How can we reconcile the different accounts of the anointing of Jesus?
How can we reconcile the account of Jesus’ anointing at Bethany near the end of his life? Where, when and by whom was Jesus anointed?Was is at a Pharisee’s house as said by Luke, at the house of Simon the leaper, as said by Matthew and Mark, or was it at the house of Lazarus as said by John? And was Jesus anointed by a sinful women or by Mary Magdalene? Was Jesus anointed during his final days or in the middle of his ministry? And when exactly did Judas want to betray Jesus in these scenes ? I feel confused. Also, when did Jesus clear the temple? Was it in the beginnig of his ministry as John said or in the middle of his ministry as the synoptics say? Do we have evidences for Jesus outside the Bible because Jesus was a common name so how can we be sure that history is speaking about our Lord and not some other Jesus? Do we have evidences for Jesus crucifixion and resurrection outside the Bible? Are there evidences for his miracles outside the Bible? If he performed them why is history silent about it? And what about the death of the apostles? Are they historically reliable or just traditional? Are there historical records on any apostle that can be trusted to prove resurrection of Jesus apart from the Bible?
As for the anointing of Jesus, the accounts in Mark and Matthew are nearly identical. The story in Matthew 26:6-13 describes a woman who is probably quite wealthy, anointing Jesus’ head with a large quantity of expensive perfume. The apostles complain at the expense, but Jesus praises what the woman did as preparation for his burial. The story in Mark 14:1-9, like I said, is nearly identical to that of Matthew. We learn that the event happened two days before the Passover, so I assume it was on Thursday. We are told that the perfume is made of nard. The other details are the same. Both agree that it was at Simon the leper’s house.
The event in John is a completely separate one. It is not connected to the anointing account in Matthew or Mark. In this account, Jesus was anointed, not on his head, but on his feet. This event happened at the home of Lazarus, not at Simon the Leper’s house. It was six days before Passover, not two days before. We do not know the identity of the one doing the anointing in Matthew or Mark, but this anointing was done by Mary, the sister of Martha and of Lazarus. In this situation it was Judas who complained about the expense of the anointing.
Then there is a third event which happened much earlier that either you or someone you are reading is getting confused with the two later events. This is the time that the “sinful woman” poured perfume from an alabaster jar on Jesus’ feet, combined with her tears. This is in Luke 7:36-50. The event happened in a Pharisee’s home, presumable somewhere in Galilee.
There is a very unfortunate history of how this story has been used by the Catholic Church. Pope Gregory made the tragic mistake of conflating this story with the biblical account of Mary of Magdala. Mary was a wealthy and honored citizen of Magdala. There is no indication in the Bible that she was the one who anointed Jesus’ feet in Luke 7. In fact, there is no indication at all that she was a “sinful woman.” To its shame, the Catholic Church created the story that Mary, the honored friend of Jesus was a sinful woman. This is certainly not the case.
About the clearing of the temple, there are two theories. One is that this happened just once, but John, for some unknown reason, puts the clearing early in Jesus’ ministry when, in fact, it happened quite a bit later. John often puts events out of chronological order, so I cannot absolutely disprove this theory. Another theory is that Jesus cleared the temple on two different occasions–one quite early in his ministry, and another at the end of his ministry. I believe the more likely explanation is the second one. Some have claimed that it is very unlikely that Jesus would have been able to do this twice. To this I say, why? Why could this not happen two different times, separated by as much as three years? The two accounts have some fairly different details which perhaps can be justified into one account, but I believe it is more likely that John describes a separate event.
I have addressed accounts of Jesus outside the Bible and records of his miracles outside the Bible as well on multiple occasions, so I will let you do a search of my web site or get a copy of my book Reasons for Belief (www.ipibooks.com) which goes into great detail. The bottom line is this: There are multiple non-Christian sources on how and where Jesus was killed which agree with the biblical account. There are also a number of accounts which record that it was claimed by his followers to have worked miracles. They do not necessarily agree that Jesus did in fact work miracles (naturally), but they agree that his followers claimed and believed that he did. I have also written more than once about the death of the apostles. I ask you to do a search of the web site or these articles. The extremely short version is that the means, location and time of the deaths of Peter, Paul and John are rather well ascribed to by external sources, but the means, location and timing of the death of the other apostles is mentioned, for example, by Eusebius, but these accounts are less reliable.