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

Text

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 TheBible.org* 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 TheBible.org 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.

 

* https://thebible.org. 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.

 

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 18, 2017, in Chapter 8, gospel commentary, gospels, Luke's Gospel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: