In the natural world, as observed through the lens of the scientific method, when counting a person’s age, we measure their lifespan against the time it takes for our planet to revolve around the sun. We observe and measure phenomena. But we do not observe or measure phenomena in literature—perhaps especially in biblical literature. Instead, when dealing with a written text, we operate in an artificial environment architected by the hand of the author.
The age, lineage, occupation, situation—even the name of the Prophetess Anna, as she appears in the story of Luke’s Gospel, all have a functional meaning. To observe her age in the story is not to measure her lifespan using our planet’s cyclical orbit or to ponder how a woman could live so long in those times. To observe her age in the story is to ask why the author chose the number 84 or mentioned any number at all in the first place.
To note an observable artifact in literature is to ask “why” concerning every choice the author makes inside the universe of their artificial environment. In Luke 2, this type of questioning leads to a curious possibility. Maybe it’s Anna herself who desperately needs to be ransomed by Christ inside the Temple of stone in Jerusalem.
Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Luke 2:36-38. (Episode 467)
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