Wednesday, December 21, 2005
How Old Was Simeon?
Every artist's rendition I have ever seen, from fancy portraits to sketches in Sunday School papers, shows Simeon to be an ancient man, supernaturally preserved well beyond the normal age of survival. His beard hangs long down his robe. He is stooped with the weight of extra years. He may even be in the book of world records as the oldest living man. You expect the undertaker to be following three steps behind him wherever he goes.
Yet, if we read with our eyes open, we notice that the Scripture does not give us even a hint of his age the the time of this encounter. A few verses later in Luke, we meet the prophetess Anna whose age is clearly documented. But Simeon might just as easily have been a young man. Does God always require a lengthy gap between promise and fulfillment? A young man could just as truly pray that his life is fulfilled in seeing Messiah, that he can now die happy. We only have speculation to go on. As far as the text tells us, he might have been young, he might have been old.
What we know is that his personal promise from God was fully kept. And that God used that encounter to edify Mary and Joseph for what lay ahead. And that God revealed more of the nature of this baby and his mission to us through the Word. Keep reading with open eyes.
your friend from the church plant to the north ^_^
I had commented on that verse in my article. Even a young man would be able to call his life fulfilled, having seen the Lord's promised Messiah. This prayer doesn't necessarily mean he was of a dying age otherwise. But, of course people die at all ages anyway.
We can speculate. But I still don't think the text tells us Simeon was old.
According to a tradition in the Eastern Orthodox Church, Simeon had been one of the seventy-two translators of the Septuagint. As he hesitated over the translation of Isaiah 7:14 (LXX: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive..." Many modern scholars read "young woman" for "virgin" in the Hebrew), an angel appeared to him and told him that he would not die until he had seen the Christ born of a virgin. This would make him well over two hundred years old at the time of the meeting described in Luke, and therefore miraculously long-lived.