NINE SIMON (Fr. Varghese Paul, S.J.)

Nine persons by name Simon are mentioned in the New Testament. Two of them Simon Peter and Simon the Zealot are among the twelve apostles of Jesus. They are treated as two separate characters. Here we try to portray the remaining seven characters bearing the name Simon.

1. Simon, one of the brothers of Jesus. As an itinerant preacher Jesus went back to his village Nazareth and preached first time in the synagogue. Mathew, Mark and Luke narrate the event. The congregation of his home town was very much impressed by Jesus teaching and they wondered where did Jesus get the wisdom which he manifested in his preaching. The congregation expressed the amazement with these questions where did he get such wisdom? Isnt he the carpenters son? Then, Mathew and Mark raised a few more question. Isnt Mary his mother, and arent James, Joseph, Simon and Judas his brothers? Arent all his sisters living here? Where did he get all this? (Mt 13, 54-56; Mk 6, 2-3).

Bible scholars place this Simon among the cousin brothers and sisters of Jesus as one of his close relatives. We do know that one cousin brother, James became a prominent member of the early Church but we do not know what became of Simon and other cousins of Jesus.

2. Simon, the Leper. In the time of Jesus, the word Leper could mean any serious skin disease. The disease of Simon, the Leper has been cured by Jesus or some one else. Still he was referred to as Simon, the Leper. One day Jesus chose to eat in the house of Simon the Leper.

Mathew and Mark specifically mention that Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon, a man who had suffered from a dreaded skin disease (Mt.26,6; Mk. 14, 3).

While Jesus was eating in Simons house a woman came in with an alabaster jar full of very expensive perfume made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on Jesus head (Mk. 14,3; Mt. 26,7).

As we know Bethany is also the village of Jesus friends Martha, Mary and their brother Lazarus. In fact, John has narrated the same or perhaps a similar event which took place in the house of Lazarus whom he had raised from death and the woman who poured expensive perfume on Jesus feet has been mentioned as Mary. Like many bible characters we know pretty little about Simon, the Leper.

3. Simon, the Pharisee. Only Luke records the story of Simon, the Pharisee inviting Jesus for a meal and a women wetting Jesus feet with her tears and pouring perfume on them. Perhaps this Simon and the woman may be the same as the Simon the Leper and the women anointing Jesus feet in his house. But it is more likely that the two Simon and the two women are totally different persons. In the case of Simon, the Pharisee the scene is not Bethany but Galilee and the woman is mentioned specifically as a sinful woman of the city. The story has a lesson of repentance and forgiveness. The narration also play up the womans faith in Jesus in contrast to the doubt of Simon the Pharisee, When the Pharisee saw this, he said to himself, if this man really were a prophet, he would know who this woman is who is touching him; he would know what kind of sinful life she lives! (Lk. 7, 39).

4. Simon, father of Judas Iscariot. Only Johns Gospel mentions Simon, the father of Judas Iscariot. Judas Iscariot was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. Among the 12 disciples he had the important function of keeping the money meant for the use of Jesus and his disciples. Yet it was he who betrayed Jesus for money.

Once Jesus indirectly referred to Judas in his conversation with the 12 disciples saying, I chose twelve of you, didnt I? Yet one of you is a devil. Then John commended in his Gospel: He was talking about Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot (Jn 6, 70-71).

From the name Simon Iscariot, bible scholars say Ish-Kerioth means Man of Kerioth. Hence the family of the traitor comes from the village Kerioth in Southern Judea.

Simon Iscariot is referred three times in Johns Gospel with reference to his son Judas (Jn 6, 71; 13, 2 & 26).

5. Simon of Cyrene. The first three Gospels speak about Simon of Cyrene. He is a passer-by person who was compelled to carry the Cross of Jesus. The authorities taking Jesus to crucifixion at Calvary were afraid that Jesus might die on the way under the weight of the Cross and exhaustion. So they caught Simon of Cyrene and forced him to give a helping hand to Jesus. Mathew says, As they were going out they met a man from Cyrene named Simon and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus Cross (Mt. 27, 32).

Mark mentions Simon of Cyrene was the father of Alexander and Rufus (Mk 15, 26) According Luke Simon of Cyrene was a man from Cyrene (Lk 23, 26). All three synoptic evangelists mention that Simon of Cyrene was forced to carry Jesus Cross.

6. Simon, the sorcerer. We read about this Simon only in chapter 8 of the Acts. Speaking about the spread of the Gospel in Samaria Luke says, A man named Simon lived there, who for some time had astounded the Samaritans with his magic. When Philip went and preached in Samaria many Samaritans including Simon believed in the teaching and got baptised. Simon the magician stayed close to Philip and was deeply impressed by the wonders and miracles that were being performed.

Then, Peter and John came to Samaria. Simon saw that through the prayers and the laying of hands by Peter and John the believers in Samaria were receiving the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit. Deeply impressed by Peter and John, Simon the sorcerer offered them money for the power of giving the Holy Spirit by laying his hand.

Luke notes Peters response to Simon and Simons plea for forgiveness: But he answered him, May you and your money go to hell, for thinking that you can buy Gods gift with money! You have no part or share in our work, because your heart is not right in Gods sight. Repent, then, of this evil plan of yours, and pray to the Lord that he will forgive you for thinking such a thing as this. For I see that you are full of bitter envy and are a prisoner of sin.

Simon said to Peter and John, Please pray to the Lord for me, so that none of these things you spoke of will happen to me (Acts 8, 20-24).

As one can see, Peters strong rebuke had its effect on Simon and he repented.

7. Simon the tanner. We read about Simon the tanner, like Simon the sorcerer, only in the Acts of the Apostles. When Peter was called to Joppa by the believers there he went there and brought a dead woman Dorcas back to life. The Acts then says, Peter stayed on in Joppa for many days with a tanner of leather named Simon (Acts 9, 43).

Then, Cornelius, a captain of the Roman Regiment at Caesarea, as instructed by an angel in a vision sent his three men to the house Simon, the tanner at Joppa (See Acts, chapter 10). Visitors to Holy Land, Israel are sometimes taken to a place overlooking the harbour of Ancient Joppa as the site of the house of Simon the tanner.

 

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