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Background: What Different Versions Have to Tell
The existing versions of Gospels that the Bible contains serve a very specific purpose. The first and the most obvious guess is that the consolidation of the essential Gospels helps paint a more accurate picture of Christ and His teachings. Indeed, by viewing His deeds through the lens of different storytellers, one is likely to understand His purposes much easier.
Nonetheless, one must admit that the existence of numerous Gospels entails certain confusion. Portraying the same events from a different point of view, the authors often omitted details, focusing only on the essential concepts that needed to be reflected in the stories. As a result, the existing versions of Christ’s life, in general, and His miracles, in particular, lead to creating a generic image of Jesus Christ.
Thesis Statement: Why Three Interpretations Are Needed
Despite the fact that the discrepancies emerging after a comparison between different healing stories, particularly, Healing the man with a withered hand, Raising of Jairus’ daughter, and Jesus healing the bleeding woman, are quite obvious, they should be viewed as the effect of differences in the focus of the narrators; furthermore, the identified inconsistencies and be used to have a more all-embracing picture of Jesus Christ and the impact that He had on people’s lives. Moreover, the pattern of the healings, including the sense of wonder and the fast-paced occurrence of the miracles, can be considered the common thread of the Gospels.
Raising of Jairus’ Daughter
One must admit, though, that there is also a significant difference between the three stories, which makes one question the assumption regarding the significance of the Gospels as the tools for convincing people in Christ’s divine powers. As explained above, the significance of the Gospels reiterating the notion of people witnessing the actual process of healing is crucial to praising the miracles of Jesus.
Put differently, the fact that the unprecedented and unexplainable phenomenon unwrapped in front of the crowd contributes to its veracity to a considerable extent. However, one of the stories fails to be in accord with the rest of the narrations as far as the identified parameter is concerned. Particularly, one must bring up the story of raising Jairus’ daughter. Unlike the rest of the healing stories told in the Gospels, the identified one described the phenomenon of healing occurring outside of the public’s supervision.
Indeed, all of the three versions, including the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke, point to the fact that Jairus did not observe the resurrection of his daughter from the dead: He said, ‘Leave; for the girl has not died, but is asleep.’ And they began laughing at Him. But when the crowd had been sent out, He entered and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. This news spread throughout all that land” (Matthew 9:24-26 New American Standard Bible). Similarly, Mark points to the fact that the miracle occurred without people witnessing it.
Furthermore, the fact that there are discrepancies in the description of the daughter’s condition creates an atmosphere of uncertainty about the given part of the Gospel, thus, triggering an immediate surge of criticism against it. For instance, as stressed above, different Gospels contain different information about the condition of Jairus’ daughter.
For instance, the Gospel of Mark states that the girl was at the death’s door when Jesus approached her, yet was still alive: “My little daughter is at the point of death; please come and lay Your hands on her, so that she will get well and live” (Mark 5:23 New American Standard Bible).In a similar fashion, Luke only mentions that the daughter was severely ill and that there were no chances to save her, yet she was still alive when Jesus used His healing power to save her from the grips of death:
And there came a man named Jairus, and he was an official of the synagogue; and he fell at Jesus’ feet, and began to implore Him to come to his house; for he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, and she was dying. (Luke 8:41 New American Standard Bible)
It could be argued that the issues outlined above can be considered the premises for questioning the veracity of the events depicted in the Gospels. Particularly, the fact of actual healing might be interpreted as quite arguable in light of the fact that there is a plethora of information that not only fails to coincide but also contradicts itself (e.g., the condition of Jairus’ daughter).
In order to evaluate the impact that the problems listed above have had on the understanding of Christ’s teachings, in general, and the consideration of his healing deeds, in particular, one must address the purpose of the Gospels. Despite the existence of numerous renditions of the act of healing mentioned above along with the obscurity about the presumable death of Jairus’ daughter, the fact that Jesus used His divine powers to heal people is doubtless as documented in the Gospels.
The different interpretations of the story, in their turn, invite all people to learn more about the teachings of Christ and His deeds. The story that involves mentioning the disease of Jairus’ daughter might be accepted by a more cynical audience that takes the idea of rising from the dead with the grain of salt, whereas the miraculous resurrection of the woman will be lauded by more accepting audience.
In other words, the differences in the story mentioned above do not imply that the authors used their imagination to fill the voids in the narration and bend the historical accuracy. Quite on the opposite, the alleged discrepancies in the fable should be viewed as the opportunity to have a better and more comprehensive picture of Jesus Christ, therefore, understanding the essence of His teachings and His intentions better. As a result, the basic values of the Christian religion become more apparent as the differences in the stories about the miracles.
It is also quite remarkable that Luke’s version is the one to describe the public’s contempt for Jesus and His healing power in the most graphic fashion: “But as He went, the crowds were pressing against Him” (Luke 8:42). The rest of the renditions of the phenomenon are considerably less passionate, with a sharper focus on the very fact of salvation as opposed to the pressure of the crowd and their lack of faith. Therefore, the three fables complement one another, each offering the information that was missing in the other two. As a result, the image of Jesus as the Savior of humankind, and the Protector of the suffering becomes apparent.
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Healing the Man with a Withered Hand
Similarly, the story of a man with a withered hand has several renditions, each being transcribed in the Gospels by Mark, Matthew, and Luke. Much like the narration about the girl that was resurrected by the power of God that Jesus was the herald for, the one about the man implied an immediate and miraculous healing of the disease by Jesus. However, there are a few crucial differences between the previously mentioned instance of healing and the one described below. First, there are clear distinctions between the acts of healing described by all three narrators.
Apart from minor discrepancies in the way in which the story was told, there is an issue of a religious stance raised in the story of the man with a withered hand. None of the three versions of the Gospel interprets the very healing process in a strikingly different fashion – quite on the opposite, all of them conform to a single manner of depicting the miracle. To be more exact, the hand is cured immediately in the presence of hundreds of people, therefore, serving as the ultimate proof of the existence of God and His divine power.
However, the renditions of the ethical issue mentioned in the course of healing allow one to take a very strong stance on the issue of compliance with the existing standards of religious behavior and the necessity to help those in dire situations. Particularly, each of the three versions contains its own interpretation of the way, in which the possibility of healing people on Sabbath was addressed.
For instance, in Matthew’s rendition of the event, it is stated explicitly that the crowd was eagerly waiting for Christ to heal the man so that they could ask Him if it was acceptable to heal on Sabbath and, therefore, prove His actions as wrong as sinful: “And they questioned Jesus, asking, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse Him” (Matthew 12:10).In a similar fashion, Luke does not mention the direct communication between Jesus and the people around him; instead, the narrator keeps the focus closely on the actions and the intentions of the people around Him:
The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath so that they might find reason to accuse Him. But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And he got up and came forward. (Luke 6:7-8)
Mark, however, explores the subject matter in an even deeper fashion by mentioning that the crowd, in fact, asked Him directly whether the act of healing was possible and acceptable on Sabbath: “He entered again into a synagogue, and a man was there whose hand was withered. They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath so that they might accuse Him” (Mark 3:1-2).
Therefore, the process of healing implies not only saving one’s life and relieving a man of his suffering, which can be viewed as a metaphor for the life of Christ, in general, but also a complex moral dilemma. On the one hand, people are compelled to follow the Biblical dogmas, the necessity to abandon work on Sabbath being one of them. On the other hand, the Biblical principles and ethics require people to lend a hand to those in need and the people that suffer, the man that needed healing being a graphic example of the specified concept.
Therefore, there is an urge to choose between following the existing religious traditions and complying with a more complex ethical issue. The wording that the authors of the Gospels choose to outline the gravity of the choice define the strength of their argument; as a result, each of the narrations complements the rest, which makes them combine like puzzle pieces to create a unique and uniform picture.
In a similar fashion, Luke tries to picture the way, in which the Pharisees plotted their revenge against Jesus; instead of stating plainly that the people in the crowd were displeased with the proof that they received, Luke paints a very detailed picture of the emotional change that the Pharisees observing the healing process underwent: “But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus” (Luke 6:11).
Therefore, the Gospel of Luke sheds more light on both the teachings of Jesus and the obstacles that He had to face in order to get the essential messages to the people. Furthermore, the narration provides a background for the environment that Jesus lived in, the people that surrounded Him, and sacrifices that He had to make for the sake of the salvation of humankind.
Jesus Heals the Bleeding Woman
Finally, the story about the hemorrhaging woman deserves a closer look as one of the narrations that show the greatest number of differences when different Gospels are compared. The first characteristic of the story told by Matthew that falls into one’s eye at first glance is that it is the shortest one of all versions.
The brevity of the author could be considered a flaw compared to other approaches to telling the story since it fails to render every single element of the event. For instance, a range of details concerning the emotions of the people involved, the response of the crowd, the details of the woman’s disease, etc., are omitted for the sake of keeping the story short.
The story told by Mark, in its turn, is much richer with details and, therefore, aimed at the audience that needs to picture minor elements in order to comprehend the message and its gravity. Indeed, the abundance of details that the author of the Gospel provides helps imagine the situation precisely; as a result, the ancient events can be recreated with the credibility that will impress even the ones that have heavy doubts.
For instance, the fact that the woman had been suffering for twelve years before she had a chance to be healed, as well as that she had used all of her possessions to receive the desired treatment, yet her efforts were of no avail, helps build the atmosphere and restore the events exactly the way in which they occurred. Furthermore, the detailed description of the woman helps the readers relate to her; as a result, the audience grows sympathetic toward her and feels sorry for the woman, wishing that she should get well. Therefore, once she is cured by merely touching the cloak of Christ, the audience feels relief and at the same time is shocked by the unbelievable power of God: “Immediately the flow of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction” (Mark 5:30).
Much to the credit of all authors, the essential message is kept intact and mentioned in all three Gospels, every one of them reiterating it nearly word by word: “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction” (Mark 5:34); “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace”(Luke 8:48); “Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well” (Matthew 9:22).
As seen from the excerpts provided above, there is a phrase reiterated in every single version of the narration, i.e., “your faith has made you well” (Mark 5:34; Luke 8:48; Matthew 9:22). In other words, every single rendition of the story keeps the original message intact. Therefore, the fable shows in a very graphic way that the importance of faith is crucial for a Christian; as long as one believes in the glory and power of God, everything is possible, and every miracle may become a reality.
Jesus’ response to the woman touching his clothes also varies in the renditions of the story as provided by Mark, Matthew, and Luke. For instance, as stressed above, Mark states explicitly that Jesus asked out loud who touched His clothes. However, Matthew does not provide these details, restricting the story to the miraculous healing that the woman experienced.
In fact, there is no mentioning of the role of the crowd in the Gospel of Matthew, either. It could be assumed that the purpose of omitting these details was to create the impression of a close contact with Jesus in order to experience the immense and incredible power that he had. It is quite peculiar that the Gospel of Luke does not create the environment of closeness that Matthew’s version does; instead, he focuses on the dialogue between Jesus and the crowd:
And Jesus said, ‘Who is the one who touched Me?’ And while they were all denying it, Peter said, ‘Master, the people are crowding and pressing in on You.’ But Jesus said, ‘Someone did touch Me, for I was aware that power had gone out of Me.’ (Luke 8:45-46)
Thus, the historical events are replicated with high precision, allowing the audience to immerse themselves in the environment and believe that the events were real. Therefore, it could be argued that Luke’s and Mark’s versions are aimed at the people that need support to believe in the power of God, whereas Mathew’s reiteration of the events provides spiritual food to those that have already build the foundation for their faith.
It can be assumed that the story of the hemorrhaging woman was intended for the people that need to find the strength to believe that their faith can be strong. More importantly, the story is meant for the people that need to realize how powerful faith can be, and that they are capable of breathing this power in their beliefs.
The story is aimed at the people that may have lost their passion for seeking truth and exploring their strengths as believers. Indeed, all three renditions of the story mention that the woman had unceasing and unflinching faith in Almighty Lord and His miracles. Thus, the legend is intended primarily for the people that doubt whether they are capable of believing continuously in the power of Christ.
Luke 6:6-11 New American Standard Bible.
Luke 8:40-56 New American Standard Bible.
Mark 5:21-43 New American Standard Bible.
Matthew 9:18-26 New American Standard Bible.