Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The leper

somewhere else : Was Lack of Autographs a Major Problem to Bart Ehrman? · Φιλολoγικά/Philologica : The leper

I was listening to J. P. Holding on this one:

Bart Ehrman: Deceit and Cunning - J. P. Holding
Theology, Philosophy and Science

J. P. Holding (in his arguments with Bart Ehrman on the variant readings of presumably Mark 1:41) presumes (not quite as presumably) that there was:

  • a possibility the old alternative reading about (presumably) Mark 1:41 "And Jesus being angry with him, stretched forth his hand; and touching him, saith to him: I will. Be thou made clean." Instead of And Jesus having compassion on him, stretched forth his hand; and touching him, saith to him: I will. Be thou made clean. Was correct.

  • And motivates correctness thereof with saying the leper can't have been really suffering from Hanssen's disease and be in a bad shape if he was in a position to approach Jesus. If he did so anyway, it wasn't because he strictly needed the miracle, but because he wanted to plank Jesus, put him in a socially vulnerable spot.

Know what? I am not sure which of the Gospels JPH was speaking of. Not with these criteria put together.

Let's check the text.

Matthew 8:1 And when he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him . 2 *And behold a leper coming, adored him, saying: Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. 3 And Jesus stretching forth his hand, touched him, saying: I will. Be thou made clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4 And Jesus said to him: See thou tell no man: but go, *shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift which Moses commanded for a testimony to them.

Here the meeting is in public. This corresponds to the description in video for publicity of meeting - but the situation is unusual, since after a mass meeting outside town, so that regulations concerning lepers were not quite as easy to enforce then and there.

However, it doesn't say the leper touched Jesus. It says that Our Lord touched the leper. And was still in a position to ask for discretion.

Here is Haydock comment:

Ver. 1. And when he was come down from the mountain. St. Matthew says, that Jesus Christ ascended the mountain, and sat down to teach the people; while St. Luke affirms, that he descended, and stood in a plain place. But there is no contradiction; for he first ascended to the top of the mountain, and then descended to an even plain, which formed part of the descent. Here he stood for a while, and cured the sick, as mentioned by St. Luke; but afterwards, according to the relation of St. Matthew, he sat down, which was the usual posture of the Jewish doctors. (St. Augustine)

Ver. 2. As the three evangelists relate the cure of the leper in nearly the same words, and with the same circumstances, we may conclude they speak of the same miracle. St. Matthew alone seems to have observed the time and order of this transaction, viz. after the sermon of the mount; the other two anticipate it. The Bible de Vence seems to infer, from the connection St. Matthew makes between the sermon of the mount and the cure of the leper, that it was not the same leper as that mentioned, Mark i. 40.; Luke v. 12. (Bible de Vence)

Adored him. In St. Mark it is said, kneeling down, chap. i. 40. In St. Luke, prostrating on his face. It is true, none of these expressions do always signify the adoration or worship which is due to God alone, as may appear by several examples in the Old and New Testament; yet this man, by divine inspiration, might know our blessed Saviour to be both God and man. (Witham)

"Make me clean;" literally, "purify me;" the law treated lepers as impure. (Bible de Vence)

The leper, by thus addressing our Saviour acknowledges his supreme power and authority, and shews his great faith and earnestness, falling on his knees, as St. Luke relates it. (St. Chrysostom, hom. xxvi.) Our prayer should be such with great faith and confidence, qualified with profound humility, and entire diffidence of self.

Ver. 3. Jesus, stretching forth his hand, touched him. By the law of Moses, whosoever touched a leper, contracted a legal uncleanness: but not by touching in order to heal him, says Theophylactus. Beside s, Christ would teach them that he was not subject to this law. (Witham)

"Touched him." To shew, says St. Cyprian, that his body being united to the Divinity, had the power of healing and giving life. Also to shew that the old law, which forbad the touching of lepers, had no power over him; and that so far from being defiled by touching him, he even cleansed him who was defiled with it. (St. Ambrose)

When the apostles healed the lame man, they did not attribute it to their own power, but said to the Jews: Why do you wonder at this? Or, why look you at us, as if by our power or strength we have made this man to walk? But when our Saviour heals the leper, stretching out his hand, to shew he was going to act of his own power, and independently of the law, he said: "I will. Be thou clean;" to evince that the cure was effected by the operation of his own divine will. (St. Chrysostom, hom. xxvi.)

Ver. 4. For a testimony to them. That is, when the priest finds thee truly c ured, make that offering which is ordained in the law. (Witham)

He did this to give us an example of humility, and that the priests, by approving of his miracle, and being made witnesses to it, might be inexcusable, if they would not believe him. (Menochius)

He thus shews his obedience to the law, and his respect for the diginity of priests. He makes them inexcusable, if they can still call him a transgressor of the law, and prevaricator. He moreover gives this public testimony to them of his divine origin. (St. Chrysostom, hom. xxvi.) St. Chrysostom, in his third book on the priesthood, says: "the priests of the old law had authority and privilege only to discern who were healed of leprosy, and to denounce the same to the people; but the priests of the new law have power to purify, in very deed, the filth of the soul. Therefore, whoever despiseth them, is more worthy to be punished than the rebel Dathan and his accomplices." Our Saviour willeth him to go and offer his gift or sacrifice, according as Moses prescribed in that case, because the other sacrifice, being the holiest of all holies, viz. his body, was not yet begun. (St. Augustine, lib. ii. & Evang. ii. 3. & cont. adver. leg. & Proph. lib. i. chap. 19, 20.)

Mark 1:40 *And there came a leper to him, beseeching him; and kneeling down, said to him: If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. 41 And Jesus having compassion on him, stretched forth his hand; and touching him, saith to him: I will. Be thou made clean. 42 And when he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was made clean. 43 And he strictly charged him, and forthwith sent him away. 44 And he saith to him: See thou tell no man: but go, shew thyself to the high priest, and offer for thy cleansing *the things that Moses commanded, for a testimony to them. 45 But he being gone out, began to publish and to blaze abroad the word: so that now he could not go openly into the city, but was without in desert places, and they flocked to him from all sides.

If Jesus could tell the guy to tell no one, obviously the meeting was not in public, or at least it wasn't shouted out everywhere it was a leper. Also, if the leper kneeled, it was Jesus' own choice to use touch to heal him.

Here is Haydock comment:

Ver. 44. It was not the intention of Christ, that he should not tell any body; had that been his wish, he would easily have realized it: he spoke thus purposely, to shew us that we ought not to seek the empty praises of men. He bade him also offer the sacrifices prescribed, because the law remained in full force till the passion of Christ, in which was offered a perfect sacrifice, that did away with all the legal sacrifices. (Nicholas of Lyra)

At the most, the considerations given by J. P. Holding might indicate that Nicholas of Lyra (not a cannised saint) was wrong to say "It was not the intention of Christ, that he should not tell any body".

Luke 5:12 *And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy, who seeing Jesus, and falling on his face, besought him, saying: Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. 13 And stretching fo rth his hand, he touched him, saying: I will: Be thou cleansed. And immediately the leprosy departed from him. 14 And he charged him to tell no man: but, Go, shew thyself to the priest, *and offer for thy cleansing according as Moses commanded, for a testimony to them. 15 But the fame of him went abroad the more: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed of their infirmities. 16 And he retired into the desert, and prayed.

Here it was clearly or nearly so in town (it could also have been the same leper as above, if so it was close to town, but in the city perimeter of countryside). But here the conjecture that the guy can't have been so bad off is contradicted by the text. Not just a leper, but a man full of leprosy.

Here is the Haydock comment:

Ver. 12. By falling on his face, he shewed his humility and modesty, that all men might learn to be ashamed of the stains of their lives; but this, his bashfulness, did not prevent him from confes sing his misery; he exposed his wound, he solicits a cure: Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. He did not doubt the goodness of the Lord, but in consideration of his own unworthiness, he durst not presume. That confession is full of religion and faith, which places its trust in the will of God. (St. Ambrose)

Ver. 13. The law forbade lepers to be touched; but he, who is the Lord of the law, dispenses with it. He touches the leper, not because he could not cleanse him without it, but in order to shew that he was not subject to the law, nor to fear of any infection. At the touch of Christ leprosy is dispelled, which before communicated contagion to all that touched it. (St. Ambrose)

Ver. 14. Because men in sickness generally turn their thoughts towards God, but when they recover, forget him, the leper is commanded to think of God, and return him thanks. Therefore is he sent to the priest, to make his offering, (Leviticus xiv. 4.) that, committing himself to the examination of the priest, he might be accounted among the clean. (St. Chrysostom, hom. xxvi. in Matt.)

By this our Saviour would testify to the priest, that this man was healed not by the ordination of the law, but by the power of grace, which is above the law. He likewise shews that he did not come to destroy, but to fulfil the law. (St. Ambrose)

Jesus Christ seems here to approve of the legal sacrifices, which the Church does not receive; and this he did, because he had not yet established that most holy of all holy sacrifices, the sacrifice of his own body. The figurative sacrifices were not to be abrogated, before that, which they prefigured, was established by the preaching of the apostles, and the faith of Christian believers. (St. Augustine, quest. ii. b. 3. de quæst. evang.)

By this leper is represented the whole human race, which was covered with a spiritual leprosy, and languishing in the corruption of sin; for all have sinned, and need the glory of God; (Romans iii.) therefore he stretched forth his hand, i.e. he clothed himself with our human nature, that we might be cleansed from our former errors, and might offer in return for this favour our bodies, a living sacrifice to God. (Ven. Bede)

Ver. 16. Christ did not stand in need of this retirement, since, being God, he was free from every stain, and likewise present in every place. But, by this his conduct, he wished to teach us the time most proper, both for our active employments, and for the more sublime duties of prayer and contemplation. (St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Orat. xxviii.)

en upochoron, he withdrew after his great prodigies, to avoid the praise of the multitude, and to pray assiduously, and with fresh instance, for the salvation of man.

I would say, the variant which has "anger" instead of "compassion" might be a faulty reading. At least if the anger is supposed to have been directed at the leper.

If instead it was a very curable "leprosy" not Hansens disease (say, if scabies would have counted as leprosy), Christ would have had reason to be angry with people stopping the man from using natural cures. They might have even taunted him for being already a part believer and stopped each application of say, nettles or cloves (I am sure nettles is a cure, since they include a sulphuric substance, like synthetic ascabiol [the standard prescription drug], and like tea tree oil, which wasn't available, since they grow elsewhere, and like therebinths, with same substance as tea tree oil, basically therpentine - though that would need more dilution than tea tree oil before application) and telling him "if you are right about that guy, he can cure you". That kind of behaviour against someone might have given Him a real reason for anger.

But the hypothesis of J. P. Holding can't explain the issue.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Nanterre UL
St. Albert the Great
Dominican, Bishop of Cologne

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