weeping" - crying [with tears]. The participle is adverbial, possibly temporal, "while she wept", but more likely modal, expressing the manner of her standing, "she stood weeping." The crucial question here is what has prompted her outburst. Commentators divide: either she is expressing repentance in seeking forgiveness, or gratitude for her forgiveness. The second view is best, although both imply a previous hearing of the gospel.

brecein (brecw) inf. "to wet [his feet]" - [she began] to rain, drench, spray.... The infinitive is complementary, completing the verb "began". Her tears wet his feet.

toiV dakrusin (on) dat. "with her tears" - The dative is instrumental, expressing means; "with, by means of."

taiV qrixin (ix icoV) dat. "[she wiped them] with her hair - The dative is instrumental, expressing means; "by means of."

thV kafalhV (h) gen. "-" - of the head [of her]. The genitive is either adjectival, possessive, the hair belonging to her heard, or ablative, source/origin, "the hairs from her head."

hleifen (aleifw) imperf. "poured [perfume] on [them]" - was anointing [with the ointment]. The dative tw/ murw/, "with the ointment", is instrumental, expressing means. "And massaged his feet with the scented oil." Anointing is done on the forehead, not the feet, which implies humility on the woman's part. It is doubtful whether this is an embalming image. So, what we have here is a forgiven sinner lovingly cleaning Jesus' feet with her own tears and hair and massaging them with an expensive rubbing oil. It is an act of affectionate gratitude.

 
v39

ii] The reaction of Simon, v39: Simon, a Pharisee, concludes that Jesus can't be a prophet because he has inadvertently allowed this unclean woman to touch him. Of course, what follows shows that Jesus does know who she is and is therefore, at least a prophet.

idwn (eidon) aor. part. "when [the Pharisee who had invited him] saw" - having seen. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV.

oJ kalesaV (kalew) aor. part. "who had invited [him]" - having invited. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "Pharisee".

en + dat. "[he said] to [himself]" - in himself. Here adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of his speech - it was inward; "he began to think about the matter", Cassirer.

ei + imperf. ind. with a]n in the apodosis. "if" - forming a 2nd class conditional clause, contrary to fact; "if, as is not the case, ..... then ....." As far as the Pharisee is concerned, Jesus is anything but a prophet (although the reader knows he is more than a prophet), since, if Jesus were a prophet he would know who this woman was and never let her touch him. He would act toward her just as this godly Pharisee acted toward him, but with even more disdain.

autou gen. pro. "[who was touching] him" - Genitive of direct object after the verb aJptomai, "touch".

oJti "that [she is a sinner]" - that. Either introducing an object clause, epexegetic, "he would have known ..... that she was a sinner", or a causal clause, "he would have known who and what this woman who is touching him is, for she is a notoriously bad character", Barclay.

 
v40

iii] Jesus speaks to Simon on the issue of forgiveness, v40-43. Jesus then relates a teaching parable to Simon. This woman is no longer the person Simon once knew. She has been forgiven much and therefore loves much. We are not told how she came to understand the offer of forgiveness in Christ. All we can say is that she has obviously heard the gospel, responded to it, and now she is overflowing with gratitude.

apokriqeiV (apokrinomai) aor. pas. part. "[Jesus] answered [him]" - having answered [Jesus said to him]. Usual redundant Semitic attendant circumstance participle "having answered" with the verb "said", best translated as "Jesus said", but possibly "Jesus spoke up and said."

eipein (eipon) aor. inf. "[I have something] to say [to you]" - [I have] to say [something to you]. The infinitive forms a substantival phrase, "something to say", object of the verb ecw, "I have" / epexegetic, explaining what Jesus has, namely, something to say. Note that the content of what Jesus has to say, ti, "something", and the dative indirect object, soi, "to you", is placed before the infinitive. See Culy for this interesting word order which it thought to "bring out the importance of the following statement of Jesus, especially v44-46, where Jesus is making a comparison between the woman and Simon", Kwong.

didaskale (oV) "teacher" - Probably equivalent to rabbi.

 
v41

creofeiletai (hV) "[two] men owed money" - debtors. Note that Luke uses the nominative case, as distinct from the dative, which is often used where a comparison is being drawn, "it is like ......"

danisth/ tini dat. "to a certain moneylender" - Dative of indirect object; "there were two debtors to a certain moneylender" = "a certain moneylender had two debtors", ESV.

dhnaria (on) "denarii" - The daily wage of a labourer was one denarius, although the point here has to do with the disparity in the debts, not the size of the debts.

 
v42

autwn gen. pro. "[neither] of them" - [not having] of themselves. The genitive is adjectival, partitive, or ablative, source/origin, "from themselves."

econtwn (ecw) pres. part. "[neither of them] had the money" - [not] having. The genitive absolute participle serves to form a temporal clause; "when they were unable to settle the debt", Barclay.

apodounai (apodidwmi) aor. inf. "to pay him back" - The infinitive is complementary, completing the verbal aspect of the participle econtwn, "having", "not having to pay" = "when they could not pay", ESV.

ecarisato (carizomai) aor. "he cancelled the debts of / he forgave the debts of" - forgave. This is probably the only colorful word in the parable, but in the context it means little more than the remission of a debt. The bland nature of the parable serves to draw out the point Jesus wishes to make, namely that there was a great disparity in the debts and both were cancelled.

amfoteroiV dat. adj. "both" - Dative of direct object after the verb ecarisato; "he cancelled the debt they owed him."

oun "now" - therefore. Inferential / drawing a logical conclusion.

tiV pro. "which" - Interrogative pronoun. Jesus carries the debate to the churchman by what is known as "Socratic interrogation" - a question leading to counter questions, followed by applied teaching.

autwn gen. pro. "of them [will love him more]?" - of them [more will love him]. The genitive is adjectival, partitive. The clause draws a comparison due to the presence of the comparative adverb pleion; "of these two men, which will loved him more?" This is surely the punch line, rather than a secondary comment on the part of Jesus. The parable is not about the kind mercy of God, ie. that God can forgive big and small sins alike. The point of the parable is that the person who is forgiven much will love much. In the context, the love Jesus is speaking of is gratitude, a gratitude, which in the life of the prostitute finds outward expression in grateful affection. The word "love" is used since there is no actual word for "gratitude" in Aramaic.

 
v43

apokriqeiV (apokrinomai) aor. pas. part. "[Simon] replied" - having answered [Simon said]. Attendant circumstance participle, redundant.

uJpolambanw "I suppose" - I suppose, imagine, regard something as presumably true, but without particular certainty*. Simon is cautious, either because he isn't quite sure that the obvious conclusion is true, or because he isn't sure where Jesus is taking him in the discussion.

oJti "-" - that. Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what Simon supposed.

wJ/ dat. rel. pro. "the one who [had the bigger debt canceled / forgiven]" - to whom [the more he forgave]. Dative of interest, advantage; "for the one who was forgiven the greater debt." "I suppose it will be the one who has been more generously treated", Phillips.

orqwV adv. "[you have judged] correctly" - "'Exactly', Jesus replied", Phillips.

 
v44

iv] A lesson on forgiveness, v44-47: Jesus compares the devotion of the woman to that of the churchman. Simon didn't wash Jesus' feet on entering his home; such was actually an insult. He did not greet Jesus with the kiss of peace; another insult. He didn't touch Jesus' hair with olive oil to tidy him up for the meal; again, another insult. The woman did all these things, but with Jesus' feet. Such love!

Verses 44 to 46 seem like a diversion. What has Simon's lack of hospitality got to do with the woman's affectionate gratitude? It seems likely that Simon represents those who have not been forgiven much (there can be no forgiveness without repentance!), and therefore shows little gratitude toward Jesus (the polite acts of hospitality were lacking) and little understanding of the woman's, or Jesus' actions. The woman has been given much; she is forgiven, and therefore her gratitude overflws. Simon, on the other hand, the one who judges, is condemned, not for his lack of gratitude, but for the missing ingredient that would prompt gratitude, namely, forgiveness accessed by repentance.

kai - Linking the interchange to what follows.

strefeiV (strefw) aor. pas. part. "then he turned" - having turned [.... said]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "said", "turned .... and said", but possibly adverbial, temporal, as NIV. The phrase is used by Luke when he wants to emphasize Jesus words or actions.

tw/ Simwni (wn) dat. "to Simon" - Dative of indirect object.

blepeiV (blepw) "do you see" - The question indicates that the parable applies to the woman and Simon." You see this woman here, don't you?"

eishlqon (eisercomai) aor. ind. "I came [into your house]" - I entered [into your house]. "I came as a guest into your home and accepted your hospitality."

ouk edwkaV (didwmi) aor. ind. "you did not give me [any water]" - Following proper custom, Simon should have provided water for Jesus to wash his feet before inviting him into the house. Often, servants would provide a bowl of water and towel and assist. Simon's failure to do this is actually an insult to Jesus. It indicates what he thinks of Jesus.

moi dat. pro. "for my" - Dative of interest, advantage.

epi + acc. "[feet]" - upon [the feet]. Spacial.

de "but" - but, and. Here adversative, as NIV.

toiV dakrusin (on) "[she wet my feet] with her tears" - [she] with tears [drenched my feet]. This dative, as with taiV qrixin, "the hairs", is instrumental, expressing means.

 
v45

Simon's lack of hospitality is again identified. He did not give Jesus the greeting of peace.

moi dat. pro. "[you did not give] me [a kiss]" - [you did not give a kiss] to me. Dative of indirect object.

af (apo) + gen. "from the time [I entered]" - from [which]. Temporal use of the preposition; "from the moment I entered / since I entered." With h|V, as here, or ou|, is idomatic of a point of time from which something begins, BAGD. The trouble is that the woman has entered after Jesus, but the point is that Jesus is emphasizing her hospitality in comparison with the lack of hospitality offered by Simon.

katafilousa (katafilew) pres. part. "[has not stopped] kissing" - [did not cease] kissing. The participle is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "cease". "She ... never ceased covering my feet with kisses", Cassirer.

 
v46

elaiw/ (on) dat. "[you did not put] oil [on my head]" - [you did not anoint the head of me] with olive oil. The dative is instrumental, expressing means. Again, anointing is an act of courtesy toward a guest. As with the other "courtesies", it was not expected of a host, but again Simon's failure to do it exposed his attitude toward Jesus. The two words for "oil" in this verse emphasize the point. Simon didn't even use "olive oil", but the woman used muron , a strong aromatic oil.

 
v47

The NIV translation implies that love is the ground of forgiveness - because of her great love she was forgiven. This is contrary to the teaching of the New Testament - a salvation by works approach. The TNIV corrects the problem: "I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven - as her great love has shown." Look, says Jesus, she's a different person, a person washed with the mercy of God.

ouJ carin "therefore, [I tell you]" - which, because of / on account of, I say to you. The neuter relative pronoun "which" has an external referent, namely, the principle formed in v43 (a person who is forgiven much loves much), and the demonstration of this in the woman's gratitude shown toward Jesus, v44-46. On account of which (ie. the evidence of the demonstrative love shown by this woman) Jesus is able to say (confirm / witness) that her sins have been forgiven. She loves much because she has been forgiven much. It is of course grammatically possibly to link "therefore" (because of / on account of) with "her many sins have been forgiven", which then implies that on the basis of her love, her affectionate gratitude, she is forgiven. This is of course a salvation by works statement and is opposed to the point Jesus has drawn out in v43. Given that the more literal translations are highly misleading, we are best to recraft the sentence eg. "And so, I tell you, her great love proves that her many sins have been forgiven", NEB. cf. 1Jn.4:7ff. "Proves" may be a touch strong, so possibly "evidences." Note below how the TNIV has repaired the NIV translation.

outhV gen. pro. "her [many sins]" - [the sins] of her [many]. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, but possible, verbal, subjective. The "her many" is emphatic in form. She is a big sinner, which is why she expresses big love; "her sins, her many sins", JB.

afewntai (afihmi) perf. pas. "have been forgiven" - The perfect passive indicates that Jesus is not declaring forgiveness, but affirming her already forgiven state. This doesn't necessarily mean that Jesus has previously met her and forgiven her, but rather that at least she has heard the gospel of God's infinite mercy in Christ for those who repent, and having availed herself of this mercy, is now responding with grateful affection to the instrument of God's mercy, namely, Christ.

oJti "for [she loved much] / as [her great love has shown]" - Taken with the verb in the indicative mood, the conjunction may express cause/reason, ie. the clause explains the reason for the forgiveness of her sins. Yet, as noted above, although grammatically correct, it is very unlikely that this is the intended sense. Nolland suggests its usage is logical. The clause identifies the basis for Jesus' claim that her sins have been forgiven, namely, the evidence of her loving response toward him. The fact that her sins have been forgiven is evidence by her great love. "her sins, which were many, have been forgiven, hence she has shown great love", NRSV.

w|/ dat. pro. "he who / whoever has been forgiven little loves little" - to whom [little is forgiven, little he loves]. Dative of direct object of the passive verb afietai, "is forgiven"; "whoever is forgiven little." The present tense of "forgiven" pushes the sense of Jesus' words toward a general principle rather than a direct application to Simon. A pious person who is blinded to the seriousness of their sin by religious conventions, birth-rite or their own moral rectitude, will not be driven to seek forgiveness and therefore will not experience divine mercy. Such a person will not be bubbling over with affectionate gratitude.

 
v48

v] Jesus pronounces forgiveness, v48: Jesus confirms her present state in the words "your sins are forgiven", and in doing so, declares to all present his authority to forgive sins. Jesus' words are probably intended for the wider audience.

auth/ dat. pro. "[Jesus said] to her" - Dative of indirect object.

afewntai (afihmi) perf. pas. ind. "[your sins] are forgiven" - have been forgiven [your sins]. The seemingly unnecessary addition of v48, 49, has prompted some commentators to discard the verses, or view them as a secondary expansion of the text. Even more concerning, there is the implication that Jesus may now be actually declaring forgiveness consequent upon the woman's exuberant affection, or even bestowing a second forgiveness. Both views are theologically untenable. The simple way through this maize is to view Jesus' words as a confirmation of her forgiveness, but confirmation to whom? Verse 50 is surely the woman's confirmation, while v48, backed up by v49, serves as a self disclosure by Jesus to the unbelieving spectators.

 
v49

vi] Response of the guests, v49: The official guests are startled by the statement, but their reaction is not presented in a negative light. "Who indeed is this who takes upon himself the authority to forgive sins?"

oiJ sunanakeimenoi (sunanakeimai) "the other guests" - the ones reclining with. The participle serves as a substantive; "those at the table with him."

legein (legw) pres. inf. "[began] to say" - The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "began".

en "among [themselves]" - in[ themselves]. Here the preposition is either local, distributive, "among themselves" (they discussed what had happened), or adverbial, expressing manner, "to themsleves", Culy (they thought about what had happened).

tiV ouJtoV estin "who is this....?" - "What kind of person is this who acts with the authority to forgive sins?" A similar reference in 5:21 carries a negative sense, here it is more likely positive. There is no indication that Jesus' words are taken as blasphemy, nor is it Simon or a "Pharisee" who makes/thinks this comment. Obviously, in recording this comment, Luke is indicating something of Jesus' character, although it is really not central to the story.

 
v50

vii] Jesus' pronouncement, v50: Jesus goes on to underline the basis of her forgiveness and confirm it for her. "Your faith has saved you." She accepted God's offer of forgiveness in Christ (she believed in / had faith in / relied on, the offer) and thus was forgiven and saved.

hJ pistiV "faith" - Given the context, it is often argued that genuine faith is expressed in a public response of gratitude toward God in Christ. Had this woman not come to the dinner and publicly acted toward Jesus as she did, her response to the gospel would not have been saving faith. This and similar narrow interpretations are way off the mark. Faith is a reliance, a firm dependence on the revealed will of God in Christ. It entails nothing more than a reliance on Christ for one's salvation, a coming to Christ to access the mercy of God. This woman had obviously heard the gospel and relied on Christ for the forgiveness of her sins, She did not have to act out her gratitude to validate her faith and so confirm her salvation, but thankfully for our sake, she did.

seswken (swzw) perf. "has saved [you]" - has saved [you]. On a number of occasions Jesus has made this statement in relation to a healing and so the clause is often translated "your faith has made you well." Here, given that the context is the forgiveness of sins, "saved", in the sense of rescued for eternity from eschatological judgment, is obviously what is intended. Does Jesus intend the same meaning when used in relation to a healing?

poreuou (poreuomai) imp. "go [in peace]" - Given that this is a very common farewell formula, it is not possible to argue convincingly that Jesus is here bestowing the peace of God on a new believer.

 

Luke Introduction

Exposition

 

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