We don’t know this woman’s backstory at all, whether she was young or old, her culture or clan. Some in our Bible study thought perhaps she was the woman who had committed adultery and was forgiven privately by Jesus after everyone had left (John 8:11) Maybe! We really have no information on her at all but what is given in this text.
Back in 591 A.D. Pope Gregory preached an Easter sermon in which he combined the stories of Mary the Magdalene with Mary of Bethany and the woman in this story, which then gave Mary of Magdala the reputation of being a repentant prostitute or a promiscuous woman.
But, if you read the passage carefully you see this is not the same event as when Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus at Simon the Leper’s house. And the woman in this story is also not Mary Magdalene, who had been released from seven spirits in a miraculous healing.
The woman in this story had lived a sinful life was most likely a prostitute. At the very least, she had a reputation. Whatever her growing up story, there were traumas and soul wounds. Then she met Jesus.
Before we get started with this woman’s story, I’d like to say her traditional title of “the sinful woman” is very misleading. In this story, she is portrayed as the devoted-to-Jesus woman, the forgiven-by-Jesus woman, the living-portrait-of-love-sacrifice-and-bold-faith woman. Her sinful past was only noted by the Pharisee sitting next to Jesus. To Jesus, she was one who loved much, and he received her.
So, I’d like to reframe her story as
I The Forthcoming Woman, Luke 7:36-38
II The Favored Woman, Luke 7:39-43
III The Faithful Woman, Luke 7:44-47
IV The Forgiven Woman, Luke 7:48-50
Each video is designed to offer background scholarship on the topic, including setting, culture, original language, and archaeology, as well as a theological study.
The “Broken, Searching, Trusted, Powerful” series is a companion to the book, available on Amazon, and published by Wipf and Stock.