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luke 7:36-50: looking with simon the pharisee at the unnamed woman

December 6th, 2005 by isaac · 3 Comments

In an earlier post I talked about our great loss when we think we have “mastered the game,” when we think we know all there is to know from a passage from Scripture. I said, “the text opens up the more we play, the more we jump in… It offers perpetual satisfaction, always more to find, more words, more silences, more edges, more divine hiddenness to get our fingers caught in.” Well, I thought I’d see what happened when I tried this sort of playful reading strategy on a passage from Luke’s Gospel.

Luke is a wonderful text for this sort of reading since his book is a a carefully investigated and artfully crafted drama: Luke tells us he is writing a “narrative” or “orderly account,” not a “Gospel” like the other Synoptics (1:1-4). For Luke, as Joel Green puts it, “the narrative is not the basis of proclamation; rather, narration is proclamation... He has ‘ordered’ the events of his narrative so as to bring out their significance” (The Gospel of Luke, p.36). That means that Luke thinks the way the words flow, the way the episodes fit together, are part of the proclamation, part of the message. So, I wrote a paper that explored a rough edge in Luke 7:36-50, a narrative gap that invites the reader into the play of the drama. Here’s a passage from the paper that will hopefully provoke the curiosity of a willing reader:

As the reader follows Luke’s carefully investigated and ordered narrative, the eye pauses at the unsettled question at the heart of Jesus’ interrupted table-fellowship with Simon the Pharisee in chapter 7: “Do you see this woman?” (v44). The question unsettles the episode because it goes unanswered: Jesus sends the woman out in peace to enjoy her salvation (v50), but there is nothing more said of Simon. The scene cuts out, the curtains close, and the reader still wonders how Simon will answer the question. The open question lingers, and invites the reader to take a second look.

Why is his question so striking?

Look here for the paper: Simon the Pharisee and the unnamed woman in Luke 7:36-50

Tags: papers · theology

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Rebecca // Oct 13, 2010 at 10:16 am

    I have been studying this passage from Luke 7 for the past 6 weeks, and I’m continually surprised at the many ways of looking at the story. Even when I think I’ve figured it all out, I hear something new or see how to apply a principle learned elsewhere!

    I am preparing to teach a seminar demostrating several ways to study the Bible and felt led to use this passage as the example. I would love to read your full paper on Simon the Pharisee, but the hyperlink doesn’t connect me to it.

  • 2 isaac // Oct 15, 2010 at 9:47 am

    Hi Rebecca,

    Thanks for your interest. I don’t know why the link is not working. But I will email it to you.


  • 3 Seahawk // Dec 21, 2011 at 2:55 am

    Can you email a copy of your paper? I am interested in studying this pericope.