Re: Dead/not dead?

From: Ben Crick (
Date: Wed Jun 25 1997 - 23:23:41 EDT

On Tue 24 Jun 97 (17:41:03 +0000), wrote:
> My question is this. Is there anything in the Gr. text that would
> require a figurative interpretation of the words of Jesus? Couldn't it
> be that this is not an account of resuscitation from death, but from a
> coma?
>  This is not to diminish the miracles, surely, raising someone from a
> coma (the current "brain death?") so that they get up and walk around
> is a miracle. I don't want to start that type of off topic discussion.
>  I'm merely trying to get at the most natural understanding of the Gr.
> text.


 Hullo John! Good question. I suppose one could compare this APEQANEN with
 the Hebrew "prophetic perfect", as in Isaiah 53. There the verbs are in the
 Perfect tense: the idea being that the prophecy is so certain of fulfilment,
 that the events are spoken of as having already happened.

 Or compare the miraculous draught of fish. In Luke 5:6 we are told that they
 inclosed a great multitude of fishes, DIERRHSSETO DE TA DIKTUA AUTWN. Did
 the nets break, or didn't they? They were at the point of breaking, but
 didn't. Likewise in verse 8, they came and filled both the ships, hWSTE
 BUQIZESQAI AUTA. Did they sink, or did they not sink? They were at the
 point of sinking, but did not sink. Some call this rhetorical device a
 /constructio praegnans/, IIRC.

 What Jairus had told Jesus was TO QUGATHRION MOU ESCATWS ECEI. She's on her
 last gasp; but still alive. On the way to the home of Jairus, Jesus is
 delayed by the woman who touched the hem of his garment. Then the servants
 arrived with a message for Jairus, hH QUGATHR SOU APEQANEN: TI ETI SKULLEIS
 TON DIDASKALON? (verse 35). But moved by compassion, Jesus is going to be
 bothered. He arrives at the house to find the undertakers and morticians
 already there starting the threnodies. Jesus commands them to stop, saying
 TO PAIDION OUK APEQANEN ALLA KATHEUDAI. He is going to prove to them he is
 Lord of life and death by "waking her up".

 The reaction of the bystanders was total scorn and ridicule: KAI KATELEGON
 AUTON. Doctor Luke the beloved physician writes KAI KATELEGON AUTOU EIDOTES
 hOTI APEQANEN (Luke 8:53). I wonder if Jairus's daughter herself was Luke's
 informant? We can take it that professional morticians knew when a body was
 dead! IMHO Jesus meant "she's not *irreversibly* dead". He was going to wake
 her up in a miraculous resuscitation; the morticians and musicians would lose
 their fees.

 Richard Chenevix Trench, /Miracles of our Lord/, Routledge, London & New
 York, n.d., pp 149 ff, thinks that the girl was only in a coma. CH Turner
 in his commentary (1928) takes the same line. Vincent Taylor (1952) points
 out that Jesus had said "she is not dead" before having seen the girl; and
 that Jesus never gave any medical diagnoses or prognoses on any other

 IMHO Jesus meant "She's not permanently dead; only like she's asleep". In
 every culture and language "sleep" is used as a euphemism for death. Jesus
 used it in the case of Lazarus (John 11). Then, the disciples really thought
 Jesus only meant Lazarus was sleeping; he had to spell it out "LAZAROS
 APEQANEN" (John 11:14). In that case Lazarus was four days' dead by the time
 Jesus arrived; corruption had well and truly set in: HDH OZEI (John 11:39).

 There was a popular superstition that the soul did not leave the body
 immediately at the point of death, but stayed by for a while in case there
 was any possibility of resuscitation; compare Psalm 16:10. Jesus did not "see
 corruption" because he was only three days dead: like Jonah in the belly of
 the fish, who was then resuscitated and continued his mission. Jesus was
 resurrected, the firstfruits of them that "slept", and ascended into heaven.
 In the case of Jairus' daughter, only dead about half an hour, there was
 every chance of resuscitation. The usual explanation of the miracle by the
 skeptics is that Jesus just gave her what paramedics call the "kiss of life",
 and she revived. Other skeptics quote this saying of Jesus merely to "prove"
 that "the Bible contradicts itself". We know better than that.

 Revd Ben Crick, BA Bristol, 1963 (hons in Theology)
 232 Canterbury Road, Birchington, Kent, CT7 9TD (UK)

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