Daily Archives: 2011-11-08 17:45:22 GMT+0000

Why Jesus healed the leper in anger — another explanation?

The second healing miracle in the Gospel of Mark was that of the leper.

And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with anger (orgistheis), put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. (Mark 1:40-41)

Most Bible translations follow manuscripts that read splanchistheis, meaning compassion, in place of orgistheis (anger) for obvious reasons. But the authors of Matthew and Luke who copied Mark here omit this word, strongly suggesting that what they found in the original also sounded offensive to them.

And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.  And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. (Matthew 8:2-3)

I don’t think the Gospel of Mark was written in some sort of relationship with Marcionism.  But a comment about the motives for Jesus healing people that I came across in Sebastian Moll’s The Arch-Heretic Marcion cannot avoid opening up the question of what might have been behind Mark’s original text.

Moll writes that Jesus healed not so much to help mankind but in order to thumb his nose at the Creator God. (Marcion taught that Jesus came from an Alien God who was all good, a higher God than the Creator God.) He came to defy the creator God who owned mankind and to purchase humans from that god in order to belong to the Good God.

Many parts of Tertullian’s discussion of Marcion’s Gospel demonstrate this. When we consider Christ’s attitude towards the Sabbath for example (Lk. 6:1-11), Marcion believed that Christ attacked the Sabbath “out of hatred” (odio). We can detect a similar notion in the story of the healing of the leper (Lk. 5:12-14). Not with one word does Tertullian mention Christ’s healing of the leper as an act of love or goodness in Marcion’s view. The reason [Marcion] treated this matter “with special attention” (attentius) was rather his wish to emphasise that Christ performed this healing as someone who is “hostile to the Law” (aemulus legis). The term aemulus is particularly interesting in this context, for it is exactly the emotion of aeumulatio (jealousy/resentment) which the Marcionites attribute . . . to the Creator. (pp. 67-8)

As I said, I cannot find any reason to attribute Mark’s gospel to any sort of dialogue with Marcion, but the coincidence of Mark here attributing the attitude of Jesus toward healing as was taught by Marcion is interesting.