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Yeshua in Context » Disciples & Named Characters, Eyewitnesses, Gospels as History, Spectacular Commentary » Simon of Cyrene, Why You Should Know Him

Simon of Cyrene, Why You Should Know Him

We’ve already introduced the idea that some characters in the gospels are named because they became eyewitnesses, telling and retelling their story, in the early Yeshua community. See “Cleopas, Why You Should Know Him” under the “Eyewitnesses” category at the right.

This helpful way of looking at named characters in the gospels as all thanks to Richard Bauckham and his book, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.

Simon of Cyrene is interesting for several reasons. One of them is that Mark also names his sons, Alexander and Rufus (15:21), while Matthew (27:32) and Luke 23:26) do not. What could be the reason?

Another interesting feature of Mark’s naming of Simon (and Mark is the earliest gospel we have) is that Peter drops out as a character after 14:72 and the women at the cross aren’t in the story until 15:40. Simon of Cyrene is in 15:21 — right in between. It appears Simon of Cyrene, or perhaps his sons Alexander and Rufus, is the source for the story of Yeshua’s carrying the cross through the streets.

Notice that Luke 23:27-32, a story about some of Yeshua’s sayings along the road to Golgotha, is unique. Simon of Cyrene was a living witness. Where might Luke have gained this extra information? One possible source is Q (if you read literature about the gospels, you know about the hypothetical source of Yeshua-sayings known as Q). Another would be an interview with Simon. Luke says he interviewed the witnesses. Maybe he got more out of Simon that Mark did before him.

Why would Mark name Simon and his sons, Alexander and Rufus, whereas the other evangelists did not name the sons? Part of Bauckham’s theory is that evangelists only named people they knew or whose testimony they had heard. If the theory that Mark was in Rome has any merit, could it be that Alexander and Rufus were known in Rome? Just a guess. Maybe Mark did not interview Simon, but only his sons.

The case continues to add veracity to the historical realism of the gospels. Named characters, especially considering that they are rare, suggest known eyewitnesses in the Yeshua community. The evangelists do not appear to be inventing stories after all.

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Filed under: Disciples & Named Characters, Eyewitnesses, Gospels as History, Spectacular Commentary

One Response to "Simon of Cyrene, Why You Should Know Him"

  1. Jeremiah Michael says:

    I read that book a while ago. I loved it.

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