Sunday, June 20, 2021

Begging Believers and Scorning Skeptics

Mark 5: 21-43

Below is a rough translation and some preliminary comments regarding Mark 5:21-43, the Revised Common Lectionary gospel reading for the 6thSunday after Pentecost, Year B. I have a rumination about a Girardian approach to this text that you can find here.

This text is comprised of two stories, an inner story and an outer story, each of which involves the illness of a woman/girl. The way these stories are presented are a Marcan habit of ‘bracketing’ or ‘sandwiching’ one story within another. It seems, when this happens, that the meaning of each of the stories enlightens the meaning of the other. I will refer to the story of the woman with the flow of blood at the ‘inner’ story and the healing of Jairus’ daughter as the ‘outer’ story. I have occasionally marked a word in red to see repetitions that may connect the stories and will note those at the end. 

Now, my unsolicited opinion: I think the bleeding woman deserves her own moment, and Jairus’ daughter deserves her own moment, and that the two stories together deserve their own moment. I think the next time I preach on this text it will be a three-part series. 

One reason is that I think the bleeding woman’s heart-breaking story gets lost in the story of raising a child from death. The woman does not need us marginalizing her, because she’s been marginalized for too long already. She is physically beset with illness and economically deprived as a result. Many of us have seen the cycles that someone with a lingering illness (or lingering grief) goes through, of care, pity, annoyance, and so forth. After a while people even write her off as “always being sickly.” Yet she is also more than her illness. She’s a daring fighter, who has not given up on living and is even willing to do something desperate. Mark gives us something about her and her character that screams for our attention and I think we ought to give it. 

Here's what my three-part series will look like. 
Part One: The Woman with Incredible Faith. I have decided to call her "the bleeding woman" no longer, because it is no longer her illness that defines her. 
Part Two: A Parent's Desperate Plea. Jairus is in that dance where no parent ever wants to be, but far too many parents find themselves. Whether its because of war, famine, poverty, gang violence, illness, disease, etc., there are few things more heartbreaking than a desperate parent's plea. Sometimes that plea comes by a hospital bed; sometimes at a border crossing. 
Part Three: Sophie's Choice and Gospel Abundance. Mark is messing with us here. While Jairus' plea is urgent and time is of the essence, Jesus takes the time to find out who - in the massive crowd - touched him. And he hears her story - in v.33 she tells him "the whole truth." Imagine Jairus tapping his feet, too solicitous to interrupt but too desperate to wait kindly. In fact, Jairus' worst nightmare seems to come true - they waited too long and now it is too late. It would seem that Jesus had a choice - rescue the girl or deal with the woman. That's scarcity thinking. Jesus heals both. That's abundance. Again, the link to the Girardian approach to this story is informing this third part.

And finally, I haven't said very much about the "Scorning Skeptics" in my title. They come in all shapes and sizes - from the disciples' snarky answer to Jesus' inquiry about who touched him to the mourners who laugh at Jesus' declaration and whom Jesus boots out of the room. We know the disciples well and expect more of them; this crowd is here today and gone tomorrow, but who among us does not think death is death and not sleep? I'd also throw in the medical establishment and the culture of pursed lips that people with chronic illness often encounter. Or the folks who think a suffering child is an indication of failed parenting. Our culture adores success and vitality so much that we add layers onto suffering with our own kind of scorn. That's part of what convicts me in this text.

Okay, enough! On with the text! 

21Καὶ διαπεράσαντος τοῦ Ἰησοῦ [ἐν τῷ πλοίῳ] πάλιν εἰς τὸ πέραν συνήχθη 
ὄχλος πολὺς ἐπ' αὐτόν, καὶἦν παρὰ τὴν θάλασσαν. 
And with Jesus having crossed [in the boat] again to the other side, a great crowd was squeezed together with him, and was alongside the sea.  
διαπεράσαντος : AAPart gsm, διαπεράω, 1) to pass over, cross over, i.e. a river, a lake
συνήχθη : API 3s, συνέχω, 1) to hold together  1a) any whole, lest it fall to pieces or something fall away from it  2) to hold together with constraint, to compress  2a) to press together with the hand  2a) to hold one's ears, to shut the heavens that it may not rain  2b) to press on every side  2b1) of a besieged city  2b2) of a strait, that forces a ship into a narrow channel  2b3) of a cattle squeeze, that pushing in on each side, forcing  the beast into a position where it cannot move so the  farmer can administer medication
ἦν : IAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
1. I say ‘with Jesus having crossed’ because ‘Jesus’ is in the genitive case; ‘a great crowd’ is the main subject in the nominative case. 
2. The word “squeezed” (συνήχθη) could be translated “gathered,” but because the tightness of the crowd will factor into the inner story, I am trying to bring out the issue from the start. Note the definition possibilities above. They seem to get more and more extreme. 

22καὶ ἔρχεται εἷς τῶν ἀρχισυναγώγων, ὀνόματι Ἰάϊρος, καὶ ἰδὼν αὐτὸν πίπτει πρὸς τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ 
And one of the leaders of the synagogue arrives, named Jairus, and having seen him falls at his feet
ἔρχεται : PMI 3s, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come  1a) of persons  1a1) to come from one place to another, and used both of  persons arriving and of those returning
ἰδὼν : AAPart nsm, ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes  2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know
πίπτει : PAI 3s, πίπτω, 1) to descend from a higher place to a lower  1a) to fall (either from or upon)  1a1) to be thrust down  1b) metaph. to fall under judgment, came under condemnation  2) to descend from an erect to a prostrate position

23καὶ παρακαλεῖ αὐτὸν πολλὰ λέγων ὅτι Τὸ θυγάτριόν μου ἐσχάτως ἔχει, 
ἵνα ἐλθὼν ἐπιθῇς τὰς χεῖρας αὐτῇ ἵνα σωθῇ καὶ ζήσῃ. 
And begs him repeatedly saying, “My daughter is nearing her end, so having come lay your hands on her in order to be made whole and live.”  
παρακαλεῖ : PAI 3s, παρακαλέω, 1) to call to one's side, call for, summon  2) to address, speak to, (call to, call upon), which may be done in  the way of exhortation, entreaty, comfort, instruction, etc.  2a) to admonish, exhort  2b) to beg, entreat, beseech 
λέγων : PAPart nsm, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain 
ἔχει: PAI 3s, ἔχω, 1) to have, i.e. to hold  1a) …  3) to hold one's self or find one's self so and so, to be in such or  such a condition
ἐλθὼν : AAPart nsm, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come  1a) of persons  1a1) to come from one place to another, and used both of  persons arriving and of those returning
ἐπιθῇς : AASubj 2s, ἐπιτίθημι, 1) in the active voice to put or lay upon 
σωθῇ : APSubj 3s, σῴζω, 1) to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction  1a) one (from injury or peril)  1a1) to save a suffering one (from perishing), i.e. one  suffering from disease, to make well, heal, restore to health
ζήσῃ: AASubj 3s, ζάω, 1) to live, breathe, be among the living (not lifeless, not dead) 
1. The word I translate as“beg” (παρακαλεῖ) can mean many things, but the repetition and posture of falling at one’s feet suggests that this man is desperate.
2. The word “nearing” (ἔχω) is typically translated as ‘to have’ or ‘to hold,’ although it can indicate one’s condition as much as that which one is holding. 
3. The word “made whole” (σῴζω) is rich with meaning. It is the word that is often translated as “save,” but that has become such a ‘religious’ term connoting the afterlife that the richness of its meaning is often obscured. It would be accurate and simpler to say “healed” here, but I want to keep the larger sense of this word apparent. 

24καὶ ἀπῆλθεν μετ’ αὐτοῦ. Καὶ ἠκολούθει αὐτῷ ὄχλος πολύς, καὶ 
συνέθλιβον αὐτόν. 
And he went with him.  And a great crowd followed him, and pressed in on him.   
ἀπῆλθεν : AAI 3s, ἀπέρχομαι, 1) to go away, depart 
ἠκολούθει : IAI 3s, ἀκολουθέω, 1) to follow one who precedes, join him as his attendant,  accompany him 
συνέθλιβον : IAI 3s, συνθλίβω, 1) to press together, press on all sides
1. Again, like v.21, Mark emphasizes the pressing crowd in the outer story, which is a factor in the inner story. By now we know it was really, really crowded. 
2. At this point in the story, Jesus is accompanied by the big crowd and presumably all of the disciples. That changes starting in v.37. 

25καὶ γυνὴ οὖσα ἐν ῥύσει αἵματος δώδεκα ἔτη 
And a woman, being in a flow of blood for 12years
οὖσα : PAPart nsf, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
1. This verse should not be set apart as a separate verse from vv.26 and 27, because vv. 25 and 26 have a string of participles, with the main verb (touched) not appearing until v.27. See the comment below v.27 for why I think this matters. 
2. Most translations say that she ‘had’ a flow of blood, which does capture the meaning, but literally it reads that she is ‘being in’ a flow of blood for 12 years.  

26 καὶ πολλὰ παθοῦσα ὑπὸ πολλῶν ἰατρῶν καὶ δαπανήσασα τὰ παρ' αὐτῆς 
πάντα καὶ μηδὲν ὠφεληθεῖσα ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον εἰς τὸ χεῖρον ἐλθοῦσα, 
and having suffered much by many physicians and having spent all that she had and not having benefitted but having gone from bad to the worse,  
παθοῦσα : AAPart nsf, πάσχω, 1) to be affected or have been affected, to feel, have a  sensible experience, to undergo  1a) in a good sense, to be well off, in good case  1b) in a bad sense, to suffer sadly, be in a bad plight  1b1) of a sick person
δαπανήσασα : AAPart nsf, δαπανάω, 1) to incur expense, expend, spend  2) in a bad sense: to waste, squander, consume
ὠφεληθεῖσα : APPart nsf, ὠφελέω, 1) to assist, to be useful or advantageous, to profit 
ἐλθοῦσα: AAPart nsf, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come  1a) of persons  1a1) to come from one place to another, and used both of  persons arriving and of those returning
1. Participles abound. See below v.27. 
2. Mark only uses the word for suffer (πάσχω) 3x. The last two are when Jesus tells his disciples that he will suffer and die (8:31 and 9:12). 

27 ἀκούσασα περὶ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ, ἐλθοῦσα ἐντῷ ὄχλῳ ὄπισθεν ἥψατο τοῦ 
ἱματίου αὐτοῦ: 
having heard about Jesus, having gone into the crowd she grabbed his garment from behind; 
ἀκούσασα : AAPart nsf, ἀκούω, 1) to be endowed with the faculty of hearing, not deaf
ἐλθοῦσα : AAPart nsf, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come  1a) of persons  1a1) to come from one place to another, and used both of  persons arriving and of those returning
ἥψατο: AMI 3s, ἅπτω, 1) to fasten to, adhere to  1a) to fasten fire to a thing, kindle, set of fire 
1. Here is why I think vv.25-27 ought to be one, long sentence. Yes, this unfortunate woman did have a flow of blood for 12 years. But, to put that description into a self-standing sentence (as NRSV and NIV do with v.25) is to define her in a singular way, which is not how Mark tells the story. She had been living with a flow of blood for 12 years, but she also suffered at the hands of physicians, she also spent all of her money to address it, she also did not benefit but went from bad to worse. AND, she also heard about Jesus and she also went into this pressing throng of people – to grab his garment. She is as defined by her determination as by her suffering. That is the value of respecting Mark’s string of participles and being patient for the main verb. After all that she suffered and did, she grabbed his garment. 

28 ἔλεγεν γὰρ ὅτι Ἐὰν ἅψωμαι κἂν τῶν ἱματίων αὐτοῦ σωθήσομαι. 
For she was saying, “If only I may grab even his garment I will be made whole.”  
ἔλεγεν : IAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain
ἅψωμαι : AMSubj 1s, ἅπτω, 1) to fasten to, adhere to  1a) to fasten fire to a thing, kindle, set of fire
σωθήσομαι: FPI 1s, σῴζω, 1) to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction
1. We don’t know why this woman has come to this conclusion, but her intent and determination seem to be what Jesus calls her saving faith in v.34. 

29 καὶ εὐθὺς ἐξηράνθη  πηγὴ τοῦ αἵματος αὐτῆς, καὶ ἔγνω τῷ σώματι ὅτι 
ἴαται ἀπὸ τῆς μάστιγος. 
And immediately the spring of her blood was dried up, and she knew in the body that she was healed of the scourge.  
ἐξηράνθη: API 3s, ξηραίνω, 1) to make dry, dry up, wither  2) to become dry, to be dry …  2c) of fluids
ἔγνω: AAI 3s, γινώσκω, 1) to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of perceive, feel  1a) to become known 
ἴαται: PerfPI 3s, ἰάομαι, 1) to cure, heal  2) to make whole  2a) to free from errors and sins, to bring about (one's) salvation
1. The verb for ‘healed’ (ἴαται) has the same root at the word for ‘physicians’ (ἰατρῶν) in v.26. 
2. The word I am translating as “scourge” can refer literally to a whip and metaphorically to a plague, according to Mark uses it here and in v.34 of this story, as well as in 3:10. 

30καὶ εὐθὺς  Ἰησοῦς ἐπιγνοὺς ἐν ἑαυτῷ τὴν ἐξ αὐτοῦ δύναμιν ἐξελθοῦσανἐπιστραφεὶς ἐν τῷ ὄχλῳ ἔλεγεν, Τίς μου ἥψατο τῶν ἱματίων; 
And immediately Jesus, having recognized in himself the power having exited out of him, having turned around in the crowd was saying, “Who grabbed my garment?”  
ἐπιγνοὺς: AAPart nsm, ἐπιγινώσκω, 1) to become thoroughly acquainted with, to know thoroughly  1a) to know accurately, know well  2) to know  2a) to recognise
ἐξελθοῦσαν: AAPart asf, ἐξέρχομαι, 1) to go or come forth of  1a) with mention of the place out of which one goes, or the  point from which he departs
ἐπιστραφεὶς : APPart nsm, ἐπιστρέφω, 1) transitively  1a) to turn to  1a1) to the worship of the true God  1b) to cause to return, to bring back
ἔλεγεν: IAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain
ἥψατο: AMI 3s, ἅπτω, 1) to fasten to, adhere to  1a) to fasten fire to a thing, kindle, set of fire 
1. Like verses 25-27, this verse has a string of participles (recognize, exited, turned) followed by the main verb (saying).
2. Mark reifies the healing power of Jesus in this story. Whatever it is, it is something that can go out of Jesus without his willing it, but he can sense it actually leaving his body. There is also a kind of physicality that is odd, because the woman’s intent and action was to touch his garment, not Jesus himself. 
3. Jesus perceived the healing flow leaving his body just as the woman perceives the healing of the flowing scourge in her body. 

31καὶ ἔλεγον αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ, Βλέπεις τὸν ὄχλον συνθλίβοντά σε, 
καὶ λέγεις, Τίς μου ἥψατο; 
And his disciples were saying to him, “You see the crowd pressing you, and you say, ‘Who grabbed me?’”
ἔλεγον: IAI 3p, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain
Βλέπεις : PAI 2s, βλέπω, 1) to see, discern, of the bodily eye
συνθλίβοντά : PAPart asm, συνθλίβω, 1) to press together, press on all sides
λέγεις: PAI 2s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain
ἥψατο: AMI 3s, ἅπτω, 1) to fasten to, adhere to  1a) to fasten fire to a thing, kindle, set of fire 
1. The verb here for the “pressing” crowd is different from συνέχω that I translated as “squeeze” in v.21, but it is the same verb that Mark uses in v. 24. 
2. Regarding the disciples’ effrontery, it is a wise guiding principle, when speaking to someone who is not stupid, to act as though what s/he has said is not stupid. Yet, the disciples’ question seems almost derisive. (More below)

32καὶ περιεβλέπετο ἰδεῖν τὴν τοῦτο ποιήσασαν. 
And he was looking around to see the one who had caused [it].  
περιεβλέπετο: IMI 3s, περι, around+ βλέπω, to see, discern, of the bodily eye
ἰδεῖν : AAInf, ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes  2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know 
ποιήσασαν: AAPart asf, ποιέω, 1) to make  1a) with the names of things made, to produce, construct,  form, fashion, etc.  1b) to be the authors of, the cause
1. “the one” is feminine. It could be ‘she’ who had caused it and it might indicate that Jesus was not completely in the dark over who it was. Or, it might be that the narrator knows “the one” is a she, but not yet Jesus. 

33  δὲ φοβηθεῖσα καὶ τρέμουσαγυνὴ , εἰδυῖα  γέγονεν αὐτῇ, ἦλθεν καὶ 
προσέπεσεν αὐτῷ καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ πᾶσαν τὴν ἀλήθειαν. 
And the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened in her, came and fell to him and said to him the whole truth.  
φοβηθεῖσα: APPart nsf, φοβέω to strike with fear, scare, frighten. Middle or passive as here, to be put in fear, take fright
τρέμουσα: PAPart nsf, τρέμω, 1) tremble  2) to fear, be afraid
εἰδυῖα: PerfAPart nsf, εἴδω , ἴδωan obsol. form of the present tense, the place of which is supplied by ὁράω. The tenses coming from εἴδω and retained by usage form two families, of which one signifies to see, the other to know.
γέγονεν: PerfAI 3s, γίνομαι, 1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being
ἦλθεν: AAI 3s, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come  1a) of persons  1a1) to come from one place to another, and used both of  persons arriving and of those returning
προσέπεσεν: AAI 3s, προσπίπτω, 1) to fall forwards, fall down, prostrate one's self before
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain
1. The temple leader (v.22) and the woman (v.33) both fall before Jesus. 

34  δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῇ, Θυγάτηρ,  πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε: ὕπαγε εἰς εἰρήνην, καὶ 
ἴσθι ὑγιὴς ἀπὸ τῆς μάστιγός σου. 
Yet he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace and be healed from your scourge.   
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain
σέσωκέν: PerfAI 3s, σῴζω, 1) to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction
ὕπαγε : PAImpv 2s, ὑπάγω, 1) to lead under, bring under  2) to withdraw one's self, to go away, depart
ἴσθι: PAImpv 2s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
1. Jesus addresses the woman as “daughter.” Jairus uses the diminutive form of this same word to refer to his daughter. 

35Ἔτι αὐτοῦ λαλοῦντος ἔρχονται ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀρχισυναγώγου λέγοντες ὅτι  
θυγάτηρ σου ἀπέθανεν: τί ἔτι σκύλλεις τὸν διδάσκαλον; 
As he was speaking they came for the ruler of the synagogue saying, “Your daughter died; why trouble the teacher any more?”  
λαλοῦντος: PAPart gsm, λαλέω, 1) to utter a voice or emit a sound  2) to speak  2a) to use the tongue or the faculty of speech
ἔρχονται: PMI 3p, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come  1a) of persons  1a1) to come from one place to another, and used both of  persons arriving and of those returning
λέγοντες: PAPart npm, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain
ἀπέθανεν: AAI 3s, ἀποθνήσκω to die out, expire, become quite dead
σκύλλεις : PAI 2s, σκύλλω, 1) to skin, flay  2) to rend, mangle  2a) to vex, trouble, annoy  2b) to give one's self trouble, trouble one's self
1. I like how the lexicon from says the meaning of ἀπέθανενis “become quite dead.” I’m thinking of Billy Crystal’s character Miracle Max in “The Princess Bride” and remembering that “mostly dead” is always an option. On a more serious note, before the invention of stethoscopes or the ability to image brain waves, the question of whether one is truly or permanently dead was always a real one. We’re not forgetting that this young girl was “nearing her end” in v.23 when this story began. 
2. It bears noting also that when Jesus arrives in v.39, he will declare her not to be “quite dead,” but sleeping. 

36 δὲἸησοῦς παρακούσας τὸν λόγον λαλούμενον λέγει τῷ ἀρχισυναγώγῳ, Μὴ φοβοῦ, μόνον πίστευε.
But Jesus having paid no heed to the word that they were speaking, says to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, but believe.”  
παρακούσας: AAPart nsm, παρακούω, 1) to hear aside  1a) causally or carelessly or amiss  2) to be unwilling to hear  2a) on hearing to neglect, to pay no heed to  2b) to refuse to hear, pay no regard to, disobey 
λαλούμενον: PPPart asm, λαλέω, 1) to utter a voice or emit a sound  2) to speak
λέγει : PAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain
φοβοῦ: PMImpv 2s, to strike with fear, scare, frighten; in the Middle voice, to take fright. 
πίστευε: PAImpv 2s, πιστεύω, 1) to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place confidence in  1a) of the thing believed  1a1) to credit, have confidence
1. “having paid no attention to the word they were speaking”: Now, here’s a phrase that could lead to all manner of sermons. What would it look like simply to ignore the ramblings of the culture of death and to believe? 
2. The verb “believe” is the verbal form of the same word as “faith” in v.34, just as “fear” is the same verb of the woman’s fear when Jesus asked, “Who touched me?” 

37καὶ οὐκ ἀφῆκεν οὐδένα μετ' αὐτοῦ συνακολουθῆσαι εἰ μὴ τὸνΠέτρονκαὶἸάκωβονκαὶἸωάννην τὸν ἀδελφὸν Ἰακώβου. 
And he did not permit anybody to accompany with him except Peter and James and John the brother of James.  
ἀφῆκεν: AAI 3s, ἀφίημι, 1) to send away  1a) to bid going away or depart … 2) to permit, allow, not to hinder 
συνακολουθῆσαι: AAInf, συνακολουθέω, 1) to follow together with others, to accompany
1. This sentence literally reads, “did not permit nobody” but two negatives don’t make a positive in Greek.
2. It is curious how Mark identifies “John” as the brother of James. From reading the book of Acts and growing up in circles where it is assumed that the gospel of John was written by the apostle, “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” I grew up assuming that the early church knew precisely who John was. In my mind, if any of them was the one needing identification it would be James, especially since there are two of them in the “12 Disciples” song. In Mark’s gospel John is “the disciple whom people need a little help identifying. This may be another case where Mark’s Galilean location is important. 
3. It is also curious that Jesus only takes the three with him to this house. When he gets to the house he will throw everyone out except the mother, father, and these three. See v.40, n.4 below for my wild speculation as to why. 

38καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς τὸν οἶκον τοῦ ἀρχισυναγώγου, καὶ θεωρεῖ θόρυβον καὶ κλαίοντας καὶ ἀλαλάζοντας πολλά, 
And coming into the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and watching lament and weeping and loud wailing,
ἔρχονται: PMI 3p, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come  1a) of persons  1a1) to come from one place to another, and used both of  persons arriving and of those returning
θεωρεῖ: PAI 3s, θεωρέω, 1) to be a spectator, look at, behold  1a) to view attentively,
κλαίοντας: PAPart amp, κλαίω, 1) to mourn, weep, lament  1a) weeping as the sign of pain and grief for the thing signified  (i.e. for the pain and grief) 
ἀλαλάζοντας: PAPart amp, ἀλαλάζω, 1) to repeat frequently the cry "alala" as soldiers used to do on entering into battle  2) to utter a joyful sound  3) to wail, lament 
1. Again, vv.38-39 is a series of participles before one gets to the main verb, “says.” 
2. It seems to me – based on the emphatic description of the wailing, the quick change of tone in v.40, and the way that Jesus throws out the wailers – that this description is more of a spectacle of mourning than the genuine grief we saw when the father fell at Jesus’ feet and begged. 
3. The word ‘watching’ (θεωρεῖ) is transliterated into English as ‘theory.’ It is more than just seeing; it is a way of taking in the significance. ‘Lament’ is a noun, while ‘weeping’ and ‘wailing’ are participles. 

39καὶ εἰσελθὼν λέγει αὐτοῖς, Τί θορυβεῖσθε καὶ κλαίετε; τὸ παιδίον οὐκ 
ἀπέθανεν ἀλλὰ καθεύδει. 
and having entered he says to them, “Why are you lamenting and weeping?  The child is not dead but sleeps.”  
εἰσελθὼν: AAPart nsm, εἰσέρχομαι, 1) to go out or come in: to enter  1a) of men or animals, as into a house or a city  1b) of Satan taking possession of the body of a person 
λέγει : PAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain
θορυβεῖσθε : PPI 2p, θορυβέω, 1) to make a noise or uproar, be turbulent  2) to disturb, throw into confusion  2a) to be troubled in mind  2b) to wail tumultuously
ἀπέθανεν: AAI 3s, 
καθεύδει: PAI 3s, καθεύδω, 1) to fall asleep, drop off to sleep  2) to sleep  2a) to sleep normally  2b) euphemistically, to be dead 
1. The word “sleeps” (καθεύδω) can be used as a euphemism for death, but here is in contrast to it. (This is not the same word in John 11:11-12, referring to Lazarus’ death as ‘sleep.’) 

40καὶ κατεγέλων αὐτοῦ. αὐτὸς δὲ ἐκβαλὼν πάντας παραλαμβάνειτὸνπατέρατοῦ παιδίου καὶ τὴν μητέρα καὶ τοὺς μετ’ αὐτοῦ, καὶ εἰσπορεύεταιὅ που ἦν τὸ παιδίον: 
And they were jeering him.  But having thrown all of them out he takes the father of the child and the mother and the ones with him, and entered the place where the child was;
κατεγέλων: IAI 3p, καταγελάω, 1) to deride (Lit: say against)
ἐκβαλὼν: AAPart nsm, ἐκβάλλω, 1) to cast out, drive out, to send out  1a) with notion of violence 
παραλαμβάνει: PAI 3s, παραλαμβάνω, 1) to take to, to take with one's self, to join to one's self  1a) an associate, a companion  
εἰσπορεύεται: PMI 3s, εἰσπορεύομαι,v 1) to go into, enter  1a) of persons  
ἦν: IAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
1. In this scene, Mark has used 3 different verbs that could be rendered ‘enter’: ἔρχονται εἰς (v.38) in the middle voice; εἰσελθὼν (v.39) as a participle; and εἰσπορεύεται (v.40) in the middle voice. I don’t know what that means, but it is curious. 
2. Does the quick turnabout from lament to jeering imply that the lament of this crowd was disingenuous? Or, it is indicative of intensity, when feelings can go from one extreme to another? My sense is that Jesus, or at least Mark as the storyteller, is not terribly sympathetic to the mourners. 
3. In keeping with the many parallel elements of the inner and outer story, I hear the disciples’ question to Jesus in v.31 as a form of jeering as well. 
4. In keeping with my comment in v.37, n.3, first Jesus limits the number of disciples that he will allow to accompany him – much less the crowd that seems to be pressing him everywhere he goes until that point. Now, he throws everyone else out of the house. If there is a relationship between these two acts of limiting the number of folks to witness this moment, it might be that Jesus doesn’t want or need the kind of negativity that others would bring. I can’t imagine anyone wanting the jeering mourners around, but the other disciples have also just answered Jesus’ inquiry of “who touched me?” with an almost derisive voice. I don’t know if Peter, James, and John were less derisive, but the others of the 12 were not invited to this moment, nor were the mourners.  

41καὶ κρατήσας τῆς χειρὸς τοῦ παιδίου λέγει αὐτῇ, Ταλιθα κουμ,  ἐστινμεθερμηνευόμενον Τὸ κοράσιον, σοὶ λέγω, ἔγειρε. 
And taking the hand of the child he says to her, “Talitha kumi,” which is translated “The Maiden, I say to you, arise.”  
κρατήσας: AAPart, nsm, κρατέω, 1) to have power, be powerful  1a) to be chief, be master of, to rule  2) to get possession of  2a) to become master of, to obtain  2b) to take hold of
λέγει : PAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain
ἐστιν: PAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
μεθερμηνευόμενον: PPPart nsm, 
λέγω: PAI 1s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain
ἔγειρε: PAImpv 2s, ἐγείρω, 1) to arouse, cause to rise
1. The phrase Ταλιθα κουμ is curious. says Ταλιθα is an Aramaic word for the feminine Hebrew term טליתא, which means “maiden.” And it says κουμ is a Greek transliteration of the feminine form of the Hebrew imperative קומי, meaning, “arise.” There are a few occasions when Mark presents the words of a dialog in a way to indicate their original language, and then translates these terms. It could be that these occasional offerings and explanations of the spoken words (as opposed to the Greek written words) were part of the oral tradition of this story, but it seems much more likely to me that they are the narrator’s insertions upon writing the stories. If nothing else, they raise questions of who Mark’s audience is and what they might or might not know of these terms without his explanations. 
2. Wherever the explanations derived, one wonders how they add to the story. Would this story have a different effect if it simply depicted Jesus as saying, “Little girl, arise,” in Greek just like all of the other dialogs are in Greek? 

42καὶ εὐθὺς ἀνέστη τὸ κοράσιον καὶ περιεπάτειἦν γὰρ ἐτῶν δώδεκα. καὶ 
ἐξέστησαν [εὐθὺς] ἐκστάσει μεγάλῃ. 
And immediately the maiden arose and walked around, for she was 12 years.  And they were astonished with great astonishment [immediately]. 
ἀνέστη: AAI 3s, ἀνίστημι, 1) to cause to rise up, raise up  1a) raise up from laying down  1b) to raise up from the dead
περιεπάτει: IAI 3s, περιπατέω, 1) to walk  1a) to make one's way, progress; to make due use of opportunities  1b) Hebrew for, to live 
ἦν: IAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
ἐξέστησαν: AAI 3p, ἐξίστημι, 1) to throw out of position, displace  1a) to amaze, to astonish, throw into wonderment  1b) to be amazed, astounded  1c) to be out of one's mind, besides one's self, insane
1. The significance of 12 years seems – within this bracketing of two stories – to align the span of the young girl’s life with the bleeding woman’s suffering ordeal. 
2. The phrase “they were astonished with great astonishment” (ἐξέστησανἐκστάσειμεγάλῃ) is worth a close reading.
A. The subject “they” is implied in the verb, which is 3rdperson plural. But, to whom does it point? Given the fact that Jesus put the mourners out, it seems to be referring to the father, mother, and 3 disciples, both here and in v. 43. 
B. ἐξέστησανand ἐκστάσειare essentially the same word, ἐξίστημι – with ἐκστάσειbeing a nominal form and ἐξέστησανbeing a verbal form. The prefix, ἐξ, means “out,” and the root ίστημι means “to stand.” Literally ἐξίστημι means “to stand outside” oneself. The nominal form is transliterated into English as “ecstasy.” It can also refer to insanity, such as in the charge against Jesus in Mk. 3:21. 
C. I added the preposition “with” because the phrase “ἐκστάσει μεγάλῃ” is in the dative case. 
D. the fact that the term ἐξίστημι is used redundantly, along with the intensifying adverb “great,” (μεγάλῃ), could mean that the folks in the room are going bonkers right now. 
3. Some variants add the second ‘immediately’ (εὐθὺς) of this sentence. 

43καὶ διεστείλατο αὐτοῖς πολλὰ ἵνα μηδεὶς γνοῖ τοῦτο, καὶ εἶπεν δοθῆναι 
αὐτῇ φαγεῖν. 
And he charged them repeatedly in order that nobody would know this, and said to give to her to eat.  
διεστείλατο: AMI 3s, διαστέλλομαι, 1) to draw asunder, divide, distinguish, dispose, order  2) to open one's self i.e. one's mind, to set forth distinctly  3) to admonish, order, charge
γνοῖ: AASubj 3s, γινώσκω, 1) to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of perceive, feel 
εἶπεν AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain 
δοθῆναι : APInf, δίδωμι, 1) to give  2) to give something to someone  2a) of one's own accord to give one something, to his advantage 
φαγεῖν: AAInf, ἐσθίω, 1) to eat  2) to eat (consume) a thing  2a) to take food, eat a meal  3) metaph. to devour, consume 
1. Given the general madness going on in the room, Jesus seems to have to make this charge of silence repeatedly. 
2. I like how Jesus gets all doctory and reminds them that this gal needs some food. It is a delightful addition to the story, because it would be easy to think that if Jesus can just raise up the dead then surely they can be raised full and complete, without hunger or need. And yet, she is not raised as a non-human of any sort, but as a person whose needs must be met. It’s almost a warning for them not to treat her like a strange alien being but to remember her humanity. 
3. Mark uses the verb διαστέλλομαιfour other times after this use: 
Twice in 7:36 “Then Jesus chargedthem to tell no one; but the more he chargedthem, the more zealously they proclaimed it.” 
In 8:15 “And he cautionedthem, saying, ‘Watch out—beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.’” 
And in 9:9 following the transfiguration, “As they were coming down the mountain, he chargedthem to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.”

I have marked some linguistic connections between the outer story and inner story in red.  
- Knowing γνοῖ (v.43) in the outer story and knowing ἔγνω(v.29) and recognizing ἐπιγνοὺς (v.30) in the inner story.
- πολλὰ, which means ‘much’ but can take on the meaning of ‘repeated’ given the context, show up in vv. 21, 23, 24, 26 (2x) and 43. 
- The ruler of the synagogue and the bleeding woman both fall at Jesus’ feet (vv.22, 33). 
- The 12 years of life and the 12 years of suffering. Besides the significance of the number 12 in the story of Israel, the parallel between one life and another – at one point it seems like one life for the other – is notable. 
- In both stories there is some resistance to what Jesus says. The disciples’ response to Jesus question of “who grabbed my garment” sounds almost derisive. The crowd’s response to Jesus’ claim that the little girl was only sleeping was clearly derisive. 
- While it is not noted in the text itself, it strikes me that in both stories, Jesus is made ritually unclean. One is not supposed to touch a woman during menstruation – if that is what the bleeding signifies for the woman in the inner story; and one is not supposed to touch the dead. If Jesus’ words about ‘not dead, but sleeping’ are not literal, but a way of re-framing death itself, when Jesus takes Jairus’ daughter’s hand, he would be unclean. 


  1. Blessings and curses on you! I find your translation work to be most helpful but it always has the effect of sending me off down an unintended trail. The discoveries I make along these paths often mean that I end up far removed from the destination I imagined that I would reach when I set out.
    So keep it up and quit it!
    Mike Bowers

  2. Dear Mike,
    Thank you and Shut Up!
    Affectionately and Despisingly,

    (BTW, I issued a 'blessing and curse' yesterday to the person who left cake pops for us at the church. My mouth blessed, my waist cursed.)

  3. perhaps the princess bride was correct about how one could be "mostly dead" vs. "all dead." Thanks - i'm far away from my greek library but trying to get some work in, this was helpful!

  4. Thanks for your work. This is most helpful.

  5. Thanks for this work. I find it most helpful.

  6. Thanks for your work. This is most helpful.

  7. Presbybug (nice name, btw) and Sylvia,
    Thanks for your comments. May the conversation continue.

  8. This was a big help. Thanks.

  9. What do you think about the number 12 here? The woman ill for 12 years. The girl 12 years old.

  10. I agree that there are at least twenty sermons in this/these passage/s!

    The twelve bit. Tempting to see some twelve = Israel links. Both women are restored to the community. I think it has to be menstrual issues which can be extremely painful and of which male doctors (most often back then, unlike now haha, thought to be shysters)probably had no idea. Both women have 'died'; both are healed to be fully woman.
    The command to give the girl something to eat might also mean that she now belongs to the living community where the sharing of food is a sign of belonging and of 'life'.

    The use of a foreign language when doing something extremely powerful is common a la 'ephphatha' or more significantly Aramaic surviving in liturgy (maranatha, with Paul's lot; amen, alleluia, kurie etc with moderns)r even abracadabra.

    Why Peter J & J and no one else? Those who 'belong' to Jesus are 'in' the house; others, even the biological rellies, are 'outside'.

    I love the way it's all told, esp the poignant short sentences: 'he went with him' and 'Your daughter is dead'. And that Jesus says nothing to Jairus until he's at the point of total despair.

    Wonderful episodes ....

  11. Simply said, you just rock. Thank you for your exegesis which helps those of us who are not Greek scholars, just Greek voyeurs.

  12. I always appreciate your take and Greek help that gets fuzzier and fuzzier in my mind as I age.

    I wonder if the use of the Aramaic is showing Jesus willing to reach out to the girl in words that are familiar to her. . . Jesus meeting us where we are? Just a wondering as I read through . . .

  13. I find that I wonder if the girl's age, 12, is important as being on the cusp of womanhood. She will soon experience the state of impurity and the regular isolation that comes with it. After being brought back from "mostly dead" by Jesus is she now freed from that as well? It seems to connect to the fate of the other nameless woman. They both now move about freely.

    1. That's a profound thought, my friend. If we coordinate that with the 12 years of impurity/bleeding and then see the 12 disciples being sent out in the next story cluster, it becomes part of a compelling story. Thanks.

  14. I appreciate all of the comments this week. I've embarked on a series apart from the lectionary and have not been able to attend to the comment section as I should. Thanks for your kindness, but please don't let that ever stop you from challenging me or questioning my judgments. I make no pretense of being a tremendous scholar of the NT or of Greek. I'm just trying to use the tools that I was taught in seminary and to be as clear as possible about the decisions one faces when doing so.
    And I'm highly opinionated, so there's that.
    Thanks again, y'all.

  15. Thank you! You are such a great resource. I typically study the interlinear text, then read your detailed analysis. I savor your wonderful insights. You look "beyond" which helps me to be as "frontier" with the Word as I imagine the Word is meant to be.
    A few notes that I jotted down from the text: Jairus bows down to the "feet" of Jesus then "spirits" (parakleoh) Jesus, before asking for Jesus to lay his "hand" (image of power) on his daughter ("daughterling"-- great word!). Jesus will "raise up" (anastasia) the maiden as he holds her hand. The little girl will stand up and "spirit" around (peripateo: going full circle),like dancing. The others are stupified (standing in a fixed position). It's a bloody, messy, deadly story and it's sooo feminine-- the maiden, the determined woman, (women's) blood... even an unnamed mother is included, invited to participate in this amazing Jesus event. Jesus smashes through the borders and boundaries!

    1. Tremendous summary. I love your enthusiasm and vision of this text!


If you want to leave a comment using only your name, please click the name/url option. I don't believe you have to sign in or anything like that by using that option. You may also use the 'anonymous' option if you want. Just be nice.

Blog Archive