Who Was Simone of Cyrene From the Bible?

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There are a number of interesting minor characters connected to the historical crucifixion of Jesus Christ -- including Pontius Pilate, the Roman Centurion, Herod Antipas, and more. Among these was a man named Simon who was conscripted by the Roman authorities to carry Jesus' cross-beam on the way to His crucifixion.

The History of the Cross Bearer

Simon of Cyrene is mentioned in three of the four Gospels. Luke provides a quick overview of his involvement:

26 As they led Him away, they seized Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, and laid the cross on him to carry behind Jesus. 27 A large crowd of people followed Him, including women who were mourning and lamenting Him.
Luke 23:26-27

It was common for Roman soldiers to force convicted criminals to carry their own crosses as they trudged toward the place of execution -- the Romans were expertly cruel in their torture methods and left no stone unturned. At this point in the crucifixion story, Jesus had been beaten several times by both Roman and Jewish authorities. He apparently had no strength left to drag the heaven burden through the streets.

Roman soldiers carried a great deal of authority wherever they went. It appears they wanted to keep the procession moving, and so they forcibly recruited a man named Simon to pick up Jesus' cross and carry it for Him.

Simon of Cyrene's Life

What do we know about Simon? The text mentions that he was "a Cyrenian," which means he came from the town of Cyrene in the region known today as Libya on the northern coast of Africa. The location of Cyrene has led some scholars to wonder if Simon was a Black man, which is certainly possible. However, Cyrene was officially a Greek and Roman city, which means it was populated by a number of different nationalities. (Acts 6:9 mentions a synagogue in that same region, for example.

One other clue to Simon's identity comes from the fact that he was "coming in from the country." Jesus' crucifixion occurred during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. So many people traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the yearly feasts that the city became overrun. There weren't enough inns or boarding houses to accommodate the influx of travelers, so most visitors spent the night outside the city and then walked back in for different religious rituals and celebrations. This may point to Simon being a Jew who lived in Cyrene.

Mark also provides some additional information:

They forced a man coming in from the country, who was passing by, to carry Jesus’ cross. He was Simon, a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus.
Mark 15:21

The fact that Mark casually mentions Alexander and Rufus without any further information means they would have been well-known to his intended audience. Therefore, Simon's sons were likely leaders or active members of the early church at Jerusalem. (This same Rufus may have been mentioned by Paul in Romans 16:13, but there is no way to tell for sure.)

The final mention of Simon comes in Matthew 27:32.

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O'Neal, Sam. "Who Was Simone of Cyrene From the Bible?" Learn Religions, Feb. 13, 2021, learnreligions.com/who-was-simone-of-cyrene-from-the-bible-363318. O'Neal, Sam. (2021, February 13). Who Was Simone of Cyrene From the Bible? Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/who-was-simone-of-cyrene-from-the-bible-363318 O'Neal, Sam. "Who Was Simone of Cyrene From the Bible?" Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/who-was-simone-of-cyrene-from-the-bible-363318 (accessed March 22, 2023).