110 Commentary

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This page forms part of the resources for 110 A Leper Cured in the Jesus Database project of FaithFutures Foundation

Crossan Inventory | 110 Literature | 110 Parallels | 110 Commentary | 110 Poetry | 110 Images


Marcus Borg

Borg cites the healing of a leper as an example of Jesus' radical view of holiness as a contagious and transforming power, rather than as a static condition requiring protection from pollution:

In the healing of the leper in Mark 1:40-45, Mark reports that Jesus "stretched out his hand and touched him and said,'"Be clean.'" Leprosy excluded one from human community because it rendered one unclean and everything touched by a leper became unclean. For Jesus to touch a leper ought to have involved defilement, just as in touching a corpse. Yet the narrative reverses this: it was not Jesus who was made unclean by touching the leper. Rather, the leper was made clean. The viewpoint of the Jesus movement in Palestine is clear: holiness was understood to overpower uncleanness rather than the converse. (1998:147f)

John Dominic Crossan

This is one of the 32 items in Crossan's inventory of miracle stories:.

On the general question of miracle stories, Crossan distinguishes betwen event and process:

I am concerned with two processes at work within that corpus, one, moving from event to process and the other in the opposite direction from process to event. By event I mean the actual and historical cure of an afflicted individual at a moment in time. By process I mean some wider socio-religious phenomenon that is symbolized in and by sich an individual happenong. But just as an event can give rise to process so process can give rise to event. (1991:320)

Crossan [Historical Jesus] (322) notes the significance of the unusual formulation of the request for a healing: "if you will/I will ..."

It seems to underline a striking ambiguity between "declared clean" and "made (healed) clean." This sets Jesus' power and authority on a par with, or even above that of the Temple itself. It is not just a simple request for and granting of a cure. Jesus can, if he wants, both cure and declare cured.

Although the story of Jesus healing a leper seems to affirm the authority and power of Jesus to heal and declare clean, there is also the detail that has Jesus instructing the healed leper(s) to go and seek certification from the traditional priestly authorities.

Jesus, accordingly, is carefully obedient to the purity regulations on leprosy, as in Deuteronomy 24:8-9. Those two points [Jesus as authoritative healer and Jesus seeking certification of the healing by the priest] must derive from the common source available to the Egerton Gospel as well as to Mark, but they seem in flat contradiction with one another. How is that to be explained?

Crossan then outlines a four-step process as the tradition develooped from an original story (that did not include the referral to the priests) came under two very different influences:

The common source version had already reversed and rectified the image of Jesus as an alternative to or negation of Mosaic purity regulations by that terminally appended injunction to legal fidelity. The twin texts now available to us move that common source in opposite directions. The Egerton Gospel continues and intensifies the vision of Jesus as law-observant teacher. The leper's opening autobiographical admission shows him as one either ignorant of or disobedient to legal purity regulations. And Jesus' final admonition, "sin no more," a phrase found also in John 5:14 and 8:11, indicate that Jesus does not agree with such "sinning." Mark, on the other hand, continues and intensifies the thrust of the original story over and against that of the common source. He has the leper deeply reverential to Jesus, has Jesus actually touch the leper, and qualifies the fulfillment of the purity regulations with the confrontational challenge "as a witness (against) them," namely, the priests. Do it, in other words, to show them who I am and what I can do. For Mark, then, Jesus is precisely not a law-observant Jew.

Jesus Seminar

The JS voted the words of Jesus BLACK at 90Cin session, but later voted the core event PINK.

Samuel Lachs

Lachs [Rabbinic Commentary] (152) notes that in Matthew this healing is the first of a set of such mighty deeds, and that the set of miracles seems to have been placed after the Sermon on the Mount "to illustrate the great acts of Jesus following his great teachings."

On Luke 17:11-19, Lachs (p. 318) comments:

A healing story similar to Mark 1.40-45, Matt. 8.1-4, Luke 5.12-16. The difference is the non-Jewish element, i.e., the thankful Samaritan who is introduced to emphasize the universal aspect of the preaching or as an example of an anti-Jewish bias.