Jesus’ Use Of Spittle In Mark 8:22-26 -- By: Kenneth W. Yates

Journal: Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Volume: JOTGES 28:54 (Spring 2015)
Article: Jesus’ Use Of Spittle In Mark 8:22-26
Author: Kenneth W. Yates

Jesus’ Use Of Spittle In Mark 8:22-26

Kenneth Yates


I. Introduction

Recently, I read a thesis done in 1999 on Jesus’ use of spittle in the healing of the blind man in Mark 8:22-26. The author of the thesis is Sarah Bourgeois and it was completed at Dallas Theological Seminary.1

This healing in Mark is interesting for a couple of reasons. One is that this is the only place where Jesus heals a person in a two-stage process.2 The first part of the miracle took place “out of the town” (Mark 8:22). After Jesus “had spit [ptusas, temporal participle] on [or, into] his eyes and put His hands on him, He asked him if he saw anything” (Mark 8:23). The man answers that he can only see in an incomplete manner: “I see men like trees, walking” (Mark 8:24). The Lord then lays His hands on him again and then he is completely healed of his blindness.

This account is also interesting because it is only one of three times in which Jesus uses spittle in a healing. The other two are Mark 7:31-37 and John 9:6. Not only is the use of spittle rare in such healings, this account in Mark 8 is the only time the Lord is specifically said to spit into a person’s face/eyes.3

These facts raise a number of questions. Why did Jesus use spittle in this miracle? How might a first-century observer view such a thing? Why did Jesus heal the man in stages? In this article, I will summarize the conclusions of Bourgeois’s thesis in these areas. Even though she did not address the application of her findings from a Free Grace perspective, her conclusions, if accurate, do have a bearing on issues such as a proper understanding of the Gospel and discipleship. In the last half of this article, I will discuss these applications.

II. The Use Of Spittle In The Ancient World

Bourgeois devotes a chapter to how spittle was viewed by the ancient world.4 She discusses the topic from a variety of sources, including Persian, Greek, and Jewish writers that date from the sixth century BC through NT times. Some of these sources indicate that spitting in public was considered impolite and beneath the dignity of somebody in leadership...

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