What is the significance of Simeon and Anna in Luke?

delphi-oracleAs I was reading through Luke, my attention was caught by the account of two seemingly minor characters in the passages Luke 2:25-38. At first glance, Simeon and Anna could be easily overlooked within the narrative. At the time of Jesus being dedicated to the Lord at the Temple and Mary and Joseph offering their sacrifice for purification, both Simeon and Anna recognized the infant Jesus as the Messiah and sang his praises to all around them.

It struck me as strange that these two transient characters would receive a more detailed account, when much of Jesus’ own ministry was summed up in general terms at times throughout the book of Luke. Then I stopped to consider that perhaps they were following a literary tradition in which certain characters foreshadow the destiny of a great figure. After some research, I discovered that such an incident was known as oracular literature, which is defined as “foretelling events as if by supernatural intervention.” This is very fitting for Simeon, because the book of Luke tells us that the Holy Spirit “had revealed to him that he would not die until he has seen him–God’s annointed King.” By having this message from the Holy Spirit, recognizing Jesus in the Temple, and praising God for the occurrence, he fulfills this oracular convention in heralding the destiny of Jesus.

Anna does not have the same message from the Holy Spirit, but she is devout and never leaves the Temple, devoting night and day to worshiping God and praying. Upon Simeon’s recognition of Jesus, she also recognizes it as a divine sign and begins to tell people in Jerusalem that the prophesied Messiah and Savior has finally arrived. In this way, she also acts as a herald of sorts, spreading word of the truth of Jesus’ heritage and his destiny as the Messiah.

This concept of oracular figures is common throughout not only literature but history as well, such as with the oracles found in Greek mythology in places such as Delphi. These oracles also delivered messages to the populace that were believed to be granted through divine or supernatural intervention.

So while Simeon and Anna might seem insignificant at first glance, some research proved that they can actually be viewed as fulfilling that tradition of oracular literature.


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