§ 39. The Raising of Jairus’s Daughter

Critique of the Gospel History of the Synoptics
by Bruno Bauer

Volume 2



§ 39.

The Raising of Jairus’s Daughter.

Matthew 9:23-26

“The child is not dead but sleeping!” Jesus said upon entering the house of the father and seeing the flutists and noisy crowd. “Go,” he said to them, “go away, the child is not dead.” After the crowd had been set aside, he went into the room of the dead where he took the hand of the child and caused the girl to rise.

In all three accounts, the words of Jesus, “It is not dead, but sleeping!” are the same. Therefore, Olshausen concludes *), we have here no real–no real! so perhaps an unreal one?–raising from the dead. “The child probably (!) was in a deep swoon.”

However, while the words are indeed present in all three accounts, they are each presented in a context that explains them quite differently from how Olshausen would have us understand them out of superstitious respect for the isolated letter. Moreover, in one of the accounts, they are presented and explained in such a way that there can be no doubt as to their meaning. First and foremost, it is clear that we can no longer speak of a swoon when, according to the report of Mark and Luke, the father of the child comes out and remarks that the child is lying on its deathbed in its last moments, and shortly thereafter the message comes that it has indeed died. According to all three accounts, Jesus found the mourners in the house, who were weeping and wailing (Mark 5:38). Matthew calls them “the noisy crowd *)” and also adds that the flutists had already been present. These preparations would not have been possible for the evangelists–that is, for Mark–in the extremely short time that had passed since the news of the child’s death had just reached the father, unless they had been of the utmost necessity; but they were necessary, for the reader should no longer doubt the actual death of the child **). Furthermore, all three evangelists report that when Jesus said the child was not dead but sleeping, the people laughed at him; as Luke correctly adds (v. 53), they knew that the child was really dead, and despite Jesus’ words, the reader should be sure that this time it is indeed the resurrection of the dead ***). It is impossible for the reader to orient himself and resolve the contrast between the words of Jesus and the actual state of affairs if nothing more than this contrast is given to him and other information is missing that would enlighten him as to how Jesus meant his words or what he intended to accomplish with them. Therefore, Matthew erred when he included only this contrast in his account and omitted what Mark reports and what explains the matter. According to the original gospel, Jesus sternly forbade the parents, who were horrified at the enormous miracle, to let the people know about it. He could not hide from the parents, whom he took into the death chamber, what he had done, but the others, whom he drove out of the house before entering the death chamber, were not to know that he would perform such an enormous miracle this time. Therefore, he only told them from the beginning that the child was not dead but sleeping; in short, he did not want too much fuss to be made about the matter. *)

*) l, 327.

*) C. 9, 23 “τον όχλον θορυβούμενον,” he uses the word “θόρυβοv” that is found in Mark.

**) Calvin: tantum commemorant Evangelistae, quo certior constet fides resurrectioni. Diserte etiam ponit Matthaeus adfuisse tibicines.

***) Bengel: is ipsum confirmavit veritatem mortis et miraculi. The same is true for Calvin.

*) Wilke, a. a. O. p. 534.


Otherwise, he knew from the beginning, when the news of the death arrived, what he had to do; he was determined to revive the dead woman — “Do not be afraid, only believe,” he says to the father when the messengers tried to dissuade him from bothering the Master further — but he also immediately decided not to involve the crowd, so that the miracle would not create too much commotion. Therefore, he did not allow anyone to follow him on the way to Jairus’ house except Peter, James, and John; upon arriving at the house, he drove away the crowd of mourners and only then did he go with the parents of the child and his disciples into the room of the dead (Mark 5:37-40). To Luke, it was too tedious to pay closer attention to these subtle nuances and to give the narrative such a slow movement. He immediately lets the Lord arrive at Jairus’ house without first saying how he got there and now combines three statements from Mark at the one point where Jesus enters the house, i.e., in confusion. He could change things, but then he would have had to do so with deliberation and not have been allowed to mechanically put together the words and elements of his excellent predecessor’s narrative. When Jesus entered the house, Luke says, he allowed no one to enter except Peter, John, James, the father, and the mother of the child. As if the mother had followed the Lord on the street! Thus, Luke reports 1) Mark’s note that Jesus entered the house, he reads 2) in his predecessor’s scripture that Jesus only let a few follow him, but he is already at the house with his report, the crowd of people that he himself mentioned (Luke 8:43) is forgotten — because he didn’t need to say that Jesus couldn’t take the countless crowd into the house — and if he wants to say that Jesus only let a few follow him, he has to reach further into Mark’s narrative and let what happened 3) when Jesus entered the room of the dead happen when he entered the house. This is how it came about that even the mother of the child, who according to Mark followed the Lord into the room of the dead from the front rooms of the house, now followed him with the others from the street into the house *).

*) Luke 8 8, 51 ελθών δε εις την οικίαν, ουκ αφήκεν εισελθείν ουδένα ει μή Πέτρος και Ιωάννην και Ιάκωβον και τον πατέρα της παιδος και την μητέρα. Mark 5, 37 και ουκ αφήκεν αυτώ συνακολουθήσαι ει μή Πέτρ. και Ιάκ. και Ιωάν. V. 40 παραλαμβάνει τον πατέρα του παιδίου και την μητέρα και τους μετ’ αυτού. Because Luke gave this description of the company, among whom was also the mother, too early, and could not add it afterwards, when Jesus went on with the work; because, moreover, by mentioning the parents, he made the beginning of his account so full, that he left no room for the description of the mourners, and now merely says, “but they all mourned and lamented the child” (b. 52.), the other confusion has arisen, that at first one understands by these weepers the parents and the next following of Jesus, at least cannot understand why Jesus drives them out, and how now, when (v. 54.) “all” have gone out, the parents can still be present when Jesus performed the miracle (v. 56.).


Matthew was not exposed to the danger of confusing his predecessor’s account so much, as he had already dismissed the crowd from the beginning; however, he also did not have an interest in including the further nuance that, after the expulsion of the mourners, Jesus went with his own and the parents of the child into the chamber of the dead. Nevertheless, he remains dependent on Mark to the extent that he says, after the expulsion of the people, “he went in” (v. 25 ειςελθων, also a participle); but of course, he cannot tell us where and with whom. He did not need the parents for his purpose because he omits Jesus’ prohibition, which the others report, and instead concludes with the remark, “the news of it spread throughout the whole land.”


If Mark is recognized as the first creator of the account, then another small detail in his presentation can be explained, which is otherwise considered the surest sign of his inferiority and proof of his standpoint, on which only individual exaggerations of the simpler accounts of his predecessors remained. He gives the words of Jesus that brought the child back to life in an Aramaic form (talitha kumi), so that he and the readers should believe that he gives them in the same form in which the Lord pronounced them. As the first one, he still felt how great the magic must be that is required to bring a dead person back to life, and therefore the words that Jesus used seemed to him to be magic formulas and as such were worth reporting in their original form. However, the later ones considered miracles to be something quite ordinary, so they didn’t know what to do with this magical formula, left it out, and either gave, like Luke, only the Greek translation or reported, like Matthew, only the fact that the girl got up when Jesus took her hand.



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