(Edited with additional headings and discussion of the different kinds of Jesus portrayed - an hour after original posting.) (Again edited 8 Dec 2011)
As someone rightfully said in relation to my earlier post on this theme, Matthew’s “Misunderstanding” of Mark’s Miracle Stories,
It’s interesting what you can discover when you closely compare the two. Nothing beats a close reading of the texts.
In discussion following a recent post the question was raised why Matthew lacks Mark’s reference to Jairus being a synagogue ruler. (He also omits the name Jairus).
I don’t know if I have a definitive answer to that particular question, but in searching for possible explanations I did notice a number of other interesting differences between the two miracle narratives that indicate quite different agendas of the two authors. One detects not an interest in recording historical detail but in creating a Jesus who fulfils certain quite different expectations and narrative functions. (This is a tendency well known to historical Jesus scholars. But the implications for historicism or mythicism is a separate question from what I am addressing here. I am interested in understanding the nature of the Gospels more fully, in this instance by comparing the way two of them treat a particular narrative.)
The first thing Matthew appears to do is remove all of Mark’s implicit ambiguity over whether Jairus’s daughter was really dead or had only just appeared to die and was still recoverable. Matthew removes all doubt. Jairus’s daughter was dead. So when Jesus performed a miracle there was no doubt it was a genuine miracle. When Matthew does fit in one reference to “sleeping” it is much more evident that Jesus is speaking metaphorically.
Further, when Jesus is on his way to raise the young girl, the two evangelists portray a very different Jesus. Mark’s Jesus is confused when he feels power drain from him as a woman touched his garment to be healed and has to ask who touched him. Matthew’s Jesus is in full control at all times.
A number of scholars have thought Mark’s attribution of Aramaic words to Jesus in order to command the girl to rise is consistent with popular story telling techniques that include strange-sounding words to convey the impression of a special formula to perform miracles. If Matthew understood Mark’s Aramaic phrase in the same way then we may have a reason for him to omit it. Matthew’s Jesus is not to be associated with ritual formulas or anything approaching them because he heals with power in an instant.
As for the removal of the synagogue reference by Matthew, I have suggested some possible explanations in the table below. One difference between Mark’s and Matthew’s gospels is Mark’s emphasis on the distinction between the Jewish and Gentile regions that Jesus criss crosses between, usually across the lake (or “sea”). But Matthew’s Jesus stresses to his disciples that they must confine their ministry to the land of Israel. In Mark, the synagogue reference appeared to have served to emphasize the Jewishness of the area where Jesus was after returning from a gentile area associated with things unclean: pigs and tombs. (The details are discussed in my post The Story of Jesus: History or Theology? Did Matthew wish to remove any suggestion that Jesus was alternating between the two peoples in his early ministry?
Even if so, that does not really seem adequate to me to explain a removal of the reference to the synagogue in this scene. Perhaps Matthew simply wanted to remove any association of uncleanness with synagogues. The synagogue ruler is housing a corpse, after all, and on his way Jesus and the crowd are interrupted by a bleeding woman.
In support of this latter suggestion is Matthew’s removal altogether of Mark’s story of the demon in the synagogue at Capernaum. (That this is a deliberate choice by Mathew and not an oversight is supported by Matthew’s maintaining the same number of total exorcisms as Mark by doubling the number of Gardarene demoniacs. See the miracle patterns set out at textavation.)
One consequence of this is that Matthew enhances the drama of the scene of the father of the young girl worshiping Jesus. The man is a “ruler” who worships Jesus, thus enhancing again the status of Jesus. Mark’s Jairus did not worship Jesus but fell at his feet begging instead.
|22And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue,||18While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler||An anachronism is removed (Palestinian synagogues only had one rule); Mark’s ongoing demarcation between Jewish and Gentile areas of ministry (in this case the Jewish area is indicated by the synagogue) is removed; Matthew is consistent in removing references or scenes in Mark that associate synagogues with uncleanness, whether from demons, blood or a corpse.|
|Jairus by name;||symbolic name (Jairus means “wakens”) related to sleep rather than death is removed|
|and when he saw him, he fell at his feet, 23And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.||, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live.||Falling at Jesus’ feet (begging) is replaced by worship, and the act is made more notable by a “ruler” worshiping Jesus; Near-death is replaced by death.|
|24And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him.||19And Jesus arose, and followed him, and so did his disciples.|
|25And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, 26And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse, 27When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment.||20And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment:||Mark’s superfluous rambling comments attacking the doctors are removed.|
|28For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.||21For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.|
|29And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.||The suggestion that the woman healed herself by touching Jesus who knew nothing of it is removed.|
|30And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?||Any suggestion that Jesus did not know what had happened to him is removed. Any suggestion that someone could manipulate the power of Jesus (unknowingly to Jesus) is removed.|
|31And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?|
|32And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing. 33But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth. 34And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.||22But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.||The woman is only healed when Jesus himself declared her healed.|
|35While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further?||Ambiguities about the dead status of the girl are removed. Mark was adhering closely to his source in 2 Kings that had this second message arriving to meet Elisha on his way to raise the boy, and Matthew is removed from that source and more able to streamline the narrative.|
|36As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe.||In Matthew Jesus’ ability to perform miracles does not depend (as in Mark) on the faith of others.|
|37And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James.||Mark’s preparation to make the miracle a secret is removed.|
|38And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly.||23And when Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise,|
|39And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth. 40And they laughed him to scorn . . .||24He said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn.|
|. . . But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying. 41And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. 42And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment.||25But when the people were put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose.||Any possible suggestion that Jesus’ used special words or chant to heal is removed. Jesus is all-powerful (without any effort or need for formulas) and merely touches one to raise her from the dead. The age of the daughter is also omitted thus removing an overkill on the symbolic use of this number — compare the removal of the symbolic name Jairus. (Added 8th Dec. 2011)
|43And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat.||26And the fame hereof went abroad into all that land.||Mark’s secrecy theme is replaced by Jesus fame being declared openly far and wide.|