Through the Bible: Anna’s Prophecy, Luke 2:36-39

We have been going through Tatian’s Diatessaron, a second-century harmony of the Gospels. We are at the end of Section II, which is taken from Luke 2:36-39. This is Anna’s prophecy, and I wanted to look at it in more detail:


Anna the prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher, was also [in addition to Simon, who was mentioned in the previous passage] advanced in years. She dwelt with her husband seven years from her virginity, and she remained a widow about eighty-four years.

If we take this literally, then Anna was over 100 years old. The commentaries were divided on this, but I lean towards thinking that Luke was trying to say she was 84 years old. In the Martyrdom of Polycarp, ch. 9, Polycarp says that he has been serving Jesus for 86 years, and most historians take this to mean that he was 86 years old. No one knows how or when Polycarp was converted, so we can’t use that to help interpret his statement. I suspect that Luke and the writer of Martyrdom of Polycarp were both trying to tell us the age of the person as they wrote their book.

There’s no way to know this, however.

All the commentaries do seem to agree that “lived with her husband seven years from her virginity” is just a long way of saying she was married for seven years then had not remarried.

Finally, the fact that she is called a prophet is significant. Orthodox Jews believe the age of prophecy ended with Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi (, par. 4). It is apparent that the first-century Jews did not know about this because they were calling Simeon, Anna, and John the Bapist prophets.

An interesting side note to this is that Justin Martyr, in a discussion with a Jew in the middle of the second century (about 120 years after Jesus’ death), told him that the prophetic powers all rested in Jesus and ended prophecy among the Jews. He tells Trypho, the Jew to whom he was talking, “… this fact you plainly perceive” (Justin, Dialogue with Trypho, ch. 87).

She did not leave the temple and served night and day with fasting and prayer. She also rose in that hour [that Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were in the temple] and thanked the Lord. She spoke of him with everyone who was expecting the deliverance of Jerusalem.

Again we see that the Jews were expecting the Messiah that they knew about from Psalm 2, the one who would rule the nations with an iron rod. Jesus will come back to fulfill Psalm 2, but until then we live in an age of mercy (2 Pet. 3:9). It is a time for God to bring the Gentiles under his rule in willful submission to the Gospel (Rom. 11). Once the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, then he will save Israel (Rom. 11:25-26).

When they had accomplished everything according to what is in the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to Nazareth their city.

The reference here is to the offerings they had to make when a child is born and to her offerings for cleanliness after birth. For a boy this would be 33 days (Lev. 12:4-5). We discussed this in the previous post.

At this point, Tatian moves from Luke back to Matthew, and the translators insert a section break. Let’s leave this post as a short one, and I’ll write up a post for tomorrow on section III and the Magi.

Up to now, there has typically been three days between these “through the Bible” posts. I hope to speed those up, but the Lord is the controller of circumstances. I have been dealing with a leak in the basement of my house in Memphis, which is rented out, and we have finally found it. I am going on vacation June 1, though I hope to be able to write these posts even then. If God will allow, I will try to put them up every other day once we get back.


About Paul Pavao

I am married, the father of six, and currently the grandfather of two. I run a business, live in a Christian community, teach, and I am learning to disciple others better than I have ever been able to before. I believe God has gifted me to restore proper foundations to the Christian faith. In order to ensure that I do not become a heretic, I read the early church fathers from the second and third centuries. They were around when all the churches founded by the apostles were in unity. I also try to stay honest and open. I argue and discuss these foundational doctrines with others to make sure my teaching really lines up with Scripture. I am encouraged by the fact that the several missionaries and pastors that I know well and admire as holy men love the things I teach. I hope you will be encouraged too. I am indeed tearing up old foundations created by tradition in order to re-establish the foundations found in Scripture and lived on by the churches during their 300 years of unity.
This entry was posted in Through the Bible and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.