Prophet driven: Rhiannon Grant on Anna

‘Rather than trying to untangle what they were looking for, let’s focus on the act of looking.’

Old Woman Reading, Probably the Prophetess Anna, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1631.

After the main nativity story, Luke’s gospel gives a little coda to the events. Mary and Joseph take Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to do their religious duty. There, they meet two slightly odd characters: Simeon, a man who has been led to wait for Jesus (rather like other characters in Luke’s narrative, who sense the coming of this important child), and Anna, a devout woman whom Luke seems to position as an early evangelist. In fact, when she meets the baby Jesus she does two things: praises God, and tells other people about him. Looking backwards, she seems very similar to Hannah, who took her son Samuel to the temple to serve God (see 1 Samuel). Looking forwards, she seems to be taking on the same role as the gospel writer, who also has the job of praising God by telling other people about Jesus.

You need to login to read subscriber-only content and/or comment on articles.