February 01, 2006

Review and Comparison of the "Twelve" Healings

In a discussion on the merits of Marc Zvi Brettler’s view on myth equaling truth --- someone posted a few comments, I wish to respond to the following.

I still am not on board with you. I believe something can be true, but not historicially true.

For example, Mark 5 and 6 has the accounts of a woman with a hemmorage for 12 years, the healing of a girl, and the sending out of the 12. In Luke 8 and 9 we have the same accounts. In this gospel we have a 12 year old girl, a woman with a hemmorage for 12 years, and the sending out of the 12.

The number 12 is significant. A 12 year old is not an adult, while a 13 year old has different rights/responsibilities. 12 represents a sense of unity in diversity, as in the 12 tribes equalling 1 Israel. When Jesus sends out the 12, he is asking them to preach the gospel and to heal, so he is actually saying to do what he has just done; to bring physical and spiritual restoration.

I doubt that there was an historically 12 year old girl (Lk added the age to make a literary statement, neither Mt or Mk have it), but it expresses a spiritual truth that Jesus brought life and restoration that are related to the meaning of the number 12. So to say that the girl is 12 is meaningfully true (not a metaphor), even if there was never a little girl, or if the girl was 8.

First off thanks for the dialog, I do get the general point of what you’re getting at, but I still don’t tract with the idea of something being true, that in fact isn’t. Perhaps we have an irreconcilable difference in our definition of ‘truth’ but in response to your example...

If Luke were making up the fact that the girl was 12 to make a literary statement then it would not be true, it might be a literary device, but it’s not true if the girl was in fact 8.

There are other occasions where Jesus says things that fit much more nicely into the idea of metaphor however. Also, the Gospel of John presents a lot of interesting ‘quandaries’ --- however I believe a lot of these can be resolve with careful study and understanding of 1st century writing. That said, I believe you are incorrect in your assessment of this account, perhaps we need to take closer look at the parallel accounts in Mark, Luke and Matthew.


In Mark 5:21-43 we have a fairly detailed account of plea by a synagogue ruler named Jairus to heal his sick daughter, a healing of a woman with a “discharge of blood for twelve years” then the healing of Jairus’ daughter.

Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.”

Mark 5:22-23

And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.

Mark 5:40-42

Mark states that the girl was twelve to seemly explain why she was able to get up and walk, in other words she was not an infant, or a small child.


Luke records essentially the exact same account, Jairus pleading with Jesus to heal his daughter who Luke tells us was “about twelve years,” Jesus then making his way though a crowd to get to Jairus’s house, during which a woman that had been unclean (for 12 years with a “discharge”) touched Jesus’ garment (Luke and Matthew add the detail of the “fridge”) and is healed as a result. Then Jesus goes to Jairus’s house and heals his daughter.

And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus' feet, he implored him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying.

Luke 8:41-42

And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.” And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given her to eat.

Luke 8:53-55


Matthew has a very condensed account of the same incident; he merely states that a “ruler” came and that he had a “daughter.” Jesus agrees to go, and on the way a woman with a discharge for 12 years) touches the fridge of Jesus’ garment and is healed (Matthew omits that she’d spent her life’s savings on physicians as Mark and Luke inform us.) Jesus then goes the ruler’s house to heal his daughter.

While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.”

Matthew 9:18

And when Jesus came to the ruler's house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose.

Matthew 9:23-25


The accounts are actually quite similar, the details don’t contradict each other and have many of the same particulars, like the crowd making a “commotion” or weeping, and their laughter at Jesus’ statement. Jesus takes the girl by the hand (Jesus, who was recently touched by an unclean person, making him unclean) in all three accounts, and she is raised.

It would seem all the accounts agree in great detail, in fact in many ways we have “triple” verification of these events which would lead me to believe this was very likely based on actual historical events, even if you are quite critical of the text.


At February 02, 2006 4:11 AM, Blogger Isaac said...

Ouch. I need to check out my example better before posting a comment. It is a very interesting collection of stories, and I remembered the age of the girl being peculiar to Luke. Although you could have noted my mistake in a comment rather than a new post. Talk about throwing a brother under the bus! I shall await the next post eagerly.

At February 02, 2006 10:02 AM, Blogger Justin Jenkins said...


I only posted it as a full post because it was too long for a comment and needed more formatting to be readable ... don't take it personally!

In fact, I'll take out your name and just leave the comment ... as to make it less personal.


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