Coming August 2018 from Covenant Communications. Below, I also have the introduction to the book which details some of the things we know about this remarkable woman.
The prophetess Anna lived during a remarkable era—that of the Messiah’s birth and early years. Her name is the New Testament form of Hannah, and she is the only woman called a prophetess in the Gospels. Anna’s family history descended from the tribe of Asher, in which she was the daughter of Phanuel.
Unfortunately, Anna became a widow after a seven-year marriage, and there is no mention of whether she had children. She was, therefore, a woman whose life took a painful, unexpected turn. But as we will learn, Anna continued in her devotion to the Lord and determined to serve Him all the remainder of her days.
She is a testament to modern women that it’s possible to live a life of joy even when struck with a severe trial. She carried an eternal perspective in her heart, and it’s no small matter that she is heralded as a prophetess—one who draws close to the Lord and gains His utmost trust.
Interestingly enough, she never remarried but instead spent her remaining widowhood serving in the temple—a service time estimated at over sixty years. It’s an impressive record of service in the public eye. Not many women are able to perform such an act away from home and for the public. And like many other women, she prioritized her time so she could be there, likely maintaining a residence near the holy place.
At the temple on Jesus’s presentation day, we meet Anna as a woman “of a great age,” of fourscore and four years (age eighty-four; Luke 2:37). With the forty days of Mary’s required purification after giving birth at an end, she and Joseph brought Jesus into Jerusalem. In Leviticus 12:2–5, we learn that for a male child, the woman was unclean for seven days and the days of purification lasted thirty-three days; for a female child, the woman was unclean fourteen days, and purification lasted sixty-six days.
Mary and Joseph were to present their newborn son to the Lord God at the temple, according to the law of Moses. Part of the presentation at the temple was offering a sacrifice of two turtledoves or two young pigeons in order to complete Mary’s purification (see Luke 2:24). Simeon was the first to meet Mary and Joseph; he had been promised that he would not die before seeing the Messiah. He greeted the parents and took Jesus into his arms and prophesied about the salvation that had come to earth.
While Mary and Joseph “[marveled] at those things which were spoken” by Simeon (Luke v. 33), Anna entered the scene. Like Simeon, the Spirit led her to the Messiah and unmistakably informed her that this infant was the Redeemer.
Upon meeting the Messiah, Anna not only became a witness of the Messiah, but she also gave “thanks likewise unto the Lord, and [spoke] of him to all them that [looked] for redemption in Jerusalem” (v. 38). This notation leads us to believe that after Jesus and His parents fled to Egypt, Anna spoke reverentially about His birth and His presence on earth for as long as she lived. Her testimony may have been great before, as evidenced in her role as prophetess, but now it was magnified as she served as a sure witness to the Messiah’s existence.
In this way, Anna’s lifelong devotion to the Lord was no longer based on faith, but like the brother of Jared, she “had faith no longer, for [she] knew, nothing doubting” (Ether 3:19, emphasis added). What a wonderful gift! It is important for us to remember what preceded Anna’s sure knowledge and what she embraced for at least sixty years of her life—it is something we cannot see or hear but only feel: faith.
Anna’s devotion and role as a prophetess is further secured when we learn that she was the second woman in the Bible noted as fasting on a day other than the Day of Atonement (Esther was the first; see Esther 4:16). Fasting wasn’t normally encouraged for women during ancient times, yet it seems that for Anna it was part of her spiritual regimen wherein she “served God with fastings and prayers night and day” (Luke 2:37). It was part of her journey toward becoming like her divine Father in Heaven, and it was this sort of devotion that led to the opportunity of meeting the infant Jesus and becoming a physical and spiritual witness to His mission on earth.
Anna’s fasting was likely no easy task, especially at her age, but she recognized the importance of it in bringing her close to the Spirit, and as she continued to fast, her faith was strengthened. We do not know if Anna recognized other signs of Jesus’s birth that had been prophesied and taught for generations. There is no clear indication that anyone in the Old World knew of a prophecy in advance of the Savior’s birth that a new star in the heavens would be a sign of His birth, but for this novel’s purposes, sighting a new star is part of Anna’s faith.
At the age of eighty-four, Anna became a true witness, and certainly, her unquestionable testimony has blessed many lives. Her devotion to the Lord and her people, as well as the spirit of inspiration she cultivated in order to become one of the Lord’s spokeswomen, marked her long life as a touching example of a divinely led woman. Like some of us, her life didn’t turn out how she planned, yet she found ways to fill her life and devote it to the Lord. She moved forward with purpose and created a fulfilling life, giving us a wonderful example.
(Parts of the introduction were taken from the original publication of: The Divinity of Women: Inspirations and Insights from Women of the Scriptures by Heather B. Moore and S. Kent Brown, Covenant Communications, 2014.)