Daily Archives: 2011-07-12 20:58:13 UTC

Jesus out-spitting the emperor

An interesting thing happened to me while I was on my way to write this post this evening. (I was intending to expand on the discussion relating to another post but now have something much more interesting to write about.) I saw a reference online to a scholarly article that was suggesting that Mark’s account of Jesus’ healing the blind man by spitting on him may have been written in response to the rumour circulating that Vespasian had not long before performed the same miracle by spitting. Was Mark drawing the readers’ attention to a contrast between Vespasian using the miracle to declare his universal authority and Jesus using it to lead into his message about humble service?

Eric Eve of Oxford had the article published in New Testament Studies in 2008, titled “Spit in your eye: the blind man of Bethsaida and the blind man of Alexandria“.

Eric Eve knows scholars have offered multiple reasons to consider the story a fiction: read more »

Reasons to entertain a smidgen of doubt about Jesus raising the daughter of Jairus

Is this story a unique historical event that was related by eyewitnesses or do we have evidence that the author was basing this narrative on a similar story or stories well known to him? What is the more rational belief: that the dead rise or that authors imitate and adapt stories well known to them?

2 Kings 4:8-37

Mark 5:21-43

The woman grasps Elisha by the feet

Jairus falls at the feet of Jesus

Her son has just died

His daughter is at the point of death

The mother has faith all will be well

The father has faith all will be well

While Elisha and the mother are travelling to the child Elisha’s servant brings news that the child is dead.

While Jesus and the father are walking to the child Jairus’ servants bring news that the child is dead.

Elisha makes himself alone in the room with the child.

Jesus puts all the others out of the room so only he and his closest associates are with the child.

Elisha makes physical contacts with the child and he is restored to life

Jesus takes the child by the hand and she is restored to life

The woman responds with worship

The parents are amazed.

There’s more

John Shelby Spong observes even additional points of contact between the stories than I have listed there, such as the fact that in both cases the one requesting the healing had to travel some distance to find Elisha/Jesus who was walking that way, and that there were delays in each case before their arrival.

See also another set of details set out in a table on Michael Turton’s commentary.

Uncharacteristic control over crowds

While imitating the Elisha story the author of Mark’s gospel has found it necessary to break his habit of showing Jesus at the mercy of crowds. Until now Jesus has been forced out into the wilderness or into a boat because of crowds flocking to see him (1:45; 3:9). But with the Elisha story as his template he now has Jesus quite capably commanding the crowds not to follow him on his way to Jairus’ house (5:37) and once there he even “puts” others out of a room (5:40) so he and his closest can be alone with the child.

Some people experienced with crowd management issues might consider Jesus’ crowd control demonstrations a greater miracle than raising the dead. read more »

Reasons not to doubt the historicity of Jesus raising the daughter of Jairus

In Chapter 7, I give reasons why there should be no doubt that the whole of this healing narrative [the raising of the daughter of Jairus in Mark 5] is literally true, and that it is dependent ultimately on an eyewitness account by one of the inner circle of the three of the Twelve, who were present throughout, and who accordingly heard and transmitted exactly what Jesus said. (p. 109 of Jesus of Nazareth by Maurice Casey; a footnote here directs the reader to pages 268-69 in that chapter 7.)

Things about Jesus in the Gospels that are “literally true” — that is what this historical Jesus scholar believes he can establish. Not only that, Casey will give reasons why there should be no doubt that we find this healing recorded in the Gospels because of the direct eyewitness testimony of one of Jesus’ own disciples. read more »