Who is Simon the Pharisee?

25 Dec

from Google Images

As I claimed in another study, Luke presents the supper that Simon the Pharisee held in Jesus’ honor in such a way that it is hinted we should know who the main characters are. This is done, first, by naming the Pharisee. The sect of the Pharisees is mentioned just under ninety times in the Gospel records, yet Simon and Nicodemus (John 3:1) are the only Pharisees identified by name. Why would Luke do this, unless Simon can be identified elsewhere? Secondly, Luke implies identification of the main characters can be accomplished through comparing familiar things done at this banquet that are found elsewhere in the Synoptics and John.

There are eight Simons revealed in the four Gospel narratives and the first chapter of Acts:

  1. Simon Peter (many times) – in all four Gospels and Acts
  2. Simon the brother of Jesus (twice) – in Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3
  3. Simon of Cyrene (three times) – in Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21 and Luke 23:26

These first three identities are never in question, but the remaining five identities  may blend together with others when compared with Scripture. It is these I will be attentive to in this study:

  1. Simon the Canaanite (twice) – in Matthew 10:5 and Mark 3:18, one of the apostles,
  2. Simon the Zealot (twice) – in Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13, one of the apostles,
  3. Simon the leper (twice) – in Matthew 26:6 and Mark 14:3,
  4. Simon the Pharisee (three times) – in Luke 7, one of two Pharisees named in the Gospels
  5. Simon the father of Judas (four times) – only in John

First of all, it seems obvious that Simon the Canaanite and Simon the Zealot are the same person. There are only twelve apostles and in the four lists provided the only difference for Simon is in the words Canaanite and Zealot. This apparent difference is eliminated in the realization that Canaanite is derived from the Aramaic and meant zealot:

“…derived from a Chaldee or Syriac word by which the Jewish sect or faction of the Zealots was designated – a turbulent and seditious sect… They taught that all foreign rule over Jews was unscriptural, and opposed that rule in every way.” [Smith’s Bible Dictionary; “The Canaanite”]

Simon the leper lived in Bethany, near Jerusalem, and he invited Jesus and the other disciples to a supper there two days before the Passover Feast Day (Mark 14:1-3). On this occasion an unnamed woman came and anointed Jesus’ head with ointment from an alabaster box, while he sat at Simon’s table. This is very similar to Luke’s record at Luke 7:38-39. It is Simon’s house in both accounts, and in both accounts an unnamed woman anointed Jesus with expensive ointment. Could Simon the Pharisee of Luke 7 be Simon the leper of Matthew 26 and Mark 14, and if so, is this leper’s healing recorded in Luke 5:12-13? Although the anointing in Luke is somewhat different from that done in Matthew and Mark, the fact that it was done seems to connect the two named Simon. Therefore, Simon the Pharisee’s home must be in Bethany, if, indeed, he is also called Simon, the leper.

John records a similar incident in John 12:1-3, where he tells us that the woman who anointed Jesus was Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha. Not only did Martha serve at the supper that was made in Jesus’ honor (John 12:2), but it seems the supper was held in her home (cf. Luke 10:38 and John 11:1). If the supper was made in Martha’s home in Bethany, this connects Martha to Simon the leper (who is also Simon the Pharisee), who also made a supper in Jesus’ honor at Bethany, where a woman anointed Jesus with expensive ointment. Could Simon and Martha be husband and wife, and is this how Simon, the Pharisee, knows the woman (the sinner) who anointed Jesus in Luke 7? That is, the woman who is the sinner is Simon’s sister-in-law.

Finally, John mentions four times in his Gospel that Judas Iscariot is Simon’s son, as though we should know who Simon is (John 6:71; 12:4; 13:2, 26). In John 6:71 we know that only the twelve apostles are present, because everyone else left Jesus (John 6:66-68). The three other occasions in John place Judas at a supper given in honor of Jesus. Moreover, he is the only disciple who is specifically mentioned by name who criticizes what Mary (unnamed in the Synoptics) had done for Jesus. Why should he think he had a right to criticize Mary? His familiarity with her may be accounted for, if they were close relatives—nephew and aunt, just as Simon’s familiarity with the unnamed woman in Luke 7 (i.e. he knows her, and she seems to come into his home without being rebuked by him) might be due to a close relationship with her due to his being Martha’s husband.

Therefore, I believe that the apostle Simon, the Zealot (Canaanite), is also Simon, the leper, and Simon, the Pharisee, and he is the father of Judas Iscariot. While nothing can be set in stone here, all the similarities where Simon is mentioned added together amount to a probability that the last five recordings of Simon in the list above point to the same person (at least in my mind they do). Therefore, the banquet held in Jesus’ honor would have been in Bethany of Judea, which meant it probably took place around the time of Hanukkah in the second year (28 AD) of Jesus’ public ministry.[1]


[1] This is also the unnamed feast of the Jews mentioned in the fourth Gospel at John 5:1.


Posted by on December 25, 2016 in Gospel of Luke


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2 responses to “Who is Simon the Pharisee?

  1. librarygeek

    April 28, 2018 at 13:56

    Hi. I know this an oldie, but I have always thought it intriguing. I guess one combo of Simons that I have doubts about is that this Simon is also one of the 12 apostles. Luke names the 12 in Chap 6. Assuming that these chapters are somewhat in chronological order, then Simon treats his Rabbi surpringly poorly for a follower and as a member of a religious group concerned with outward appearances of righteousness. I can imagine that even an apostle would have still had doubts about Jesus even while he followed Him, so Simon wondering to himself doesn’t bother me. But it is shocking that a man called to be one of the inner circle of followers should have not even for appearances’ sake have extended the basics of eastern hospitality to Jesus.

    I think you give legitimate arguments to link the other Simons, but forgot to show your reasons for thinking that he was also Simon the Zealot. It is certainly plausible that this family in Bethany became so involved in the ministry of Jesus because they were related to one of the apostles, I just don’t see what makes you leap to that conclusion.

  2. Eddie

    April 28, 2018 at 21:51

    Greetings, Shari, and thank you for reading and for your well worded comment and question.

    Please remember that I did say: “nothing can be set in stone here…” The record of Simon the Pharisee occurred early in Jesus’ public ministry. No one’s faith at that time was as strong as on the day of Jesus’ death, and even then all forsook him. I don’t mean to pick anyone apart here, but we are dealing with human follower, not necessarily giants of the faith at this time.

    I further concluded that “…all the similarities where Simon is mentioned added together amount to a probability that the last five recordings of Simon in the list above point to the same person (at least in my mind they do).” All of this is simply my opinion and nothing more. I cannot “prove” it with scripture, but I think I do show that scripture points to the possibility that the last five “Simon” are the same person. Jesus deal with families–two families in the first group of four disciples and two families in the last group of four disciples. The middle group has some possible family grouping, but it is less likely to be true with those four than the first and last four. I don’t think I made any great “leap” to an apostle with Simon the Pharisee. I think I simply followed the idea that Jesus often dealt with families and the same group of people.

    Anyone could disagree and be on as firm a ground as I am, as far as proving all things with scripture is concerned. Nevertheless, I do **think** it is more likely they are the same person that it is likely they are not.

    Lord bless you, and have a great day.

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