§ 34. Arrival on the Other Side

Critique of the Gospel History of the Synoptics
by Bruno Bauer

Volume 2



§ 34.

Arrival on the Other Side.

Matt. 9:1

Matthew combined two departures from Capernaum into one in chapter 8, verse 16, and since he had already reported on the most important event of the first departure – the healing of the leper – he only needed to report on the events of the second departure – the calming of the storm and the healing of the possessed. This was all very easy and could be done without effort, although the evangelist made a mistake when he reported the departure of the Lord. However, the situation became more difficult later when the return to Capernaum had to be reported, as important events followed both departures that now had to be arranged in a way that formed a single sequence. Let’s see if Matthew has overcome the difficulties.


1. The Bringing of the Paralytic.

Matthew 9:1-2.

Jesus had just arrived in Capernaum when a paralyzed man was brought to him on his bed. And seeing “their faith” *), he said, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”

“Their faith!” What did this mean? How did it show itself? We are not told, because the mere fact that they brought the sick man is not so significant and extraordinary in itself that it could testify to their faith and attract Jesus’ special attention. The account of Mark clarifies the matter. When it was heard in Capernaum that the Lord was back home, the crowd immediately gathered, so that there was no room even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Then came the people who carried the paralyzed man on the bed – there were four of them – but because of the crowd, they could not get close to him, so they uncovered the roof where he was and broke it through, and let the sick man down on the bed in front of Jesus. So when he saw their faith **), he said to the paralyzed man, “Take heart, my child, your sins are forgiven!” Luke also portrays the situation in such a way that the carriers did not know how to bring the sick man inside because of the crowd, so they climbed onto the roof and, by removing the tiles, lowered the sick man on the bed down into the midst of the people before Jesus. However, the fact that Luke, who was the later writer and used the account of Mark, could take for granted certain presuppositions found in it as so natural that he forgot to communicate to his readers that Jesus was in a house. The readers must learn the situation from the circumstances later. Only a writer who has the representation of another in front of him, and finds the specific presuppositions given in it present and coherent in his consciousness, tells a story like this, but precisely because they are already too familiar and present to him, he no longer has the need to intelligently process them in his presentation. He was also forgetful this time because he added new elements to the beginning of his report, namely, he noted beforehand that “Pharisees and scribes were sitting there, who had come from every corner of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem, and that the power of the Lord was just right to heal them.” Anyone who engages in so much pragmatism naturally does not find a place for such an insignificant note as that Jesus was in a house, especially if he is a writer who pragmatizes so unluckily. “To heal them!” Αυτους! Who are these “them?” Luke did not say, as he had only mentioned the Pharisees and scribes before, but they had not come to be healed of illnesses, but we do not know why. It is very unlikely that they had come with hostile intentions from the beginning, since the Lord had just appeared and was still unknown to them, and it was only through the bold words, “Son, your sins are forgiven,” that he provoked their resistance. Therefore, Mark mentions them only at the moment when they take offense at the Lord’s boldness. And now the Pharisees and scribes are said to have come from all over Palestine, now that the Lord has barely appeared! Luke wrote down the note after Mark and borrowed it from the beginning of a story, which he does not exclude or at least reproduce in a substantially altered form in his own writing *) — a proof that he already had an approximate plan of the whole in his head at the beginning of his work and already knew what he wanted to change about that story of Mark’s, but also a proof of how an evangelist could err when he partially changed the pragmatism of his predecessor and yet retained the letter. When Mark says, “And the Pharisees came to him, and some of the scribes, who had come from Jerusalem,” he says it in the right place, and we understand how it was possible that the people of Jerusalem now became aware of the Lord. He had soon concluded his Galilean activity, the time of his journey to Jerusalem was not far off, and now it was appropriate for the capital to send its messengers so that the connection with it could be opened. Finally, Luke immediately says at the beginning of his story, “And the Pharisees were sitting there,” without realizing that Jesus, before whom they were sitting, was in a house — but why did he also write down these words from Mark without first indicating the presuppositions that Mark gave the reader *)?

*) έδων την πίστιν αυτών.

**) Mark 2:5: ιδών δε την πίστιν αυτών.

*) Mark 7:1, Luke 11:37. Compare Mark 3:22, Luke 11:15.

*) Mark 2:6: ήσαν δέ τινες των γραμματέων εκεί καθήμενοι. Luke 5:17: και ήσαν καθήμενοι φαρισαίοι.


Let’s return to Matthew. It can no longer be denied that his account lacks an essential motive and that he does not allow us to see the faith of the people that Jesus sees, even though we must see it if the narrative is to be understandable. He has borrowed a transition from Mark’s account – (But when Jesus saw their faith) – but has not touched upon the starting point, that is, he has formed a transition that is nothing less than a transition. He could not proceed otherwise, as it was difficult for him to abandon the literary transition to Jesus’ bold words or to replace it with a new one, and on the other hand, he was not allowed to tell the extraordinary circumstances that gave rise to those words. The carriers are determined to bring the sick man to the Lord despite all obstacles and at this very moment – but why are they in such a hurry? Why do they break through the roof? Does it really have to happen now, and can’t a person with a non-acute illness like paralysis wait a day? No! Because Jesus is only a guest in Capernaum, and if the last time he only stayed one night in Peter’s house and left unnoticed early in the morning, then it is possible that he only stayed one night this time as well, and the sick man had to be brought to him now, had to be brought by all means. But in Matthew’s account, Capernaum has become Jesus’ permanent residence, “his city”, so if it was likely, even certain, that Jesus would stay here for a longer time, then the effort of those people and their recklessness in breaking through the roof would have been very hasty, inappropriate, and inexplicable.


In short, only Mark has made it understandable to us how the Lord could be received upon his return from a journey in such a way that he had cause to be amazed at the people’s faith – but not Matthew.

Now it’s time to move on to the second return!


2. The Request of Jairus.

Matthew 9:18.

Jesus had just been speaking about fasting in the home of the tax collector Matthew when one of the Jewish leaders, whom Mark and Luke call Jairus, comes to him and asks him to bring his daughter, who had just died, back to life. Jesus follows the father to his house and on the way, the woman with the issue of blood is healed by touching his garment. However, Mark and Luke present the matter in such a way that Jairus, a synagogue leader, meets the Lord just as he lands on this side of the shore, having been expelled by the Gadarenes, and is received by the crowd waiting for him here. Jairus only says that his daughter is dying, and only later, as Jesus goes with the crowd to save the child and speaks to the woman with the issue of blood, do messengers come from Jairus’ house to inform him that it is now pointless to trouble the Master, as his daughter has died.


Matthew, according to Calvin, wanted to be brief and therefore immediately began with what happened later in time *). But why did he want to be brief? There is even a question whether he was allowed to do so – no! not even a question! we must say outright that he could not have done so if he knew the details, as reported by Mark and Luke. If Jairus had only asked for help for his daughter, even if she was very ill, there was still a spark of life that the miracle worker only needed to ignite, and we can at most consider it possible that the father thought of seeking help. He was also faithful in this case; but how immense will his faith be changed when the matter is presented as if he had asked from the beginning for the resurrection of his deceased daughter. Bengel suspects that Jairus may have expressed the request that Matthew puts in his mouth only when he received the message of his daughter’s death **). But then Luke and Mark do not even dare to ask Jairus for his child’s life when the message of his death came, and they could have done so if it had been possible in any way, since they had put the request for the salvation of the sick daughter in his mouth before. Would it not have been an appropriate escalation if the man’s requests had followed in this way? Both evangelists, however, did not consider it appropriate; they rather let the man be silent when the news of his daughter’s death arrived, and only let the Lord say: “Fear not, only believe!”

*) compendio studens.

**) ita dixit ex confectura aut post nuntium acceptum de filia mortua, quam reliquerat morti proximam. Calvin, as usual the most sober and thoughtful of apologists, almost only reports the facts about the relationship of the reports in a general formula. Bengel theorizes, creates a new story, and does not notice that Matthew’s account does not yet match the subsidiary reports even in the new form it has taken under his hands; for if Jairus really had already feared from the outset by conjecture that his daughter was dead, and had then arranged his request accordingly, then the more precise report of Mark and Luke can no longer exist. Augustine says in De cons. Evang. Lib. II, 66: considerandum est, ne repugnare videatur, et intelligendum, brevitatis causa Matthaeum hoc potius dicere voluisse, rogatum esse dominum ut faceret, quoä eum fecisse manifestum est, ut scilicet mortuam suscitaret: adtendit enim non verba patris de filia sua, sed quod est potissimum, voluntatem et talia verba posuit, qualis voluntas erat. Ita enim desperaverat, ut potius eam vellet reviviscere, non credens vivam posse inveniri, quam morientem reliquerat. Then either the two others left the main point out of consideration, or Matthew exaggerated Jairus’s faith disproportionately.


The newer criticism answers that they have reworked the story, which Matthew reports in its initial simplicity, in such a way that the miracle power of Jesus is “subjectively heightened by contrast and the unexpected.” If Jesus is asked from the outset to awaken a dead person and does so without further ado, then the immense ability to awaken the dead is assumed as something that goes without saying. On the other hand, if the father believes he is only allowed to ask for the healing of a sick person and is warned against any further hope when death occurs, then “the extraordinary nature of that ability is emphasized in a determined way *).” But what, we must ask in response, will be the first thing in the sculpture of religious historical belief? Once the notion has arisen that Jesus has raised the dead, will the historian who shapes this notion for the first time write as if everyone assumed that Jesus could and would raise the dead if asked to do so in faith? Certainly not! Even if he knows that the raising of the dead will happen, and even if he has decidedly designed the entire report around this outcome, he will inevitably allow the immense deed to emerge from Jesus’ free decision, after the request, which had previously focused on a less heroic act of help, was pushed into the background by the intensification of the misfortune, and the hope that help could also be found for the greater misfortune was cut off. Only cautiously could the first historian, whom we are talking about, carry out the development of the collision, which demanded the greatest effort of the miracle power; he had to incorporate this cautiousness into the historical material itself and place the request for help for the sick child before the raising of the dead. Matthew, the later one, was beyond these scruples, since he had not only formed this particular view of miracles but had long been accustomed to the idea that Jesus had raised the dead, and what was a commonplace assumption to him could also be shared without hesitation as the same assumption with the father of the child. The Jewish leader immediately asks at the outset that Jesus may revive his dead child. The miracle has become, so to speak, the ordinary order of things.

*) Strauss, L.J. II. 148.


For another, very prosaic reason, Matthew had to change the account so that the ruler goes to the Lord from the deathbed of his daughter.

According to Mark’s account, Jesus was awaited by a large crowd on the shore and accompanied by them as he followed Jairus into his house. On the way, the woman with the issue of blood touched his garment and was healed. Jesus immediately noticed that power had gone out from him and, turning in the crowd, he asked who had touched his clothes. The disciples drew his attention to the press of the crowd, which almost crushed him, but he knew that the touch of his garment had been peculiar and looked around for the person who had touched him. Then the woman came, fell at his feet, and told him the whole truth (Mark 5:24-33, essentially the same as Luke 8:42-47). Matthew knows nothing of the crowd, Jesus goes only with the disciples to Jairus’ house, and so everything is missing in the following story of the woman with the issue of blood that presupposes the presence of the crowd. The woman touches Jesus’ garment, he simply turns around, sees her, and says to her, “Be of good cheer, daughter; thy faith hath made thee whole” (Matthew 9:19-22). With the crowd missing, however, the whole action lacks its necessary environment and presupposition, since it is unmistakable that the woman could only do what she did secretly and unnoticed, i.e. in the press of the crowd. The writer who first developed this view could not do without the crowd, while in Matthew’s account the scene is much too bare and the woman, if she follows the Lord alone over the street, is left without support. Matthew is the later writer, he has fundamentally changed the account of Mark.


And he had to change it, just as he did. If Jairus had come to pick up the Lord from the house of the tax collector, where he was just sitting at the banquet, then of course there was no crowd of people present that could serve to fill the scene. Furthermore, when Jairus receives the Lord at the lake and asks for help for his dying daughter, there was plenty of time and space for the message of his child’s death to arrive along the way; but how could this message be inserted when Jesus was already in Capernaum and only walking from one house to another on the street? It had to be omitted, the crowd had to be missing, and the father of the child had to immediately come with the request that Jesus raise the dead.

The account of Mark is original and, from the point where the crowd awaits the Lord on the shore of the lake, also original compared to that of Luke. We have already noted that Luke separated the departure to the eastern shore from the assumption that Jesus was already in a boat during the parable lecture, even eliminating this assumption at its place – (he wanted to connect the arrival of the mother and brothers of Jesus with the parable lecture and therefore had to move Jesus from the boat to the middle of a crowd of people C. 8, 19.) – yet he follows Mark in writing that on the return from the eastern shore the crowd received the Lord, as they had all been waiting for him – but how could they be waiting for him when they were not present when he departed for the other shore? Only Mark motivated this reception when he suggests that Jesus “had departed in the presence of a gathered multitude or on the day when he was occupied with such a crowd *).”

*) Wilke, p. 603.


So far – that is correct – the representation of Mark proves to be the original in every respect, which the other two confused in contradiction with their internal presuppositions because they merged the same with new elements, or rather did not merge it, but only externally connected it, partly copied it literally and could not change it completely. But even it is not free from all contradiction. Even if Jesus may have departed in the presence of a gathered multitude, it is not explained that they were expecting him on the next day **) – how could they know or even presume that Jesus would be so unfavourably received over there that he would return so soon? “She ‘had witnessed the danger from the shore to which the boat had been exposed’,” answers Schleiermacher and after him Neander ***), but did she have to assume that the Lord would now come back, did she have to be so sure of herself that she “expected” him? She could not think of such a prompt return, since according to Mark’s own presupposition, Capernaum was only momentarily Jesus’ place of residence and it only happened by chance through the unfriendly reception that Jesus received over there that he immediately returned after barely landing. So even Mark is not without contradictions, but they are only those that have arisen from the original tendency of his pragmatism and must arise if not the pure art view, but the need of prosaic and external interests determines the writer, no matter how free he may be in the development of the individual. Mark needed the crowd for the following representation, Jairus had to emerge from it, it had to surround Jesus on the way to the mourning house and again make the secret touching of Jesus’ clothes possible for the woman with the issue of blood – it had to stand on the shore and wait for Jesus and it appeared at the right time when the writer needed it for his purposes.

**) Mark 5:21: και διαπεράσαντος του Ιησού εν τω πλοίω πάλιν εις το πέραν, συνήχθη όχλος πολύς επ’ αυτόν· και ήν παρά την θάlacoav. Luke has correctly rewritten it in 8:40: &yéveto dè &v tớ únoστρέψαι τον Ιησούν, απεδέξατο αυτόν ο όχλος: ήσαν γάρ πάντες προς-δοκώντες αυτόν.

***) Schleierm, a. a. D, p. 126. Neander, p. 340. 341.



The following two tabs change content below.

Neil Godfrey

Neil is the author of this post. To read more about Neil, see our About page.

Latest posts by Neil Godfrey (see all)