Why Simeon matters 30

Seth asks how I know that Simeon is a priest, and accuses me of making stuff up by insisting that he is. Elsewhere, commentators on the Bathroom post have told us that they want to see some more theology on this blog. So let’s do some.

Getting Simeon right matters because if Simeon was not a priest, you and I could not be saved. If we dismiss Simeon as a crazy old man, we invalidate Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross.

Yes, it’s that important. Here’s why.

  1. Jesus had to perfectly obey the law. Paul makes clear in Romans that the point of the law was to condemn us. No-one can obey it. Jesus, however, did. He’s the only one who obeyed the law perfectly, which makes his righteousness effective when by God’s grace it is credited to believers. If Jesus had not kept the law, he would not be able to save us from the law’s punishment.
  2. Jesus had to conform to the law’s requirements for firstborns. Exodus 13:2 required the consecration of every firstborn male. Jesus was a firstborn male. He had to be consecrated.
  3. Jesus had to conform to the law’s requirements for circumcision. Luke 2:21 tells us that Mary and Joseph obeyed that requirement.
  4. Mary had to be purified after Jesus’ birth. Leviticus 12:2-4 tells us that she had to wait until the right time.

    ‘A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period.

    On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised.

    Then the woman must wait thirty-three days to be purified from her bleeding. She must not touch anything sacred or go to the sanctuary until the days of her purification are over.

    Luke tells us that this is what Mary had been waiting for in Luke 2:22.

    When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.

  5. Jesus was consecrated at the same time that Mary was purified. Luke explains the connection in Luke 2:23.

    As it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord.”

  6. Mary and Joseph had to offer the correct sacrifice. Leviticus tells us that the parents had some options on what sacrifices to bring for the purification and consecration. From Leviticus 12:6, 8:

    She is to bring to the priest at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering.

    If she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering.

    Mary and Joseph obeyed this requirement by bringing the doves or pigeons, as recorded in Luke 2:24. Luke is being very careful to explain the connection between Leviticus 12 and what is happening here in Jerusalem. Leviticus 12 and Luke 2 are exactly parallel. So, let’s go to the next requirement:

  7. Jesus had to be consecrated by a priest. Luke says the consecration and purification are the same event. Leviticus says that the purification must be done through a priest. From Leviticus 12:6-8:

    When the days of her purification for a son or daughter are over, she is to bring to the priest at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering.

    He shall offer them before the Lord to make atonement for her…

    In this way the priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean.’

    Luke 2:27-28 tells us that Simeon was the one who did all of this for Jesus and Mary.

    When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God

    Only a priest could do for Jesus what the custom of the law required. Simeon was the person who did what Mary and Jesus needed done.

    Simeon must have been a priest.

If Simeon had really been the out-of-control, crazy old man that Perry Noble describes, we miss the significance of this event.

If Simeon were not a priest, Jesus would not have been consecrated according to the requirements of the law. Had that been the case, he would have not perfectly followed the law. Had that been the case, he could not have atoned for our disobedience to the law. Had that been the case, we could not have been saved.

Simeon’s resume matters.

(For extra credit, why did Mary and Joseph bring pigeons and doves instead of a lamb?)

30 thoughts on “Why Simeon matters

  1. James Duncan May 28, 2009 12:24 am

    Hey, bro, how do you like that headline?

  2. Seth May 28, 2009 12:51 am

    I don’t disagree that Mary, Joeseph, and Jesus went thru the purification, but, again, the Bible doesn’t say that Simeon was a Priest or that he did it. Yes, he could have been crazy and still mattered, look at John the Baptist, he was a loon by the standards of the day yet he Baptisted Jesus. After Simeon holds Jesus, A prophetess who was also old came up to Jesus as well. Then, after those 2 encounters, it talks about Jesus having done everything he needed to do. I still don’t see any backing the Simeon was a priest. I do agree that Jesus went through everything he needed to tho. Also, Simeon not being a priest doesn’t mean that that Jesus doesn’t get consecrated, I’m am very confidant that since he wasn’t a priest, there would have been someone there to who could consecrate Jesus. You pointed out the reasons why Jesus needed a priest, but no evidence as to why Simeon was that priest. Scripture doesn’t say it, Simeon doesn’t say it, scripture doesn’t even hint that he was one, I think that if he was, it would have been mentioned.

  3. Seth May 28, 2009 1:01 am

    Also, yes, it says Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised him, but, that does not mean consecrate, not even close, The scrpiture don’t say that they brought Jesus to Simeon to do for him what was custom of the law, it says that when they brought Jesus there, Simeon, Who was filled with the Holy Spirit and guided by it, went out into the temple courts and when Mary and Joesph brought Jesus in Simeon came over to them and took Jesus and praised him because he knew via the Holy Spirit who he needed to see. God had told Simeon why it was important for him to see Jesus, not consecrate him.

    And I like the headline, and I think Simeon would matter if he was the priest, but again, I do not think he is and I have not seen any proof. All that was validated was that the normal customs and laws had to be performed, which they were. not who did them.

  4. Simeon May 28, 2009 3:28 am

    Yep – like the headline.

    @Seth – your statement that “since he [Simeon] wasn’t a priest” & “scripture doesn’t even hint that he was one” features some remarkable interpretative flexibility. Or at least a denial of the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture (look it up). Is that what they teach at NS?

    I’m sure you’ll appreciate my wanting to defend my brother’s interpretation of scripture and my namesake’s resume.

    Given the scriptures that James has provided and Jesus’ need to perfectly fulfil every aspect of the law and Dr Luke’s careful presentation of that, there is no need for Luke to write down the fact that Simeon was a priest. All of his immediate readers would have understood that Simeon HAD to be a priest. Luke was carefully presenting Jesus & Mary fulfilling the law’s requirements. He was not writing about Jesus and Mary going about their business only to be accosted by freaky old people.

    Learn, love and defend the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture (something your pastor would have learned at seminary… if he’d gone). When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.

    (Congratulations James to luring me into discussion)

  5. James Duncan May 28, 2009 6:44 am

    Seth, think about it. You buy Noble’s promiscuous fantasy, but reject this careful exposition. Like SimD said, that is remarkable interpretive flexibility.

    Also, I hate to break this to you, but John the Baptist was a priest too.

    So was Jesus.

    They’re everywhere!

  6. Seth May 28, 2009 12:49 pm

    That was my point, John the Baptist was crazy and he was a priest and God used him. I myself, read scripture and take it as is, which means that I don’t assume he was a priest, im my opinion, thats adding to the word of God since that is not clearly defined in scripture. If he had been a priest, based on the reading and Lukes attention to detail, I think he would have said if Simeon was a priest. The BIble gives other such details about Simeon, some important, others not so much, but yet does not mention he is a priest. Again, since there is no scripture to prove he is a priest, I would rather not add to the Bible by assuming he is a priest. Also, scripture does not say that he performed the rituals and what would have been custom at the time. I’m not saying he was a crazy old man, I don’t see how he is a priest. The Bible doesn’t say he performed the customs at the time, it doesn’t say he was a priest.

  7. James Duncan May 28, 2009 5:52 pm

    Seth, you obviously didn’t look up the meaning of perspicuity. Until you get a handle on what this is all about, I don’t think we need to hear more from you.

    Fellow NewSpringers: Do you really want this man representing your church? Do you see how hard he is fighting for Biblical stupidity?

    You talk about the fruit of changed lives. Is this what that looks like? Is this what you want the world to see?

    Perry, when do you jump in (on this blog or yours)? Don’t you see what you are producing, or at least are being seen to be producing–people who refuse to read the Bible the way it was written?

  8. Seth May 28, 2009 7:22 pm


    I read the Bible, I am saved, and Perry is not the only person I listen to or learn from. Yes, i read what that means but I ask this question, when does the line between perspicuity of Scripture and adding to what scripture says get passed? when does what you add or “just know” what scripture implies turn into adding to the Bible and teaching falsely? where is the fine line? By reading the Bible the way it was written, again, I don’t see where it calls Simeon a priest. I read the Bible, the whole Bible, and again, Simeon is not mentioned as a priest.

    And do you see how hard you are fighting for nothing? you get no results and I encourage you to keep attacking NS. I won’t say go away. I won’t say stop. I will say bring it on. And one day, when you stand before God to hold an account of how you spent your time, How many people you brought or helped bring to Christ, I wish you the best of luck becuase you will need it. There comes a time when critiquing someone as much as you do becomes an unhealthy obsession. See, with this bolg, you have your ideas set in stone, and I can reason with you all day about what I believe verses what you believe, and you won’t change your mind, I know you won’t, your so stuck on bringing down Perry or NS that it would be impossible for you to admit you were wrong. So again, I encourage you to continue your attack of NS and Perry and everyone else and see how much happiness and true satisfaction it brings you.

    Also, since you yourself on your blog description says that most you blog does not represent the thinking of God, unless I read that wrong, then I do not see how you can use scripture and claim you are doing something for God.

    This is why Perry holds such contempt for religious people, b/c they think they know everything, like the pharasees in Jesus time. They take the Bible, and if you don’t believe exactly like they believe, they hate you inspite of everything that God has allowed their church to do. Yes, churches need accountablility, but, when its accountablility like you have, someone in blog land who is not friends with Perry nor has ever met him, then its not accountablilty, you decieve yourself, its really that his beliefs don’t line up with yours. I don’t know if you know this, but this blog is not changing a thing at NS nor for Perry.

    But, like I said, Jesus had critiques, who, thought they were doing the right thing and that everything he did was wrong, the early church was persecuted to greater lengths than the church today. So, I encourage you to keep up what you are doing. Also, I have many friends who grew up in different types of churches and then when they went to Anderson University and to NS they actually grew more and learned things. And I know people who have read you blog, and go to NS, and completely disagree. and yet they don’t post, they don’t blog about it, they disagree and move on where as you would blog about it and critique what they did. You have a great communicating talent, and could use it so much more effectively. oh well. And the Problem is, the reason no other NS people step in, is because either not as many NS people read this blog as you would like to think, or I made my good points and they have nothing else to add. Good luck, I have a Bible study to go prepare for and people to minister to.

  9. James Duncan May 28, 2009 7:37 pm

    Seth, you are not reasoning. You are refusing to think.

    Let’s make it simple. You have two interpretations of Luke 2 before you: mine and Perry’s. Whose do you think comes closest to Scripture? If it’s “adding to Scripture” that so offends you, which of the two of us is adding the least?

    As much as you refuse to add to Scripture (which is right), we are not to subtract from it either. I think that’s what you are doing, especially when Luke made the case so clearly for us. Paul told Timothy to study Scripture. Why do you think we need to study? It’s because not everything is spelled out as obviously as you demand, but it’s still there and it’s still true.

    (If you really thought everything in Scripture was so blindingly obvious, why are you going to a Bible study tonight?)

    You doubt NSers are reading this. We know that Noble and Furtick and Cooper read it. We know that plenty of others do too. Go and look in the Bathroom post to see where a whole bunch of them have gathered lately.

    You say the reason for NS silence is that “I made my good points and they have nothing else to add.” That may be true, though I doubt it.

    Your statement will make a lot of people shudder, especially if we don’t hear from anyone else.

  10. JT May 28, 2009 8:23 pm


    You keep asking for NSers to take up the challenge and argue with you. I’ve already explained why they mostly won’t, but let me put it metaphorically: If you are always throwing elbows, nobody will accept your invitations to play basketball.

  11. James Duncan May 28, 2009 8:41 pm


    A few days ago you said, “Having an honest, loving, and constructive discussion about the theology and methods of NewSpring would be an incredible boon to the Body of Christ.”

    Isn’t this it? This post was all about who Simeon was–an incredibly important point, I think.

    A few days ago you seemed to say you wanted to play. Seth did play. Are you satisfied with the way he’s playing for your team?

    I’m at least interested in how you’d answer who’s closest re interpreting Simeon: PN or me? It’s a free throw. You can answer with one word and then go back to the bench.

  12. JT May 28, 2009 8:46 pm

    Having said that, I don’t know if Simeon was a priest or not. I always read these scriptures and assumed that he was.

    I’ve gone back and re-read Noble’s statement that you (Duncan) originally objected to, and I’m not sure that Noble is arguing that Simeon wasn’t a priest.

    Could Noble have used a more applicable scripture to illustrate his point that ‘getting close to Jesus no matter what people think’ is worshipful? Yes (in fact, I think the story of the Wise Men from the East would have made this point much better). But is this a false teaching? I don’t see it.

  13. JT May 28, 2009 8:50 pm

    Oops. Looks like our comments got crossed. I wrote my last one before I read yours. Still, I think I mostly answered your question, anyway.

    By the way, I know your “team” reference was in response to the basketball metaphor, but shouldn’t we all have the perspective of being on the same team?

  14. James Duncan May 28, 2009 8:54 pm

    Indeed. Perhaps we need a commercial time out so we can get the proper play called.

    Yes, team was in response to your metaphor, though the concept of iron sharpening iron doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t bump shoulders every so often, even if we’re running in the same direction.

  15. James Duncan May 29, 2009 10:22 am

    No takers on the extra credit question? Oh well.

    Mary and Joseph were holding the lamb, but his sacrifice was to come later.

  16. Micah Jun 2, 2009 6:06 am

    It also indicates that they were of a lower caste system, or poor. Poorer families often baught small birds to sacrifice because they could not afford to raise or buy a sheep for sacrifice.

    But I’ve never thought about it in the messianic light. That’s pretty freekin sweet.

  17. Micah Jun 2, 2009 6:07 am

    I mean… pretty sweet.

  18. Twit Jun 2, 2009 9:43 pm

    Mary and Joseph were holding the lamb, but his sacrifice was to come later.

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that’s getting very close to adding to scripture. If Jesus was the reason they didn’t bring a lamb for sacrifice – because he ISthe Lamb – why did they bother sacrificing with the “two turtledoves,

  19. Twit Jun 2, 2009 9:44 pm

    or two pigeons,one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering” at all?

    Sorry – accidently hit return and my reply got split.

  20. James Duncan Jun 2, 2009 9:53 pm

    It’s not adding to Scripture; it’s interpreting the symbolism in it. Very different.

    I think I’m on fairly solid ground in assuming that sacrificial lambs in the Old Testament are pointing to Jesus as the Lamb of God.

    As to why they went ahead and sacrificed the birds, they had to offer some sacrifice to obey the law.

    I think it’s interesting that Leviticus offers the choice. Was the law anticipating this very meeting when all options would be present? (That’s not adding, by the way, it’s speculating.)

  21. James Duncan Jun 2, 2009 10:03 pm

    Before you jump back in with an objection, Twit, I suppose there’s no reason (unless I’m corrected by a seminarian or Tommy) that they could not have brought a four-legged lamb for their meeting with Simeon.

    I do think it is meaningful, though, that the meeting with Simeon included Jesus as a lamb whose sacrifice was coming.

  22. Twit Jun 3, 2009 12:09 am

    @JDunc – you’re on VERY solid ground in assuming that sacrificial lambs in the OT were indeed a shadow pointing to the reality of Jesus Christ – the perfect, sinless, lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

    I don’t think the ground you’re standing on is as solid when you speculate that the reason they didn’t bring a four-legged lamb was because they had the Lamb in their arms. The passage Dr Luke quotes – which his readers would have known, schooled as they were – is Leviticus 12:8:

    And if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean.'”

    [Emphasis mine]

    I think Luke makes it pretty clear that what Mary was doing was (1) fulfilling the requirements of the law and (2) doing so with “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons” rather than a four-legged lamb she couldn’t afford.

    His first century readers would have read (and I’m speculating but think I’m on fairly solid ground unless corrected by a seminarian or Tommy) that as proof that Jesus didn’t have a privileged background yet he (and his mum) fulfilled the law’s requirements. Remember that he didn’t come to do away with the law but fulfill it.

  23. Twit Jun 3, 2009 1:09 am

    Forgive me for flogging a dead goat, but how’s this:

    “Mary didn’t have a lamb on a lead because there weren’t enough pennies in her purse.” Twit Conway

  24. Tommy F. Jun 3, 2009 1:12 am

    JDuncan & Twit: a few things:

    1) With all of this turtledove talk I keep singing the 12 days of Christmas.
    2) Tommy likes his privacy, but in the spirit of accuracy, this “a seminarian or Tommy” phrase is misleading. Tommy is a seminarian. I think for accuracy it should say: Tommy or another seminarian.
    3) I’ve been unusually busy the past week or so, so I have not been able to engage this lamb/Jesus issue as well as I would have liked (Plus I’ve been busy putting words in Seth’s mouth – apparently). I don’t think there’s any damage done on either side, but my vote goes with Twit (the seminarian?) here.

  25. Tommy F. Jun 3, 2009 1:14 am

    The important thing to me re: the Simeon discussion is that the blog is actually talking about theology, scripture (both testaments!), and its application. What’s interesting to me is that NS-ers get worked up over the most tangential isssues, and then don’t spend equal amounts of energy or space on the deep ones.

    I guess, we can conclude that PNoble is successfully passing along his allergy to being deep. And allergy season is in full swing.

  26. Twit Jun 3, 2009 2:44 am

    Tommy: I’ve been blessed to go through a number of seminaries.

    Not study at any – just go through them (usually with friends in a car). I once went through AU with JDunc if that counts? He was showing me around. I’d love to go through more seminaries someday.

  27. Micah Jun 3, 2009 7:06 am

    Wait… so I got the question right, right? What class do I get EC in this semester?

  28. James Duncan Jun 3, 2009 9:08 am

    Twit, yes, the poverty answer certainly fits scripture; however, it also doesn’t mean that my answer can’t also be correct (in a secondary practical sense, but perhaps in a primary symbolic sense. Does that make sense?).

    Micah, apparently we’re both wrong. You may need to go through a seminary (like Tommy, not Twit) to get it.

  29. JT Jun 3, 2009 11:16 am

    The reason they didn’t bring a lamb was because they couldn’t afford one.

    JDunc, your version is interesting. I mean, your main point – that Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb – is theologically correct. I just think you’ve misapplied this scripture to make that point.

    Wait a minute… this sounds familiar.

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