64. Still keeping by the order of time, Matthew next continues to the following effect:
While He spoke these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped Him, saying, My daughter is even now dead; but come and lay Your hand upon her, and she shall live; and so on, until we come to the words,
and the maid arose. And the fame hereof went abroad into all that land. The other two, namely, Mark and Luke, in like manner give this same account, only they do not keep by the same order now. For they bring up this narrative in a different place, and insert it in another connection; to wit, at the point where He crosses the take and returns from the country of the Gerasenes, after casting out the devils and permitting them to go into the swine. Thus Mark introduces it, after he has related what took place among the Gerasenes, in the following manner:
And when Jesus was passed over again by ship unto the other side, much people gathered unto Him: and He was near unto the sea. And there comes one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw Him, he fell at His feet, etc. By this, then, we are certainly to understand that the occurrence in connection with the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue did take place after Jesus had passed across the lake again in the ship. It does not, however, appear from the words themselves how long after that passage this thing happened. But that some time did elapse is clear. For had there not been an interval, no period would be left within which those circumstances might fall which Matthew has just related in the matter of the feast in his house. These, indeed, he has told after the fashion of the evangelists, as if they were the story of another person's doings. But they are the story really of what took place in his own case, and at his own house. And after that narrative, what follows in the immediate context is nothing else than this notice of the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue. For he has constructed the whole recital in such a manner, that the mode of transition from one thing to the other has itself indicated with sufficient clearness that the words immediately following give the narrative of what actually took place in immediate consecution. For after mentioning, in connection with the former incident, those words which Jesus spoke with respect to the new cloth and the new wine, he has subjoined these other words, without any interruption in the narrative, namely,
While He spoke these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler. And this shows that, if the person approached Him while He was speaking these things, nothing else either done or said by Him could have intervened. In Mark's account, on the other hand, the place is quite apparent, as we have already pointed out, where other things [left unrecorded by him] might very well have come in. The case is much the same also with Luke, who, when he proceeds to follow up his version of the story of the miracle wrought among the Gerasenes, by giving his account of the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue, does not pass on to that in any such way as to place it in antagonism with Matthew's version, who, by his words,
While He yet spoke these things, gives us plainly to understand that the occurrence took place after those parables about the cloth and the wine. For when he has concluded his statement of what happened among the Gerasenes, Luke passes to the next subject in the following manner;
And it came to pass that, when Jesus was returned, the people gladly received Him; for they were all waiting for Him. And, behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue, and he fell down at Jesus' feet, and so on. Thus we are given to understand that the crowd did indeed receive Jesus immediately on the said occasion: for He was the person for whose return they were waiting. But what is conveyed in the words which are directly added,
And, behold, there came a man whose name was Jairus, is not to be taken to have occurred literally in immediate succession. On the contrary, the feast with the publicans, as Matthew records it, took place before that. For Matthew connects this present incident with that feast in such a way as to make it impossible for us to suppose that any other sequence of events can be the correct order.
65. In this narrative, then, which we have undertaken to consider at present, all these three evangelists indeed are unquestionably at one in the account which they give of the woman who was afflicted with the issue of blood. Nor is it a matter of any real consequence, that something which is passed by in silence by one of them is related by another; or that Mark says,
Who touched my clothes? while Luke says,
Who touched me? For the one has only adopted the phrase in use and wont, whereas the other has given the stricter expression. But for all that, both of them convey the same meaning. For it is more usual with us to say,
You are tearing me, than to say,
You are tearing my clothes; as, notwithstanding the term, the sense we wish to convey is obvious enough.
66. At the same time, however, there remains the fact that Matthew represents the ruler of the synagogue to have spoken to the Lord of his daughter, not merely as one likely to die, or as dying, or as on the very point of expiring, but as even then dead; while these other two evangelists report her as now near unto death, but not yet really dead, and keep so strictly to that version of the circumstances, that they tell us how the persons came at a later stage with the intelligence of her actual death, and with the message that for this reason the Master ought not now to trouble Himself by coming, with the purpose of laying His hand upon her, and so preventing her from dying—the matter not being put as if He was one possessed of ability to raise the once dead to life. It becomes necessary for us, therefore, to investigate this fact lest it may seem to exhibit any contradiction between the accounts. And the way to explain it is to suppose that, by reason of brevity in the narrative, Matthew has preferred to express it as if the Lord had been really asked to do what it is clear He did actually do, namely, raise the dead to life. For what Matthew directs our attention to, is not the mere words spoken by the father about his daughter, but what is of more importance, his mind and purpose. Thus he has given words calculated to represent the father's real thoughts. For he had so thoroughly despaired of his child's case, that not believing that she whom he had just left dying, could possibly now be found yet in life, his thought rather was that she might be made alive again. Accordingly two of the evangelists have introduced the words which were literally spoken by Jairus. But Matthew has exhibited rather what the man secretly wished and thought. Thus both petitions were really addressed to the Lord; namely, either that He should restore the dying damsel, or that, if she was already dead, He might raise her to life again. But as it was Matthew's object to tell the whole story in short compass, he has represented the father as directly expressing in his request what, it is certain, had been his own real wish, and what Christ actually did. It is true, indeed, that if those two evangelists, or one of them, had told us that the father himself spoke the words which the parties who came from his house uttered—namely, that Jesus should not now trouble Himself, because the damsel had died—then the words which Matthew has put into his mouth would not be in harmony with his thoughts. But, as the case really stands, it is not said that he gave his consent to the parties who brought that report, and who bade the Master no more think of coming now. And together with this, we have to observe, that when the Lord addressed him in these terms,
Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole, He did not find fault with him on the ground of his want of belief, but really encouraged him to a yet stronger faith. For this ruler had faith like that which was exhibited by the person who said,
Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.
67. Seeing, then, that the case stands thus, from these varied and yet not inconsistent modes of statement adopted by the evangelists, we evidently learn a lesson of the utmost utility, and of great necessity,— namely, that in any man's words the thing which we ought narrowly to regard is only the writer's thought which was meant to be expressed, and to which the words ought to be subservient; and further, that we should not suppose one to be giving an incorrect statement, if he happens to convey in different words what the person really meant whose words he fails to reproduce literally. And we ought not to let the wretched cavillers at words fancy that truth must be tied somehow or other to the jots and tittles of letters; whereas the fact is, that not in the matter of words only, but equally in all other methods by which sentiments are indicated, the sentiment itself, and nothing else, is what ought to be looked at.
68. Moreover, as to the circumstance that some codices of Matthew's Gospel contain the reading,
For the woman is not dead, but sleeps, while Mark and Luke certify that she was a damsel of the age of twelve years, we may suppose that Matthew has followed the Hebrew mode of speech here. For in other passages of Scripture, as well as here, it is found that not only those who had already known a man, but all females in general, including untouched virgins, are called women. That is the case, for instance, where it is written of Eve,
He made it into a woman; and again, in the book of Numbers, where the women who have not known a man by lying with him, that is to say, the virgins, are ordered to be saved from being put to death. Adopting the same phraseology, Paul, too, says of Christ Himself, that He was
made of a woman. And it is better, therefore, to understand the matter according to these analogies, than to suppose that this damsel of twelve years of age was already married, or had known a man.
Source. Translated by S.D.F. Salmond. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 6. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1888.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1602228.htm>.
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