Photo by Scala/Art Resource, N.Y.

ON THE COVER: “Now let your servant depart in peace,” Simeon utters when he first holds the infant Jesus in his arms (Luke 2:29). When Joseph (carrying two turtledoves as an offering in Giotto’s fresco from the Scrovegni Chapel, in Padua) and Mary bring the baby to the Jerusalem Temple, they are greeted by two elderly individuals—Simeon and Anna—who react very differently to the experience. Simeon says that now that he has seen the messiah, he is ready to die. Anna—the only New Testament woman identified as a prophetess (thus the scroll, the typical symbol of a prophet)—begins to preach the gospel. Although their reactions vary, their instant recognition of Jesus as messiah is quite unusual, Ben Witherington III notes in “Mary, Simeon or Anna.” Not even Mary is so quick to understand the role Jesus will play.