The Rejoicings of Anna and Simeon

It was 40 days after the birth of Jesus that he was presented to the Lord at the Temple. At the offering Joseph and Mary were to sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. And then, being spotted by two distinct individuals, Jesus was taken into their arms and great words of praise and prophesy were given.

Of both Simeon and Anna, very little is known. Frederic Farrar tells that there is a statement in the Gospel of the Nativity of Mary that he was 113 years old. And then Brother Farrar tells of other prominent Simeon’s whom this one was not. Anna is also an unknown character, only that she was of the tribe of Asher – demonstrating that tribal relations were still held in Jerusalem at the time. The biblical record also proclaims that she was a prophetess.

Two very average people – of no prominence in the standards of the world. It could have been you. It could have been me.

The Scriptural Account in Luke 2
James Talmage Notes from book Jesus The Christ
Frederic W. Farrar Notes from book The Life of Christ

Luke 2 : 21-39 KJV

21. And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

22. And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;

23. (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)

24. And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

25. And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.

26. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

27. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,

28. Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,

29. Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:

30. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,

31. Which thou has prepared before the face of all people;

32. A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

33. And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.

34. And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Isreal; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;

35. (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

36. And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;

37. And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.

38. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

39. And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.

Jesus the Christ 

Written by James Talmage

Chapter 8


The Child was born a Jew; the mother was a Jewess, and the reputed and legal father, Joseph, was a Jew. The true paternity of the Child was known to but few, perhaps at that time to none save Mary, Joseph, and possibly Elisabeth and Zacharias; as He grew He was regarded by the people as Joseph’s son.[224] The requirements of the law were carried out with exactitude in all matters pertaining to the Child. When eight days old He was circumcised, as was required of every male born in Israel;[225] and at the same time He received as an earthly bestowal the name that had been prescribed at the annunciation. He was called JESUS, which, being interpreted is Savior; the name was rightfully His for He came to save the people from their sins.[226]

Part of the law given through Moses to the Israelites in the wilderness and continued in force down through the centuries, related to the procedure prescribed for women after childbirth.[227] In compliance therewith, Mary remained in retirement forty days following the birth of her Son; then she and her husband brought the Boy for presentation before the Lord as prescribed for the male firstborn of every family. It is manifestly impossible that all such presentations could have taken place in the temple, for many Jews lived at great distances from Jerusalem; it was the rule, however, that parents should present their children in the temple when possible. Jesus was born within five or six miles from Jerusalem; He was accordingly taken to the temple for the ceremonial of redemption from the requirement applying to the firstborn of all Israelites except Levites. It will be remembered that the children of Israel had been delivered from the bondage of Egypt with the accompaniment of signs and wonders. Because of Pharaoh’s repeated refusals to let the people go, plagues had been brought upon the Egyptians, one of which was the death of the firstborn throughout the land, excepting only the people of Israel. In remembrance of this manifestation of power, the Israelites were required to dedicate their firstborn sons to the service of the sanctuary.[228] Subsequently the Lord directed that all males belonging to the tribe of Levi should be devoted to this special labor instead of the firstborn in every tribe; nevertheless the eldest son was still claimed as particularly the Lord’s own, and had to be formally exempted from the earlier requirement of service by the paying of a ransom.[229]

In connection with the ceremony of purification, every mother was required to furnish a yearling lamb for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or dove for a sin offering; but in the case of any woman who was unable to provide a lamb, a pair of doves or pigeons might be offered. We learn of the humble circumstances of Joseph and Mary from the fact that they brought the less costly offering, two doves or pigeons, instead of one bird and a lamb.

Among the righteous and devout Israelites were some who, in spite of traditionalism, rabbinism, and priestly corruption, still lived in righteous expectation of inspired confidence, awaiting patiently the consolation of Israel.[230] One of these was Simeon, then living in Jerusalem. Through the power of the Holy Ghost he had gained the promise that he should not see death until he had looked upon the Lord’s Christ in the flesh. Prompted by the Spirit he repaired to the temple on the day of the presentation of Jesus, and recognized in the Babe the promised Messiah. In the moment of realization that the hope of his life had found glorious consummation, Simeon raised the Child reverently in his arms, and, with the simple but undying eloquence that comes of God uttered this splendid supplication, in which thanksgiving, resignation and praise are so richly blended:

“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.”[231]

Then under the spirit of prophecy, Simeon told of the greatness of the Child’s mission, and of the anguish that the mother would be called to endure because of Him, which would be even like unto that of a sword piercing her soul. The Spirit’s witness to the divinity of Jesus was not to be confined to a man. There was at that time in the temple a godly woman of great age, Anna, a prophetess who devoted herself exclusively to temple service; and she, being inspired of God, recognized her Redeemer, and testified of Him to all about her. Both Joseph and Mary marveled at the things that were spoken of the Child; seemingly they were not yet able to comprehend the majesty of Him who had come to them through so miraculous a conception and so marvelous a birth.

[224] Luke 4:22; Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3.

[225] Gen. 17:12, 13; Lev. 12:3; compare John 7:22. Page 88.

[226] Luke 2:21; compare 1:31; Matt. 1:21, 25.

[227] Lev. chap. 12.

[228] Exo. 12:29; 13:2, 12; 22:29, 30.

[229] Numb. 8:15-18; 18:15, 16.

[230] Luke 2:25; see also verse 38; Mark 15:43; compare Psa. 40:1.

[231] Luke 2:29-32. These verses are known in Christian hymnology as the Nunc Dimittis; the name has reference to the first two words of the Latin version.

The Life of Christ – Written by Frederick W. Farrar – Originally published in 1874.



“He who with all heaven’s heraldry whilere Entered the world, now bleeds to give us ease. Alas! how soon our sin Sore doth begin His infancy to seize!” – MILTON, The Circumcision.

FOUR events only of our Lord’s infancy are narrated by the Gospel – namely, the Circumcision, the Presentation in the Temple, the Visit of the Magi, and the Flight into Egypt. Of these the first two occur only in St. Luke, the last two only in St. Matthew. Yet no single particular can be pointed out in which the two narratives are necessarily contradictory. If, on other grounds, we have ample reason to accept the evidence of the Evangelists, as evidence given by witnesses of unimpeachable honesty, we have every right to believe that, to whatever cause the confessed fragmentariness of their narratives may be due, those narratives may fairly be regarded as supplementing each other. It is as dishonest to assume the existence of irreconcilable discrepancies, as it is to suggest the adoption of impossible harmonies. The accurate and detailed sequence of biographical narrative from the earliest years of life was a thing wholly unknown to the Jews, and alien alike from their style and temperament. Anecdotes of infancy, incidents of childhood, indications of future greatness in boyish years, are a very rare phenomenon in ancient literature. It is only since the dawn of Christianity that childhood has been surrounded by a halo of romance.

The exact order of the events which occurred before the return to Nazareth can only be a matter of uncertain conjecture. The Circumcision was on the eighth day after the birth ( Luke i. 59; ii. 21 ); the Purification was thirty-three days after the circumcision ( Lev. xii. 4 ); the Visit of the Magi was “when Jesus was born in Bethlehem” ( Matt. ii. 1 ); and the Flight into Egypt immediately after their departure. The supposition that the return from Egypt was previous to the Presentation in the Temple, though not absolutely impossible, seems most improbable. To say nothing of the fact that such a postponement would have been a violation ( however necessary ) of the Levitical law, it would either involve the supposition that the Purification was long postponed, which seems to be contradicted by the twice-repeated expression of St. Luke ( ii. 22, 39 ); or it supposes that forty days allowed sufficient time for the journey of the wise men from “the East,” and for the flight to, and return from, Egypt. It involves, moreover, the extreme improbability of a return of the Holy Family to Jerusalem a town but six miles distant from Bethlehem – within a few days after an event so frightful as the Massacre of the Innocents. Although no supposition is entirely free from the objections which necessarily arise out of our ignorance of the circumstances, it seems almost certain that the Flight into Egypt, and the circumstances which led to it, did not occur till after the Presentation. For forty days, therefore, the Holy Family were left in peace and obscurity, in a spot surrounded by so many scenes of interest, and hallowed by so many traditions of their family and race.

Of the Circumcision no mention is made by the apocryphal gospels, except an amazingly repulsive one in the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy. It was not an incident which would be likely to interest those whose object it was to intrude their own dogmatic fancies into the sacred story. But to the Christian it has its own solemn meaning. It shows that Christ came not to destroy the Law, but to fulfil. Thus it became Him to fulfil all righteousness. Thus early did He suffer pain for our sakes, to teach us the spiritual circumcision – the circumcision of the heart – the circumcision of all our bodily senses. “As the East catches at sunset the colors of the West, so Bethlehem is a prelude to Calvary, and even the Infant’s cradle is tinged with a crimson reflection from the Redeemer’s cross. It was on this day, too, that Christ first publicly received that name of Jesus, which the command of the angel Gabriel had already announced. “Hoshea” meant salvation; Joshua, “whose salvation is Jehovah;” Jesus is but the English modification of the Greek form of the name. At this time it was a name extraordinarily common among the Jews. It was dear to them as having been borne by the great Leader who had conducted them into victorious possession of the Promised Land, and by the great High Priest who had headed the band of exiles who returned from Babylon; but henceforth – not for Jews only, but for all the world – it was destined to acquire a significance infinitely more sacred as the mortal designation of the Son of God. The Hebrew “Messiah” and the Greek “Christ” were names which represented His office as the Anointed Prophet, Priest, and King; but “Jesus” was the personal name which He bore as one who “emptied Himself of His glory” to become a sinless man among sinful men.

On the fortieth day after the nativity- until which time she could not leave the house – the Virgin presented herself with her Babe for their Purification in the Temple at Jerusalem. “Thus, then,” says St. Bonaventura, “do they bring the Lord of the Temple to the Temple of the Lord.” The proper offering on such occasions was a yearling lamb for a burnt-offering, and a young pigeon or a turtle dove for a sin-offering; but with that beautiful tenderness, which is so marked a characteristic of the Mosaic legislation, those who were too poor for so comparatively costly an offering, were allowed to bring instead two turtle-doves or two young pigeons. With this humble offering Mary presented herself to the priest. At the same time Jesus, as being a first-born son, was presented to God, and in accordance with the law, was redeemed from the necessity of Temple service by the ordinary payment of five shekels of the sanctuary ( Numb. xviii. 15, 16 ), amounting in value to about fifteen shillings. Of the purification and presentation no further details are given to us, but this visit to the Temple was rendered memorable by a double incident – the recognition of the Infant Saviour by Simeon and Anna.

Of Simeon we are simply told that he was a just and devout Israelite endowed with the gift of prophecy, and that having received divine intimation that his death would not take place till he had seen the Messiah, he entered under some inspired impulse into the Temple, and there, recognizing the Holy Child, took Him in his arms, and burst into that glorious song – the “Nunc Dimittis” – which for eighteen centuries has been so dear to Christian hearts. The prophecy that the Babe should be “a light to lighten the Gentiles,” no less than the strangeness of the circumstances, may well have caused astonishment to His parents, from whom the aged prophet did not conceal their own future sorrows – warning the Virgin Mother especially, both of the deadly opposition which that Divine Child was destined to encounter, and of the national perils which should agitate the days to come.

Legend has been busy with the name of Simeon. In the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy, he recognizes Jesus because he sees Him shining like a pillar of light in His mother’s arms. Nicephorus tells us that, in reading the Scriptures, he had stumbled at the verse, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son” ( Isa. vii. 14 ), and had then received the intimation that he should not die till he had seen it fulfilled. All attempts to identify him with other Simeons have failed. Had he been a High Priest, or President of the Sanhedrin, St. Luke would not have introduced him so casually as “a man ( äveponos ) in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.” The statement in the Gospel of the Nativity of Mary that he was 113 years old is wholly arbitrary; as is the conjecture that the silence of the Talmud about him is due to his Christian proclivities. He could not have been Rabban Simeon, the son of Hillel, and father of Gamaliel, who would not at this time have been so old. Still less could he have been the far earlier Simeon the Just, who was believed to have prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem, and who was the last survivor of the great Sanhedrin. It is curious that we should be told nothing respecting him, while of Anna the prophetess several interesting particulars are given, and among others that she was of the tribe of Asher- a valuable proof that tribal relations still lived affectionately in the memory of the people.