Being and Knowing in Messianic Space

von Carolsfeld, woodcut for "Bibel der Bildern" (Image via Wikipedia)
von Carolsfeld, Woodcut for "Bibel der Bildern" (Image via Wikipedia)

The story of Jesus’ raising Jairus’s daughter appears in all three synoptics (Matt 9:18–19, 23–26; Mark 5:21–24, 35–43; Luke 8:41–42, 49–56), but only Mark and Luke report a closing admonition about the event’s further dissemination (Mark 5:43; Luke 8:56). In Luke 8:56, Jesus instruction focuses on the fact that the witnesses, perhaps especially the parents, should not themselves engage in describing what happened. By contrast, in Mark 5:43, Jesus warns those around him ἵνα μηδεὶς γνοῖ τοῦτο (so that no one would know this*).

Certainly, μηδείς (no one) does not have an absolute sense here so that Jesus is envisioning that even those who were present would forget what had happened. Such would hardly make sense in the narrative; rather, the intention seems to be that no one else besides those who were present at the event should know what had happened. Nevertheless, Mark’s crowd has a very clear knowledge that Jairus’s daughter was, in fact, dead (Mark 5:38–40a; France, Mark, 239; Lane, Mark, 196–97; cf. Matt 9:23–24Luke 8:52–53). Therefore, that the girl had been restored to life could scarcely be avoided as a natural conclusion once the crowd became aware that the girl was alive (Brower, “Who Then Is This?” EvQ 81.4 [2009]: 301; France, Mark, 240; Goodacre, “Messianic Secret”; Lane, Mark, 198–199; cf. Jerome, Epist., 108.24 [NPNF2 6:208–9]; Jerome, Jov., 2.17 [NPNF2 6:401]; Theodoret of Cyr, Dial., 2 [NPNF2 3:198]). Consequently, in Mark’s ἵνα μηδεὶς γνοῖ τοῦτο (Mark 5:43; so that no one would know this), τοῦτο (this) seems to focus on how the girl was restored to life (Lane, Mark, 199n77).

Yet, those who are intended not to possess this knowledge are not simply “other people.” They are those who are outside (Mark 5:40). To be sure, they are outside the physical space ὅπου ἦν τὸ παιδίον (Mark 5:40; where the child was), but they are also outside the messianic space within which Jesus has acted and restored the girl to life (Lane, Mark, 197–98; cf. Brower, “Who Then Is This?” 302–3). Even in the interposed healing of the woman with the issue of blood, the woman recognizes that her own healing came about when she touched Jesus’ clothing in the midst of the crowd (Mark 5:29), but those around are not parties the miracle itself (Mark 5:28, 30–32; France, Mark, 237–38; Lane, Mark, 192–93; cf. Brower, “Who Then Is This?” 304). Instead, they have the woman’s testimony of healing from what was probably, on this occasion, a publicly unnoticed condition, and they have Jesus’ interaction with her by which to know what has happened (Mark 5:29–34; cf. Brower, “Who Then Is This?” 303–4; Bruce, “Gospels,” 375; France, Mark, 236–37; Lane, Mark, 191–92). What or how much the crowd or different parts of it (e.g., the disciples) might have recognized regarding Jesus from this interchange isn’t stated in this case. But, the division between “insiders” and “outsiders” becomes even sharper as the narrative’s setting transitions into the physical context of Jairus’s home. Certainly in metaphoric, but perhaps also in somewhat parabolic fashion (cf. Mark 4:11; Lane, Mark, 196–97), Jesus describes the girl as “sleeping” to those who mock and whom he shuts outside (Mark 5:39–40). In Mark, a key component of discipleship is “being with” Jesus (cf. Mark 3:14; 4:11), and to varying degrees, “being with” opens the door to the “inside” of “knowing as” (e.g., Mark 4:11; 5:37, 43; 8:27–30; cf. Ladd, Theology, 179–80). Thus, in this case, being with Jesus allows those in the place where the child was to recognize him as the one who can dispel even another’s death as easily as sleep (Brower, “Who Then Is This?” 301–2, 304–5; cf. Bruce, “Gospels,” 376; France, Mark, 239; Lane, Mark, 199; Wright, Jesus, 191–97).


  • Mark’s τοῦτο (this) is presumably equivalent to Luke’s τὸ γεγονός (Luke 8:56; what had happened).

Worthy of More Glory

Moses, confronted about his Cushite wife
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In Num 12:1, Miriam and Aaron confront Moses because of his marriage to a Cushite woman, and in so doing, they attempt to claim equal prophetic status with Moses (Num 12:2a). Apparently, on this occasion, Moses’ meekness constrains him from responding (Num 12:3; cf. Rom 12:191 Clem. 17 [ANF 9:234]; Socrates, Hist. eccl., 7.42 [NPNF2 2:176]), but יהוה hears the conversation and summons all three siblings to the tent of meeting (Num 12:2b, 4). יהוה then summons Aaron and Miriam for a special rebuke (Num 12:5): however high may be their claim to apparently equal prophetic status with Moses, Moses own status still surpasses that of prophet (Num 12:6–9). The status that Aaron and Miriam claim for themselves gets them only so far—only to dreams and visions (Num 12:6). By contrast, Moses is not limited to dreams and visions, but פה אל־פה אדבר־בו ומראה ולא בחידת ותמנת יהוה יביט (Num 12:8a; with him, I [יהוה] speak mouth to mouth, plainly, and not in riddles, and he looks upon the form of יהוה). More than a prophet, Moses is a faithful servant in all יהוה’s house (Num 12:7; Heb 3:5).

So much the greater, then, is he with whom Moses the faithful servant and Elijah the prophet appear on the mountain (Matt 17:3; Mark 9:4; Luke 9:30–31; cf. Irenaeus, Haer., 4.20.9–11 [ANF 1:490–91]). Yet, far from contending with this Jesus for their own status, Moses and Elijah discuss with him ἡ ἔξοδος αὐτοῦ, ἣν ἤμελλεν πληροῦν ἐν Ἰερουσαλήμ (Luke 9:31; his departure, which he was about to complete at Jerusalem; cf. Leo the Great, Serm., 51.4 [NPNF2 12:163]; Origen, Comm. Matt., 12.38 [ANF 9:470]). Not being sufficiently sensible of the situation, however, the newly awakened Peter does suggest a certain equality of status among the three glorious individuals he sees before him (Matt 17:2–4; Mark 9:2b–6; Luke 9:29–33; Leo the Great, Serm., 51.5 [NPNF2 12:163–64]). The divine response again comes in a cloud (Num 12:5; Matt 17:5a; Mark 9:7a; Luke 9:34). Nevertheless, the heavenly voice does not answer by assigning Jesus to the category of “servant,” however noble or faithful, but acknowledges him as the so much superior son (Matt 17:5b; Mark 9:7b; Luke 9:31–32, 35; cf. Hippolytus, Noet., 18 [ANF 5:230]; Jerome, Epist., 46.13 [NPNF2 6:65]; Leo the Great, Serm., 51.6 [NPNF2 12:164]; Rufinus, Symb., 4 [NPNF2 3:544]; Tertullian, Praescr., 22 [ANF 3:253]), who is himself deserving of all allegiance and honor (Matt 17:5–8; Mark 9:7–8; Luke 9:35–36; Heb 3:1–19; Augustine, Serm., 28.3–5 [NPNF1 6:347–48]; Clement of Alexandria, Paed., 1.11 [ANF 2:234]; Cyprian, Epist., 52.14 [ANF 5:362]; Leo the Great, Serm., 51.7 [NPNF2 12:164]; cf. Ambrose, Epist., 43.57 [NPNF2 10:464]; Chrysostom, Hom. Heb., 5.4 [NPNF1 14:390]; Cyril of Jerusalem, Lectures, 10.7–9 [NPNF2 7:59–60]; Hilary of Poitiers, Trin., 6.24 [NPNF2 9:106]).

They Pressed Him into Service

Simon von Cyrene
Simon von Cyrene (Bamberger Kreuzweg; Image via Wikipedia)

Mark 15:21 describes Simon of Cyrene as having been “pressed into service” (ἀγγαρεύουσιν . . . Σίμωνα Κυρηναῖον) to carry Jesus’ cross, and Matt 27:32 uses the same language (ἄνθρωπον Κυρηναῖον ὀνόματι Σίμωνα . . . ἠγγάρευσαν). Only Matthew’s narrative, however, has Jesus previously instructing his disciples, saying, ὅστις σε ἀγγαρεύσει μίλιον ἕν, ὕπαγε μετʼ αὐτοῦ δύο (Matt 5:41; whoever will press you into service for one mile, go with him for two; cf. Bruce, “Synoptic Gospels,” 328; Gundry, Matthew, 94; Keener, Matthew, 199). Matthew does not identify how far Simon of Cyrene carried Jesus’ cross, but the accompanying soldiers at least press him into service not to carry his own cross, as would have been anticipated, but someone else’s (Matt 27:27–32; France, Matthew, 221–22, 1064–65; cf. Keener, Matthew, 199–200; Lightfoot, Commentary, 2:132–33; Schürer, Jewish People, 2.2.231). At this juncture, Jesus’ own disciples are not to be “found,” and in their stead is only one Cyrenean who appears only here in the synoptic tradition (Matt 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26). Although certainly not explicitly included among the audience for Jesus’ earlier instruction in Matt 5:41, Simon here serves, where others fail to do so, as a model of the kind of discipleship that Jesus has described. In this way, Simon has a share in Jesus’ cross, albeit still only to a limited extent (Allison, “Anticipating the Passion,” CBQ 56.4 [1994]: 704–5; cf. Luke 9:23; 14:27; 23:26; Rom 6:5; Phil 3:8–11; Augustine, Cons., 3.37 [NPNF1 6:196]; Origen, Comm. Matt., 12.24 [ANF 9:464]; [Pseudo-]Tertullian, Haer., 9.1 [ANF 3:650]*; Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, 95–104, 161; Keener, Matthew, 673).


  • In his introduction to this volume, Cleveland Coxe argues against Tertullian’s authorship of this document. Instead, relying particularly on Jerome’s testimony, Coxe suggests that Victorinus (d. ca. AD 303) may be responsible for this text (14).

The Anointed One

von Carolsfeld, Jésus est oint à Béthanie
Julius von Carolsfeld, Jésus est oint à Béthanie¤

In his Dialog with Trypho, 86, Justin Martyr suggests that οἱ βασελεῖς πάντες καὶ οἱ χριστοὶ ἀπὸ τούτου μετέσχον καὶ βασιλεῖς καλεῖσθαι καὶ χριστοί (all the kings and messiahs had, by this one [= Messiah Jesus], a share in being called both kings and messiahs [i.e., anointed ones]). Yet, Matt 26:6–13 (cf. Mark 14:3–9; Lk 7:37–39John 12:1–8) seems to ask its readers to connect Jesus to messiahship via a rather surprising route—namely, by an unnamed female character (France, Matthew, 361; Keener, Matthew, 618; Thiemann, “The Unnamed Woman,” ThTo 44.2 [1987]: 183–86; cf. John 12:1–8; Barrett, John, 2nd ed., 409; Gundry, Matthew, 522; Köstenberger, Theology, 232–32; Lightfoot, Commentary, 2:341; Platt, “Ministry,” ThTo 32.1 [1977]: 30–32). Irrespective of whether this unnamed woman understands the full significance of her action, including how Jesus connects it to his upcoming burial (Matt 26:12),* Jesus’ response to the disciples’ objection (Matt 26:8–13) clearly vindicates the woman’s actions also in connection with the proclamation of τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦτο ἐν ὅλῳ τῷ κόσμῳ (Matt 26:13; this gospel in the whole world; Coakley, “The Anointing at Bethany,” JBL 107.2 [1988]: 243, 249, 255; Ford, “Matthew 26:6–13,” Int 59.4 [2005]: 401; Thiemann, “The Unnamed Woman,” ThTo 44.2 [1987]: 183–86; cf. Matt 24:14; 28:18–20). Jesus thus sets the woman’s memorial in the context of her fitting, if perhaps dimly anticipatory, recognition of his soon-coming death and all of the messianic significance with which he himself viewed that sacrifice (Matt 16:13–28; Ephraim, On Our Lord, 47 [NPNF2 13:326–27]; Keener, Matthew, 618).


  • I.e., even in the event that, from the woman’s perspective, πρὸς τὸ ἐνταφιάσαι με (Matt 26:12; toward my preparation for burial) indicates only the result of her action as Jesus interprets it and not also her purpose, to whatever extent, in the action when she performed it (BDF, §402.5; Wallace, Greek Grammar, 611).

¤ In relation to Matthew’s description of the scene, von Carolsfeld’s woodcut contains at least the adaptation from Jesus’ reclining at table (Matt 26:7; cf. Mark 14:3) to his sitting on a stool.

Not up to Seven Times

Depiction of the Parable of the Unmerciful Ser...
Depiction of the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Image via Wikipedia)

The interchange in Matt 18:21–22 looks back to Jesus’ immediately preceding comments on handling a community member (ἀδελφός) who sins (Matt 18:15–20; Chrysostom, Hom. Matt., 61.1 [NPNF1 10:357]; cf. Matt 18:21; 19:1). Read within this context, Peter’s question ποσάκις ἁμαρτήσει εἰς ἐμὲ ὁ ἀδελφός μου καὶ ἀφήσω αὐτῷ; (Matt 18:21a; How many times* shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him?) addresses a very plausible ambiguity in Jesus’ preceding comments. Judging from this question, Peter presumably thinks it inappropriate for a community member endlessly to sin and repent, but as long as some repentance was involved, Jesus’ instructions could seem never to allow further action to be taken. As many times as the community member would sin and repent, this member would also be restored (Matt 18:15b; Chrysostom, Hom. Matt., 61.1 [NPNF1 10:357]).

Other things may be in view also, but someone who might try to “work the system” could certainly fall within the range of Peter’s concern here. Doubtless, Peter’s ἕως ἑπτάκις; (Matt 18:21b; Up to seven times?) was, to him, a generous number of repetitions for this situation (cf. Lightfoot, Commentary, 2:259), but following on Jesus’ previous comments (Matt 18:15–20), Peter’s essential question remains quite understandable (Chrysostom, Hom. Matt., 61.1 [NPNF1 10:357]). Yet, Jesus’ response of ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά (Matt 18:22; “seventy-seven times” or “seventy times seven times”) expands Peter’s proposal to almost unimaginable proportions and certainly to ones impractical to count (Chrysostom, Hom. Matt., 61.1 [NPNF1 10:357–58]; Snodgrass, Stories, 67).

Despite questions about Matthew’s composition history at this point (see Blomberg, Parables, 240–41; Snodgrass, Stories, 67), if one reads with the narrative of Matt 18 as it stands, the immediately following parable of the unforgiving servant (Matt 18:23–35) can play a meaningful role in further responding to Peter’s question. In particular, the parable’s concluding interpretation urges the practice of forgiveness on the part of each community member in the face dire consequences if this instruction is not followed (Matt 18:35). In this connection, the parable develops Jesus’ earlier comment (Matt 18:22) and suggests that Peter’s inquiry about forgiveness is simply the wrong question. Forgiveness per se is an essential, constitutive feature of Jesus’ community (Augustine, Civ., 15.6 [NPNF1 2:287]), and it is the presupposition rather than the goal of the procedure that Jesus outlines in Matt 18:15–18, which focuses on the related but distinct issue of restoring damaged fellowship (see Matt 18:15b; cf. Phil 3:8; Augustine, Serm., 32.4 [NPNF1 6:358]). Thus, in Matthew’s narrative, rather than directly answering Peter’s question, Jesus highlights Peter’s misunderstanding in order to stress the importance of forgiveness as a prerequisite for how the community approaches resolving its own internal offenses when they occur (Augustine, Serm., 32.4, 7 [NPNF1 6:358–59]).


Master of the Sea, Son of God

English: Walk on the water Deutsch: Rettung de...
Image via Wikipedia

Matthew 14:22–33 narrates Jesus’ walking on water. Yet, unlike the parallel accounts in Mark 6:45–52; John 6:15–21, Matt 14:33 reports that the disciples’ conclusion, at the end of this episode, was ἀληθῶς θεοῦ υἱὸς εἶ (truly, you are the son of God). Apparently thinking along the lines similar to Heb 3:5–6, Archelaus, Disputation with Manes, 44 (ANF 6:220), relates this text to Jesus’ superiority to Moses. Perhaps more to the point here, however, is a chaos-versus-creation motif (Boring, “Matthew,” NIB 8, 327) in which Jesus subjects the surrounding disorder (Graves, “Followed by the Sun,” RevExp 99, no. 1 [2002]: 92; Ladd, Theology of the New Testament, rev.ed., 163; Verseput, “The Faith of the Reader,” JSNT 46 [1992]: 14–16; cf. Augustine, Serm., 25.6 [NPNF1 6:338]; Jerome, Epist., 30 [NPNF2 6:45]). He does so, first, by walking on the sea himself and then all the more by causing Peter to do the same (Chrysostom, Hom. Matt., 50.2 [NPNF1 10:311–12]). In this framework, then, if Israel’s God is master of the seas (e.g., Job 9:8; Ps 89:9, 19–37; Hab 3:8, 15; cf. Gen 1:2 [LXX; LSJ, s.v. ἐπιφέρω, §§2–3])—a kind of mastery not otherwise within the realm of human experience—Jesus’ walking on the sea is an eminently good reason for identifying Jesus as θεοῦ υἱός (son of God) and worshiping him as such (see Matt 14:33; Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, 6.51 [NPNF2 9:117]; cf. Mark 6:51–52John 6:21; Aristotle, Poetics, 5.6, 6.2).