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”.

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 November 5, 2017, in Chapter 8, gospel commentary, gospels, Luke's Gospel, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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