Being and Knowing in Messianic Space


von Carolsfeld, woodcut for "Bibel der Bildern" (Image via Wikipedia)

von Carolsfeld, Woodcut for "Bibel der Bildern" (Image via Wikipedia)

The story of Jesus’ raising Jairus’s daughter appears in all three synoptics (Matt 9:18–19, 23–26; Mark 5:21–24, 35–43; Luke 8:41–42, 49–56), but only Mark and Luke report a closing admonition about the event’s further dissemination (Mark 5:43; Luke 8:56). In Luke 8:56, Jesus instruction focuses on the fact that the witnesses, perhaps especially the parents, should not themselves engage in describing what happened. By contrast, in Mark 5:43, Jesus warns those around him ἵνα μηδεὶς γνοῖ τοῦτο (so that no one would know this*).

Certainly, μηδείς (no one) does not have an absolute sense here so that Jesus is envisioning that even those who were present would forget what had happened. Such would hardly make sense in the narrative; rather, the intention seems to be that no one else besides those who were present at the event should know what had happened. Nevertheless, Mark’s crowd has a very clear knowledge that Jairus’s daughter was, in fact, dead (Mark 5:38–40a; France, Mark, 239; Lane, Mark, 196–97; cf. Matt 9:23–24Luke 8:52–53). Therefore, that the girl had been restored to life could scarcely be avoided as a natural conclusion once the crowd became aware that the girl was alive (Brower, “Who Then Is This?” EvQ 81.4 [2009]: 301; France, Mark, 240; Goodacre, “Messianic Secret”; Lane, Mark, 198–199; cf. Jerome, Epist., 108.24 [NPNF2 6:208–9]; Jerome, Jov., 2.17 [NPNF2 6:401]; Theodoret of Cyr, Dial., 2 [NPNF2 3:198]). Consequently, in Mark’s ἵνα μηδεὶς γνοῖ τοῦτο (Mark 5:43; so that no one would know this), τοῦτο (this) seems to focus on how the girl was restored to life (Lane, Mark, 199n77).

Yet, those who are intended not to possess this knowledge are not simply “other people.” They are those who are outside (Mark 5:40). To be sure, they are outside the physical space ὅπου ἦν τὸ παιδίον (Mark 5:40; where the child was), but they are also outside the messianic space within which Jesus has acted and restored the girl to life (Lane, Mark, 197–98; cf. Brower, “Who Then Is This?” 302–3). Even in the interposed healing of the woman with the issue of blood, the woman recognizes that her own healing came about when she touched Jesus’ clothing in the midst of the crowd (Mark 5:29), but those around are not parties the miracle itself (Mark 5:28, 30–32; France, Mark, 237–38; Lane, Mark, 192–93; cf. Brower, “Who Then Is This?” 304). Instead, they have the woman’s testimony of healing from what was probably, on this occasion, a publicly unnoticed condition, and they have Jesus’ interaction with her by which to know what has happened (Mark 5:29–34; cf. Brower, “Who Then Is This?” 303–4; Bruce, “Gospels,” 375; France, Mark, 236–37; Lane, Mark, 191–92). What or how much the crowd or different parts of it (e.g., the disciples) might have recognized regarding Jesus from this interchange isn’t stated in this case. But, the division between “insiders” and “outsiders” becomes even sharper as the narrative’s setting transitions into the physical context of Jairus’s home. Certainly in metaphoric, but perhaps also in somewhat parabolic fashion (cf. Mark 4:11; Lane, Mark, 196–97), Jesus describes the girl as “sleeping” to those who mock and whom he shuts outside (Mark 5:39–40). In Mark, a key component of discipleship is “being with” Jesus (cf. Mark 3:14; 4:11), and to varying degrees, “being with” opens the door to the “inside” of “knowing as” (e.g., Mark 4:11; 5:37, 43; 8:27–30; cf. Ladd, Theology, 179–80). Thus, in this case, being with Jesus allows those in the place where the child was to recognize him as the one who can dispel even another’s death as easily as sleep (Brower, “Who Then Is This?” 301–2, 304–5; cf. Bruce, “Gospels,” 376; France, Mark, 239; Lane, Mark, 199; Wright, Jesus, 191–97).


* Mark’s τοῦτο (this) is presumably equivalent to Luke’s τὸ γεγονός (Luke 8:56; what had happened).

Cross-posted from New Testament Interpretation.

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