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Deaf Mute Cured


(1) Mark 7:31-37 [see Matt 15:29-31]



(1) Mark 7:31-37 [see Matt 15:29-31]

/7:31/ Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. /7:32/ They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. /7:33/ He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. /7:34/ Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened." /7:35/ And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. /7:36/ Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. /7:37/ They were astounded beyond measure, saying, "He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak."

[see Matt 15:29-31]
/15:29/ After Jesus had left that place, he passed along the Sea of Galilee, and he went up the mountain, where he sat down. /15:30/ Great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the mute, and many others. They put them at his feet, and he cured them, /15:31/ so that the crowd was amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.




RCL: Proper 18, Year B
ECUSA & RC: Year B, 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

advanceWORD: Proper 18B


John Dominic Crossan

Item: 238
Stratum: II (60-80 CE)
Historicity: ±
Common Sayings Tradition: No

Jesus Seminar

Element of the Story


Jesus used spittle and mud in his cures.
Jesus healed a deaf-mute with a combination of mud, saliva and prayer.
Jesus used tradition methods of treatment (medicinal plants, animals and animal products, minerals, oils, and spirits).

For a brief commentary on the Seminar's voting, see The Acts of Jesus, p. 98f.


John P. Meier

Meier deals with this miracle in Marginal Jew II,711-14. On this particular story he comments:

... there are indications that we are dealing here not with pure creation by Mark but with some tradition Mark has inherited. An initial signal is the significant number of words in the seven verses of this miracle story that never occur anywhere else in Mark's Gospel. Then there are the unusual, even bizarre, elements in the narrative that make it stand out from the ordinary pattern of miracle stories in the Gospels in general and in Mark in particular. Specifically, the healing of the deaf-mute, perhaps even more than the healing of the blind man at Bethsaida, is replete with ritual or symbolic actions of Jesus that could be interpreted as magic. This may explain why this story and the healing at Bethsaida are the only two Marcan miracles that are omitted by both Matthew and Luke.

Jesus' ritual-like gestures include (1) putting his fingers into the man's ears (symbolic of opening them so that the man can hear), (2) placing his own saliva on the man's tongue (symbolic of loosing the "bond" of the tongue so that the man can speak, (3) looking up to heaven (probably some gesture of prayer), (4) sighing or groaning deeply (estenaxen, seen by some as expressing the inner "arousal" of the charismatic's miracle-working powers), and (5) the command "be opened" (given by Mark both in the Aramaic ephphatha and in Greek translation.

After elaborating on each of these five points, Meier concludes:

To be sure, the lack of any other Gospel story concerning a deaf-mute and the lack of any specific location for this story in the tradition make one wary of a firm judgment. Nevertheless, I think that one could reasonably use the criteria of embarrassment and discontinuity to argue that this story reflects some event in the life of Jesus, though I can well understand why others might prefer to stay with a vote of non liquet. At the very least, one can draw a general conclusion from this Marcan narrative plus the reference in Q to the deaf receiving the power to hear (Matt 11:5 par.). The multiple attestation of sources and forms supplied by these two passages indicates that during his ministry Jesus claimed that he empowered the deaf to hear.



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