Magical Expectations And The Two-Stage Healing Of Mark 8 -- By: Karelynne Gerber Ayayo

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 24:3 (NA 2014)
Article: Magical Expectations And The Two-Stage Healing Of Mark 8
Author: Karelynne Gerber Ayayo

Magical Expectations And The
Two-Stage Healing Of Mark 8

Karelynne Gerber Ayayo

Palm Beach Atlantic University

The purpose of this study is to investigate Mark’s detailing of the two different means of healing employed by Jesus in his interaction with the blind man of Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26). The use of spit in the first attempt can be located within the context of Greco-Roman practices of magic, while the uniqueness of Jesus’ second attempt by touch alone is a method that lacks clear pre-Christian parallels. Although scholars commonly recognize Mark’s intentional juxtaposition of the physically blind man in 8:22-26 with the spiritually blind disciples in 8:27-33, they lack consensus regarding the particular points of comparison. This article argues that Mark’s attention to the means of healing in the first pericope suggests a continued focus on the means by which the followers of Jesus gain full understanding of his Messianic identity, and it sees that both passages culminate in the principle expressed in 8:33.

Key Words: Mark, magic, blind man, spit


Mark 8:22-26 narrates a healing that occurs in two stages although scholars have not interacted with the fact that the two stages use differing means, the first involving elements consistent with the practice of magic and the second employing the miraculous use of touch alone. The text’s numerous literary parallels with Mark 7:31-37 present the blind man among those who seemingly categorize Jesus mistakenly as a magician and who anticipate a healing by thaumaturgical technique, which manipulates the divine in service of human desires. Mark demonstrates the insufficiency of this perspective by detailing how Jesus’ initial spit and touch produce only partial sight. Full healing comes with the second attempt via touch alone void of any additional manipulation or invocation, a means of healing that was not established in the pre-Christian context.

In 8:22-26, Mark demonstrates that Jesus does not allow erroneous human expectations and misperceptions about him to dictate his actions.

Rather, his actions challenge and correct misunderstandings of his identity. By implication, Mark’s juxtaposition of 8:22-26 with the narrative recording Jesus’ dialogue with his disciples...

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