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Three Anointings and One offering: The Sinful Woman in Luke 7.36-50

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The story of a woman pouring oil on Jesus' feet or head is attested in all four canonical gospels. While some see the Lukan version pointing to an event that is different from the `Bethany' anointing found in the other three gospels, I argue that all four accounts are based on the same event. The differences in Luke's narrative, instead, can be accounted for by seeing the pouring of oil in Luke as symbol of a sacrificial offering rather than an anointing. Understanding this symbolic act as an offering/sacrifice fits Luke's theme of forgiveness, which is evident in this passage and many others. Moreover, it shows how Luke's gospel moves his readers from a Jewish, male, temple-based religion at the beginning of Jesus' ministry to a Jewish and Gentile, male and female, Spirit-based religion that culminates at Pentecost. Such a reading may also provide clues about the relationships among the Spirit, forgiveness and worship in Luke's gospel.

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Affiliations: 1: Religion Department, Hope College Holland, MI 49423, USA, Email:


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