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Bible: The Healing of Bartimaeus

Introduction

The Bible is the literary source that may be compared with the treasury of wisdom and experience; it is not a hyperbole when a faithful person says that all the answers to all questions can be found in this holy book. The reflection on the literary merit of the book that is worshipped for centuries can cover numerous pages, uncountable volumes, and it is really so as the Holy Bible has been the material of many scientific types of research in all spheres of science and social studies. Probably, it is impossible to make a radical allegation that one understands the holy book correctly while another person misinterprets it, the secret of the Bible is that it provides each person with the information he/she needs and everyone understands the book in his/her way but the depth and wisdom of the holy thought may be observed in every word, maybe read between lines, and felt in the atmosphere the Bible establishes when ones turn to it. Thus, the task of the present study will be to try to get at the significant episode from the Bible as the cell of the whole body of the book. Consequently, the method of induction will be applied throughout the work that will enable us to see the connection of the part and the whole text, thus making us one step closer to the understanding of the Holy Bible. The paper is an exegetical work that is focused on the well-known episode of Mar 10: 46-52, the healing of the blind Bartimaeus that promises nontrivial results. In the course of the study, three approaches will be used: the detailed study of the text, the study of the episode in the context, and the analysis of the form.

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The study of the text of Mar 10: 46-52.

In the first part of the present study, the focus will be on the isolated text of the healing itself as it is necessary to analyze the character of the blind pauper, Bartimaeus, as a concrete character in his isolation from the larger text and in the connection of the details of the episode that will enable us to observe the episode on a larger scale. In the first place, the passage begins with the identification of the place where the action occurred, it is Jericho: “And they came to Jericho” (Mar 10: 46). The identification of the concrete place carries extreme importance for the whole event described. It makes the even as realistic as it is possible as Jericho was an ancient city in Palestine. The identification of the name of the city is the means of the creation of the evidence of the reliability of the subsequent story that is especially important if we take into account the miraculous and unimaginable details of the healing.

In the second place, it is necessary to consider the personality of the blind man as he is the central figure of the episode. Among the scant facts about him that are given, it is necessary to mention that Mark grants him the name, Bartimaeus, which means “the son of Timaeus”. The name also gives concrete traits to the image of the beggar.

Besides, significant and symbolic detail is the place where Jesus encounters the blind man. The beggar “was sitting by the roadside” (Mar 10: 46). This may be interpreted as his being a sidelined and isolated outcast. Metzger also states another variant: “a beggar sitting beside the road” that supports the idea of Bartimaeus’ isolation (Metzger, 1971, 108). However, by the end of the episode, Bartimaeus is “on the way” already (Mar 10: 52). Thus, the opposition of two positions of the man before and after his talk to Christ is evident as well as the opposition of the outsider and insider that is presented by the same man in different parts of the episode. This diametrical change is caused by his recovery of sight. But the physical healing is just a partial miracle; it is its part that may be observed by everyone. This was the thing that made the crowd gape in astonishment. It is in human nature to see only those things that lay on the surface. However, spiritual healing was far more important for Bartimaeus, this was the thing that truly made him a normal human being. That was the thing he asked for, just to become a normal person. Still, this aspect will be tackled later in terms of its relation to the larger context.

However, it is necessary to tackle the recovery of sight itself. The symbolism of the miracle is on the surface. The sight stands for the truth; it is the symbol of faith. Thus, it suggests the idea a truly harmonious person should be faithful and the only remedy that can cure all injuries and corporal defects is faith that cures the whole person, the physical and spiritual dimension of his personality included.

Finally, one more detail of special importance is the “cloak”: “throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus” (Mar 10: 51). The author provides the reader with very few facts relating to the blind beggar. We do not have the information about the causes of his blindness; the author gives neither information about the period of his being blind nor any other details about his life. Still, it is easy to guess that the man’s only property is his clothes, the cloak, but he does not doubt to throw it away when running to the Savior. This symbolic action shows his readiness to abandon all creature comforts to become sighted, both spiritually and physically.

The Healing in the context

On analyzing the episode as the separate unity, a cell, it is necessary to apply the method of induction, which is the consideration of the unit in its relation to the whole. The symbolic significance of the healing will be observed better if it is compared and contrast with other symbolic episodes and characters encountered in the chapter, then on a larger scale, including the whole Gospel of Mark and the parallels with other Gospels will be observed. The necessity of the application of this approach may be proven by the following words of Fee: “text is only one small part of a whole and was never intended by the biblical author to be looked at or thought of independent from the rest of what he says”, it is necessary “to read you the passage in its larger context” (Fee, 2002, 136).

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Thus, Chapter 10 of the Gospel is the first contextual level for analysis. Mark recounts Jesus’ attitude towards children and bounds of wedlock as symbolic things (Mar 10: 9-12, 10: 15). The Chapter throws light on many eternal questions and issues of vital importance and the beginning of the chapter that is characterized by such seriousness suggests its further intensification and the climax presented by the healing. Still, there are other episodes in the chapter that deserves mentioning: the episode with the rich man (Mar 10: 17-31) and the episode with the disciples, James and John (Mar 10: 35-45). The parallel may be drawn between the first episode and the healing of Bartimaeus as the episodes offer opposite situations: the rich man is contrasted with the beggar but both of them have common intentions, they want Christ to do something for them. Still, the nature of intentions differs, while the rich man is eager to “inherit eternal life” (Mar 10: 17), Bartimaeus just wants to become a normal person, not the one endowed by supernatural powers. Though he is asking something for his benefit, his intentions are pure in comparison with the insatiable desires of the rich man who probably wants to spend his eternal life gathering riches though God does not let “amass wealth unjustly” (Jer 17: 11). If the rich man cannot part with his fortune, Bartimaeus abandons everything he has eagerly, even without Jesus’ order and he gets his faith that awakens his sight.

The next episode with the disciples should also be compared with the healing. The similarity of the episodes may be observed due to the same question repeated by the Savior: “What is it you want me to do for you?” (Mar 10: 36) and “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mar 10: 51). The answers differ greatly again, while the disciples are eager to get fame, the blind man is looking for a faith that will cure him. Thus, the theme of blindness may be observed in both episodes, it is symbolic in the episode with the disciples who remain “blind” in their relation to Jesus (Coogan and Brettler, 2007, 1833) and it is contrasted with the physical blindness of the beggar that turns out to be curable in comparison with spiritual blindness.

On the larger scale, it is necessary to compare the healing with other cases of healing that are offered by the Gospel. For instance, the healing of a blind man at Bethsaida (Mar 8: 22-26) may be compared with Bartimaeus’ healing. The significant difference here is the anonymity of the first man that suggests that Bartimaeus’ healing is more important and realistic. Besides, the first case presents just a case of physical healing while the second is the spiritual one, consequently, more important one as it gives freedom to the soul. If we choose to compare the first case of healing of a man with an unclean spirit (Mar 1: 21-28) with that of Bartimaeus’ it is necessary to mention that only in these episodes “Jesus of Nazareth” is mentioned (Mar 1: 24, Mar 10: 47) that suggests divine nature of Jesus.

As for the place that is occupied by the healing of Bartimaeus in the Gospel, it is put by Mark at the end of the chapter as the climax of the chapter. Besides, it is the last case of healing in the Gospel. Due to its peculiar form and depth, it is one of the most symbolic and important episodes in the whole Gospel. It signifies the fact that Christ is going to Jerusalem to awaken the whole of Israel.

Finally, it is necessary to draw the parallels between the Gospels of Mark, Mathew, and Luke (Throckmorton, 1992, 149). In the first place, the case of healing can be found in all Gospels that proves the significance of the event and the disciples’ appreciation of it. However, Luke and Mathew do not give the name of the beggar and Mathew introduces two beggars instead of one (Mat 20: 30). Still, both of them retain the place of action, and the main events in the three versions coincide as well. All the authors call Jesus “Son of David” emphasizing his power and divine nature (Mat 20: 31; Mar 10: 49; Luk 18: 38). The difference between the sources is also in the address to Jesus: Mark calls him “my teacher” (Mar 10: 51) while others call him “Lord” (Mat 20: 33; Luk 18: 41).

The form of the Healing

Finally, it is necessary to analyze the form of the episode under consideration as the form can contribute to the understanding of the contents. According to the type of form, the episode about Bartimaeus is healing. However, this particular case of healing has a significant difference if compared with the usual features of the form.

To make the explanation clearer, let us resort to the case of healing of the blind man in Bethsaida (Mar 8: 22). This case of healing is the traditional one as it reproduces the process of healing itself. The process of miracle-making is the center of the episode, Mark elaborates on the details like “he [Jesus] had put saliva on his eyes” (Mar 8: 23). The episode describes the physical healing, hence the details concerning the “mechanism” of healing.

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The form of the healing of Bartimaeus is different due to the difference of contents. As for the beginning of the episodes, they almost coincide restoring the speech pattern that is probably characteristic of the form of healing. Still, the episode under analysis is deprived of any technical detail of healing. The reason for that is that the healing of Bartimaeus is spiritual, physical recovery of sight plays a secondary role.

Concluding, it is necessary to state that the analysis of the episode from the Gospel has proved to be very productive. The detailed consideration of the separate episode with the character and circumstances described has enabled us to analyze the passage in the context. The analysis of the narrow and general context has shown that healing plays a central role in the Chapter and the whole text of the Gospel. The evidence of the importance of the healing has proved the main message of the Gospel: faith is the most important thing, it can cure all injuries, and it is very important to be sighted in the spiritual sense of the world. Faith will make every person the disciple of the Savior; this is the main conclusion of the work.

Reference List

Coogan, Michael D, and Marc Z Brettler. 2007. The Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha. USA: Oxford University Press.

Fee, Gordon D. 2002. New Testament Exegesis. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.

Metzger, Bruce M. 1971. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft.

Throckmorton, Burton H. 1992. Gospel Parallels: A Comparison of the Synoptic Gospels. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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