Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law

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The Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law, a tender story of familial intimacy, offers a unique glimpse of Jesus’ compassion.

Matt. 8:14-15; Mark 1:29-31; Luke 4:38-39
(Huck 13, 47; Aland 37, 87; Crook 61, 91)[1]

Revised: 13-July-2017

וַיָּקָם מִבֵּית הַכְּנֶסֶת וַיִּכָּנֵס לְבֵית שִׁמְעוֹן וַחֲמוֹת שִׁמְעוֹן הָיְתָה אֲחוּזַת חַמָּה וַיְּבַקְּשֻׁהוּ בַּעֲדָהּ וַיַּעֲמֹד עָלֶיהָ וַיִּגְעַר בַּחַמָּה וַתַּחַלְצָהּ וַתָּקָם וַתְּשַׁמְּשֵׁם

Upon leaving the synagogue, Yeshua went to Shimon’s home. Now, Shimon’s mother-in-law had taken ill with a fever. So they implored Yeshua to heal her. Standing over her, he spoke sharply to the fever. The fever vanished, and she got to her feet and began serving them.[2]


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Reconstruction

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Story Placement

According to Luke and Mark, Jesus healed Simon’s mother-in-law at Simon’s home in Capernaum on the Sabbath. In Matthew’s version, however, there is no indication that the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law pericope took place on the Sabbath.[3] Matthew’s placement of the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law story may be an indication that it did not immediately follow the Yeshua in the Capernaum Synagogue story (Luke 4:31-37) in the Hebrew Life of Yeshua. Matthew locates the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law story in Capernaum, but following the story of the Centurion’s Slave, a Double Tradition pericope. Matthew and Luke agree that the Centurion’s Slave story took place in Capernaum. Capernaum is not explicitly mentioned in any version of the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law.

It is possible that the Capernaum setting of the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law originated in the First Reconstruction, the second of Luke’s sources. Luke 4:31, which locates the synagogue incident and the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law in Capernaum, might be secondary. Luke 4:32 is certainly a later addition because the verse is in Greek idiom rather than Hebrew idiom, and because, in the second half of Luke 4:32, Luke, or his source, reduplicated a part of Luke 4:36: “What is this word? For with authority….”[4] If Luke 4:31 is also editorial, then it is possible that in the Hebrew Life of Yeshua neither the Capernaum Synagogue story nor the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law were set in Capernaum. Either Luke or the First Reconstruction (FR) could have set the two stories in Capernaum, Mark could have picked up the setting from Luke, and Matthew could have picked up the setting from Mark.

We have placed the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law in an early section of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua entitled “Yeshua’s Career as Miracle-Worker.” Events in this section took place before Jesus gathered a following of disciples. The reasons for placing the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law prior to the calling of disciples are: 1) in Luke the calling of the first disciples takes place sometime after the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law, and 2) the presence of disciples in Mark’s version of Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law appears to be a secondary addition (see below, Comment to L9).

In general, it is nearly impossible to order the pericopae in the period when Jesus was traveling alone with certainty. These pericopae could be in almost any order.

Although in the Map of the Conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua this story is placed before Jesus began to call disciples, notice that Jesus was already acquainted with Simon.
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Click here to view the Map of the Conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua.

 

Conjectured Stages of Transmission

Triple_FR-Luke_Anth-MattThe Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law is a Triple Tradition pericope. Matthew copied this pericope from Mark, but Matthew’s agreements with Luke against Mark suggest that Matthew corrected Mark at these points on the basis of his second source, the Anthology. Mark received this pericope from Luke, but extensively rewrote the passage. Although Luke’s version is very close to the conjectured Greek Translation of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua, the editorial changes that are evident in Luke’s text suggest that Luke copied this pericope from the First Reconstruction.

Crucial Issues

  1. Did the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law follow the Capernaum Synagogue incident in the Hebrew Life of Yeshua?
  2. Did the healing take place before or after Jesus had gathered a following of disciples?
  3. Where was Simon’s house? Capernaum is not mentioned in the pericope. Is the setting of the story in Capernaum artificial?
  4. Was Simon’s mother-in-law afflicted only by a fever, or are we to understand that the fever was caused by a demon?
  5. Did this healing take place on the Sabbath? If so, would healing Simon’s mother-in-law have violated the commandments related to Sabbath rest?
  6. In healing Simon’s mother-in-law, did Jesus touch her?

Comment

L1 καὶ εὐθύς (Mark 1:29). The expression καὶ εὐθύς (kai evthūs, “and immediately”) appears again in L15 (Mark 1:30). Lindsey pointed out that καὶ εὐθύς / εὐθύς is a “Markan stereotype.”[5] The adverb εὐθύς is therefore unlikely to reflect a Hebrew undertext. Given the fact that Luke and Matthew agree against Mark to omit the adverb, it appears not to have belonged to the Greek translation of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua, and should be considered a Markan addition.[6]

L2-3 ἀναστὰς δὲ ἀπὸ τῆς συναγωγῆς (Luke 4:38). Like Luke 4:31 (“and he went down”), Luke 4:38 (“and he got up…and entered”) opens the story with Jesus moving from one place to another, which is perhaps typical of FR.[7] Matthew makes no reference to a synagogue in this pericope. The description of Jesus’ movement from the synagogue in Capernaum to Simon’s home may therefore be a literary bridge created by FR.[8] It seems, however, that the First Reconstruction preserved the Hebraic wording from the Anthology in the opening of the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law (see below, Comment to L3), which indicates that the transition from the synagogue to Simon’s home is original.

While it is true that ἀναστάς is a participle, a grammatical feature so loved by the Greek language, we regularly find the participle + main verb construction in LXX. Note, for example:

וַיַּשְׁכֵּם אַבְרָהָם בַּבֹּקֶר וַיַּחֲבֹשׁ אֶת חֲמֹרוֹ

ἀναστὰς δὲ Αβρααμ τὸ πρωὶ ἐπέσαξεν τὴν ὄνον αὐτοῦ

And Abraham rose early and saddled his donkey…. (Gen. 22:3)

וַיָּקָם אַבְרָהָם וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ לְעַם הָאָרֶץ

ἀναστὰς δὲ Αβρααμ προσεκύνησεν τῷ λαῷ τῆς γῆς

And Abraham rose and bowed down to the the people of the land…. (Gen. 23:7)

וַיָּקָם יַעֲקֹב וַיִּשָּׂא אֶת בָּנָיו וְאֶת נָשָׁיו

Ἀναστὰς δὲ Ιακωβ ἔλαβεν τὰς γυναῖκας αὐτοῦ καὶ τὰ παιδία αὐτοῦ

And Jacob rose and took his children…. (Gen. 31:17)

וַיָּקָם מֹשֶׁה וַיּוֹשִׁעָן

ἀναστὰς δὲ Μωυσῆς ἐρρύσατο αὐτὰς

And Moses rose and rescued them…. (Exod. 2:17)

Thus, the participle ἀναστὰς in Luke 4:38 (L2) could reflect a Hebrew undertext.

In LXX, the verb ἀναστῆναι (anastēnai, “stand up”)[9] is about 10 times more often the translation of קָם than עָמַד.‎[10] Therefore, we have reconstructed with the Hebrew root ק-ו-ם.‎[11]

L3 ἀπὸ τῆς συναγωγῆς (Luke 4:38; Mark 1:29: ἐκ τῆς συναγωγῆς). “From the synagogue” may be a Hebraism that survived the editorial activity of FR, suggesting that the transition from the synagogue to Simon’s home is an authentic detail derived from the Hebrew Life of Yeshua. Mark’s ἐκ τῆς συναγωγῆς may simply be an example of Mark’s habit of replacing Luke’s wording with synonyms.

Note the following examples of ἀναστῆναι + ἀπὸ/ἐκ in the Septuagint reflecting the Hebrew קָם +‎ מִן:

וַיָּקָם יַעֲקֹב מִבְּאֵר שָׁבַעם

ἀνέστη δὲ Ιακωβ ἀπὸ τοῦ φρέατος τοῦ ὅρκου

And Jacob rose from Beer Sheva…. (Gen. 46:5)

וְאַתֶּם תָּקֻמוּ מֵהָאוֹרֵב

ἐξαναστήσεσθε ἐκ τῆς ἐνέδρας

And you shall rise from the ambush…. (Josh. 8:7)

וְהָאוֹרֵב קָם מְהֵרָה מִמְּקוֹמוֹ וַיָּרוּצוּ

καὶ τὰ ἔνεδρα ἐξανέστησαν ἐν τάχει ἐκ τοῦ τόπου αὐτῶν καὶ ἐξήλθοσαν

And the ambush rose quickly from its place and they ran…. (Josh. 8:19)

וְכֹל אִישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל קָמוּ מִמְּקוֹמוֹ

καὶ πᾶς ἀνὴρ ἀνέστη ἐκ τοῦ τόπου αὐτοῦ

And every man of Israel rose from his place…. (Judg. 20:33)

וַיָּקָם מֵהָאָרֶץ וַיֵּשֶׁב אֶל הַמִּטָּה

καὶ ἀνέστη ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς καὶ ἐκάθισεν ἐπὶ τὸν δίφρον

And he rose from the ground and sat on the bed…. (1 Sam. 28:23)

וַיָּקֻמוּ מִמִּדְיָן וַיָּבֹאוּ פָּארָן

καὶ ἀνίστανται ἄνδρες ἐκ τῆς πόλεως Μαδιαμ καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς Φαραν

And they rose from Midian and came to Paran…. (1 Kgs. 11:18)

The קָם +‎ מִן construction is also found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, e.g.:

ויקום משמה ללכת

And he rose from there to go…. (4Q177 [4QCatenaa] III, 13)

On the basis of these parallels, we conclude that Luke’s ἀναστὰς δὲ ἀπὸ τῆς συναγωγῆς may well reflect a Hebrew source that read: וַיָּקָם מִבֵּית הַכְּנֶסֶת (“and he rose from the synagogue…”). We attribute Matthew’s omission of the transition from the synagogue to Simon’s home to his relocation of the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law to a different context, not to the wording of Anth.

L4 ἐξελθὼν (Mark 1:29). ἐξελθὼν (L4) is perhaps Mark’s replacement for Luke’s ἀναστὰς…ἀπὸ.

L5 וַיִּכָּנֵס (HR). The Hebrew “and” is not supported by any of the Synoptic Gospels, however Hebrew syntax requires a conjunction. It is difficult to decide whether the compound Greek verb εἰσῆλθεν (L5; Luke 4:38) is a Greek improvement for the simple ἦλθεν in Mark 1:29 and ἐλθὼν in Matt. 8:14, or whether it represents נִכְנַס (nichnas, “entered”), which in MH replaced the BH verb בָּא (bā’, “came,” “entered”). Reconstructing εἰσῆλθεν with וַיִּכָּנֵס (vav conversive with a first-century Hebrew verb) instead of וַיָּבֹא reflects a mixed biblical-rabbinic style such as is occasionally found in the Dead Sea Scrolls and in rabbinic literature, for example in the story of king Yannai in b. Kid. 66a.[12] The mixed biblical-rabbinic style may also be observed in L11, L14 and L24 below. See also Preparations for Eating the Passover Lamb, Comment to L32-33.

L6 ὁ Ἰησοῦς (Matt. 8:14). Lindsey worte, “Matthew has to add ὁ Ἰησοῦς due to his misplacement of the pericope” (LHNS).[13]

L7-8 εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν Σίμωνος (GR). Both Luke and Mark refer to Jesus’ disciple as Σίμων (Simōn), whereas Matthew refers to him as Πέτρος (Petros, “Peter”). Earlier in his Gospel (Matt. 4:18), the author of Matthew introduced his readers to Simon’s nickname. From that point on, the author of Matthew generally refers to Simon as Peter.[14] Since Matthew shows a preference for the name Peter, we have accepted the Lukan-Markan Σίμων for GR.[15]

Although none of the Synoptic Gospels explicitly mention Capernaum in the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law periciope, the location of Simon’s house in this Galilean village is implied by Luke and Mark’s transition from the Capernaum synagogue to Simon’s house. Matthew places the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law in a different context, but he, too, implies that Simon’s house was in Capernaum by placing this pericope immediately after the Healing of the Centurion’s Slave, which, according to Matt. 8:5, took place in Capernaum. The location of Simon’s house in Capernaum may also be inferred from Matt. 17:24-25.[16] Thus, there is a strong tradition that Simon’s home was in Capernaum.

Fitzmyer noted that the location of Simon’s house in Capernaum “seems to conflict with John 1:43 [sic 1:44], which describes Bethsaida as ‘the town of Andrew and Peter.’”[17] Flusser proposed a solution to this apparent discrepancy: “Peter was married to a woman from nearby Capernaum where they lived in the home of his mother-in-law.”[18] According to Shmuel Safrai, “It was in the household of the groom’s parents that the couple would begin its married life.”[19] However, if Simon’s mother-in-law were a widow, as seems likely, it is reasonable to suppose that Simon and his wife had moved into the home of Simon’s mother-in-law to care for her because she was an elderly widow. This, of course, is conjecture, as the text does not indicate that she was elderly or a widow, only ill.[20]

לְבֵית שִׁמְעוֹן (HR). In LXX the noun οἰκία (oikia, “house”) is nearly always the translation of בַּיִת (bayit, “house”).[21] Looking at בַּיִת, we find that it is more often rendered in LXX as οἶκος (oikos, “house”), but οἰκία is the second most frequent translation of בַּיִת.‎[22] The phrase נִכְנַס לְבַּיִת (nichnas lebayit, “enter a house”) is encountered several times in the Mishnah.[23]

On reconstructing Σίμων with שִׁמְעוֹן (Shim‘ōn), see Choosing the Twelve, Comment to L18, L19.

L9 καὶ Ἀνδρέου μετὰ Ἰακώβου καὶ Ἰωάνου (Mark 1:29). In this pericope Matthew agrees with Luke—against Mark—that the house belonged to Peter, and not also to Andrew, James and John.[24] We believe the Lukan-Matthean agreement against Mark reflects the reading of their pre-synoptic source.

L10 εἶδεν (Matt. 8:14). Davies and Allison note that in Matthew’s version of this pericope Jesus initiates the action, which begins with his seeing the mother-in-law.[25]

L11 πενθερά (Luke 4:38). The word πενθερά (penthera, “mother-in-law”) indicates that Simon Peter had a wife. The Gospels do not mention Simon’s wife, but we learn from 1 Cor. 9:5 that she accompanied him on his journeys. In first-century Jewish culture many disciples were single, but married disciples were not uncommon. If married, a disciple needed his wife’s permission to leave home for longer than thirty days to study with a sage (m. Ket. 5:6).[26] In ancient Jewish literature, mothers-in-law are generally treated with respect.[27]

Flusser supposed that Simon and his wife were living in the home of Simon’s mother-in-law, but she may have been brought to Simon’s house because of her illness.[28]

חָמוֹת (HR). Biblical Hebrew distinguished between חוֹתֵן (ḥōtēn, “the wife’s father”) and חוֹתֶנֶת (ḥōtēnet, “the wife’s mother”), and חָם (ḥām, “the husband’s father”) and חָמוֹת (ḥāmōt, “the husband’s mother”),[29] whereas in rabbinic Hebrew חָם and חָמוֹת denote the father and mother of either the husband or the wife.[30] Here we have reconstructed the conjectured Hebrew using the late-biblical and rabbinic חָמוֹת (ḥāmōt, “mother-in-law”), the fem. of חָם (ḥām, “father-in-law”), since the biblical חוֹתֶנֶת appears only once in the Hebrew Scriptures (Deut. 27:23; LXX equiv. πενθερά) and does not appear in, for example, the Mishnah, whereas חָמוֹת appears 11 times in late biblical Hebrew[31] and 22 times in the Mishnah.[32] Reconstructing with חָמוֹת produces a mixed biblical-rabbinic style such as we saw in L5. Strangely, Delitzsch translated πενθερά with חוֹתֶנֶת in Luke 4:38 and Mark 1:30, but with חָמוֹת in Matthew 8:14.

Neither חמות nor חותנת appears in the Judean Desert Manuscripts, the Hebrew MSS of Ben Sira, Hebrew Inscriptions, or DSS.

L11-12 πενθερὰ δὲ τοῦ Σίμωνος (Luke 4:38); ἡ δὲ πενθερὰ Σίμωνος (Mark 1:30); τὴν πενθερὰν αὐτοῦ (Matt. 8:14). Commenting on Luke’s version of this phrase, Nolland writes: “The omission of the article before πενθερά is puzzling” (Nolland, Luke, 211). Marshall likewise comments: “There is no obvious reason why Luke has omitted the article with πενθερά (‘mother-in-law’, 12:53*) but included it with Σίμωνος, diff. Mk,” (Marshall, 194). Perhaps the answer to this conundrum is to suppose that Luke faithfully copied a Hebraism that he found in his source. If we assume that behind Luke’s puzzling phrase lies a Hebrew “construct state” construction, which omits the article in front of the first noun of the construct, we have חֲמוֹת שִׁמְעוֹן (“the mother-in-law of Shimon”).

L13 ἦν συνεχομένη (Luke 4:38). Most commentators regard the fem. participle συνεχομένη (sūnechomenē, “being seized, afflicted”) as secondary. Marshall suggested that “the use of συνέχομαι may be due to Luke’s predilection for the word,” since it appears six times in Luke, three times in Acts, but never in Mark and only once in Matthew (Matt. 4:24). But Marshall concedes that συνεχομένη “is in fact the correct term to use for ‘being afflicted’ by illness (Plato, Gorg. 512a; Jos. Ant. 13:398; Mt. 4:24; Acts 28:8).”[33] We might therefore assume that the proper Greek style and the frequency of συνέχεσθαι in Luke prove that its appearance in L13 is due to Luke, or more likely FR. Hebrew usage, however, prevents us from drawing this conclusion. In rabbinic Hebrew we encounter the phrase אחוזת חמה (“seized [with] a fever”) in descriptions of individuals who are sick with fever,[34] a close equivalent to Luke’s συνεχομένη πυρετῷ. In light of the Hebrew parallels, we have accepted Luke’s reading in L13-14, and reconstructed the Hebrew as הָיְתָה אֲחוּזַת חַמָּה.

βεβλημένην (Matt. 8:14). The fem. participle βεβλημένην literally means “having been thrown.”[35] We seriously considered Matthew’s reading for the reconstruction since there is a striking correspondence between the passive participial βεβλημένος/βεβλημένη and the Hebrew passive participle מֻטָּל (fem. מֻטֶּלֶת) from the root נ-ט-ל meaning “to be thrown; to lie” (Jastrow, 900).[36] In the Tosefta we read of a sick person who is lying in bed (היה חולה ומוטל במטה; t. Ket. 4:15),[37] and of a sick person who is lying behind a synagogue (חולה שהיה מוטל אחורי בית הכנסת; t. Rosh Hash. 2:5[7]).[38] Postulating a Hebrew source that read מוטלת בחמה‎ (“thrown down with fever”)[39] would account for Matthew’s βεβλημένη, if that is what he read in the Anthology. However, מוטלת בחמה is not known to exist in ancient Hebrew literature, whereas אחוזת חמה is found in rabbinic sources. We also note that, as Gundry points out, “Like ἐλθών [L5], βεβλημένην [L13] ties this story to the preceding [Healing of Centurion’s Slave], where βέβληται occurs (v 6; cf. 9:2)” (Gundry, Matt., 148).[40] These ties between the Healing of the Centurion’s Slave and the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law in Matthew increase the likelihood that βεβλημένην is editorial. We have therefore preferred Luke’s reading for the reconstruction.

κατέκειτο (Mark 1:30). Mark’s κατέκειτο (Mark 1:30) is opposed by Matthew’s βεβλημένην (Matt. 8:14) and Luke’s ἦν συνεχομένη (Luke 4:38). Could we have in L13-14 an example of a Markan pick-up? Noticing Luke’s συνεχομένη, Mark may have recalled the description of a sick man in Acts 28:8: “It happened that the father of Publius lay suffering from feverish attacks and dysentery [πυρετοῖς καὶ δυσεντερίῳ συνεχόμενον κατακεῖσθαι], and Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him healed him.” Drawing from the similar vocabulary in Acts, Mark might have exchanged Luke’s συνεχομένη for κατέκειτο.[41]

L14 πυρετῷ μεγάλῳ (Luke 4:38). From a modern perspective, πυρετός (pūretos, “fever”) is an imprecise term describing a symptom rather than the cause of the illness. It is often supposed that πυρετός refers to fever caused by malaria.[42] Fever was often a life-threatening condition, which highlights the seriousness of the illness Simon’s mother-in-law suffered.

According to Taylor, Luke uses πυρετὸς μέγας “following the usage of ancient physicians who distinguished fevers by the terms μέγας and σμικρός.”[43] However, according to Weiss the division of fevers into “small” and “great” is a popular usage,[44] and therefore probably does not reflect specialized medical vocabulary employed by Luke on account of his medical profession.[45] In the reconstruction we have retained πυρετῷ, but dropped μεγάλῳ, which looks like a Greek description of the severity of a fever.

The sole occurrence of πυρετός in LXX translates קַדַּחַת in Deut. 28:22.[46] The noun קַדַּחַת is rare, appearing only twice in the Hebrew Scriptures (Deut. 28:22 [LXX: πυρετός], and Lev. 26:16 [LXX: ἴκτερος]). The noun קדחת does not appear in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Hebrew fragments of Ben Sira, Hebrew inscriptions, or in the Mishnah.[47]

The noun חַמָּה in the sense of “fever” appears in rabbinic sources, e.g., חלצתו חמה ושאל לנו מים לשתות (b. Ber. 34b; cf. b. Ned. 41a). The Tosefta mentions one who hires a worker who suffers bereavement or who is seized with fever: שאחזתו חמה (t. Bab. Metz. 7:3).

We have chosen to reconstruct using חַמָּה (L14, L18), despite our usual preference to reconstruct narrative sections in BH style, because a rare and obsolete word seems improbable. This gives us a mixed biblical-rabbinic Hebrew style such as we saw in L5 and L11 above (see the discussion at L5). Reconstructing with חַמָּה also yields a pleasing Hebrew wordplay: Simon’s חָמוֹת (ḥāmot) suffers from a חַמָּה (ḥammāh).

πυρέσσουσα (Mark 1:30; Matt. 8:14). Taylor (179) noted that the verb πυρέσσειν “is a rare word found in a few classical writers…but not in the LXX.” However, as noted in the discussion above, the noun from this verb, πυρετός, appears in the LXX in Deut. 28:22, where it is the translation of קַּדַּחַת (qadaḥat, “fever”).

Luke’s parallel to Mark’s πυρέσσουσα and Matthew’s πυρέσσουσαν (“having a fever”; L14) is πυρετῷ μεγάλῳ (“with a great fever”; Luke 4:38).[48]

The words κατέκειτο πυρέσσουσα are apparently Mark’s attempt to improve Luke’s ἦν συνεχομένη πυρετῷ μεγάλῳ (L13-14). Matthew’s πυρέσσουσαν (L14) is probably derived from Mark’s πυρέσσουσα, and not from Matthew’s other source, the Anthology.

L15 εὐθύς (Mark 1:30). Against Matthew and Luke, Mark’s stereotypic εὐθύς appears twice (here, in L15, and in L1) in this very short story.

L16 ἠρώτησαν αὐτὸν περὶ αὐτῆς (Luke 4:38); λέγουσιν αὐτῷ περὶ αὐτῆς (Mark 1:30). In classical Greek there is a distinction between ἐρωτῆσαι (erōtēsai, “to ask for information”) and αἰτῆσαι (aitēsai, “to make a request”). This distinction is also maintained in LXX. Here Luke uses ἐρωτῆσαι in the sense of “to make a request,” contrary to classical Greek usage.[49] It has been suggested that the failure to maintain the classical distinction between ἐρωτῆσαι and αἰτῆσαι in the Gospels reflects a Semitic source, however the blurring of the distinction between these two Greek verbs is also attested in other parts of the New Testament and in first-century papyri and is therefore a feature of Koine Greek.[50]

According to Luke, Jesus is not accompanied by disciples, but is addressed by unidentified members of Simon’s household whom Jesus meets after entering Simon’s home. In Mark’s version, it is unclear whether we are to understand that Jesus is addressed by Simon’s family or by the disciples.[51] Mark’s version appears to be a secondary rewording of Luke’s ἠρώτησαν αὐτὸν περὶ αὐτῆς. Matthew’s version omits the disciples and no family members, not even Simon, are said to be present. Instead Jesus takes the initiative (see L10).

וַיְּבַקְּשֻׁהוּ בַּעֲדָהּ (HR). We have reconstructed L16 on the basis of 2 Sam. 12:16: וַיְבַקֵּשׁ דָּוִד אֶת הָאֱלֹהִים בְּעַד הַנָּעַר (“And David beseeched God on behalf of the child”). But we also could have reconstructed וַיְּבַקְּשֻׁהוּ עָלֶיהָ (“and they beseeched him about her”) on the basis of a close rabbinic parallel:

מעשה שחלה בנו של רבן גמליאל שגר שני תלמידי חכמים אצל רבי חנינא בן דוסא לבקש עליו רחמים כיון שראה אותם עלה לעלייה ובקש עליו רחמים

Once Rabban Gamaliel’s son became ill. He sent two disciples to Rabbi Hanina b. Dosa to ask for him [for the son] mercy. When he saw them, he went up to his upper room and asked [prayed] for him mercy. (b. Ber. 34b)

L17-24 Matthew has structured his version of the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law into two parts, each with three verbs. In the first part Jesus comes to the house, sees the mother-in-law and touches her hand. In the second part the fever leaves, the mother-in-law rises and she serves Jesus.[52] In this way Matthew eliminates non-essential bystanders from his narrative and focuses all his attention on Jesus.

Mark’s “And approaching he raised her having taken hold of the hand” (Mark 1:31), with its two aor. participles, is much better Greek than Matthew’s.[53]

L17 καὶ προσελθών (Mark 1:31). According to Taylor (179), προσελθών “indicates either the approach of Jesus to the sufferer, or His entrance into the room where she was.”

וַיַּעֲמֹד עָלֶיהָ (HR). Lindsey suggested reconstructing καὶ ἐπιστὰς ἐπάνω αὐτῆς (“and standing over her”; Luke 4:39) as עמד על ידה (“he stood at her hand,” i.e., “beside her”),[54] however on the basis of Septuagintal parallels we have reconstructed with וַיַּעֲמֹד עָלֶיהָ (“and he stood over her”).[55]

We have also reconstructed ἐπάνω (epanō, “upon”) with עַל (‘al, “upon”) in Return of the Twelve, L20.

L18 ἐπετείμησεν τῷ πυρετῷ (Luke 4:39). The verb ἐπιτιμᾶν (epitiman, “rebuke,” “reprove,” “censure”) appears 29xx in NT, 11xx in LXX, 14xx in Jos. and 8xx in Philo.[56]

In Luke’s account, Jesus heals by rebuking the fever, and not by touching Simon’s mother-in-law, as in Mark and Matthew’s versions.

In what sense did Jesus “rebuke” a fever?[57] Amy-Jill Levine remarks: “Rebuked, suggesting that a demon caused the fever” (JANT, 109).[58] Although it is true that ἐπιτιμᾶν is used in exorcism contexts in the Synoptic Gospels,[59] the word ἐπιτιμᾶν is not specific to exorcism.[60] To the contrary, outside the Synoptic Gospels ἐπιτιμᾶν seems not to be used in the context of exorcism.[61]

In normal Greek usage, ἐπιτιμᾶν refers to the rebuke of persons,[62] however, in the Septuagint ἐπιτιμᾶν can also be used for rebuking inanimate objects.[63] This non-standard usage of ἐπιτιμᾶν reflects the way the Hebrew verb גָּעַר (gā‘ar, “rebuke”) can be used to refer to the rebuke of persons as well as animals, abstractions and inanimate objects. For example, in MT גָּעַר can be applied to beasts (Ps. 68:31), the sea (Ps. 106:9; Nah. 1:4) and unspecified pests (Mal. 3:11). In DSS גָּעַר is applied to a stone heart (4Q436 1 I, 10), the evil inclination (4Q436 1 I, 10; cf. 4Q435 1 I, 2) and to life (1QHa XVII, 11). Likewise, in rabbinic literature rebukes are sometimes addressed to non-humans,[64] as in b. Yom. 39b where Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai (first cent. C.E.) rebukes the doors of the Temple, and in b. Bab. Metz. 59b where Rabbi Yehoshua (first cent. C.E.) rebukes the walls of the Beit Midrash. Perhaps Luke’s record of Jesus rebuking a fever reflects a further example of גָּעַר used in reference to an inanimate object.[65]

On the other hand, there are two examples in DSS where גָּעַר is applied to evil spirits. The first is from the War Scroll, which records a prayer that praises God for the overthrow of the dominion of Belial (ממשלת בליעל) saying:

[…ורחי [ח]בלו גערתה ממ[נו

You have chased away [גערתה] from [us] his spirits of [de]struction…. (1QM XIV, 10; cf. 4QMa 8-10 I, 7)

The War Scroll does not describe an exorcism, however it does apply the verb גָּעַר to evil spirits.

The Genesis Apocryphon, on the other hand, does describe an exorcism of an evil spirit. In this text, Pharaoh urges Abraham to exorcise an evil spirit:

וכען צלי עלי ועל ביתי ותתגער ממנו רויא דא באישתא וצלית עלוה מגדפא הו וסמכת ידי על [ראי]שה ואתפלי מנה מכתשא ואתגערת [מנה רוחא] באישתא וחי

“But now pray for me and my household so that this evil spirit will be banished [ותתגער] from us.” I prayed that [he might be] cured and laid my hands upon his [hea]d. The plague was removed from him; the evil [spirit] was banished [ואתגערת] from him and he recovered. (1Qap Genar [1Q20] XX, 28-29)

In this Aramaic text a verb from the root ג-ע-ר is used in the context of exorcism.

There is thus some evidence to support the interpretation that Jesus rebuked a demon that caused the fever of Simon’s mother-in-law.[66] On the other hand, we note that Luke is not averse to reporting exorcisms and there is no reason why Luke would have failed to mention a demon if he believed it to be the cause of the fever, or suppressed the demonic element had he found it in his source. It seems more likely that Luke’s report that Jesus rebuked a fever reflects the Hebraic usage of גָּעַר attested in the Hebrew Bible, DSS and rabbinic literature, according to which rebuke can be directed at non-human creatures and inanimate objects.[67]

L19 ἤγειρεν αὐτήν is a Markan creation, as the Matthean-Lukan minor agreement of omission testifies.

L20 κρατήσας τῆς χειρός (Mark 1:31). “Having taken [her by] the hand.” According to Mark, Jesus lifted the woman by grasping her hand. According to Matthew (ἥψατο τῆς χειρὸς αὐτῆς; Matt. 8:15), Jesus touched the woman’s hand, however, after the fever left, she got out of bed by herself. But in Luke, Jesus rebukes the fever without ever touching Simon’s mother-in-law. This is the most striking difference between the three accounts.

"Christ Healing the Mother of Simon Peter" by John Bridges (fl.1818-1854) oil on canvas. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

“Christ Healing the Mother of Simon Peter” by John Bridges (fl.1818-1854) oil on canvas. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Lindsey (LHNC to κρατήσας τῆς χειρός) believed Mark picked up the idea of Jesus’ touching Simon’s mother-in-law from Luke’s account of Yair’s Daughter and a Woman’s Faith, which reads: αὐτὸς δὲ κρατήσας τῆς χειρὸς αὐτῆς (Luke 8:54). If Lindsey is correct that the idea of Jesus’ touching Simon’s mother-in-law is Mark’s innovation, then Matthew simply modified Mark, and Luke has the original version “rebuked,” with no touching. Pieter Lechner noted that only Mark includes the detail that Jesus “took him by the hand and raised him up” in the story of the Boy Delivered from Demon (Matt. 17:14-21; Mark 9:14-29; Luke 9:37-43).[68] Matthew and Luke’s agreement against Mark to omit this detail in the story of the Boy Delivered from Demon may indicate that the detail is secondary and that Mark tended to proliferate instances of Jesus taking people by the hand in stories of healing. In the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law, Matthew followed Mark in adding this detail to the story.[69] Mark’s “And approaching he raised her having taken hold of the hand” (Mark 1:31; L17-20), with its two aorist participles, is much better Greek style than Matthew and Luke’s versions.

Similar healings that involve taking the sick person’s hand are described in rabbinic literature,[70] such as the stories reported in b. Ber. 5b.[71]

R. Hiyya b. Abba fell ill and R. Johanan went in to visit him. [רבי חייא בר אבא חלש על לגביה ר יוחנן] He said to him: Are your sufferings welcome to you? [א″ל חביבין עליך יסורין] He replied: Neither they nor their reward. [א″ל לא הן ולא שכרן] He said to him: Give me your hand. [א″ל הב לי ידך] He gave him his hand and he raised him. [יהב ליה ידיה ואוקמיה] R. Johanan once fell ill and R. Hanina went in to visit him. He said to him: Are your sufferings welcome to you? He replied: Neither they nor their reward. He said to him: Give me your hand. He gave him his hand and he raised him….[72] R. Eleazar fell ill and R. Johanan went in to visit him…he said to him: Are your sufferings welcome to you? He replied: Neither they nor their reward. He said to him: Give me your hand, and he gave him his hand and he raised him. (b. Ber. 5b; Soncino)

Here, as often in texts of the Babylonian Talmud (final redaction c. 500 C.E.), we find a mixture of Hebrew and Aramaic.

Would touching Simon’s ailing mother-in-law have violated the demands of ritual purity or the prohibitions of the Sabbath? It seems not.[73] Fever did not render a person impure, neither could contact with a person sick with fever impart ritual impurity. Nor was healing by touch prohibited on the Sabbath.[74] Fever, moreover, could be a serious condition, and any case in which a person’s life was in danger overrode the Sabbath prohibitions.[75] We believe that the touching of Simon’s mother-in-law is a detail that originated with Mark and therefore does not reflect the Hebrew Life of Yeshua. However, even if the touching of Simon’s mother-in-law is authentic, healing on the Sabbath when a person’s survival was in doubt was permitted according to Pharisaic-rabbinic halachah.

L21 וַתַּחַלְצָהּ (HR). The Hebrew verb חָלַץ (ḥālatz) can mean “remove” and “take out and expose,” but it can also have the sense “go away, leave, withdraw, remove,” which we see in the following example:

בְּצֹאנָם וּבִבְקָרָם יֵלְכוּ לְבַקֵּשׁ אֶת יי וְלֹא יִמְצָאוּ חָלַץ מֵהֶם

With their flocks and herds they shall go to seek the LORD, but they will not find him; he has withdrawn from them” (Hosea 5:6; RSV)

Examples from rabbinic literature show that חָלַץ was the verb commonly used in Hebrew to describe recovery from fever.[76] Compare, for example, the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law with the story of Rabban Gamliel’s son:

Our Rabbis taught: Once the son of R. Gamaliel fell ill. He sent two scholars to R. Hanina b. Dosa to ask him to pray for him. When he saw them he went up to an upper chamber and prayed for him. When he came down he said to them: Go, the fever has left him [לכו שחלצתו חמה]…. When they came to R. Gamaliel, he said to them: By the temple service! You have not been a moment too soon or too late, but so it happened: at that very moment the fever left him [חלצתו חמה] and he asked for water to drink. (b. Ber. 34b; Soncino)[77]

According to a talmudic tradition, healing from a fever is a greater miracle than the deliverance of Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah from the fiery furnace because the fiery furnace was kindled by human beings, whereas fever is a heavenly fire (b. Ned. 41a).[78]

L22 ὁ πυρετός (Matt. 8:15; Mark 1:31). Did Matthew and Mark copy ὁ πυρετός (o pūretos, “the fever”) from the Anthology? If Matthew alone had ὁ πυρετός, we might have assumed that this was the reading of Anth.; however, since this is also the reading of Mark, we have to consider the strong possibility that Matthew copied ὁ πυρετός from Mark, who originated the two words. We have reconstructed with Luke against Mark and Matthew. There is no need for a repetition of ὁ πυρετός since in Hebrew this noun would be included in the verb חָלַץ (= ἀφῆκεν); therefore, we have reconstructed וַתַּחַלְצָהּ.

L23 καὶ ἠγέρθη (GR). Lindsey (LHNT, 179-180) criticized Taylor for his failure to mention the Lukan-Matthean agreement of word order and their agreement to use verbs of “rising.”

Luke’s παραχρῆμα δὲ ἀναστᾶσα (“but immediately standing up”) is less likely to be original than Matthew’s Hebraic καὶ ἠγέρθη (“and she got up”).[79] The word παραχρῆμα (parachrēma, “immediately”) is Lukan vocabulary,[80] δέ (de) is Greek style, and ἀναστᾶσα (anastasa, “standing up”) is typical of Greek syntax, which loves to front a participle to a main verb. Matthew’s “and she got up,” opening with “and,” is Hebraic. It is important to notice that Matthew did not copy the two words καὶ ἠγέρθη from Mark because Mark has no parallel to them. Matthew’s phrase, καὶ ἠγέρθη, likely comes from the Anthology.

וַתָּקָם (HR). The most common Hebrew verb behind ἐγείρειν (egeirein, “to arise”) in LXX is קָם (qām, “arise”).[81]

L24 καὶ διηκόνει (Luke 4:39): “and served,” i.e., served food.[82] Hagner (207) translates “and began serving,” noting that “διηκόνει, lit. ‘was serving,’ is taken here as a inceptive impf.” Lindsey wrote, “Here the imperfect, διηκόνει, is attested by all three Synoptic Gospels,[83] and therefore, probably original. Ordinarily, the imperfect is a sign of original Greek composition, but sometimes the imperfect was used by the Greek translator of the conjectured Hebrew original.”[84] Most commentators suggest that this phrase is added “to show the reality and completeness of her [the mother-in-law’s] recovery.”[85]

In HR we have used the rabbinic verb שִׁמֵּשׁ (shimēsh, “serve”) to reconstruct διηκόνει. The Hebrew verb שִׁמֵּשׁ replaced the biblical שֵׁרֵת (shērēt, “serve”) in MH.[86] See the discussion in L5 above about the conjectured mixed first-century Hebrew literary style, with vav-ha-hipuch and middle- and late-Hebrew verbs.

αὐτῷ (Matt. 8:15). In his account of the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law, Matthew consistently eliminates nonessential characters from the scene in order to focus exclusively on Jesus. In Matthew’s version not even Peter is said to be present, although his presence is usually assumed because the healing takes place in his home. In order to avoid introducing characters in the very last phrase of his narrative, Matthew was forced to write αὐτῷ, although this was not what he read in Mark or the Anthology.[87]

In Luke, Jesus is unaccompanied by disciples as he moves from the synagogue to Simon’s house. It is only in Simon’s home that Jesus interacts with a group of people, presumably consisting of the members of himon’s household.

We accept Luke’s αὐτοῖς in L24 in agreement with ἠρώτησαν in L16; and thus, HR is וַתְּשַׁמְּשֵׁם.

Redaction Analysis

In the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law pericope, which Synoptic Gospel(s) has (have) best preserved this story? Which synoptic account, or accounts, should we prefer?

Triple Tradition pericopae are the most difficult to reconstruct.[88] In the present instance, Luke copied the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law from the First Reconstruction, and thus we are forced to view the Anthology through the lens of the First Reconstruction.[89] Mark is usually not much help because of his thorough rewriting of Luke’s text, and Matthew is also problematic since Matthew depended heavily on Mark’s text even though he wove pieces of the Anthology into his account. As a consequence, the story of the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law is extremely difficult to reconstruct.

A majority of NT scholars approach this Triple Tradition pericope with a bias: they assume Markan priority.[90] In the handwritten marginal notes to Robert L. Lindsey’s copy of Vincent Taylor, The Gospel According to St. Mark,[91] Lindsey pointed out the failure of Taylor (a Markan priorist) to mention that Matthew and Luke agree against Mark:

  1. to omit Mark’s addition of the words “and Andrew, with James and John” (Mark 1:29).
  2. to use a verb of “rising”: καὶ ἠγέρθη (kai ēgerthē, “and she got up”; Matt. 8:15) and δὲ ἀναστᾶσα (de anastasa, “and [she] standing up”; Luke 4:39). Mark omits this detail. Matthew and Luke also agree here on the word order: “and” followed by a verb for “rising.”

In this short Gospel passage Matthew and Luke twice agree (at Matt. 8:14 = Luke 4:38) to omit Mark’s εὐθύς (evthūs, “immediately”; Mark 1:29, 30).

Other possible agreements of omission vis-à-vis Mark: Luke and Matthew agree to omit ἐξελθών (Mark 1:29) and ἤγειρεν (Mark 1:31). In addition, Mark’s κατέκειτο (Mark 1:30) is opposed by Matthew’s βεβλημένην (Matt. 8:14) and Luke’s ἦν συνεχομένη (Luke 4:38).

The Lukan-Matthean minor agreements are indicative of Luke and Matthew’s acquaintence with pre-synoptic sources other than, or in additon to, Mark. Careful attention to these agreements and the acceptance of Lindsey’s discovery that Mark depended on Luke have allowed us to peek behind the Greek texts of Matthew, Mark and Luke to catch a glimpse of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua.

Results of This Research

1. Did the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law follow the Capernaum Synagogue incident in the Hebrew Life of Yeshua? Matthew’s Gospel does not include the Capernaum Synagogue incident and the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law appears at a different point in Matthew’s Gospel than in Luke or Mark. This raises the question whether the story opening that transitions from the Capernaum synagogue to Simon’s home which appears in Luke and Mark reflects the Hebrew Life of Yeshua, or whether it is a secondary bridge created either by the author of Luke or the First Reconstructor (the creator of FR). Luke’s “rising from the synagogue” appears to preserve a Hebraism, and therefore we have concluded that the connection between the Capernaum Synagogue incident and the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law derives from the Hebrew Life of Yeshua.

2. Did the healing take place before or after Jesus had gathered a following of disciples? Disciples are not mentioned in Luke’s version of the story, but were added by Mark who placed the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law after the Calling of the Disciples. Matthew, who agrees with Mark to place the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law after the Calling of the Disciples, agrees with Luke to omit the disciples from the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law. Matthew’s detail that Simon’s mother-in-law served “him” (i.e., Jesus) and not “them” (i.e., Jesus and his disciples) appears to be authentic and confirms the suspicion that disciples were not originally part of the story. We are not told how Jesus became acquainted with Simon, but the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law may help to explain why Simon accepted Jesus’ invitation to join his band of disciples.[92]

3. Where was Simon’s house? Capernaum is not mentioned in the pericope. Is the setting of the story in Capernaum artificial? All three Synoptic Gospels agree in placing the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law in Capernaum, despite their disagreement as to the placement of the pericope. Ancient church traditon also located Simon’s home in Capernaum.[93] We believe that the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law followed the Capernaum Synagogue incident in the Hebrew Life of Yeshua, possibly written by one of Jesus’ disciples and likely to have preserved accurate historical details such as the location of Simon’s home in Capernaum.

4. Was Simon’s mother-in-law afflicted only by a fever, or are we to understand that the fever was caused by a demon? None of the Synoptic Gospels explicitly attribute the fever to a demon. Some commentators have speculated that a demonic cause of the fever ought to be understood from Luke’s version in which Jesus rebukes the fever. If, as we suppose, ἐπετείμησεν (Luke 4:39; L18) is a translation of גָּעַר, then a demonic explanation for the fever is unnecessary, since גָּעַר was often used for the rebuke of inanimate objects without implying that those objects are subject to demonic forces. Since the Synoptic Gospels do not hesitate to explicitly attribute sicknesses to demons whenever the synoptic writers believed demons to be the cause of illness, the failure to mention demons or exorcism in any of the versions of the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law cautions us against reading a demonic explanation of the fever into the Gospel story.

5. Did this healing take place on the Sabbath? If so, would healing Simon’s mother-in-law have violated the commandments related to Sabbath rest? Since we believe the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law did follow the Capernaum Synagoge incident in the Hebrew Life of Yeshua, it appears that the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law did take place on the Sabbath. Healing by command (as in Luke) was in no way a violation of the Sabbath, but even healing by touch (as in Mark and Matthew) was accepted in Pharisaic-rabbinic halachah in cases where there was a threat to a person’s life. Fever could be a serious, life-threatening condition, and Jesus did not hesitate to restore Simon’s mother-in-law to health. Notice that Jesus does not receive any criticism for healing Simon’s mother-in-law in any of the versions of this story.

6. In healing Simon’s mother-in-law, did Jesus touch her? We believe that Mark introduced the detail of touching Simon’s mother-in-law, having picked it up from the account of Yair’s Daughter in Luke (Luke 8:40-42, 49-56). Matthew followed Mark in reporting this detail. Luke’s description of Jesus’ rebuking of a fever appears to be authentic.

Conclusion

The Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law, a tender story, offers a unique glimpse of Jesus’ compassion. If Jesus had previously visited Simon’s home, perhaps regularly, or was staying with Simon, he already might have been acquainted with Simon’s mother-in-law, making the story even more poignant and touching.[94]

 


 

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  • [1] For abbreviations and bibliographical references, see “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction.’
  • [2] This translation is a dynamic rendition of our reconstruction of the conjectured Hebrew source that stands behind the Greek of the Synoptic Gospels. It is not a translation of the Greek text of a canonical source.
  • [3] Tomson points out that the Synoptic Gospels contain five stories that involve healing on the Sabbath:

    1. Exorcism in Capernaum synagogue
    2. Healing of Simon’s mother-in-law
    3. Man with withered hand
    4. Woman with spirit of weakness
    5. Man with dropsy

    Tomson notes that nos. 1, 2 and 3 are found in Mark, in Matthew only no. 3 occurs on the Sabbath, and that all five appear in Luke (Tomson, 154).

  • [4] See David Flusser, “The Synagogue and the Church in the Synoptic Gospels” (JS1, 22-23).
  • [5] See Robert L. Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “Markan Stereotypes.”
  • [6] Cf. Gould (25) to Mark 1:29.
  • [7] According to Lindsey’s hypothesis, FR attempted to make a continuous narrative out of the unconnected stories he knew from the Anthology. In order to accomplish this purpose, FR sometimes wrote connecting sentences to create a bridge from one story to the next.
  • [8] Green suggests that the movement from a synagogue to a home is meant to prefigure the experience of Paul: “In Acts 18:7-8, only after Paul leaves the synagogue and enters a home is his message received with faith” (J. Green, 225). However, it should be noted that there is no indication that the people who attended the Capernaum synagogue were unreceptive to Jesus’ message. On the contrary, according to Luke, the members of the Capernaum synagogue were amazed at Jesus’ teaching (Luke 4:32) and were so impressed by his authority and power (Luke 4:36) that they spread a positive report about Jesus to those who had not witnessed the incident (Luke 4:37).
  • [9] According to Plummer (Luke, 137), “The verb is used where no sitting or lying is presupposed, and means no more than preparation for departure ([Luke] i. 39, xv. 18, 20, xxiii. 1; Acts x. 20, xxii. 10).”
  • [10] The Hebrew verb קָם (qām, “get up,” “stand up,” “rise”) is almost always translated in LXX by ἀναστῆναι, while עָמַד (‘āmad, “stand,” “stand up”) is also usually translated in LXX by ἀναστῆναι.
  • [11] Lindsey noted that: “Luke much prefers ἀνίστημι (= קָם) to ἐγείρω (= קָם). There is an absence of any Matthean-Lukan agreement on ἀνίστημι without Mark’s agreement (except in Matt. 12:41; Luke 11:32),” (LHNC, to ἀνίστημι)
  • [12] On the story of king Yannai in b. Kid. 66a, see David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction’ Addendum: Linguistic Features of the Baraita in b. Kid. 66a.”
  • [13] Thus Lindsey believed that Luke and Mark reflect the original order and that the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law did originally follow the Capernaum Synagogue incident.
  • [14] See France, Matt., 320-321; Nolland, Matt., 178-179. The personal name Πέτρος (always referring to Jesus’ disciple) is found 156xx in the New Testament. On the origin of this nickname, see David N. Bivin, “Jesus’ Petros-petra Wordplay (Matthew 16:18): Is It Greek, Aramaic, or Hebrew?” (JS2, 375-394). An earlier version of this study appeared on JerusalemPerspective.com as “Matthew 16:18: The Petros-petra Wordplay—Greek, Aramaic, or Hebrew?
  • [15] Based on first-century literary and epigraphic sources, שִׁמְעוֹן-Σίμων was the most common Jewish male’s name of the period. See Rachel Hachlili, “Names and Nicknames of Jews in Second Temple Times,” Eretz-Israel 17 (1984): 188-211 [Hebrew]; Tal Ilan, “Names of Hasmoneans in the Second Temple Period,”Eretz-Israel 19 (1987): 238-241 [Hebrew]; cf. idem, Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity, Part I: Palestine 330 BCE-200 CE (TSAJ 91; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2002), 226.
  • [16] See France, Matt., 320.
  • [17] See Fitzmyer, 1:549.
  • [18] See Flusser, Jesus, 44. Cf. Fitzmyer, 1:549.
  • [19] See Shmuel Safrai, “Home and Family,” (Safrai-Stern, 2:753).
  • [20] On the obligation to care for one’s parents in early Jewish, Christian and Greek sources, see Keener, 271, who cites Matt. 15:5-6; 1 Tim. 5:4, 8; Hierocles, Duties. Marriage 4.22.21-24; Duties. Conduct toward Parents 4.25.53; Quint. 6.6.5; Sir. 3:16; Sib. Or. 2.273-75.
  • [21] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:969-970.
  • [22] See Dos Santos, 24-25.
  • [23] We find the phrase נִכְנַס לְבַּיִת in m. Ter. 3:8; m. Bik. 3:2; m. Shab. 13:6; m. Suk. 3:9; m. Betz. 3:5; m. Yev. 15:10; m. Ned. 8:7; m. Bab. Metz. 9:13; m. Ker. 1:7; m. Neg. 13:9, 11, 12.
  • [24] Cf. Flusser, Jesus, 44 n. 14. Mark often adds details, including names, to his stories, as well as colorful details and drama. For a description and examples of Mark’s editorial style, see Bivin and Tilton, “LOY Excursus: Mark’s Editorial Style.”
  • [25] See Davies-Allison, 2:34.
  • [26] See David Bivin, “First-century Discipleship,” under the subheading “Commitment.”
  • [27] Cf. Keener, 270: “Despite ancient mother-in-law comedies (e.g., Terence The Mother-in-Law, second century B.C.; cf. Juv. Sat. 6.231-32), ancient Jewish literature presupposes close ties with one’s in-laws (e.g., p. Mo‘ed Qat. 3:5, §28)….”
  • [28] Cf. Lawrence M. Wills, JANT, 61.
  • [29] BDB, 368, 327.
  • [30] Jastrow, 475.
  • [31] In Ruth 1:14; 2:11, 18, 19 [2xx], 23; 3:1, 6, 16, 17 and in Micah 7:6; LXX equiv. always πενθερά.
  • [32] At m. Dem. 3:6 (2xx); m. Yev. 1:1 (4xx); 15:4 (2xx), 7; 16:1; m. Git. 2:7 (2xx); m. Sot. 6:2 (2xx); 9:15; m. Sanh. 9:1 (2xx); m. Ker. 3:6 (5xx).
  • [33] See Marshall, 194.
  • [34] See, e.g., t. Bab. Metz. 7:3; y. Shab. 90a; Midrash Tehilim 117:19.
  • [35] The perf. pass. participial form of this verb occurs 5xx in the NT: in Matt. 9:2 it describes a paralyzed man, and in Mark 7:30 it describes the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman (both individuals are in a bed). In Luke 23:25 and John 3:24 the participle is used for people thrown into prison. In 1 Enoch 14:24 the participle is used for a man lying prostrate with his face to the ground, so too in Josephus (J.W. 1:629). In these last cases, however, the individual had flung himself to the ground (1 Enoch 14:14; J.W. 1:621).
  • [36] As noted by Hauck, TDNT 1:527.
  • [37] In this case the sick individual is (or, is believed to be) at the point of death.
  • [38] We also read of a person with an abnormal discharge (a zav) who lies across five chairs (זב שהיה מוטל על ה’ כסיות; t. Zav. 4:4), of children lying on their mother’s lap (עולל מוטל בין ברכי אמו; t. Sot. 6:2[4]), and of infants lying in a cradle (תינוק מוטל בעריסה; Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, chpt. 16 [ed. Schechter, 63-64]).
  • [39] We have found no exact parallel to this phrase, however the Talmud records cases of individuals who lie prostrated from starvation (מוטל ברעב; b. Kid. 82b; מוטלין ברעב; b. Sanh. 98b), which is similar.
  • [40] In Matt. 8:6 Matthew uses βέβληται, which is absent in Luke 7:2, the parallel to Matt. 8:6, and likewise ἐλθών is absent in Luke 7:6, the parallel to Matt. 8:7.
  • [41] If so, Acts 28:8 might have been the inspiration for Mark’s idea that Jesus touched Simon’s mother-in-law in order to heal her, a detail not present in Luke’s version of the story.

    Commenting on the mention of laying on of hands in Acts 28:8, Foakes Jackson and Lake wrote: “Luke seems to have had the story of Peter’s mother-in-law in his mind in choosing the vocabulary of this story” (Foakes Jackson-Lake, 4:343). But Foakes Jackson and Lake cannot have had Luke’s version of the Healing of Shimon’s mother-in-law in mind, since in Luke Jesus merely rebukes the fever and never touches Simon’s mother-in-law. Rather, Foakes Jackson and Lake, who cited “several cases where a motif in the gospel of Mark is omitted by the parallel in the gospel of Luke only to reappear in Acts” (Foakes Jackson-Lake, 4:134), noted the same phenomena that Lindsey described as “Markan Pick-ups” but accounted for them differently. Whereas Foakes Jackson and Lake assumed Luke’s reliance on Mark, Lindsey proposed that Mark was familiar with Luke-Acts. See Joshua N. Tilton and David N. Bivin, “LOY Excursus: Catalog of Markan Stereotypes and Possible Markan Pick-ups.”

  • [42] Cf. R. K. Harrison, “Fever,” in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible: An Illustrated Encyclopedia (ed. George A. Buttrick; Nashville: Abingdon, 1962), 2:266.
  • [43] Taylor, 179. Taylor also cites J. M. Creed, The Gospel According to St. Luke (London: Macmillan, 1930), xx, 71. Cf. Plummer, Luke, 137. Σμικρός is Ionic and old Attic for μικρός.
  • [44] Weiss, “πυρέσσω, πυρετός,” TDNT 6:958.
  • [45] For a refutation of the theory that Luke used specialized medical vocabulary in his writings, see Cadbury, 39-64, especially 45, 51 n. 1, 58 n. 55 for Luke 4:38; Henry J. Cadbury, “Lexical Notes on Luke-Acts. II. Recent Arguments for Medical Language” Journal of Biblical Literature 45.1-2 (1926): 190-209, esp. 194-195.
  • [46] Both קַדַּחַת and דַּלֶּקֶת appear in Deut. 28:22. The former is usually understood as “fever,” the latter as “inflammation.” JPS renders Deut. 28:22 as, “The LORD will strike you with consumption, fever [קַדַּחַת], and inflammation [דַּלֶּקֶת]….”
  • [47] קדחת does appear once in b. Shab. 32b, but only as a citation of Lev. 26:16. The Aramaic cognate קדחתא appears once in b. Betz. 22a.
  • [48] Cf. πυρετοῖς καὶ δυσεντερίῳ συνεχόμενον (“suffering from feverish attacks and dysentery”; Acts 28:8).
  • [49] In John 14:16 there is a similar usage of ἐρωτῆσαι, that is, “make a request” (ask for something): κἀγὼ ἐρωτήσω τὸν πατέρα καὶ ἄλλον παράκλητον δώσει ὑμῖν. An even better example might be 1 Thess. 4:1: ἐρωτῶμεν ὑμᾶς (“beg,” “beseech”).
  • [50] See Jan Joosten, “The Ingredients of New Testament Greek,” Analecta Bruxellensia 10 (2005): 61.
  • [51] “Turner, JTS, xxv, 378, suggests that λέγουσιν is used impersonally, ‘He is told’, but it seems more probable that οἱ περὶ τὸν Σίμωνα is the subject understood” (Taylor, 179).
  • [52] See Davies-Allison, 2:32.
  • [53] Jordash Kiffiak has communicated privately: “Opposite Matthew, Mark has two participles: προσελθὼν and κρατήσας. Luke also has two: ἐπιστὰς and ἀναστᾶσα. True Matthew uses participles in 8:14. But in two of three instances they are the kind that work better as a potential parallel of something in Hebrew, e.g. נופלת and חולה. The odd one out is ἐλθὼν.”
  • [54] LHNC, to καὶ ἐπιστὰς ἐπάνω αὐτῆς. Green comments: “Jesus ‘bends over’ the woman, signifying his authority over the fever, a practice paralleled in stories of exorcism” (J. Green, 225).
  • [55] See 2 Sam. 1:9-10: וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלַי עֲמָד־נָא עָלַי וּמֹתְתֵנִי…וָאֶעֱמֹד עָלָיו וַאֲמֹתְתֵהוּ (“Then he said to me, ‘Stand over me, and finish me off’…So I stood over him and finished him off” [JPS]; LXX: καὶ εἶπεν πρός με Στῆθι δὴ ἐπάνω μου καὶ θανάτωσόν με…καὶ ἐπέστην ἐπ᾿ αὐτὸν καὶ ἐθανάτωσα αὐτόν).
  • [56] The other choices for “rebuke” are: 1) ἐλέγχειν (elenchein,“convict,” “rebuke,” “reprove”): 17xx in NT (in the Synoptic Gospels, only in Matt. 18:15 [“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault”] and Luke 3:19 [“Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias”]), 65xx in LXX, 65xx in Jos., 40xx in Philo; and 2) ἐπιπλήσσειν (epiplēssein,“rebuke”): 1x in NT (1 Tim. 5:1), 14xx in Jos.
  • [57] On rebuke in Gospel traditions, see Barry Blackburn, Theios Aner and the Markan Miracle Traditions: A Critique of the Theios Aner Concept as an Interpretive Background of the Miracle Traditions Used by Mark (Tübingen: Mohr [Siebeck], 1991), 134-135.
  • [58] There is some evidence that fevers were popularly believed to be caused by demons in antiquity. Kazen (303) mentions an Aramaic text from Qumran (4Q560 1 I, 4) that seems to list fever (אשא) as a type (or the name) of a demon. Nolland (Luke, 211) cites T. Sol. 18:20, 23, which mention two beings, identified as demons in T. Sol. 18:42, that inflict fevers on human beings. Weiss cites Pliny the Elder (Nat. Hist. 2:16), who mentions a temple in Rome dedicated to the god “Fever” (“πυρέσσω, πυρετός,” TDNT 6:957). Pliny himself completely dismissed the idea of a fever god.
  • [59] Luke uses ἐπιτιμᾶν 3xx in the context of exorcism (Luke 4:35, 41; 9:42), two of these instances appearing in the pericopae immediately adjacent to the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law. Matthew uses ἐπιτιμᾶν once in the context of exorcism (Matt. 17:18), and Mark does so twice (Mark 1:25; 3:12).
  • [60] For example, Jesus rebukes his disciples (Luke 9:21; Mark 8:33), the wind and the waves (Matt. 8:26; Mark 4:39; Luke 8:24), the crowd rebukes the blind man who attempts to catch Jesus’ attention (Matt. 20:31; Mark 10:48; Luke 18:39), and Peter even dares to rebuke Jesus (Matt. 16:22; Mark 8:32).
  • [61] In Jude 9 we read that the archangel Michael confronted the devil with the words Ἐπιτιμήσαι σοι κύριος (“The Lord rebuke you”), a clear allusion to Zechariah 3:2: יִגְעַר יְהוָה בְּךָ הַשָּׂטָן (cf. 1QHa XVII, 11, which may have been influenced by the language of Zech. 3:2). However it should be noted that a confrontation with the devil/satan is not identical with exorcism. (On the legends concerning the dispute over Moses’ body, including Jude 9, see David Flusser, “Palaea Historica: An Unknown Source of Biblical Legends,” Scripta Hierosolymitana 22 [1971]: 72-74.) In T. Sol. 6:11, King Solomon rebukes Beelzeboul, however Solomon’s rebuke is not an exorcism (cf. ויגער בליעל‎ in 4Q463 2 I, 3). Testament of Solomon 17:4 states that a certain demon is frightened and rebuked (ἐπιτιμηθεὶς) by the sign of the cross, but this passage is clearly Christian and, therefore, likely to have been influenced by the vocabulary of the Gospels.
  • [62] In Philo’s works ἐπιτιμᾶν always refers to the rebuke of persons. In Josephus’s writings ἐπιτιμᾶν refers to the censure, punishment or condemnation of persons, however in Ant. 19:202, Josephus uses ἐπιτιμᾶν in reference to everything the law condemns (ἐπιτιμᾷ) as disgraceful, which might count as a possible exception.
  • [63] Cf. Ps. 105(106):9: “he rebuked [ἐπετίμησε] the Red Sea, and it became dry.” The noun ἐπιτίμησις translates the Hebrew noun גְּעָרָה (ge‘ārāh, “rebuke”) 4xx where inanimate objects are the recipients of the rebuke: 2 Kgdms. 22:16; Job 26:11; Ps. 17(18):15; Ps. 103(104):7.
  • [64] There are also numerous examples in rabbinic literature where גָּעַר refers to the rebuke of persons, for example:

    גיירני על מנת שתלמדני תורה שבכתב גער בו והוציאו בנזיפה

    “Make me a proselyte on condition that you teach me the Written Torah [only, and not the Oral Torah—DNB and JNT].” But he [Shammai] scolded and repulsed him in anger. (b. Shab. 31a; Soncino)

  • [65] Note that Jesus is also said to have rebuked “wind and raging waves” (Matt. 8:18, 23-27; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25).
  • [66] Notice, however, that the strongest support comes from Aramaic texts that refer to a fever demon (4Q560 1 I, 4) and rebuke (1Qap Genar [1Q20] XX, 28-29) in the context of exorcism, whereas we presume a Hebrew background to the stories about Jesus.
  • [67] Pace Hagner (208) who writes, “Interestingly, and perhaps in some tension with the notion of Luke being a physician, only Luke has personified the fever with his added words ‘he rebuked the fever.’” If Luke simply copied a Hebraism preserved in his source, there is no need to suppose that Luke personified the fever.
  • [68] In a JerusalemPerspective.com forum discussion.
  • [69] Allen (79) comments: “The editor [of Matt.] slightly paraphrases Mk. ἥψατο for Mk.’s κρατήσας is an assimilation to v. 3 [Matt. 8:3].” Nolland (Matt., 359) writes, “Unlike [Matt.] 8:3, 13, here there is no word of healing; the touch suffices (as in [Matt.] 20:34).”
  • [70] According to Kazen, healing by touch is very infrequent in Greek sources, except in the case of the healing touch of the gods. In Jewish sources healing by touch or the laying on of hands is known, although the examples are rare: in the Hebrew Bible Naaman expected to be healed by Elisha’s touch (2 Kgs. 5:11); and according to the Genesis Apocryphon, Abraham healed Pharaoh through the laying on of hands (1Qap Genar XX, 20-29). Kazen concludes that: “Healing by touch can neither be dismissed as only a Hellenistic motif, nor be regarded as nothing but a typical trait of healing stories…. In view of…the fact that several of the healing-by-touch traditions mentioned concern people generally considered unclean, it is reasonable to suggest that Jesus’ gesture of touch and physical contact cannot be explained only as a motif of miracle stories in Antiquity, whether Jewish or Hellenistic, but should be seen as expressing an attitude, i.e. as a part of a characterization [of Jesus]” (Kazen, 106).
  • [71] Noted already by Lachs, 62.
  • [72] R. Johanan healed R. Hiyya by the touch of his hand.
  • [73] Aaron M. Gale comments: “touched her hand, a typical healing gesture. Jesus violates no ritual law or social rule” (JANT, 17).
  • [74] Tomson (154) notes that “Not one of the synoptic accounts reports that Jesus prepares a medicine [on the Sabbath]: he does not execute a single ‘work’ that is forbidden on the Shabbat, as that was later summarized in a rabbinic formulation (m. Šab. 7.2).”
  • [75] Cf. m. Yom. 8:6-7; t. Shab. 15:16-17; 17:19; Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Shabbata chpt. 1; Nezikin chpt. 4.
  • [76] For ancient Jewish and non-Jewish parallels to miraculous healings from fever, see Blackburn, Theios Aner and the Markan Miracle Traditions, 188.
  • [77] Cf. the ruling of Shmuel (early second cent. C.E.) that an infant is allowed seven days after his recovery from fever before being circumcised (אמר שמואל חלצתו חמה נותנין לו כל שבעה להברותו; “Samuel said: When his temperature subsides [to normal], we allow him a full seven days for his [complete] recovery” [b. Shab. 137a; Soncino]); and Shmuel’s opinion that one should not visit sick persons until after they have recovered from fever (אין מבקרין את החולה אלא למי שחלצתו חמה; “Only a sick person whose fever is gone may be visited” [b. Ned. 41a]).
  • [78] Perhaps this tradition also reflects the seriousness of fever, in that it was comparable to Nebuchadnezzar’s order to execute Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (Dan. 3:20).
  • [79] See the similar description in Luke’s version of Jairus’ Daughter and a Woman’s Faith: καὶ ἀνέστη παραχρῆμα (Luke 8:55).
  • [80] The adverb παραχρῆμα appears 18xx in the NT, 16 of these in Luke-Acts. The only 2 occurrences of παραχρῆμα outside of Luke-Acts are in Matt. 21:19 and 20, in the Cursing of the Fig Tree and Meaning of the Withered Fig Tree stories. Fitzmyer noted that in Luke παραχρῆμα almost always appears at the moment of a healing (Fitzmyer, 1:381). On παραχρῆμα, see Buth and Kvasnica, “Critical Notes on the VTS” (JS1, 314).
  • [81] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:364.
  • [82] Cf. Luke 10:40: περὶ πολλὴν διακονίαν…διακονεῖν (“with much serving…to serve” [RSV]; “by all the preparations that had to be made…to do the work” [NIV]); 12:37; 17:8; 22:26, 27.
  • [83] All three Gospels have διηκόνει (impf.) according to N-A. According to Vaticanus, Luke has διηκόνει (impf.), while Matthew and Mark have διεκόνει (a scribal mistake for διηκόνει, “was serving them”).
  • [84] See LHNC, to διηκόνει.
  • [85] See Plummer, Luke, 137; cf. Gould, 26.
  • [86] See Bendavid, 96, lines 5 and 20. Perhaps the most famous rabbinic example of שִׁמֵּשׁ in the sense “serve” is the saying of Antigonos of Socho (early second cent. B.C.E.):

    אַל תִּהְיוּ כַעֲבָדִים הַמְשַׁמְּשִׁים אֶת הָרָב עַל מְנַת לְקַבֵּל פְּרַס

    Do not be like slaves who serve their master in order to receive a prize…. (m. Avot 1:3)

  • [87] Allen (79), accepting ἦλθον (“they came”) in L5 (Mark 1:29), wrote, “Mk. has the plural throughout, ‘they came—ministered to them,’ because since 1.16-20 he has represented Christ as accompanied by the four disciples; cf. [Mk] v. 31 ‘they come.’”
  • [88] Long ago, Marsh noted that examples of exact sentence coincidence in the Triple Tradition are “not very numerous, and contain in general only one or two, or at the outside three sentences together” (Herbert Marsh, “Dissertation on the Origin of our Three First Canonical Gospels,” in John David Michaelis, Introduction to the New Testament [trans. Herbert Marsh; London: Rivington, 1802], 3.2:316).
  • [89] The Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law illustrates how difficult it can be to reconstruct when Luke is copying from the First Reconstruction.
  • [90] Hagner and Witherington are representatives of this approach. Witherington does not mention Luke’s version of the story even once in his comments.
  • [91] Vincent Taylor, The Gospel According to St. Mark (2d ed.; London: Macmillan, 1966), 179, 180.
  • [92] Fitzmyer states that “This miracle on her [Simon’s mother-in-law’s] behalf provides in the Lucan account part of the psychological background for the call of Simon the fisherman” (Fitzmyer, 1:549).
  • [93] See the discussion in Davies-Allison, 2:33-34.
  • [94] The authors would like to thank Lauren Asperschlager, Randall Buth, Pieter Lechner, Lenore Mullican and Linda Pattillo, who collaborated in producing this commentary on the Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law, and especially Randall Buth for his invaluable help in producing the Hebrew reconstruction of this pericope.

David N. Bivin

David N. Bivin
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David N. Bivin is founder and editor of Jerusalem Perspective. A native of Cleveland, Oklahoma, U.S.A., Bivin has lived in Israel since 1963, when he came to Jerusalem on a Rotary Foundation Fellowship to do postgraduate work at the Hebrew University. He studied at the Hebrew…
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Joshua N. Tilton

Joshua N. Tilton

Joshua N. Tilton grew up in St. George, a small town on the coast of Maine. For his undergraduate degree he studied at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, where he earned a B.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies (2002). There he studied Biblical Hebrew and…
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