Mark Chapter 5:21-34

Chapter 5 of the narrative that Mark created continues, with a slight change in location.

21 Καὶ διαπεράσαντος τοῦ Ἰησοῦ [ἐν τῷ πλοίῳ] πάλιν εἰς τὸ πέραν συνήχθη ὄχλος πολὺς ἐπ’ αὐτόν, καὶ ἦν παρὰ τὴν θάλασσαν.

And Jesus having crossed [ in the boat ] to the far side (of the lake/sea) a large crowd gathered upon him, and it was around the sea.

Greek: the verb << διαπεράσαντος >> contains the word << πέραν >>. The latter means “the far side” (not to be confused with the Gary Larsen opus); so the verb is literally “crossed to the far side”, but we include << πέραν >> as well, just to make sure we are clear. Honestly, a lot of languages have this tendency towards what would be considered redundant in English.

Now, we’ve crossed again. Did we come back from the land of the Gerasenes, and then go back to another part of the far shore? Or have we crossed back from the Gerasenes? It’s a little hard to tell. Offhand, it seems like we’ve come back, and then made another trip.

21 Et cum transcendisset Iesus in navi rursus trans fretum, convenit turba multa ad illum, et erat circa mare.

22 καὶ ἔρχεται εἷς τῶν ἀρχισυναγώγων, ὀνόματι Ἰάϊρος, καὶ ἰδὼν αὐτὸν πίπτει πρὸς τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ

And one of the rulers of the synagogue came to him (Jesus), by the name of Jairus, and seeing him (Jesus), fell before his (Jesus’) feet. 

The term << ἀρχισυναγώγων >> is a compound word, made up of << ἀρχι >>, which means ‘to rule’, and << συναγώγων >>, which is the direct transliteration of “synagogue.”

Since we’re apparently in Jewish territory, it may seem that we’ve come back from the land of the Gerasenes, and are on the Caphernaum side of the lake. These are the sorts of things that can keep professors in published papers for generations.

It’s also interesting that he gets a name. This is the same situation as with all of these stories. Did the names and details actually come down to Mark and he recorded them? Did Mark make them up? Did someone in the intervening period make them up, as details were added in the telling? Are they accurate? Does it matter? 

My inclination is to suspect that the details accrued over the forty years, as the stories were told and re-told. However, the Gospel of Thomas, which a lot of people want to see as older than Mark, has no such details. Nor does Q. Given that, my suspicion changes, and I tend to believe that Mark made a lot of these details up, that this is what made his gospel, above the others that were probably written, stand out as the one that people wanted to hear. Because of detailed narrative, it made this gospel the popular favorite. And do not discount this. It’s not dissimilar to what happened between VHS and Betamax (for those of you old enough to remember archaic technology like video cassettes.)

22 Et venit quidam de archisynagogis nomine Iairus et videns eum procidit ad pedes eius

23 καὶ παρακαλεῖ αὐτὸν πολλὰ λέγων ὅτι Τὸ θυγάτριόν μου ἐσχάτως ἔχει, ἵνα ἐλθὼν ἐπιθῇς τὰς χεῖρας αὐτῇ ἵνα σωθῇ καὶ ζήσῃ.

And he (Jairus) beseeched him (Jesus) a great deal, saying that “My daughter is having an extreme (i.e. situation), so that coming place your hands on her in order to save her life.”

So we have another healing miracle coming up.

Now, perhaps more than the name, is the man’s title. He was a responsible, respectable member of Jewish society. This is rather a contrast to the tax collectors and sinners that Jesus was hanging out with back in chapters 1 & 2. That is surely significant. Is Jesus’ appeal starting to move up on the social scale? Or is this a situational sort of belief: the man is driven to it out of desperation? And again, how much does this matter? Is he to become a member of the kingdom of God? Doesn’t this sort of desperation remind one of the seed that fell among the rocks? It grew up quickly, but died out for lack of roots. Does it feel like Jairus might be in this sort of situation? Once his needs are met, he’ll drift away? Or will the accomplishment of his desire to heal his daughter make a firm believe out of him?

Which of these are we supposed to infer?

I would tend to suspect that Mark intends the latter, that this belief will ‘take’, as it were. But what does that say about the kingdom of God? That God will help wretches like Jairus, and so like us? Or that it doesn’t matter how we get there; what matters is that we get there.

Answering a question like this gets into stylistic issues, IMO. Is Mark presenting this like a coherent argument, the way Paul set up Galatians? Or is this just a collection of episodes, designed to illustrate the kingdom of God? That wretches are saved? Again, my tendency is towards the latter, but form criticism is not my specialty.

23 et deprecatur eum multum dicens: “ Filiola mea in extremis est; veni, impone manus super eam, ut salva sit et vivat ”.

24 καὶ ἀπῆλθεν μετ’ αὐτοῦ. Καὶ ἠκολούθει αὐτῷ  ὄχλος πολύς, καὶ συνέθλιβον αὐτόν.

And he (Jesus) went away with him (Jairus). And the large crowd followed him, and put pressure on him.

 The verb << συν-έθλιβον >> is another compound word. The prefix << συν >> is the preposition for “with”. The main stem << θλιβον>> is the same verb used for ‘persecute’. While Jesus obviously isn’t being persecuted, the sense here is that the collective whole of the crowd is afflicting him, in the sense of stressing him out.

The crowd follows, regardless. Jesus cannot get a moment’s peace. Hence, the stress of the verb,

24 Et abiit cum illo. Et sequebatur eum turba multa et comprimebant illum.

25 καὶ γυνὴ οὖσα ἐν ῥύσει αἵματος δώδεκα ἔτη

And there was a woman, in a hemorrhage of blood for twelve years.

This is another great literary twist. Here, for the first time, we get a story in a story, a subplot. While we’re following the main action with Jairus, a woman is coming through the crowd.

25 Et mulier, quae erat in profluvio sanguinis annis duodecim

26 καὶ πολλὰ παθοῦσα ὑπὸ πολλῶν ἰατρῶν καὶ δαπανήσασα τὰ παρ’ αὐτῆς πάντα καὶ μηδὲν ὠφεληθεῖσα ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον εἰς τὸ χεῖρον ἐλθοῦσα,

And she having suffered much from many doctors, and having spent all her (m0ney), and not having profited, but having become worse,

The Greek is terrific; it’s a long introductory dependent clause. And, it’s some pretty nifty writing, a definite cut above the literary quality of much of what we’ve encountered so far.

26 et fuerat multa perpessa a compluribus medicis et erogaverat omnia sua nec quidquam profecerat, sed magis deterius habebat,

27 ἀκούσασα περὶ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ, ἐλθοῦσα ἐν τῷ ὄχλῳ  ὄπισθεν ἥψατο τοῦ ἱματίου αὐτοῦ:

having heard about Jesus, having come in the crowd, where from behind she fixed on (touched) his garments.

27 cum audisset de Iesu, venit in turba retro et tetigit vestimentum eius;

28 ἔλεγεν γὰρ ὅτι Ἐὰν ἅψωμαι κἂν τῶν ἱματίων αὐτοῦ σωθήσομαι.

For she said that, “If I might touch even his cloak I will be saved.”

Interesting. “She will be saved.” Not healed, but saved. And, in fact, this is the word Jairus used about his daughter, too. Now, obviously, there is the sense of “saving a life”, and that is certainly appropriate here, but there’s the other sense, too. And, it may just be me, but the idea of  “being saved” in the Christian sense of eternal life is my first reaction when I come across this word anywhere in the NT.

28 dicebat enim: “ Si vel vestimenta eius tetigero, salva ero ”.

29 καὶ εὐθὺς ἐξηράνθηἡ πηγὴ τοῦ αἵματος αὐτῆς, καὶ ἔγνω τῷ σώματι ὅτι ἴαται ἀπὸ τῆς μάστιγος.

And immediately the fountain of blood was dried up, ans she knew that  her body was healed from the disease.

29 Et confestim siccatus est fons sanguinis eius, et sensit corpore quod sanata esset a plaga.

30 καὶ εὐθὺς ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐπιγνοὺς ἐν ἑαυτῷ τὴν ἐξ αὐτοῦ δύναμιν ἐξελθοῦσαν ἐπιστραφεὶς ἐν τῷ  ὄχλῳ ἔλεγεν, Τίς μου ἥψατο τῶν ἱματίων;

And immediately Jesus realizing in himself that the power having gone out of him, turning to the crowd he said, “Who has touched my garment.”

This is absolutely my favorite line in all the gospels, I think. In fact, if Chapter 5 also had the tale of Jesus’ family that we’ll see in early Chapter 6, then Mark Chapter 5 would be my favorite chapter in the whole NT.

Realizing that the power had gone out of him…Think about what that means for a second. First, that the power operated independently of Jesus. The woman was right: she only had to touch his cloak. Jesus did not have to command it; in fact, could he have stopped it? Think about the implications of that, for a moment.

One implication is that Jesus was just a conduit for the power; If we accept this, then we have to question very seriously whether Jesus was the author of the power, and the logical conclusion is “no”. That is, he was not the author of the power. This would imply that God was the author, of course. No great mystery. Then who, or what, was Jesus? That he was someone who did not act on his own authority, which would, or at least could, imply that he was not necessarily divine in and of himself. That, perhaps, he was born an ordinary mortal, but had been chosen–or adopted–by God at his baptism to act on God’s behalf. This would explain his use of “Son of Man” in this gospel. He was emphasizing that he wasn’t divine, per se, but was merely a man who had been selected to carry out God’s will.

That, IMO, is the most direct meaning of this passage. Now, sure, one can come up with a hundred reasons why I’m wrong, and that the passage doesn’t mean what I believe it does, that I’m drawing unwarranted and incorrect inferences from the words, etc. And any or all of these hundred reasons might well be right. But, none of them is the most simple, most direct reading of this passage.

In any case, whether I’m right or wrong doesn’t matter. There was an entire sect that did read Mark the way I’ve described. This sect has been labeled the Adoptionists, and they have been branded as heretics. I’m not saying that they were right; I’m just saying that they had a point.

30 Et statim Iesus cognoscens in semetipso virtutem, quae exierat de eo, conversus ad turbam aiebat: “ Quis tetigit vestimenta mea? ”.

31 καὶ ἔλεγον αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ, Βλέπεις τὸν ὄχλον συνθλίβοντά σε, καὶ λέγεις, Τίς μου ἥψατο;

And his disciples said to him, “Look at the crowd pressing you, and you ask ‘Who has touched me’?”

This, I believe, enhances my point that the power operated independently of Jesus. The point the disciples are trying to make is that the crowd is pressing ’round, that Jesus is probably being jostled–that is, touched–by any number of people. And yet, the power only goes out of him when this particular woman touched him. Which would indicate that the author of the power, rather than Jesus, made the decision to activate it in the case of the bleeding woman.

31 Et dicebant ei discipuli sui: “ Vides turbam comprimentem te et dicis: “Quis me tetigit?” ”.

32 καὶ περιεβλέπετο ἰδεῖν τὴν τοῦτο ποιήσασαν.

And looking around, he knew whom it was having done this.

32 Et circumspiciebat videre eam, quae hoc fecerat.

33 ἡ δὲ γυνὴ φοβηθεῖσα καὶ τρέμουσα, εἰδυῖα ὃ γέγονεν αὐτῇ, ἦλθεν καὶ προσέπεσεν αὐτῷ καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ πᾶσαν τὴν ἀλήθειαν.

But the woman was fearing and trembling, knowing what she had done, came and fell down before him and told to him the whole truth.

33 Mulier autem timens et tremens, sciens quod factum esset in se, venit et procidit ante eum et dixit ei omnem veritatem.

34 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῇ, Θυγάτηρ, ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε: ὕπαγε εἰς εἰρήνην, καὶ ἴσθι ὑγιὴς ἀπὸ τῆς μάστιγός σου.

But he told her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace, and be healed from your disease.

34 Ille autem dixit ei: “ Filia, fides tua te salvam fecit. Vade in pace et esto sana a plaga tua ”.

This is the first time in Mark that Jesus has said this: “your faith has saved/healed you.” That is a significant addition to the message that we had gotten to this point. It’s especially salient if we take the word in its most literal sense, as ‘save’, rather than as ‘heal’. Oddly, my crib translations choose the latter. This latter, despite being less literal, does seem to be more natural at first glance. But, taking a look at the Liddell & Scott, the first meaning is, “of persons, to save from death.” So, perhaps “heal” is the better choice. But, I’m not quite convinced.


About James, brother of Jesus

I have a BA from the University of Toronto in Greek and Roman History. For this, I had to learn classical Greek and Latin. In seminar-style classes, we discussed both the meaning of the text and the language. U of T has a great Classics Dept. One of the professors I took a Senior Seminar with is now at Harvard. I started reading the New Testament as a way to brush up on my Greek, and the process grew into this. I plan to comment on as much of the NT as possible, starting with some of Paul's letters. After that, I'll start in on the Gospels, starting with Mark.

Posted on February 16, 2013, in gospel commentary, gospels, mark's gospel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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