Physically and Socially Dead: What Jesus Learned from Healing Two Women

Physically and Socially Dead: What Jesus Learned from Healing Two Women July 31, 2019

I initially thought I would most likely explore the stories of these two women in separate chapters. But having looked at them closely, I don’t think it is just the author of the Gospel of Mark who forces them to be connected. Unless Mark, our earliest source, is completely off base, they are inherently related to one another. Mark, to be sure, uses his characteristic method of sandwiching one story between the beginning and end of another to prompt us to interpret them in conjunction with one another. But the fact that the author likes to do this doesn’t mean that he is wrong to think it appropriate. In this instance, at any rate, interesting things happen when we follow Mark’s prompting. Mark also depicts the young girl as being around 12 years old, and the woman has having had her hemorrhaging for 12 years. Surely the storyteller expects us to ask what the connection is! I’m increasingly persuaded that the Gospels were memory aids for early Christian storytellers, and that the audience was expected to notice intriguing details and ask about them. I have come up with my own answer to the question of what the intrinsic connection between these two women is. I will share that in the book. What’s yours?

Donald Capes has an interesting discussion of the activity of Mesmer in his book Jesus the Village Psychiatrist which explores these episodes. He also points out that, if Jesus didn’t mean it when he said that the girl was not dead but sleeping, and we are supposed to nonetheless understand her to have been dead, then this would be the only instance in the Gospels in which Jesus is depicted as stating something that was not true!

Also relevant to the interpretation of this story:

Sleepers, Awake!

Richard Beck wrote about the effect Jesus had on dead people.

Contradictions in the Gospels

Are These Really Contradictions? My Response to Matt Firth

My First Sermon: The Faith of a Woman

Two Traditions about the Mother at the Raising of Jairus’s Daughter

The Social Aspects of Illness

Power Had Gone Forth From Him

Impure Thoughts

Purity and Impurity in Iron Age Israel

Purity Culture, Body Image, Eating Disorders

The Tomb of Hygeia, Untouched by Marriage and Offspring

Of related interest, on menstrual impurity and sacred space in another tradition, in a different time and place. Reading Religion has a review of Daughters in the Hebrew Bible.

Startling Discoveries of Ancient Christian Art Change Views of Women

Why I Write for WIT: Contributing from My Means

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  • Leigh Sutherland

    Just a quick question Dr McGrath, looking at the various passages we find in the Gospels and then analysing in a context of “what would Jesus do” or “what did Jesus learn”, would it have a bearing for you and other academics in the field if the scenes were just the imagination of the author rather than something that actually took place, I find it interesting either way.

    • Great question, and one that is directly relevant to this project, since it ranges across the narrowly historical, the literary, and the imaginative. If the question is about academics, then really we need historians asking “what can we conclude about whether this happened?” and literary critics studying the stories as stories. And, I’d argue, with more interaction across that divide, since there is more intersection and overlap than is sometimes acknowledged. Many scholars do in fact study the stories either setting historical questions aside, or concluding through historical methods that some are invented, some are dramatized and overlaid with symbolism, and some we simply cannot tell.