Monthly Archives: November 2017

Summary Luke Chapter 8

For the most part, this chapter consists of material we have found in both of the other two gospels. Ergo, and a priori, it is part of the so-called “Triple Tradition”. This gives us a chance to look at the way each of them handled each story, and see what was said and not said by whom.

There is one part of this that is unique to Luke. It’s very brief, covered in the commentary to Verses 1-3. It concerns the women who followed Jesus. Mary the Magdalene, or Mary called the Magdalene as Luke puts it, is common to all three. Or actually to all four gospels, since John mentions her as well. Luke has two unique aspects specifically about Mary M. First, we are told that Jesus expelled seven demons from her. No one else mentions this. As such, this seems to be another great example of how the story grew. I would even be willing to infer that there is a complete story behind this little tidbit, the tale of how Jesus encountered Mary and describing the specifics of her possession and the circumstances under which Jesus cured her. Luke encountered–or possibly created–this story but chose not to include the whole thing; rather, he was satisfied with adding the most important part. The existence of this additional detail, and the possible existence of the story behind it, ties in with the other thing that Luke adds to the account of Mary M. Against the other two, Luke introduces Mary M much earlier in the narrative than any of the other evangelists. In Mark and Matthew, we do not meet her until the crucifixion scene. This, in turn, ties in with something Luke omits: that Mary M and the women were followers of Jesus in Galilee, and that they had (presumably) come to Jerusalem with Jesus.

This is a fascinating glimpse into the way the character (as in, dramatis persona) of the Magdalene is developing. In 2M, she pops up only at the end, as part of the Passion narrative. I suspect she is the reason that the young man in white in the empty tomb tells Mary and the disciples to return to Galilee: she will take care of them there. I would not be surprised to learn that, in some way, responsible for the creation of the Passion narrative. By introducing her early, and hinting that there were other stories to be told about her, Luke is sort of cutting her loose from being limited to a minor role (but not really that minor, either; Jesus appeared to her first) at the end. Her role is expanding, people are making up stories about her, and she is, overall, just becoming more prominent. This is how and why she ended up a prostitute: because people made up stories. She has become more a part of the story, albeit still in a fairly peripheral fashion. She will go on to become a major figure in Roman Catholic tradition; she is so much a part of the cultural landscape that “Magdalene” is recognized by spellcheck.  However, the negative aspect of this particular part of her story was designed, in large part, to take her down a notch or two. Or three. Rather than being a financial supporter, and so someone of rank, she was downgraded to being a prostitute.

One of the other stories in the chapter is that of Jesus calming the storm. There is one aspect of this that needs to be emphasized. Much of the “argument” for Q is that Luke never agrees with Matthew against Mark. Well, in the three versions of the storm, we have a very clear example of exactly that: Luke telling the same story as Matthew. Granted, it’s a negative agreement, based on an omission, but I’d like to hear an argument for why this doesn’t count. In Mark, the terrified disciples ask Jesus, “do you not care if we are perishing?”. Matthew left this out, and so did Luke. That is an agreement between the latter two against Mark. I somehow suspect that the Q people would vehemently object to this, but then they somehow miss the fact that Matthew and Luke–against Mark–agree on Joseph and Bethlehem and the angel announcing Jesus’ coming birth and, well all of the so-called Q material. But this latter doesn’t count, for whatever reason.

Luke also radically changed the context and timing of the “who are my mother and brothers?” pericope. This–and many other such placements–amply demonstrates that Luke was not particularly particular about how he re-arranged the text of his predecessors.

There are three other stories in this chapter, and all three of them are part of the Triple Tradition. The stories are that of the Gerasene demonaics,  the Jairus/Bleeding Woman diptych, and the Parable of the Sower. Two are miracle stories and the other is a parable; however, I believe they should be considered together along with the Calming of the Storm. We touched on this latter briefly above, but it is worth a bit more examination in the way that it fits in the chapter. The Q people would have you believe that stuff like the Sermon on the Mount is the actual real, official, traces back to Jesus material of the gospels. Given that there is no evidence of Q, I find this hard to accept. Rather, I would suggest that these four stories represent the oldest stratum of material in the gospels. It only makes sense, given that they are found in Mark whereas the Sermon on the Mount is not. Plain logic suggests that the oldest gospel written is most likely to have the oldest material, but the Q people seem to disagree with this premise.

Note that three of these are miracle stories. They also share the common feature that the disciples are either more or less non-existent or only serve as stage props. They have virtually no role in the Gerasene adventure; in the story of the Bleeding Woman/Jairus they exist only so one of the disciples can say that it would be impossible to tell who it was that touched Jesus in the crowd; in the Calming of the Storm they are the witless fools scared for their lives and lacking faith. In the Parable of the Sower, their participation is to act as the straight men who ask Jesus to explain what the parable means. This sort of behaviour and portrayal fits with the overall pattern of the way Mark treats the disciples throughout his gospel; it has been retained by Matthew and Luke. Throughout this commentary, I have been highly skeptical of the Twelve, and these episodes reinforce that skepticism. Mark can barely find employment even for Peter, James, and John, while Matthew and Andrew show up for their calling. The rest are only names, with the exception of Judas who appears in the Passion Story, which was a later addition to the gospel; as such, it would seem logical that he was a later addition to the story.

All of this, in turn, indicates that these stories form the core of the earliest narrative about Jesus, or that they were among the earliest stories repeated about Jesus. It it significant that they also portray Jesus as a wonder worker in three of the four. Here we come to an interesting dichotomy. Our earliest source, Paul, says nothing of miracle performed by Jesus; indeed, he suggests that performing miracles was not an uncommon gift, along with prophesy and speaking in tongues. Nor does Paul do more than mention Jesus’ teachings. Yet, the earliest popular stories about Jesus portray him differently, as a wonder-worker who talked about the Kingdom of God, or of Heaven, or of the heavens. I would suggest that the Christ tradition of Paul is largely theological, while the wonder-worker tradition of the miracles is more popular, intended to reach more of a mass audience. These two different views of Jesus are not mutually exclusive, but neither is the overlap is not immediately obvious. For Paul, it was the Resurrection that made Jesus into the Christ, which is what made him significant. For the Mark, it was largely Jesus’ miracles that made him significant, and the miracles are strung together until sometime in Chapter 7/8/9 when Mark transitions to speaking of Jesus as the Christ. This dissection of Mark is not completely clean and not nearly as clear-cut as I may seem to be suggesting, but it is the overall pattern. If you count word occurrences, the pattern becomes pretty clear; different sets of words that represent themes, are used in the first part of the gospel than are used in the latter part.

Perhaps the aspect of this that should be most noted is that neither Matthew nor Luke radically alter this perception of Jesus in these four stories that we are discussing. Jesus and the disciples are portrayed by the latter two much as they are by Mark. This is evidence for a very strong tradition about Jesus as a wonder worker. Rather than downplay it, the gospels emphasize Jesus’ ability to perform miracles. This has led to a whole lot of discussion that the miracles are the demonstration, the proof that Jesus is divine. He can contravene the laws of nature. In this, he is really no different from earlier prophets like Elijah who also raised the dead; rather than qualitative, the difference between Jesus and these earlier prophets is quantitative. Jesus performed a lot of miracles. Even John retained (or invented) nine miracle stories. In my analysis of Mark, I said that he wove the different stories into a (mostly) coherent skein. It could also be said that he began the welding of the two traditions, wonder worker and Christ, into a single whole. Matthew and Luke continue the process, but they create a framework that puts the miracles more directly in the context of Jesus’ divinity: both Matthew and Luke start with a story of a divinely-ordained and divine birth that tells us from the start who Jesus is. Once this is established, they retain the wonder-worker tradition, but put more emphasis on the Christ. This trend is culminated by John, who starts by telling us that Jesus was the Logos, and it was with God from the beginning.

One implication of this two-fold tradition becomes manifest when it’s set out like this. While Paul may be our earliest written source, we have to ask if he represents the earlier tradition. I’m not sure that we can make that assumption, or draw that inference. That is something to be considered as we proceed.


Luke Chapter 8:49-56

This section will conclude Chapter 8. At 56 verses, Chapter 8 is one of the longer chapters in Luke. In this post we will finish the story of Jairus and his daughter. We’ve done an intro for this already, so let’s go straight to the


49Ἔτι αὐτοῦ λαλοῦντος ἔρχεταί τις παρὰ τοῦ ἀρχισυναγώγου λέγων ὅτι Τέθνηκεν ἡ θυγάτηρ σου, μηκέτι σκύλλε τὸν διδάσκαλον.

(While) he was yet speaking, someone from those surrounding the ruler of the synagogue came, saying that “Your daughter has dies. Don’t disturb the teacher any longer.” 

Recall that only Mark and Luke name this official, who is a “leader of the synagogue”. My initial reaction is to be suspicious of this term, but one of the commentary/dictionaries at* says that this was a thing, and that it had a Hebrew/Aramaic term behind it. I suppose it makes sense. The full-blown Rabbinic Judaism, more or less as we think of it today, had not yet developed by the time of Jesus, or even the evangelists. And today, as I understand it, “synagogue” and “temple” are more or less synonymous terms. They were not in the first century. There was one temple, the Temple in Jerusalem. There were synagogues scattered about. I don’t know the full practice, but from what we read, it seems to be something not entirely dissimilar to the concept now, except perhaps not as formal. And it would make sense that there was a person in charge. And interestingly, neither does Matthew use this term; rather, he calls the man simply a “ruler”, obviously a more generic term. We know it’s highly probable that both Matthew and Luke read Mark, so here, as always, we question the choices made by each subsequent writer. I wonder if there is a literature analyzing the way each of the other two handled Markan pericopes (oooh, sound all bible-scholary, no?). One thing that the Q people demand–and that is the correct word: demand–is that people who don’t accept Q have to come up with a “redactionally consistent” explanation for every instance that Luke differs from Matthew in the so-called Q material. Really? If so, then I demand a redactionally consistent explanation for every time Matthew changes Mark.

49 Adhuc illo loquente, venit quidam e domo principis synagogae dicens: “Mortua est filia tua; noli amplius vexare magistrum”.

50 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἀκούσας ἀπεκρίθη αὐτῷ, Μὴ φοβοῦ, μόνον πίστευσον, καὶ σωθήσεται.

But Jesus, hearing, answered to him, “Do not fear, only believe and she will be saved.” 

Here we get back to the “saved” business that we discussed with the Bleeding Woman. And, all four of my crib translations render this as “made well/whole”, in the sense of “healed”. Honestly, I really have to question this. We have just been told the girl has died; “made well” or “made whole” does not exactly catch the implication of the girl being raised from the dead. “Saved”, as in, “save her life” comes, I think, much closer. And the Vulgate below agrees with me; the word used is “salva”, from “salvo, salvare”, which means “to save”. So why not use that word? My suspicion is that NT translators want to preserve a distinction between saving a life and saving a soul; the former then becomes “made whole” or something such, while “saved” is reserved for saving souls. Thinking about it, this sort of verbal guidance is an excellent example of rhetoric, or even marketing. The message is massaged in this way over the course of centuries, so that certain words mean certain things, and nothing else. What could be the sacred breath becomes the Holy Spirit, “charity” becomes “grace” and an “assembly” becomes a “church”. Or, rather, The Church.

50 Iesus autem, audito hoc verbo, respondit ei: “Noli timere; crede tantum, et salva erit”.

51 ἐλθὼν δὲ εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν οὐκ ἀφῆκεν εἰσελθεῖν τινα σὺν αὐτῷ εἰ μὴ Πέτρον καὶ Ἰωάννην καὶ Ἰάκωβον καὶ τὸν πατέρα τῆς παιδὸς καὶ τὴν μητέρα.

52 ἔκλαιον δὲ πάντες καὶ ἐκόπτοντο αὐτήν. ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, Μὴ κλαίετε, οὐ γὰρ ἀπέθανεν ἀλλὰ καθεύδει.

53 καὶ κατεγέλων αὐτοῦ, εἰδότες ὅτι ἀπέθανεν.

Coming to the home he sent forth to go in someone (no one) with him except Peter and John and James, and the father of the girl and the mother. (52) But all were crying and they were wailing her. But he said, “Do not cry, for she did not die, but she sleeps”. (53) And they laughed at him, knowing that she had died.

The first thing to note is that he only took Peter, James, and John. Why are these the only three that he ever takes with him? Because, I suspect, they were the only three “full-time” followers that he had. There was no Twelve, there were no Apostles, there was Peter, James, and John. Aside from Judas the Betrayer, and the mention of Levi the tax collector, what did any of the so-called “Twelve Apostles” actually do? There are no stories attached to any of them until John brings in Nathaniel and Phillip, the former who is not mentioned by the other three when they list the Twelve. 

There are two aspects of the last verse that bear comment. The first is the rather arch “knowing”. Such silly people! They don’t know nothin’! Perhaps “arch” isn’t the best description; maybe “sly” might be more accurate.  Interestingly, Luke is the only one who records this; the other two evangelists don’t have it. This is even more interesting since all three versions have Jesus being laughed at for making this suggestion. Luke seems to be having a bit of fun here; with the transition from “laughing” to “knowing”, I can just see the nudge-nudge-wink-wink Luke gives to the audience.

51 Et cum venisset domum, non permisit intrare secum quemquam nisi Petrum et Ioannem et Iacobum et patrem puellae et matrem.

52 Flebant autem omnes et plangebant illam. At ille dixit: “ Nolite flere; non est enim mortua, sed dormit ”.

53 Et deridebant eum scientes quia mortua esset.

54 αὐτὸς δὲ κρατήσας τῆς χειρὸς αὐτῆς ἐφώνησεν λέγων, Ἡ παῖς, ἔγειρε.

He then taking her hand called to her, saying, “Child, get up.” 

Just want to stop here to discuss “taking”, as in, her hand. The root of the verb is “strength”; the verb form is often used in the sense of “to overpower”. Matthew uses a form of it to describe the arrest of Jesus in the Garden on the night before he died. And that is a standard sense of the word in Classical Greek, although being “arrested” is a bit of an anachronism for much of the ancient world. It almost never has the sense of simply taking hold of something, or someone, in a non-violent sense. There is the implication of superior strength, or skill, as in athletics. That’s all fine and good. What really stands out is how the NT Lexicon used at really defines the word down, leaving out much of that sense of strength, making the word much more mundane, and completely washing out the implication of physical strength. And this is why I so dislike the notion that a creature with the name of “NT Greek” exists; it doesn’t. “NT Greek” has come to be a set of agreed-upon renderings that help keep the agreed-upon message of the NT intact. All of this then gets in the way of actually reading the text to see what might actually be there, buried underneath centuries, or millennia, of consensus on what Christians think the text should say.

Finally, the word I rendered as “child”. This word, pais, is the word used by the Centurion to describe the person, the slave in the centurion’s household, that was ill. Here it has the feminine article to indicate that it is used for a girl. Rather an oddity.

54 Ipse autem tenens manum eius clamavit dicens: “ Puella, surge! ”.

55 καὶ ἐπέστρεψεν τὸ πνεῦμα αὐτῆς, καὶ ἀνέστη παραχρῆμα, καὶ διέταξεν αὐτῇ δοθῆναι φαγεῖν.

56 καὶ ἐξέστησαν οἱ γονεῖς αὐτῆς: ὁ δὲ παρήγγειλεν αὐτοῖς μηδενὶ εἰπεῖν τὸ γεγονός.

And her spirit turned around, and she stood up forthwith, and he instructed that something to eat be given to her. (56) And her parents were amazed. He commanded them to tell no one the occurrences.

Here the word to watch is what I’ve translated as :”turned around”. My four crib translations give it as “returned”, and I have to admit that seems like a reasonable rendering. But let’s also note that both Mark and Matthew use the same word to describe what Jesus did when he became aware that he had been touched by the Bleeding Woman. What’s also interesting is that the Latin, reversus est, is more ambiguous, and it does cover both the senses of “turning around” and “coming back”. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive in English, and there is some overlap, but they are not true synonyms. I would suggest that the KJV leaned to the Latin, and I suspect that might be correct, but that doesn’t address what Luke meant by using this word and not another that more accurately captures the idea of “returning”. So in the space of a three verses, we have two oddities of vocabulary choice. And then there is the bit about “knowing” that the girl was dead. It’s almost enough to give the impression that Luke had rather a droll sense of humor, or perhaps a tendency towards irony. Ya think?

55 Et reversus est spiritus eius, et surrexit continuo; et iussit illi dari manducare.

56 Et stupuerunt parentes eius, quibus praecepit, ne alicui dicerent, quod factum erat.


* An immensely useful site. It provides a Greek text that is parsed grammatically which allows a word to be clicked to bring up a dictionary entry, or two, actually. One of these is the “Thayer” cited. It appears to be a product of the 19th Century, but then again, so is Liddell and Scott. The problem is that the word is defined from what seems to be an NT dictionary, so I use it to find the base form and then toddle over to L&S to find out what it really means. NT dictionaries are a bit too self-referential, too much a part of a closed epistemological loop, and I really don’t like, and actively distrust, such loops. This is how consensus translations and consensus meanings have come about, which means that the text is often ignored in favour of “how it’s always been translated”. This was a motivating factor for the explosion of translations in the Reformation period. Ostensibly, these went back to the “original” Greek texts, but I have found way too many instances where the Protestant commentator very obviously relied on the Vulgate, rather than the Greek original. Then subsequent commentaries are based on the authority (richly deserved, for the greatest part) authority of these Reformation-era giants, and the Greek text becomes just as hazy as it was before this rebirth of Greek scholarship in the West. I’ve never read Erasmus’ translation; it would be interesting, and I believe he put it into Latin.

One other very useful aspect of this site is that it allows the user to have four (perhaps more) parallel columns of English transactions. This is extremely useful to see what others have done with the text. I use the KJV, ESV, NIV, and NASB; using the KJV is obvious; the others are more or less arbitrary. I find them to be a decent cross-section of translations, that provides some insight into the ways different people have translated the work.


Luke Chapter 8:40-48

Jesus and crew have left the land of the Gerasenes and returned to the shore of the lake, presumably around Caphernaum. This seems to be Jesus’ home-base, even in Luke, who does not tell us that Jesus moved there. Even so, Luke can’t really disguise the fact that the action takes place in and around the Sea of Galilee, and this means Capheraum, which is situated on the northern shore of the lake.This will take us into the stories of the Bleeding Woman, and the daughter of Jairus, the synagogue official. One point that I added to the bottom of my last post is that it appears that the land of the Gerasenes/Gadarenes is at the opposite end of the Sea of Galilee. The lake is long and narrow, running north and south. Caphernaum is on the north shore; Gadara, apparently, was situated on the southern side. Not only that, it’s some way off, perhaps even several miles, the shore of the lake. But, not sure how significant that really is, so I suppose we should get on with the


40 Ἐν δὲ τῷ ὑποστρέφειν τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἀπεδέξατο αὐτὸν ὁ ὄχλος, ἦσαν γὰρ πάντες προσδοκῶντες αὐτόν.

Upon his return (from the land of the Gerasenes), the crowd received Jesus, for all were expecting him.  

This is worthy of a comment, I believe. Why would they be expecting him, and so waiting for him? Here is where the length of the trip to Gadara becomes a bit more relevant. How long would it take to sail from one end to the other? A map I found says it’s 21 km long; that’s a bit over ten miles. According to one website, the speed of a modern sailing cruiser is about 7 knots (=nautical miles, = 1.15 statute/land miles). I once sailed from Olcott, NY to Youngstown, NY, at the mouth of the Niagara river, and I’m pretty sure we were hitting about 10 knots. I remember this because the skipper was extremely pleased at the speed his boat was making, but that was perhaps a faster-than-average boat. Anyway, even at five knots, a 10-12 mile trip could be done in two hours. This means Jesus could have embarked from Caphernaum in the morning, sailed to Gadara, expelled Legion, and easily have been back by the late afternoon, with time to spare. So if folks saw him set out in the morning, it would not have been unusual for them to expect him back by nightfall. Why does this matter? It really doesn’t in any truly significant way, but it’s interesting to note that it is within the realm of probability, unlike Mark Chapter 3 when Jesus’ family walks twenty miles from Nazareth to take him home from Caphernaum. This, I suspect, is part of the reason that people suppose Mark wasn’t familiar with the geography of Galilee, although this episode is entirely possible if Jesus & family actually lived in Caphernaum. It’s also interesting to note that only Luke has this little bit of the story. Does it imply that Luke was familiar with the geography of Galilee? That would be a reasonable conclusion, but it could also be something he picked up from his source. Or, he could have just included this without knowing whether or not it was possible. You see, it’s hard to draw firm conclusions from so much of this stuff.

FWIW: I found another map, and it appears that Gadara had a good harbor at the south end of the lake.

40 Cum autem rediret Iesus, excepit illum turba; erant enim omnes exspectantes eum.

41 καὶ ἰδοὺ ἦλθεν ἀνὴρ ᾧ ὄνομα Ἰάϊρος, καὶ οὗτος ἄρχων τῆς συναγωγῆς ὑπῆρχεν, καὶ πεσὼν παρὰ τοὺς πόδας [τοῦ] Ἰησοῦ παρεκάλει αὐτὸν εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ,

42 ὅτι θυγάτηρ μονογενὴς ἦν αὐτῷ ὡς ἐτῶν δώδεκα καὶ αὐτὴ ἀπέθνῃσκεν. Ἐν δὲ τῷ ὑπάγειν αὐτὸν οἱ ὄχλοι συνέπνιγον αὐτόν.

And look, there came a mane named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue was there, and falling beside his (Jesus’) feet he asked him to come to his home, (42) that his only-born daughter to him was as twelve years (old) and she was dying. In the leading him (in leading Jesus to Jairus’ home) the crow pressed him.  

This is interesting.  Luke invented the whole detail of the crowd waiting for Jesus; doing so filled two needs for the coming story. The first is to allow Jairus to be present; the second is to provide the crowd as the backdrop needed for the story of the Bleeding Woman. This is what I mean about Luke being a novelist; doing this he displays an economy of words that is a hallmark of a good storyteller, or of a good writer in general. 

Now, circling back to the bit about being able to sail from Gadara and back in a single day, we have the crowd. As mentioned, the trip to Gadara was most likely a two-to-three hour affair. As such, it’s possible to have done the trip and returned by the not-late afternoon; however, evening is more likely. And yet, this crowd does not seem to behave as if it were already evening. So the realism of the sailing time sort of goes out the window very quickly. This, I suppose, could be an example of the famous “editorial fatigue”, in which the person copying the story finds it too tiresome to continue with the editing/updating after a sentence or two. I mean, that quill, or stylus was soooooo heavy! The real implication, I think, is that the realism of the sailing time was more illusory than actual. Or perhaps “accidental” is the better term.

41 Et ecce venit vir, cui nomen Iairus, et ipse princeps synagogae erat, et cecidit ad pedes Iesu rogans eum, ut intraret in domum eius,

42 quia filia unica erat illi fere annorum duodecim, et haec moriebatur. Et dum iret, a turbis comprimebatur.

43 καὶ γυνὴ οὖσα ἐν ῥύσει αἵματος ἀπὸ ἐτῶν δώδεκα, ἥτις [ἰατροῖς προσαναλώσασα ὅλον τὸν βίον] οὐκ ἴσχυσεν ἀπ’ οὐδενὸς θεραπευθῆναι,

44 προσελθοῦσα ὄπισθεν ἥψατο τοῦ κρασπέδου τοῦ ἱματίου αὐτοῦ, καὶ παραχρῆμα ἔστη ἡ ῥύσις τοῦ αἵματος αὐτῆς.

And there was being a woman in a discharge of blood for twelve years, who, [having wasted her whole life on physicians] was not made strong (i.e., healthy) by anyone to be healed, (44) having come close she touched the hem of his robe, and immediately stopped (lit = ‘stood‘) the discharge of her blood. (or, ‘her discharge of blood‘; this would be more literal)

I’m largely stopping here to comment on the  bit in [brackets]. This part is in Mark, but not Matthew. And apparently it’s not in all mss traditions of Luke, which is what the brackets are meant to indicate. The KJV includes it as part of the text, as does the ESV, but the NASB and the NIV do not. That the KJV includes it probably indicates that the mss available at that time included the words. Indeed, the Vulgate below includes the bracketed phrase. That it was later suspected of being an interpolation is why mss traditions are so important, even if they are almost exclusively the province of specialists. That the Vulgate includes the phrase indicates that it crept in a long time ago. Some copyist was trying to align this version more closely with Mark’s version. The basic point, of course, is that human knowledge, or even the knowledge of pagan physicians who relied on pagan gods, could not compare to the power of the  the real God, as god had come to be defined in the Hebrew tradition. That being said, this is pretty much a straightforward story of a wonder-worker. Whether we like it or not, the early, non-Pauline, tradition of Jesus was that this is what he was. At least, that’s what Mark tells us. 

43 Et mulier quaedam erat in fluxu sanguinis ab annis duodecim, quae in medicos erogaverat omnem substantiam suam nec ab ullo potuit curari;

44 accessit retro et tetigit fimbriam vestimenti eius, et confestim stetit fluxus sanguinis eius.

45 καὶ εἶπεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Τίς ὁ ἁψάμενός μου; ἀρνουμένων δὲ πάντων εἶπεν ὁ Πέτρος, Ἐπιστάτα, οἱ ὄχλοι συνέχουσίν σε καὶ ἀποθλίβουσιν.

And Jesus said, “Who is it who touched me?” (With) everyone denying, Peter said, “Overstander (master), the crowds hold you and press tightly on you”.

Need to stop for a couple of vocabulary notes. First, the word “Overstander”. That is a literal translation of the root word + prefix; although “stander-upon” might be even more literal. Luke uses this word a total of seven times, all of them in the gospel. No one else uses it. The other thing worth noting is that the Vulgate recognizes that this is not the usual “kyrios” or “despotes”, and provides rather an unusual word in “praeceptor”. This most commonly means “teacher”. So why the odd word? Of course, there’s no answer to that question.

The other word is the one rendered as “press”. I call this out because it’s part of the root of the word that is often translated as “persecution”. The “apo” prefix appears to add the sense of “tightly”. And I should point out that the Great Scott does give “persecute” as one of the meanings of the root “thlipsos”. However, the examples cited there do not quite get across the sense of a group being “persecuted” in the way that we conceive the word. Now, some of that may be historical; such persecutions for a set of beliefs was actually quite rare in the ancient world with its tendency towards syncretism. The prevailing attitude was that different peoples worshipped the same god, but used different names. Hence Tacitus says that the chief god of the Germania was Mercury, the closest Roman counterpart to Wotan/Woden/Odin. (There is a whole speculative literature on how Wotan supplanted Donner/ Thor as the chief god. Thor was, after all, the sky god, the wielder of thunder the was Zeus did.) This is part of the reason that I have trouble believing that the persecutions of Christians–as we understand the concept–was anything widespread or systemic, and it was largely done on political, rather than religious, grounds; however, trying to separate those terms in the first few centuries of the Common Era is horribly anachronistic. The aspect to bear in mind is that such persecution as Christians faced was due to their refusal to participate in the emperor cult. This, in turn, was held to be more akin to treason than to religious dissent, although Christians were accused of atheism from time to time. So much depends on reference and perspective.

45 Et ait Iesus: “Quis est, qui me tetigit? ”. Negantibus autem omnibus, dixit Petrus: “Praeceptor, turbae te comprimunt et affligunt”.

46 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Ηψατό μού τις, ἐγὼ γὰρ ἔγνων δύναμιν ἐξεληλυθυῖαν ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ.

But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I felt the power go out of me.” 

This has always fascinated me. The power acted independently of Jesus’ will to use it. The power acted of its own accord. What does that mean? How do we interpret this statement? In my hardly exhaustive search of the various commentaries at BibleHub I found a marvelous dancing around in the discussion–or lack thereof–of this part of the verse. Obviously, this story and that of Jairus are examples of the faith that can move mountains, but this little detail hints at something else. To me, it says that the power is somehow a separate entity from Jesus. This, in turn, makes Jesus an agent of God, rather than God himself. It has been argued, at least from the time of Calvin, that Jesus knew, and willed, the power to go out of him because he knew the woman was about to touch him; there is a certain logic behind this, but that’s not what the text says. Of course, what it says and what it means are not always the same thing, either. But to me, this wording  hints at the Adoptionism that is often lurking just beneath the surface of Mark’s narrative.

Now, that Luke left this part in the story is the sort of thing that a Q proponent should be raising to support the case that Luke was unaware of Matthew. After all, the latter removed this from his version, as well as making his version significantly shorter than Mark’s, and still shorter than Luke’s version. I suggested that Matthew took this out for more or less the reasons I’ve suggested: that it was a bad look, it carries implications that don’t sit well ir Jesus was God from before the time of his human conception. As such, Matthew took the proper course by removing this from his story. And you know, if the Q people posed this argument, I would have some trouble in refuting it because it does not seem consistent with Jesus’ thoroughgoing divinity. But the Q people don’t present this as an argument. Instead, they tout the “masterful arrangement” of Matthew and claim that only a fool or a madman would mangle this arrangement. That is not an argument. And it’s not even valid, since it poses a false dichotomy that there can’t be other reasons for rearranging the material.

46 At dixit Iesus: “ Tetigit me aliquis; nam et ego novi virtutem de me exisse”.

47 ἰδοῦσα δὲ ἡ γυνὴ ὅτι οὐκ ἔλαθεν τρέμουσα ἦλθεν καὶ προσπεσοῦσα αὐτῷ δι’ ἣν αἰτίαν ἥψατο αὐτοῦ ἀπήγγειλεν ἐνώπιον παντὸς τοῦ λαοῦ καὶ ὡς ἰάθη παραχρῆμα.

48 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῇ, Θυγάτηρ, ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε: πορεύου εἰς εἰρήνην.

The woman seeing that she did not escape notice, trembling, came and fell before him to tell through which cause she touched him before the whole people how she had been healed immediately. (48) And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you, go forth in peace”.

Notice the difference in vocabulary between what Jesus says and what the woman says. The latter says she was healed immediately; Jesus says her faith has saved her. This goes back to the meaning of “saved” in the NT. Of course, for later Christians, saved has a very specific meaning. And fact, the most common translation of this is not “saved”, but “healed” or “made you well”. Why is that? I’ve been reading a lot more pagan Greek lately, and the word here, “sōzō” << σωζω >> which means “to save”, almost always means “to save one’s life”. That is obviously the meaning here; the question is when is it appropriate to take it in the later Christian sense of being “saved”. What are the clues? What is the context? I do not think this has been fully worked out, just as the clues and context for translated “psyche” as “soul” rather than “physical life” have truly been defined. Rather, the instances have been determined, and agreed upon, but it’s very much on an “everyone knows/agrees” basis. To complicate this question further, the Vulgate below choses “salvam“, “saved”. So what does that tell us about the underlying Greek word? Probably it tells us that the Latin word is just about as ambiguous–from our 21st Century perspective–as it’s Greek counterpart.

As a final note, the last verse has garnered some attention as being slightly unusual. Supposedly this is the only instance in which someone is addressed as “daughter”. This would make me wonder if the term was coming into use in later Christian communities as they were growing hierarchical. It’s not a huge thing, but it anything unusual is worth noting. All the same, we need to bear in mind that Luke is one for unusual vocabulary. The bit about going in peace, however, has a slightly different twist. The word is used many times in the NT, starting with Paul. But, it is used exactly once by Mark, and it’s in the context of this story. So the question becomes, can we take that unusual word in Mark as perhaps indicating that this expression did, in fact, go back to Jesus? We can never be sure of this, but we can be sure–reasonably so, at least–that it was an old part of the story, imbedded as it was in the account that Mark heard and repeated, and that Luke retained where Matthew did not; Matthew retained the use of “daughter” as a form of address, but he left out the injunction that she go in peace. Why Luke and not Matthew? We will never know Luke’s reasons for doing so. Perhaps he felt it may have been spoken by Jesus. Recall that Luke was definitely aware of Paul and his career, which we cannot say about Matthew. Did Luke’s familiarity make this word resonate? 

47 Videns autem mulier quia non latuit, tremens venit et procidit ante eum et ob quam causam tetigerit eum indicavit coram omni populo et quemadmodum confestim sanata sit.

48 At ipse dixit illi: “Filia, fides tua te salvam fecit. Vade in pace”.