Healing 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: 7-Nov-2017

וַיָּקָם מִבֵּית הַכְּנֶסֶת וַיִּכָּנֵס לְבֵית שִׁמְעוֹן וַחֲמוֹת שִׁמְעוֹן הָיְתָה אֲחוּזַת חַמָּה גְּדוֹלָה וַיְּבַקְּשֻׁהוּ עָלֶיהָ וַיַּעֲמֹד עָלֶיהָ וַיִּגְעַר בַּחַמָּה וַתַּחַלְצָהּ וּמִיָּד קָמָה וְהָיתָה מְשַׁמֶּשֶׁת אוֹתָם

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


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Reconstruction

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Story Placement

We have placed Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law in an early section of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua entitled “Yeshua, the Galilean Miracle-Worker.” Events in this section took place before Jesus gathered a following of disciples. The reasons for placing Healing 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 Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law, and 2) the presence of disciples in Mark’s version of Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law appears to be a secondary reworking of the story (see below, Comment to L9). 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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Conjectured Stages of Transmission

Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law is a Triple Tradition pericope. The author of Matthew copied this pericope from Mark, but Matthew’s agreements with Luke’s version against Mark’s suggest that the author of Matthew corrected Mark’s version of Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law on the basis of his second source, the Anthology (Anth.). The author of Mark paraphrased Luke’s version of Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law. Since Luke’s version of Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law reverts easily to Hebrew, and since none of Mark or Matthew’s readings appear preferable to Luke’s, it is likely that the author of Luke copied Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law from the Anthology (Anth.).

Crucial Issues

  1. Did Healing 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 author of Mark opened his version of Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law with his stereotypical expression καὶ εὐθύς (kai evthūs, “and immediately”).[3] He used εὐθύς again again in L15 (Mark 1:30). Given the Lukan-Matthean agreement against Mark to omit this adverb, it probably did not appear in Anth. Mark’s reading in L1 should be considered a paraphrase of Luke’s introduction to Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law.

L2-3 ἀναστὰς δὲ ἀπὸ τῆς συναγωγῆς (GR). Since Luke’s opening of Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law reverts easily to Hebrew, we believe the transition from the synagogue to Simon’s home probably is derived from Anth.[4] While it is true that ἀναστάς (anastas, “standing up”) 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.

וַיָּקָם מִבֵּית הַכְּנֶסֶת (HR). In LXX, the verb ἀναστῆναι (anastēnai, “stand up”)[5] is about 10 times more often the translation of קָם than עָמַד.‎[6] Therefore, we have reconstructed with the Hebrew root ק-ו-ם.‎[7]

L3 ἀπὸ τῆς συναγωγῆς (GR). The following examples suggest that “rising from” the synagogue may be a Hebraism:

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…”). If this is the case, then 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 (ek tēs sūnagōgēs, “from the synagogue”) may simply be an example of the author of Mark’s habit of replacing Luke’s wording with synonymous phrases. We attribute Matthew’s omission of the transition from the synagogue to Simon’s home to his relocation of Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law to a different context.

If the detail that the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law took place after Jesus left the synagogue, then it is probable that the healing took place on the Sabbath.[8]

L4 ἐξελθὼν (Mark 1:29). Since Luke and Matthew agree against Mark’s ἐξελθὼν (exelthōn, “going out”), it is unlikely that this participle appeared in Anth. More likely, ἐξελθὼν is the author of Mark’s replacement for Luke’s ἀναστὰς (“getting up”; L2).

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, “enter”), which in MH replaced the BH verb בָּא (bā’, “come,” “enter”). Reconstructing εἰσῆλθεν with וַיִּכָּנֵס (vav-consecutive + MH 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.[9] 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).[10]

L7 לְבֵית (HR). In LXX the noun οἰκία (oikia, “house”) is nearly always the translation of בַּיִת (bayit, “house”).[11] 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.‎[12] The phrase נִכְנַס לְבַּיִת (nichnas lebayit, “enter a house”) is encountered several times in the Mishnah.[13]

Although none of the Synoptic Gospels explicitly mention Capernaum in Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law, 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. The author of Matthew placed Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law in a different context, but he, too, implied that Simon’s house was in Capernaum by placing Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law immediately after Healing a 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.[14] 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.’”[15] 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.”[16] According to Shmuel Safrai, “It was in the household of the groom’s parents that the couple would begin its married life.”[17] 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.[18]

L8 Σίμωνος (GR). In Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law, 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 referred to Simon as Peter.[19] Since the Gospel of Matthew displays a preference for the name Peter, we have accepted the Lukan-Markan Σίμων for GR.[20]

שִׁמְעוֹן (HR). 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.[21] We believe the Lukan-Matthean agreement against Mark reflects the reading of their pre-synoptic source.

L10 εἶδεν (Matt. 8:14). Davies and Allison noted that in Matthew’s version of Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law Jesus initiates the action, which begins with his seeing the mother-in-law.[22] We believe the elimination of the dialogue between Jesus and the petitioners (L16) by means of Jesus “seeing” Peter’s mother-in-law is due to Matthean redaction.

L11 πενθερὰ δὲ (GR). In ancient Jewish literature, mothers-in-law are generally treated with respect.[23] The reference to Simon’s πενθερά (penthera, “mother-in-law”) implies that he 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.[24] We believe that it is unlikely that Simon was a disciple at the time when Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law took place.

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”),[25] whereas in rabbinic Hebrew חָם and חָמוֹת denote the father and mother of either the husband or the wife.[26] For HR we have adopted the late-biblical and rabbinic חָמוֹת (ḥāmōt, “mother-in-law”), which gives our reconstruction a mixed biblical-rabbinic style such as we saw in L5.[27]

L11-12 πενθερὰ δὲ τοῦ Σίμωνος (GR). Commenting on Luke’s version of Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law, Nolland wrote: “The omission of the article before πενθερά is puzzling.”[28] Perhaps the omission of the definite article is a Hebraism, which the author of Luke copied from his source. The missing article might reflect the Hebrew construct phrase חֲמוֹת שִׁמְעוֹן (“the mother-in-law of Shimon”).

L13 ἦν συνεχομένη (GR). Many commentators regard Luke’s feminine 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 the verb συνέχεσθαι (sūnechesthai, “to be seized”) appears six times in Luke, three times in Acts, but never in Mark and only once in Matthew (Matt. 4:24). Marshall further noted that συνεχομένη “is…the correct term to use for ‘being afflicted’ by illness (Plato, Gorg. 512a; Jos. Ant. 13:398; Mt. 4:24; Acts 28:8).”[29] 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 Lukan redaction. Hebrew usage, however, prevents us from drawing this conclusion. In rabbinic sources we encounter the verb אָחַז (’āḥaz, “seize”) used in combination with חַמָּה (ḥamāh, “fever”) to describe individuals who are sick with fever, a close equivalent to Luke’s συνεχομένη πυρετῷ (“seized by a fever”). For instance:

השוכר את הפועל…שאחזתו חמה

The one who hired a worker…that was seized by a fever… (t. Bab. Metz. 7:3; Vienna MS)

שמואל אמר אפילו אחזתו החמה שעה אחת ממתינין לו עד שלשים יום

Shmuel said, “Even if a fever seized him [i.e., an infant—DNB and JNT] for a single hour, they delay for him [i.e., his circumcision—DNB and JNT] until thirty days [have passed—DNB and JNT].” (y. Yev. 8:2 [45b]; cf. y. Shab. 19:5 [90a])

In light of these Hebrew parallels, we have accepted Luke’s reading in L13-14 for GR, and reconstructed the Hebrew as הָיְתָה אֲחוּזַת חַמָּה.

βεβλημένην (Matt. 8:14). The feminine participle βεβλημένην (beblēmenēn) literally means “having been thrown.”[30] We seriously considered Matthew’s reading for GR 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” or “to lie.”[31] In the Tosefta we read of a sick person who is lying in bed (היה חולה ומוטל במטה; t. Ket. 4:15),[32] and of a sick person who is lying behind a synagogue (חולה שהיה מוטל אחורי בית הכנסת; t. Rosh Hash. 2:7).[33] Postulating a Hebrew source that read מוטלת בחמה (“thrown down with fever”)[34] would account for Matthew’s βεβλημένη, if that is what he read in Anth. However, “lying with fever” is not known to exist in ancient Hebrew literature, whereas “seized by a fever” is attested in rabbinic sources. We also note that, as Gundry pointed out, “Like ἐλθών [L5], βεβλημένην [L13] ties this story to the preceding [Healing a Centurion’s Slave], where βέβληται occurs (v 6; cf. 9:2).”[35] These ties between the Healing a Centurion’s Slave and Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law in Matthew increase the likelihood that βεβλημένην is editorial. We have therefore preferred Luke’s reading for GR.

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). Might 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.[36]

L14 πυρετῷ μεγάλῳ (GR). Taylor noted that Mark’s πυρέσσειν (pūressein, “to have a fever”) is a rare verb that does not occur in in LXX.[37] We suspect that Mark’s “having a fever” is simply a paraphrase of Luke’s Hebraic “seized by a big fever.” The author of Matthew copied πυρέσσειν from Mark.

Some scholars have suggested that πυρετὸς μέγας (“big fever”) is an example of the author of Luke’s use of specialized medical vocabulary.[38] However, according to Weiss the division of fevers into “small” (σμικρός)[39] and “big” (μέγας) was a popular usage,[40] and we believe the author of Luke simply copied the adjective from his source.

From a modern perspective “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.[41] Fever could be a life-threatening condition, which highlights the seriousness of the illness Simon’s mother-in-law suffered.

חַמָּה גְּדוֹלָה (HR). The sole occurrence of πυρετός in LXX translates קַדַּחַת (qadaḥat, “fever”) in Deut. 28:22.[42] 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 קַדַּחַת does not appear in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Hebrew fragments of Ben Sira, or in the Mishnah.[43]

The noun חַמָּה (ḥamāh) in the sense of “fever” replaced קַדַּחַת in MH. The Tosefta, for instance, mentions the case of someone who hires a worker who is seized with a fever (חַמָּה; t. Bab. Metz. 7:3). Another example of חַמָּה occurs in a story about the miraculous healing of Rabban Gamliel’s son:

באותה שעה חלצתו חמה ושאל לנו מים לשתות

In that very hour the fever left him and he asked for water to drink. (b. Ber. 34b)

Although we generally prefer to reconstruct narrative in a biblical style of Hebrew, we have adopted חַמָּה for HR in L14 and L18 since the use of a rare and obsolete word in the Hebrew Life of Yeshua seems improbable. The result is a mixed biblical-rabbinic Hebrew style such as we saw in L5 and L11 above (see above, Comment to L5). Reconstructing with חַמָּה also yields a pleasing Hebrew wordplay: Simon’s חָמוֹת (ḥāmot) suffers from a חַמָּה (ḥammāh).

The phrase חַמָּה גְּדוֹלָה (ḥamāh gedōlāh) occurs in Eliyahu Zuta 8:1 (ed. Friedmann, 185), albeit in the sense of “great vexation” rather than severe fever. But since a hot flash of anger is not so different from a fever, perhaps this example lends some support to our reconstruction.

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 λέγουσιν αὐτῷ περὶ αὐτῆς (Mark 1:30). The author of Mark’s use of the historical present is un-Hebraic, but is characteristic of Markan redaction. In L16 we encounter yet one more example of Markan paraphrasing of Luke’s version of Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law.

ἠρώτησαν αὐτὸν περὶ αὐτῆς (GR). 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.[44] 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.[45]

According to Luke, Jesus is not accompanied by disciples; he is addressed by unidentified members of Simon’s household whom Jesus met 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.[46] Matthew’s version omits the disciples and no family members, not even Simon, are said to be present. Instead Jesus takes the initiative (see above, Comment to L10).

וַיְּבַקְּשֻׁהוּ עָלֶיהָ (HR). We might have reconstructed περὶ αὐτῆς (“concerning her”) as בַּעֲדָהּ (“on her behalf”) on the basis of 2 Sam. 12:16: וַיְבַקֵּשׁ דָּוִד אֶת הָאֱלֹהִים בְּעַד הַנָּעַר (“And David beseeched God on behalf of [בְּעַד] the child”). But we have preferred to reconstruct περὶ αὐτῆς with עָלֶיהָ (“concerning her”) on the basis of the following 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

It happened that Rabban Gamaliel’s son became ill. He sent two disciples of the sages to Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa to ask [God] for mercy on his behalf [עליו]. As soon as he saw them, he went up to his upper room and asked [God] for mercy on his behlaf [עליו]. (b. Ber. 34b)

L17-24 The author of Matthew structured his version of Healing 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.[47] In this way the author of Matthew eliminated 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 aorist participles, is much better Greek than Matthew’s.[48]

L17 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”),[49] however on the basis of Septuagintal parallels we have reconstructed with וַיַּעֲמֹד עָלֶיהָ (“and he stood over her”).[50]

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

L18 ἐπετείμησεν τῷ πυρετῷ (GR). In Luke’s account, Jesus heals by rebuking the fever, not by touching Simon’s mother-in-law, as in the Markan and Matthean versions. In what sense would Jesus “rebuke” a fever?[51] Some scholars suggest that Jesus’ “rebuke” implies that the fever was caused by a demon.[52] Although it is true that ἐπιτιμᾶν is used in exorcism contexts in the Synoptic Gospels,[53] the word ἐπιτιμᾶν is not specific to exorcism.[54] To the contrary, outside the Synoptic Gospels ἐπιτιμᾶν seems not to be used in the context of exorcism.[55]

In normal Greek usage, ἐπιτιμᾶν refers to the rebuke of persons,[56] however, in the Septuagint ἐπιτιμᾶν can also be used for rebuking inanimate objects.[57] 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,[58] 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.[59]

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.[60] 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.[61]

L19 ἤγειρεν αὐτήν (Mark 1:31). The Lukan-Matthean agreement against Mark’s ἤγειρεν αὐτὴν (ēgeiren avtēn, “he raised her”) is a strong indication that this phrase did not occur in Anth. This Markan addition, was simply a way of dramatizing the story for Mark’s audience.

L20 κρατήσας τῆς χειρός (Mark 1:31). According to Mark, Jesus lifted the woman by grasping her hand. 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 the Lukan or Matthean versions. The author of Matthew picked up on this idea, writing ἥψατο τῆς χειρὸς αὐτῆς (“he touched her hand”), although, according to Matthew, after the fever left, Simon’s mother-in-law got out of bed by herself.[62] In Luke’s version of Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law, 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 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 (“but he took hold of her hand”; Luke 8:54).[63] If Lindsey is correct that the idea of Jesus’ touching Simon’s mother-in-law is the author of Mark’s innovation, then Matthew simply modified Mark, and Luke has the original version “rebuked,” with no touching.[64]

Similar healings that involve taking the sick person’s hand are described in rabbinic literature,[65] such as the stories reported in b. Ber. 5b.[66]

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….[67] 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.[68] 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.[69] Fever, moreover, could be a serious condition, and any case in which a person’s life was in danger overrode the Sabbath prohibitions.[70]

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” or “withdraw” 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.[71] Compare, for example, Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law with the story of Rabban Gamliel’s son:

תנו רבנן 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 בירידתו אמר להם לכו שחלצתו חמה אמרו לו וכי נביא אתה אמר להן לא נביא אנכי ולא בן נביא אנכי אלא כך מקבלני אם שגורה תפלתי בפי יודע אני שהוא מקובל ואם לאו יודע אני שהוא מטורף ישבו וכתבו וכוונו אותה שעה וכשבאו אצל רבן גמליאל אמר להן העבודה לא חסרתם ולא הותרתם אלא כך היה מעשה באותה שעה חלצתו חמה ושאל לנו מים לשתות

Our rabbis taught [in a baraita]: It happened that the son of Rabban Gamliel was sick. He sent two of the disciples of the sages to Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa, to ask [God] for mercy on his behalf. As soon as he saw them he went up to his upper room and asked [God] for mercy on his behalf. When he came down he said to them, “Go! For the fever has left him. [לכו שחלצתו חמה]” They said to him, “Are you then a prophet?” He said to them, “I am not a prophet or a prophet’s son, rather this is how I know I am accepted. If the prayer is fluent in my mouth, I know that he is accepted. But if not, I know that he is rejected.” They returned and they wrote down and noted the time. And when they came to Rabban Gamliel he said to them, “By the [divine] service [in the Temple]! You have not lacked and you have not exceeded, rather it happened thus in that very hour that the fever left him [חלצתו חמה] and he asked for water to drink.” (b. Ber. 34b)[72]

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).[73]

L22 ὁ πυρετός (Mark 1:31). The author of Mark appears to have added ὁ πυρετός “the fever” at this point, having omitted the reference to Jesus’ rebuke of the fever in L18. The author of Matthew copied ὁ πυρετός in L22 from Mark.

L23 παραχρῆμα δὲ ἀναστᾶσα (GR). Although Matthew’s καὶ ἠγέρθη (kai ēgerthē, “and she was raised”) looks deceptively like the translation of a vav-consecutive, we believe the author of Matthew picked up ἐγείρειν (egeirein, “to rise”) from Mark 1:31 (L19). The verb ἀναστῆναι (anastēnai, “to arise”) occurred at the beginning of Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law (L2) and it seems strange that the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua would have translated the same verb differently in the same story. We have therefore adopted Luke’s wording in L23.

It is true that παραχρῆμα (parachrēma, “immediately”) occurs more frequently in Luke than in the other Synoptic Gospels,[74] and on that score it is often regarded as a Lukan redactional term, but since one instance of παραχρῆμα occurs in the Nativity narratives (Luke 1:64), where the author of Luke relied on Anth., we cannot so easily dismiss the possibility that the author of Luke copied παραχρῆμα from his source. A description of the immediacy of the mother-in-law’s recovery is natural in a story about a miraculous healing.

וּמִיָּד קָמָה (HR). The adverbial phrase מִיָּד (miyād, “immediately”) is Mishnaic Hebrew, and occurs frequently in rabbinic sources. On reconstructing ἀναστῆναι (anastēnai, “to arise”) with קָם (qām, “rise,” “get up”), see above, Comment to L2-3.

L24 καὶ διεκόνει αὐτῷ (Matt. 8:15). In his version of Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law, the author of Matthew consistently eliminated nonessential characters from the scene in order to focus exclusively on Jesus. Not even Peter is said to be present in Matthew’s version of Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law, 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, the author of Matthew was forced to write αὐτῷ (avtō, “him”), although this was not what he read in Mark or the Anth.

וְהָיתָה מְשַׁמֶּשֶׁת אוֹתָם (HR). We have used the MH verb שִׁמֵּשׁ (shimēsh, “serve”),[75] the biblical שֵׁרֵת (shērēt, “serve”), to reconstruct διακονῆσαι (diakonēsai, “to serve”). On reconstructing in a mixed biblical-mishnaic style, see above, Comment to L5.

Redaction Analysis

The author of Luke seems to have followed the wording of Anth. quite closely in Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law. Mark’s version of Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law is a thoroughgoing paraphrase of Luke’s account. Since Matthew’s version is so heavily influenced by Mark, we have been wary of accepting Matthew’s readings except where they confirm Luke’s version. These “minor” agreements include:

  1. The Lukan-Matthean agreement to omit εὐθὺς in L1 and L15.
  2. The Lukan-Matthean agreement to omit ἐξελθὼν in L4.
  3. The Lukan-Matthean agreement to omit the reference to Andrew, James and John (Mark 1:29) in L9.
  4. The Lukan-Matthean agreement against Mark’s statement that Jesus himself pulled Simon’s mother-in-law out of bed in L19.
  5. The Lukan-Matthean agreement 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) in 23.

Matthew’s agreements with Luke against Mark are powerful confirmations of the wording in Anth.

Results of This Research

1. Did Healing 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 Healing 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. Luke’s “rising from the synagogue” appears to preserve a Hebraism (see above, Comment to L3), and therefore we have concluded that the connection between the Capernaum Synagogue incident and Healing 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 Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law after the Calling of the Disciples. The author of Matthew, who agreed with Mark’s placement of Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law after the Calling of the Disciples, nevertheless agreed with Luke to omit the disciples from Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law. The Lukan-Matthean agreement to omit the disciples suggests to us that the story took place before Jesus had begun to recruit full-time disciples. We are not told how Jesus became acquainted with Simon, but Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law may help to explain why Simon accepted Jesus’ invitation to join his band of disciples.[76]

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 Healing 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.[77] We believe that Healing 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 Healing 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 Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law did follow the Capernaum Synagoge incident in the Hebrew Life of Yeshua, it appears that the healing 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

Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law, a tender story, offers a unique glimpse of Jesus’ compassion. If Jesus had previously visited Simon’s home or if he had been staying with Simon when the story took place, Jesus might already have been acquainted with Simon’s mother-in-law, making the story even more poignant and touching.[78]

 


 

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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] Lindsey pointed out that εὐθύς is a “Markan stereotype.” See Robert L. Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “Markan Stereotypes.”
  • [4] 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).
  • [5] 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).”
  • [6] 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.
  • [7] 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).
  • [8] Tomson points out that the Synoptic Gospels contain five stories that involve healing on the Sabbath:

    1. Exorcism in Capernaum synagogue
    2. Healing 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).

  • [9] 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.”
  • [10] Thus Lindsey believed that Luke and Mark reflect the original order and that Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law did originally follow the Capernaum Synagogue incident.
  • [11] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:969-970.
  • [12] See Dos Santos, 24-25.
  • [13] 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.
  • [14] See France, Matt., 320.
  • [15] See Fitzmyer, 1:549.
  • [16] See Flusser, Jesus, 44. Cf. Fitzmyer, 1:549.
  • [17] See Shmuel Safrai, “Home and Family,” (Safrai-Stern, 2:753).
  • [18] 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.
  • [19] 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?
  • [20] 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.
  • [21] 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.”
  • [22] See Davies-Allison, 2:34.
  • [23] Cf. Keener, 270.
  • [24] According to the rabbinic sages a married disciple needed his wife’s permission to leave home if he intended to study with a sage for more than thirty days (m. Ket. 5:6). See David Bivin, “First-century Discipleship,” under the subheading “Commitment.”
  • [25] BDB, 368, 327.
  • [26] Jastrow, 475.
  • [27] Strangely, Delitzsch translated πενθερά with חוֹתֶנֶת in Luke 4:38 and Mark 1:30, but with חָמוֹת in Matthew 8:14.
  • [28] See Nolland, Luke, 211. Cf. Marshall, 194.
  • [29] See Marshall, 194.
  • [30] 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).
  • [31] See Jastrow, 900. Cf. Hauck, TDNT 1:527.
  • [32] In this case the sick individual is (or, is believed to be) at the point of death.
  • [33] We also read of a person with an abnormal discharge (a zav) who lies across six chairs (זב שהיה מוטל על ששה כסאות; t. Zav. 4:4; Vienna MS), of children lying on their mother’s lap (עולל מוטל בין ברכי אמו; t. Sot. 6:4), and of infants lying in a cradle (תינוק מוטל בעריסה; Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, chpt. 16 [ed. Schechter, 63-64]).
  • [34] 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.
  • [35] See Gundry, Matt., 148. In Matt. 8:6 we find 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.
  • [36] 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 Healing 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.”

  • [37] See Taylor, 179.
  • [38] See Creed, 71; Plummer, Luke, 137; Taylor, 179.
  • [39] Σμικρός is the Classical Greek form of Koine’s μικρός.
  • [40] Weiss, “πυρέσσω, πυρετός,” TDNT 6:958. 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.
  • [41] 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.
  • [42] 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]….”
  • [43] קַדַּחַת 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.
  • [44] 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”).
  • [45] See Jan Joosten, “The Ingredients of New Testament Greek,” Analecta Bruxellensia 10 (2005): 61.
  • [46] See Taylor, 179.
  • [47] See Davies-Allison, 2:32.
  • [48] 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.”
  • [49] LHNC, to καὶ ἐπιστὰς ἐπάνω αὐτῆς.
  • [50] 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).
  • [51] 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.
  • [52] See JANT, 109.[ref]There is some evidence that in antiquity fevers were popularly believed to be caused by demons. 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.
  • [53] Luke uses ἐπιτιμᾶν (epitiman, “to rebuke,” “to reprove,” 3xx in the context of exorcism (Luke 4:35, 41; 9:42), two of these instances appearing in the pericopae immediately adjacent to Healing 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).
  • [54] 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).
  • [55] 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.
  • [56] 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.
  • [57] 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.
  • [58] 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)

  • [59] 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).
  • [60] 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.
  • [61] 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.
  • [62] See Allen, 79.
  • [63] See LHNC to κρατήσας τῆς χειρός.
  • [64] In a JerusalemPerspective.com forum discussion, 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).Matthew and Luke’s agreement against Mark to omit this detail in 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.
  • [65] 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).
  • [66] Noted already by Lachs, 62.
  • [67] R. Johanan healed R. Hiyya by the touch of his hand.
  • [68] Cf. JANT, 17.
  • [69] Tomson (154) noted 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).”
  • [70] Cf. m. Yom. 8:6-7; t. Shab. 15:16-17; 17:19; Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Shabbata chpt. 1; Nezikin chpt. 4.
  • [71] For ancient Jewish and non-Jewish parallels to miraculous healings from fever, see Blackburn, Theios Aner and the Markan Miracle Traditions, 188.
  • [72] 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]).
  • [73] 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).
  • [74] The adverb παραχρῆμα appears Matt. 21:19, 20; Luke 1:64; 4:39; 5:25; 8:44, 47, 55; 13:13; 18:4319:11; 22:60. 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).
  • [75] 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)

  • [76] 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).
  • [77] See the discussion in Davies-Allison, 2:33-34.
  • [78] The authors would like to thank Lauren Asperschlager, Randall Buth, Pieter Lechner, Lenore Mullican and Linda Pattillo, who collaborated in producing this commentary on Healing 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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