Wednesday, 13 February 2019

A Closer Look at Apparent Discrepancies Among the Gospels (Part 2)

The Death of Jairus’ Daughter

The raising of the 12-year-old daughter of Jairus from the dead is recounted by all three synoptic writers (Matt. 9:18-26; Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56),but there is an apparent discrepancy in the order of events. Matthew says a ruler approached Jesus because his daughter had “just died” (Matt. 9:18). Mark and Luke provide the name of the ruler (Jairus), whose daughter was reportedly “at the point of death” or “was dying,” and on the way to his house the ruler was informed, “Your daughter is dead” (Mark 5:23, 35; Luke 8:42, 49). The question is, did the girl die before  Jairus approached Jesus or after?

The first clue is the amount of space allocated to the account in each Gospel. Matthew’s entire description consists of just nine verses, compared to Mark’s twenty-three and Luke’s seventeen. In the midst of these reports is the bleeding-woman incident, to which Matthew devotes merely three verses, compared to Mark’s ten and Luke’s six. Thus the amount of space afforded to the raising of Jairus’ daughter is six verses in Matthew, thirteen in Mark, and eleven in Luke. Matthew’s version is about half of each of the others.

Details omitted by Matthew include the location, the multitude, the name of the ruler, that he was a “synagogue” ruler, the daughter’s premortem condition and her age, the report of her death along the way, Jesus’ words of reassurance, the names of the three disciples accompanying Jesus, the girl’s mother, what Jesus said to the girl, the girl’s spirit returning, the girl walking, Jesus’ directives to not publicize it and to feed her, as well as multiple details of the encounter with the bleeding woman.

It is obvious that Matthew gives an abridged version of the story. His purpose is not chronological specificity or elaboration but a concise snapshot of a miraculous event amongst several others. Additional information is provided by the other Gospel writers for a fuller picture. Matthew’s tendency is to convey stories with brevity, while the other Gospels are more likely to focus on details.2

How Many Times Did the Rooster Crow?

Matthew, Luke, and John each records the Lord’s prediction of a rooster’s crowing subsequent to Peter’s triple denial, then confirming its fulfillment (Matt. 26:34, 74, 75; Luke 22:34, 61, 60; John 13:38; 18:27). Mark’s version alludes to a rooster crowing “twice,” the first of which occurred after the initial denial and the second in conjunction with the third denial (Mark 14:30, 68, 72). Nighttime in the ancient Mediterranean world was divided into four periods or watches, and the third (12–3 a.m.) was designated “the crowing of the rooster” (Mark 13:35). Matthew, Luke, and John give a general report of the Lord’s prediction, viz. that Peter will have denied him three times before this period either begins or ends, with an abridged record of the fulfillment. Mark is more specific and detailed with regard to the timing of the events.

--Kevin L. Moore

     See “The Daughters of Germanicus, Jairus, and Jesus,” <Link>.
     See “Synoptic Confusion,” <Link>. Matthew arranges his material more thematically than chronologically, grouping together a series of brief miracle stories with no attempt at chronological precision (Matt. 8:1--9:34). 

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