The Two Miracle Days.
Matthew 8:1 – 9:34.
Overview of the report of Matthew and ancillary accounts.
The two days, on the first of which even the Sermon on the Mount is held, are true miracle days, not only in the sense that they are distinguished by miracles from others, but also because they must have been of a wondrous nature themselves, since it would have been impossible for Jesus otherwise to perform so many extraordinary miracles in a time that must appear disproportionately short.
As Jesus descends from the mountain after the sermon, a leper asks him for healing, and he immediately cleanses him of his leprosy. Like a triumphator, the envoy of God descends from the mountain into the plain and the city: there, on the height of the mountain, he has called the laws of the kingdom of heaven far beyond the earth, and now, accompanied by the admiring crowd, he descends to take possession of the earth by blessing, saving, and healing through compassionate deeds. Upon entering Capernaum, a centurion asks him (Matthew 8:5) to heal his servant, and Jesus heals him from a distance. Upon entering the house of Peter, he sees his mother-in-law lying ill with fever; moved with pity, he immediately heals her, and when all sorts of sick people were brought to him in the evening, he healed them all.
But when he sees the crowd of people, he gives the command to sail to the other side of the lake. On the way to the lake, a scribe wants to join him and tells him what he can expect in the company of the Son of Man; another one of his disciples wants to bury his father before following him, and he tells him that his followers have no contact with the realm of death. Finally, while crossing the lake, a great storm arises, and he calms it with a single word.
As soon as he landed on the other side of the lake, two possessed men immediately met him, whom he freed from the demons, but because of the consequences of this healing, he had to leave the area immediately. Therefore, he returned to Capernaum, healed a paralytic who was immediately brought to him, went to the shore of the lake after a dispute with the Pharisees, called Matthew, and when he followed him immediately and gave a banquet in his house, new conflicts with the Pharisees followed. While he was still talking with his opponents, the ruler Jairus came, asked for the restoration of his daughter who had just died, and Jesus immediately set out for his house. On the way, his garment touched a woman who had suffered from bleeding for twelve years, and when he arrived at the house of mourning, he resurrected the daughter.
As he departed again, two blind men followed him, crying out for help. He healed them, and as soon as they left him, a mute man was brought to him, and he also restored his speech.
If we have given due admiration to these two days, their extraordinary length, and the abundance of miracles they gave rise to, they give us an important hint about the composition of the Gospels. Because even after that, it remains the case that only individual days from the life of Jesus are reported, which are then more or less rich in events, and it finally turns out that we only learn about very few days from the life of the Lord with any precision.
So it is, says Paulus. But he calls out to us when we complain that we do not learn more about such a rich life and are limited to the notes of very few days, is it not “this fact that only full traditions of individual days exist, a sign that such news is drawn from almost contemporary recordings of certain eyewitnesses *)?” So we should not lament the fact that the gospel story is not a portrayal of the life of Jesus, but rather a collection of anecdotes that only inform us about a few days. Rather, we should rejoice that there were eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus who inform us about a couple of days all the more accurately and reliably, since their recordings are almost contemporaneous with the events. “Almost contemporaneous” means in this context that the recordings were written no later than the day after the events, and often, therefore, probably during the night that followed the events.
*) Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, Handbook I, pages 586-587.
But how painful – we cannot be satisfied yet – how sad it is that these so quickly prepared protocol writers have only reported to us about eight to nine days, although there must have been other days that contained enough remarkable events. It was not their fault, Paulus answers, because “on many other days, such observers who could and would write were lacking.” Incomprehensible or rather inexcusable! People who could write and were so willing to do so should have contented themselves with the protocol of one day or at most two days? No one will consider this impossibility possible, at least Paulus will not be able to convince anyone. If there were such diligent writers, they would have been all the more encouraged by the importance of one day to keep a record for the other days as well. But since we find no reliable trace of such diaries, no one will blame us if we doubt that there was even a single one of those protocol writers during the lifetime of Jesus.
Paulus himself must strengthen us in this doubt, since he says that Matthew combines similar events in his account, even if they happened at different times. But how can the apologist make such a claim? He cannot and should not, and at the moment he utters it, he must twist and turn the words in his mouth. Thus, Paulus says, “Matthew tells in categories, not just chronologically.” “Not just:” so also at the same time? Also at the same time when he constructs a priori and combines similar events from the most remote corners? Even the rationalistic apologist – but in reality, all apologists, including the anointed and the faithful, are die-hard rationalists – even the apologist who is by nature rationalistic must come to such monstrous assertions.
Even when Paulus apparently makes an effort to say that Matthew does not tell chronologically, he must speak in such a way that it finally becomes clear that the evangelist tells in a completely chronological way! That “not just” is too powerful. The healing of Peter’s mother-in-law happened much earlier according to the account of Mark and Luke than Matthew indicates. However, Matthew also goes back “from two healings that happened immediately after the Sermon on the Mount, C. 8, 1-13, to the earlier one of Peter’s mother-in-law.” A monstrous regression, if Matthew so clearly presents the visit to Peter’s house as a consequence (v. 14) of the arrival in Capernaum after the Sermon on the Mount *)! In the end, Matthew would have to go back to something earlier if he were to send the leper (C. 8, 1. 2.) to the Lord upon his return from the mountain. At least Paulus would have to claim this, since even Luke – not to mention Mark – lets the healing of that leper happen long before the Sermon on the Mount.
*) 8: 5: είεελθότι δε αυτώ εις Καπερναούμ. V. 14: και ελθων ο Ι. εις την οικίαν Πέτρου.
So already at the beginning and from this instructive dialogue with Paulus, it has become clear to us that Matthew arrived at the rich content of these two miracle days because he rearranged the reports of his predecessors and connected what they had separated and assigned to different times. As in all these cases, the proof is simply established by presenting the facts. First, we consider the beginning, middle, and end of the narrative.
On his triumphal procession, as he descends from the mountain in the company of the enthusiastic and numerous crowd, a leper approaches Jesus, who frees him from his affliction. But how can Jesus forbid the healed man to speak about the miracle when the crowd surrounded him as he healed the sick man? In Mark’s account, where Jesus is only wandering in Galilee when the leper coincidentally meets him, this prohibition is natural, and the prohibition can be sternly and seriously pronounced – Jesus threatened him and immediately drove him away **) – and, by way of contrast, one expects the result that the healed man nevertheless spoke a great deal about the matter and made the story known ***). Although Matthew omits that threat because he must, as the crowd is present, he cannot eliminate one thing: Jesus’ prohibition altogether; he must keep this thing and thereby provide us with evidence that he has misplaced the story from its true context to a very unsuitable place.
**) Mark 1:43: και εμβριμησάμενος αυτω, ευθέως εξέβαλεν αυτόν.
***) ο δε εξελθών ήρξατο κηρύσσειν πολλά και διαφημίζει τον λόγον
Furthermore! He has also provided us with the proof that he borrowed this account from Mark. At the end of the two-day work, Jesus heals two blind men – where they come from, we will get to that later! – and when Matthew reports that he threatened and forbade them to speak of the matter, but they went out and made him known everywhere, he uses the same words he found in Mark’s account of the leper, but which he did not need to use when he copied it. He does not want to let the good go to waste *), but he picked up this morsel at the wrong time. That prohibition only makes sense if no one from the crowd is present during the healing, and again only the healed can make the miracle known if the crowd did not see it themselves. This is also the case in Mark’s account of the leper: but Matthew copies the end of this account, even though he must reveal the next moment (9:33), when the blind men had gone out and the dumb man was brought to him, that the usual crowds surrounded Jesus. So why impress on the blind men that prohibition so strongly when the crowd saw the miracle, and why did those men have to chatter first to make their healing known when the crowd had already witnessed the miracle?
*) Matth. 9, 30. 31: και ενεβριμήσατο αυτοίς ο Ι. λ. οράτε, μηδείς γινωσκέτω, οι δε εξελθόντες διαφήμισαν αυτόν.
No one writes like this, and no one gets so lost in their own writing if they have freely conceived the plan of a historical presentation in their head and independently elaborated on the details according to this plan: only a compiler writes like this, who has the works of his predecessors lying on the table on both sides and cannot even overcome them to the extent that he does not get lost in the most glaring contradictions.
Only Matthew could shape the center and turning point of the two-day work as he did. Where does the second day begin? Matthew does not tell us. He does report that in the evening when Jesus had come into Peter’s house, he healed all kinds of sick people. But when he continues (Ch. 8, 18) that Jesus, when he saw the crowd around him, gave the command to cross to the other side of the sea and immediately crossed over, and when it continues in one go that he met the two demon-possessed men over there, returned and continued his miracle-working here, if there is nowhere that shows where a night could be inserted, what follows? Firstly, that the two miraculous days become even more wonderful in a third sense – they are two days that immediately followed each other and were not separated by any night. Another consequence is the complete certainty that Matthew also connected something foreign in the middle here and thereby caused this extraordinary accumulation of miracles. Nothing but a keyword, which he finds in two places next to Mark – at the third place it was too closely connected with another event and could not mislead it, Mark 6:47 – nothing but the keyword “when it was evening,” led him into this confusion. Just now, Matthew had written to Mark the news that Jesus had healed the sick “when it was evening” who were brought to him at Peter’s house *): instead of continuing to transcribe that Jesus got up very early and went into the desert, Mark 1:35 – but he couldn’t do that either because he was far beyond the story of the leper, which now follows in Mark 1:40 – he readily moves forward to another place in his predecessor’s writing, where he also finds the formula “when it was evening” and where Jesus in the evening avoids the crowd of people and gives the command to cross over to the other side *), Mark 4:35 – of course, we must add – that even Mark has let himself go at this point, he has let himself go too much, since he also lets Jesus cross over to the other side of the river in the evening, sends the demon-possessed men to him over there, lets him immediately return, sends the crowd back to him on this side and connects the raising of Jairus’ daughter and the healing of the woman with the issue of blood with his arrival on this side, Mark 4:35-5:43. Mark also made a mistake and attached a long series of events to Jesus’ evening departure without mentioning that it had become night, but at least where Matthew first found the formula “when it was evening” in his writing, he did not fail to note that and under what circumstances a night had passed. In addition, he has the important advantage that he already knows that Jesus is in the boat (Ch. 4:36) when he gives the command to cross over, whereas it is incomprehensible to Matthew how Jesus suddenly comes up with the idea of escaping the crowd by boat.
*) Matthew 8:16, Mark 1:32: οψιας γενομενης
*) Mark 4, 35: και λεγει αυτοις . . . . οψιας γενομενης διελθωμεν εις το περαν. και αφεντες τον οχλον . . . Matth. 8, 18: ιδων δε ο Ιησους πολλους οχλους περι αυτον εκελευσεν απελθειν εις το περαν
Yes, in Matthew’s account it is not even clear why Jesus found it necessary to leave Capernaum when he saw the crowds (C. 8, 18.). He had just healed the sick, as the evangelist adds (v. 17.), so that the prophecy would be fulfilled: “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.” So why did he withdraw from the work that the spirit of prophecy had already entrusted to him? Why? It is inexplicable. Only in Mark is there a reason when Jesus left early in the morning, after healing all kinds of sick people in the evening. He is only a guest in Capernaum and to fulfill his task of preaching the gospel to neighboring towns, he moves on (Mark 1:38-39). The other time when he was already in the boat when he sailed to the other side, he had done enough, taught the people, and had nothing else to do for the day (Mark 4:35-36).
We could have told you from the beginning that two days, on one of which the Sermon on the Mount was delivered, never existed and cannot belong to real history; but we have now provided proof of this statement ourselves, from the nature of the present section. However, we have lost all desire to welcome the apologist who would have sent us a good load of heavenly fire for this “assertion” right at the beginning of our work, now that we have proved this statement from the nature of the present section itself. Not only those diligent yet again so lazy scribes of whom Paulus speaks, but also the two days that were so fortunate to find an observer who “could and would” write, never existed. Only Matthew created these two days through a failed compilation of the information from his predecessors. —-
If he had only really compiled similar material, he could have confused the chronology of his predecessors as much as he wanted or needed for his purpose! But he not only did not do that, he also interrupted the objective order and unity of thought that he found particularly in Mark’s scripture at an important point.
We will not dwell on the fact that he places the healing of the leper before the miracle of Peter’s mother-in-law and before the healing of the crowd of sick people in Capernaum, or that he generally links these miracles so closely to the crossing of the sea and the healing of the two Gadarenes. This combination would not have much significance or justification, as long as the connected events consist of pure miracles, although there would already be an error in placing the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law too late, as it is supposed to serve, according to the original type, to strengthen the bond between Jesus and Capernaum.
We will not dwell any longer on the fact that in between the command to cross the sea and the actual entering of the boat in Matthew 8:19-22, there are two verses about true discipleship from Luke 9:57-60 inserted, which interrupt the flow of the narrative too much.
Instead, we will point out that in the midst of this series of miracle reports, Matthew has inserted the account of clashes with the Pharisees that Mark had developed as a separate unit, and not even fully inserted, but distributed to various places. According to Mark’s account, Jesus leaves Peter’s house, where he had entered for the first time, and travels around Galilee, heals the leper, but has to stay in the wilderness when the news of the miracle spreads. Only after several days does he return to Capernaum. Here the contrast with the Pharisees arises immediately, which gradually intensifies on the occasion of Jesus’ entire appearance and breaks out into open accusation. To a paralytic who is brought to him immediately upon his return to the city, Jesus says, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” Then some scribes who happened to be present said to themselves, “Why does he talk like this? He’s blaspheming.” (Mark 2:7) This is followed by the banquet at Levi’s, who had just been called, and the scribes and Pharisees immediately ask Jesus’ disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Matthew 2:16) The Pharisees’ fasting and the disciples of John give rise to the following discussion about new wine and old wineskins. Now the Pharisees even have the opportunity to observe how Jesus allows his disciples to break the Sabbath and, when they drew his attention to it, he rebuked them. They even spy on him at another opportunity, to see if he will keep the Sabbath holy, so that they can accuse him (Luke 6:2). He breaks the Sabbath, and they immediately conspire to destroy him. Jesus has to withdraw to the sea, but when the people flock to him, he heals a great number of sick people and is also recognized by the demons. When he returns home after choosing the Twelve, the scribes from Jerusalem are already there, and they now openly come forward with the accusation that he has Beelzebul, and by the prince of demons he drives out demons (Matthew 12:22).
Now, after Mark reports that Jesus, after those collisions, went back to the sea and taught the people in parables, comes the command of Jesus to sail to the other side, the story of the stilling of the storm, the healing of the demoniac in the country of the Gadarenes, and after returning to CapernauAre you anyway we’ll see what happens yeahm, the raising of Jairus’ daughter and the healing of the woman with the issue of blood (Mark 4:35-5:43).
How Matthew came to link the command to sail to the other side with the first visit to Peter’s house, we have already seen: enough, Jesus drives out the demons from two possessed men over there in the land of the Gadarenes and returns to Capernaum, forced by the inhabitants of the shore. But here he cannot immediately meet the crowd that awaited him, nor Jairus. Why? Because Matthew has something else to report before that. When Jesus returned to Capernaum from the journey he took after the first visit to Peter’s house, they brought him the paralytic and the collision with the Pharisees ensued. This and the following events must be reported by Matthew now. On the other hand, he must report at this moment a completely different return of Jesus, which was forced upon him by the Gadarenes on a different occasion. Two entries into Capernaum have become one under his hand: what is left for him to do? He must hurry and not delay the second entry too long. That is, he cannot bring all the complications that Mark follows with the first return to Capernaum here so that Jairus can come out soon enough with his request that he entrusted to the Lord on the occasion of the second return. Therefore, Matthew omits everything from the Sabbath disputes to the accusation of a covenant with the devil, to bring it up later in a different context, and as soon as he brings the Lord to the conversation about new wine and old wineskins, he sends the ruler Jairus to him. As a transition to the new miracle story, he even uses a formula that in Mark’s account introduces not Jairus but his servant, who brings him the news of his daughter’s death*). “While the Lord was still speaking,” namely to the woman with the issue of blood, these servants come with their message, after Jairus had only asked the Lord to heal his dying daughter (Mark 5:35). Matthew sends Jairus to Jesus after the death of his daughter, and “while he was still speaking,” namely about new wine and old wineskins, the grieving father comes to him with the request that he may raise his daughter who had just died. In Mark’s account, that transitional formula is in its place since it leads from one miracle – the healing of the woman with the issue of blood – to the point where – through the now occurred death of the girl – the demand for the other miracle reaches its peak. In Matthew’s account, however, it links two completely unrelated circles, the conflict with the Pharisees and the miraculous activity that the Lord developed when he had to leave the land of the Gadarenes over there. But this link is all the more inappropriate since it cuts the former circle, the image of his entanglements with the Pharisees, in the middle and had to push the other half to a later location.
*) Mark 5, 35: ετι αυτου λαλουντος. Matth. 9, 18 : ταυτα αυτου λαλουντος.
Finally, let us note that in Matthew’s account, after the raising of Jairus’ daughter, two closely connected healings follow, namely, the healing of the two blind men and the healing of the mute man. However, in the latter, the presence of the crowd is assumed, which is excluded in the former (C. 9, 31, 33.). Thus, our general overview of this presentation of the two-day work is concluded: not only are foreign circles compressed in it, but also miracles are piled up that originally belong to very different contexts.
Luke, in terms of composition, has remained more faithful to the type of holy history formed by Mark. When he motivates Jesus’ move to Capernaum by the unbelief of the people of Nazareth, he takes his predecessor’s account completely. Jesus teaches in the synagogue of Capernaum, heals the demoniac, Peter’s mother-in-law, and the sick crowd in the evening. In the morning, he sets out to proclaim the gospel in other cities and, after calling Peter on the journey, he heals a leper in one of those cities. Now, while he does not let Jesus return to Capernaum, and forgets to specify the situation of what follows, he does follow the sequence of complications with the Pharisees (Chapters 4, 31 – 6, 11). However, he does not reproduce them entirely, but separates the main charge of the whole, the open accusation of the devil’s alliance, and moves it to another place (Chapter 11, 14). He could not bring it up here, for Jesus’ retreat into solitude at the lake and the selection of the twelve, which, according to Mark’s account, precedes the open attack of the Pharisees, had been reworked for the occasion of the Sermon on the Mount. And now, having already deviated considerably from his predecessor’s type, and unable to connect the discourse on the devil’s alliance, he uses his current emancipation to insert even more material from his own resources into that type. He behaves in fact extraordinarily audacious, as audacious as profane historians may never venture to. After the discourse that Matthew turned into the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord goes to Capernaum, and at the entrance to the city, a centurion, through his friends, asks for help for his dead sick servant. Then follows the miracle at Nain, the message of the Baptist, and the meal at the house of the Pharisee Simon. After these digressions, Luke finally returns to his predecessor’s account, Jesus delivers the parable of the sower, crosses over to the land of the Gadarenes, and after returning, helps Jairus and the woman with the issue of blood (Chapter 8, 1-56).
So, it is clear that the Sermon on the Mount is mainly responsible for breaking the original type of holy history formed by Mark. It caused Luke to deviate from Mark later on, while Matthew rushed to share it as quickly as possible, to explain why the people were amazed at the Lord’s teaching at the beginning of his work. And so, it happened that he was forced to pile up a multitude of miracles and remarkable entanglements in one place, in order not to fall behind his predecessors.
That’s it for the overview! The specifics of the particular pragmatism of the three accounts, and the changes that the original type underwent through its later editors, will be taught to us by examining each one in detail.