§ 38. The Healing of the Woman with the Issue of Blood

Critique of the Gospel History of the Synoptics
by Bruno Bauer

Volume 2



§ 38.

The Healing of the Woman with the Issue of Blood.

Matthew 9:20-22.

It would certainly be senseless, says Calvin *), to assume that Christ, without knowing who the blessing would affect, had poured out his grace. We must assume without hesitation that he healed the woman with knowledge and will, and only afterwards asked about her because he wanted her to come forward of her own free will.

*) absurdum.

If it were truly absurd to attribute to the Lord a healing power that involuntarily went out from his body, and even settled in his garment, so that the sick person who only touched the edge of it was instantly healed **), then the evangelical account would be meaningless. Because even Matthew, although he leaves out everything that the other two tell, to make it quite certain that the healing was involuntary, cannot blunt this point of the account, indeed he explicitly includes it in his presentation when he says that the Lord had turned around and, when he saw her, called out to her, “Be of good cheer, daughter, your faith has made you well.” Her faith, which made her sure that she would be healed by touching his garment, had already helped her, and if the Lord had to turn around to see who had touched him *), he had previously concluded from some circumstance that someone must have touched him. Mark tells us what he concluded from – he noticed that power had gone out from him – and Luke even transforms this conclusion into a saying of Jesus: “Someone has touched me, for I perceived that power had gone out from me.”

**) This escalation was introduced by Matthew and Luke in the account. Mark only speaks of the garment in general and only exaggerated this simple observation in Chapter 5, verse 56.

*) Matth. 9, 22 ο δε ιησους επιστραφεις και ιδων αυτην. Mark 5, 30 και ευθέως ο Ι. επιγνούς εν εαυτώ την εξ αυτού δύναμιν έξελθούσαν επιστραφείς ….. V. 32 και περιεβλέπετο ιδείν την τούτο ποιήσουσαν.


All three accounts insist that the healing was involuntary. But strangely enough, the narrator who has proven to be the first one also felt the secret difficulty that would prompt a Calvin to make the harsh pronouncement that the ordinary view is absurd. Mark, in particular, would not want to exclude the (relative) sensible mediation by the will of Jesus, and thus he allows at least a confirmation of the miracle through the will to follow afterwards. He lets the Lord say after the words, “your faith has helped you”: “Go in peace and be healed of your affliction!” But it was too late: with the words “your faith has helped you,” the healing is assumed to have already been completed, and before Jesus turns around and seeks out the person who touched him, the woman had already realized that she had been healed of her illness (Mark 5:29). If we consider that once a miracle was established in the evangelical view, it was only valuable for its wondrous apex and that eventually this apex became so meaningful in memory that individual elements of the original view were lost **), then it is certain that Mark is not only relatively the first narrator but, speaking specifically of this story, the absolute first, the creator, the poet. He still knew what the miracle he was shaping meant, but he also felt the enormous difficulty that the view of miracles had to overcome in this case, and he had to overcome it in two ways as the first one to do so. The idea was firm in his mind; he wanted to demonstrate it through a single case, how the heavenly miracle-working powers had assimilated with the person of Jesus to such an extent and had been bestowed upon him with such an unbounded abundance that they had even passed into the natural constitution of his body and had been communicated to his garments. This idea had already been brought up by Mark before: by the sea, where Jesus had withdrawn after the conflict with the Pharisees (3:10), the people who were plagued actually fell upon him, so that they could touch him *). Now he wants to show by an example how great the miracle-working power of the body and even of the clothes of Jesus was, and to bring the miracle in all its magnitude before the eyes, he can hardly find words that are full and strong enough to describe the severe suffering of the woman. She had already had the flow of blood for twelve years and had suffered much from many doctors and spent all her property on it, but it had not helped her at all, “on the contrary, it had only become worse *).” With the same care and precision of detail, he describes how the sick woman was healed by touching Jesus’ garment and the Lord at least realizes that someone must have touched his garment, as power had gone out from him. Thus Mark did everything to describe the miracle in its immense magnitude and to raise it to the certainty that Jesus did not heal this time by the power of his explicit will: in the end, however, he becomes anxious, he himself is frightened by the boundlessness of the miracle-working power that he had attributed to the body of Jesus, and now, after he had hoped to have already mastered the difficulty of the matter through the accuracy of the description, he realizes that he has only made the immense even more immense and tries to stifle it with the difficulty. But it is too late! The Lord did not need to intervene with his will anymore, as the healing had already been completed. It remains involuntary **). — Oh, when we now see how Mark, the first creator of this view, wavered, how later — see Luke — healing was considered purely involuntary, others claimed Jesus’ will, until finally in modern times the art of interpretation reached such a high degree of development that it understood how to secretly smuggle “Christian consciousness” into the account and now, when it had quietly blown all “materialistic” notions out of its head, dared to assert that the Lord knew very well what was happening behind his back, he even worked with his will and furthermore intended to heal the woman both physically and morally *) — yes, until finally they did not hesitate to speak of the nonsense “of a trust mixed with erroneous conceptions” of the woman, which “was not deceived” **), — when we see all this, this outgrowth of Mark’s simple view, before us as the monstrosities of exegetical anxiety and madness, and when we are finally allowed to conclude this long sentence — what should we do then? Should we still build the Tower of Babylon higher? As if it were possible! One can clearly see that explanations like those of Olshausen and Neander are so crookedly placed on the building and are themselves so extravagant that they are to blame if the magnificent building of exegetical despair, the tower in which reason was to be walled up, finally collapses to the ground. It has fallen; the rubble, the debris only covers the ground; but the dust settles, liberated reason throws the wild rubble aside and brings to light the true foundation on which the first simple structure was built. We have found this foundation in Mark’s view, and in itself, in its ideal simplicity, it is the postulate that the heavenly powers of the godly men pass into the perfect immediacy of sensual tangibility, in which they penetrate bones, clothing, sweat cloths and even finally share in the shadow of holy men. Even after the death of such men, their bones are miraculous (2 Kings 13, 21.).

**) “The proof is provided by Luke: he omits the subsequent confirmation of the miracle through the will (Luke 8:48). In this case, Matthew was motivated by other considerations to shorten the account, but he could only agree to such a shortening because later the details of the miracle accounts lost their significance. He also omits that confirmation and says instead (Matt. 9:22): “And the woman was healed at that moment.” He used his standard formula with which he usually concludes miracle accounts for that subsequent confirmation of the miracle that he reads in Mark. (Compare Matt. 8:18, 15:8.) In addition, he had to fill a gap here, create a pause, and give a note, since he could not provide the information that messengers had come at that moment who reported the death of Jairus’ daughter.

*) Luke mitigates, abbreviates and even leaves out the last part, which was necessary for the contrast. Matthew only says that she had the flow of blood for 12 years – again a confirmation of the assertion that the detail had lost its significance for later readers.

*) πολλούς εθεράπευσεν, ώςτε επιπίπτειν αυτώ, ίνα αυτού άψωνται, όσοι είχον μάστιγας. Vergl. 5, 34 μάστιγoς.

**) This procedure of Mark forms the counterpart to the carefulness with which he proceeds in the story of the daughter of Jairus to the postulate of a resurrection of the dead. Here the carefulness and the anxiousness of a first attempt in the manner of progress is demonstrated, in the story of the woman with the flow of blood the same is demonstrated in the retraction that is made at the end

*) Olshausen, I, 325.

**) Neander, p. 422.


If this transition of divine power to sensory immediacy in the world of ideal perception persists, we know what to do with it: we simply observe it and recall in it the idea that ultimately generated it, namely, the idea that the elevated historical spirits also work beyond the realm of their rational calculation through the power of their inner content, and that the abundance of their power streams far beyond the limits of their determined will. However, if the apologist wants to impose his quackery on us, that is, to insult our reason and distort the evangelical perception, he will now know what criticism will respond to him. Finally, however, no one will be able to naturalize the sensory perception of the evangelist, as immediate as it is, with flesh and bones in the realm of pure reason. Weisse attempts it, but how? “The concept of miracle,” he says*, “takes for itself such an outward appearance of physical existence, through which involuntary action is also conceivable. Such an outward appearance of the purely physical existence, which is bound to the spirit and mediated by the spirit, takes the place of that allegedly irrational incomprehensibility which dogmatic bibliolatry must predicate of the substance of that power.” However, if Weisse had only respected the earlier views of the theologians, he would not have spoken against dogmatism and rather seen that his assumption of a “pure” physical “existence,” which is again “mediated by the spirit,” and of involuntary action, which is again only mediated by the will, is nothing but the fluctuating and untenable excuse of those excellent learned men. We are far from wanting to improve, develop, or secure these excuses now; the historical perception of the religious spirit cannot be raised immediately into the concept, expanded into theory, or placed in the reality of nature and history, and the only task that can be assigned to us because of it is solely the explanation of its origin, an explanation that we have given when we showed that it is the transfer of the essential determinations and relations of self-consciousness into the sensory and individual aspects of immediate being. As for the physical constitution of historical heroes in reality, their relationship to the spirit – if we exclude artists – is no different than that their powers extend just enough to provide the necessary foundation for the inner struggles and exertions of the spirit.

*) a. a. O. I, 502.


The final enlightenment will eventually be found in the report when it is considered in its entirety. The section to which it belongs is preceded by three others: first (C. 1:14-45), Mark explains to us how Capernaum became the center of Jesus’ activity; then (C. 2:1-3:6) he reports to us how the relationship between the new principle and the law developed and the enmity of the Pharisees arose; what the significance of the third section (C. 3:7-4:34) is, will later become clear to us; but if the fourth section (C. 4:35-5:43), which Matthew has also preserved in its entirety, begins with the calming of the storm and ends with the raising of Jairus’s daughter, and between these two limits includes the healing of the possessed and the woman with the issue of blood, then we now know what its purpose and significance are: it is to present the pure and unadulterated revelation of the glory of Jesus in his miraculous deeds, with no other interests interfering. In the first and second (also in the third) sections, there are also enough miracles, but the point with which the reports end, or the purpose they serve in context, diverts attention from the miracle as such and directs it to other interests. On the other hand, the miracle itself should now be viewed, and it is self-evident that it will be colossal, extraordinary, and valuable in terms of interest in every case, depending on the degree of importance, that is, the power of resistance the miracle worker had to overcome even if only by a word. As we can expect from such a skilled composer as Mark is in historical matters, he will arrange the individual miracles according to their degree of significance. Mark has worked excellently. In the storm, the Lord stills the turmoil and rebellion in nature; over there among the Gadarenes, he defeats a legion of devilish spirits, and here, on this shore, he heals an ingrained uncleanness with just a touch of his garment, and finally he kills death with a single word. Can the miracle worker achieve more by defeating the devilish, unclean, and death itself? And can the writer better organize than by first bringing the elements into obedience and finally overcoming the greatest enemy of ordinary consciousness, death? Mark has worked so skillfully in every direction, allowing the entire section to stand out so beautifully from its surroundings, arranging it so appropriately and developing the details that we would do him an injustice as a writer if we were to withhold from him the honor of having shaped and created this entire section.


We have already traced back the origins of the first two accounts (of the calming of the storm and of the healing of the possessed), so we only need to draw attention to the indications that prove that the last two accounts were created together. It is already significant and only the work of the writer that the healing of the woman with the issue of blood is inserted into the story of the raising of Jairus’ daughter, precisely at the point where Jesus had set out to heal a sick person and the message arrives that the girl had died. But this was necessary according to the structure of the entire section: the prospect of a struggle with death could not be opened up yet, as the power of Jesus’ body healed the deep-rooted illness of the woman with the issue of blood, and only at the moment *) when the woman’s illness was lifted could the message arrive, which presented the Lord with the more difficult task of fighting death **).

*) Mark 5:35 “While he was still speaking…”

**)From this it will become completely clear how inexpediently Matthew has made a change when he has the father of the child immediately appear with the request for its resurrection.


Mark has finally used another means to connect both events closely to each other. The woman with the issue of blood suffered for twelve years, and the daughter of Jairus was twelve years old, as is noted at the end of the story in passing to explain why she got up and walked around after being revived (v. 42). Luke did not know that his predecessor was indicating that the child was already at the age where she could get up and walk around on her own, he did not see that Mark needed this detail necessarily to vividly illustrate the awakening of the child. Therefore, he omits the remark that the child walked around again and says at the beginning of the narrative that the child was twelve years old. “The only one” of Jairus, he adds (8:42), by drawing the conclusion from the man’s words in Mark 5:23 “my daughter,” Jairus had no other children. Matthew only reports that the woman with the issue of blood suffered for twelve years, he does not even include the name of Jairus in his account, nor does he say to his readers that his daughter was a twelve-year-old child. He does not appreciate and properly value the detail, even if it is essential in Mark’s writing and serves, as in this case, for the pragmatic connection of two reports.

*) Mark 5:42 και ευθεως ανεστη το κορασιον και περιεπατει ην γαρ ετων δωδεκα. Luke 8:55 και επέστρεψε το πνεύμα αυτής (Mark presents the return of life much better to the view by immediately reporting and painting the consequence) και ανεστη παραχρημα. Luke feels the gap that now arises by leaving out the περιεπατει ην γαρ …, he therefore immediately adds the note: και διεταξεν αυτη δοθηναι φαγειν, a remark that Mark has much more appropriately at the end, after reporting that the child walked around again, that Jesus forbade them to speak of the matter.


There is no need to discuss the account of the raising of Jairus’ daughter any further now that the origin of this entire section has been so clearly revealed. However, there are still some things to note about the presentation and literary work.




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