The Social Setting of Jesus and the Gospels

By Wolfgang Stegemann; Bruce J. Malina et al. | Go to book overview

5
Jesus Heals the Hemorrhaging Woman

Stuart L. Love


Introduction

The purpose of this essay is to assess the historicity of the healing story of the hemorrhaging woman in Matt 9:20–22, primarily by means of a cross-cultural anthropological analysis. The story was chosen for two reasons. First, as Meier points out, the occurrence lacks multiple attestation—there is no other incident of its type, that is, of a woman with a private gynecological problem, perhaps a chronic uterine hemorrhage. This was, according to the levitical law, a constant source of ritual impurity (Meier 1994:707, 709). Meier treats the account’s historicity as unclear (non liquet; 706–7, 710). Second, the accounthaving passed through at least the initial compilation and the time of Jesus’ activity—no doubt describes the evangelist’s setting in life. Accordingly, the final form of the narrative is heavily edited (in comparison to Mark) and tends to suppress certain features for theological reasons (Held 1963).

Historical assessment of the healing stories is most difficult. First, as Malina points out, every “person seeking to evaluate the historical authenticity of Jesus’ deeds must necessarily assume and apply some theory of reading, of language and of social meaning, whether they are aware of it or not” (1999a:351–52). Second, for many scholars, the healing deeds of Jesus—a major component of the “miracles” of Jesus—are “problem-ridden behaviors,” largely “because there is no room for them among the patterns of conduct and perception available in contemporary U.S. and northern European social systems” (Malina 1999a:352). A final difficulty is that, from the Enlightenment, the deeds of Jesus as a healer have been variously interpreted out of conceptions “available from

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