The voting of the Seminar on this item can be represented as follows: </p>
- 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.