The verses 10: 46-52 in the Gospel of Mark contain two remarkable episodes, which are Jesus leaving Jericho with his disciples and the healing of blind Bartimeus episode. With blindness being a unifying theme for a whole section in the Gospel of Mark, Mark 8-10, the importance of Bartimeus’s story is understandable, where it serves as “the concluding bookend” to the section (Bartlett and Taylor 2008). The pericope of Blind Bartimeus is a narrative of a miracle story, presumably representing an eyewitness account by Mark (Evans 2001; Mann 2000), with a triple tradition (Fee 2002). In addition to Mark 10:46-52, the story was told in Luke 18:35-43 and Matthew 9:27-31. This paper analyzes the passage of the healing of Bartimeus, narrated in the Gospel of Mark (Mark 10:46-52), conducting a word study on each of the following words and phrases:
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- Have mercy (vs. 47).
- Cloak/ garment (vs. 50).
- Has made you well (vs. 52).
- Faith (vs.52).
When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ (Mark 10: 47).
The verse follows the narration of Jesus passing through Jericho, accompanied by his disciples, and with a great number of people. Bartimeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting along the road and began crying out and asking for mercy. The Greek verb ελεέω (strong’s number 1653) is derived from the noun ελεος (strong’s number 1656), both of uncertain affinity, and which means compassion, human or divine, tender (mercy) (Strong 1995). Accordingly, the verb form ελεέω means to have compassion (by word or deed), or have (obtain, receive, shew) mercy (on) (Strong 1995). In the Blind Bartimeus passage, the verb is repeated twice, with the same structure, merely as a matter of repeating, after the crowd “sternly ordered [Bartimeus] to be quiet” (Mark 10:48). The verb form of the Greek word has three occurrences in the Gospel of Mark, two of which in the Blind Bartimeus passage (Mark 10: 47-48), and the third one in Mark 5:19. Analyzing the same event in Matthew and Luke, it can be seen that the verses in Luke 18:38-39 have the same structure as Mark’s, with Bartimeus crying out twice as well. Matthew, on the other hand, has the sentence repeated once (Matthew 9:27), although two unidentified blind men followed Jesus, which as suggested by Bultman might imply that the name in Mark’s episode was added years later (Evans 2001).
Identifying the meaning of ελεέω, two meanings are identified based on translation, to show mercy or compassion, or to show pity. Accordingly, mercy and pity are used interchangeably, where have mercy on me and pity me are derived from the same Greek word (Green 1996). Showing an act of mercy, or asking for an act of mercy, is asking for help, considering the authority of the person to who the request is sent. The common element of the usage of the Greek word is the differences in statuses, which is assumingly the reason for using mercy and pity interchangeably. In that regard, God and Jesus are commonly asked to have mercy upon, e.g. son of David have mercy (Luke 18:38-39); Jesus, Master, have mercy (Luke 17:13); God that showeth mercy (Romans 9:16), and others (Strong 1995). In that regard, the interpretation of the word helps to acknowledge the identification by the beggar of the authority of Jesus, having heard of him before, and insisting despite the order of the crowd (Whitefield 1714 -1770).
So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus (Mark 10:50).
When Jesus heard Bartimeus crying for him, asked to “Call him”. So the crowd told Bartimeus that Jesus called (Mark 10:49). Bartimeus, before coming to Jesus, threw off his cloak. The Greek word ιματιον (Strong’s number 2440) is derived presumably from the verb (to put on)- έννομι, in which the derived noun means a dress (inner or outer); apparel, cloke (coat), clothes, garment, raiment, robe, or vesture (Strong 1995). The common translation used is garment or cloak; cloak in the New Revised Standard Version, while garment in the King James Version (Green 1996; Throckmorton 1992).
The Greek noun is mentioned 6 times in Mark, where the context implies that it is outer clothes, rather than inner clothes, as implied by the definition. Mentioned 15 times in the New Testament, all the verbs adjacent to ματιον do not contain the meaning consistent in the Bartimeus episode, i.e. throwing away, αποβαλου (Strong’s number 577). Thus, it can be stated the context of the garment can be outlined through its attachment to the action performed on it. The common verb associated with the garment is touching, 4 times in (Matthew 9:20-21; 14:36; Mark 5:27; Luke 8:44). The object of touching is Jesus in all these cases, and thus, it can be assumed that the garment is a part of the individual, touching which he/she “will be made well” (Matthew 9:21). Casting away the garment, on the other hand, is the deliverance of the old, predicting that the garment of a beggar is representative of the beggar himself. Bartlet’s interpretation of the act of throwing is of an image of leaving the former life behind (Bartlett and Taylor 2008). Other interpretations can be linked to an acknowledgment of authority.
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Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way (Mark 10:52).
Jesus asked Bartimeus after he approached, what he can do for him, to which Bartimeus replied, “My teacher, let me see again” (Mark 10:51) (Throckmorton 1992). The action of Jesus differs in Mark’s Gospel from Luke’s and Matthews, in that there is neither a physical action nor a direct command of healing (Mann 2000). Instead, the reply was “Go; your faith has made you well”. Faith is a consistent translation of the Greek word Pistis as belief, where the verb piste in can be translated as “to believe”. The root of the Greek word list corresponds to a broad range of meanings such as “belief, confidence, trust, faith/faithfulness” (Freedman 1992).
The noun pistis, in Greek πιστις (Strong’s number 4102), is derived from the verb πειτηο (Strong’s number 3928), which means persuasion, the conviction of religious truth (Strong 1995). The original word appeared in the Gospel of Mark 5 times, among which twice with the same structure, “your faith has made you well” (Mark 10:52; 5:34). The same context is found in the way the episode is narrated by Luke and Matthew; “your faith has saved you” (Luke 18:42); “According to your faith let it be done to you” (Matthew 9:29). In the passages related to the Bartimeus episode, the faith is taken with no description of what the belief is in, e.g. “have faith in God” (Mark 11:22) (Strong 1995).
Accordingly, the analysis of the Hebrew origins, namely Judaism, indicates that the Greek translation took faith as being the belief in God, while the Hebrew origin did not show such connection (Freedman 1992). The designation of faith as a self-definition of what Christian proclamation is largely linked to the miracle stories, one of which is the Bartimeus episode. Linking the meaning to a general concept of trust does not correspond to the acknowledgment of Bartimeus of the power of Jesus, and accordingly calling him Son of David. Thus, it can be stated that such stories serve as the basis for the self-definition of faith in the New Testament being linked to God (Freedman 1992).
The result of Bartimeus faith is being well, a state which original is the Greek verb σοζο (Strong’s number 4982), to save, i.e. deliver or protect, heal, or do well (Strong 1995). Well and whole are used interchangeably, where the same passages in the King James Version and the New Revised Standard Version indicate the same meaning. The Greek σοζο is used in the Gospel of Mark 13 times, where the difference in context might outline the differences in meaning. It is clear that in the case of Bartimeus the first implication is the physical healing, considering his previous state. Nevertheless, in Mark 10:25-26, σοζο means being saved, where the literal meaning is being able to enter the kingdom of God. There are two actions in the following verse, i.e. the restoration of sight and Bartimeus following Jesus. Thus, it can be stated that the Greek word σοζο takes the meaning of being well as a theological concept of being saved, rather than the physical.
It can be concluded that the word study of the episode of Blind Bartimeus can change the apparent interpretation of the episode, i.e. a miracle story. In addition to narrating a miracle story, the passage serves as a demonstration of the authority of Jesus, believing in which is a foundation of faith that leads to salvation.
Bartlett, David Lyon, and Barbara Brown Taylor. 2008. Feasting on the Word: preaching the revised common lectionary. 1st ed. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.
Evans, Craig. 2001. Word Biblical Commentary. Vol. 348. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Fee, Gordon D. 2002. New Testament exegesis : a handbook for students and pastors. 3rd ed. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press.
Freedman, David Noel. 1992. The Anchor Bible dictionary. 1st ed. 6 vols. New York: Doubleday.
Green, Jay P. 1996. The interlinear Greek-English New Testament. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Books.
Mann, C. S. 2000. Mark : a new translation with introduction and commentary, The Anchor Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Oremus Bible Browser: New Revised Standard Version. 2010. Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America 1989. Web.
Strong, James. 1995. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Nashville, Tenn.: T. Nelson Publishers.
Throckmorton, Burton Hamilton. 1992. Gospel parallels : a comparison of the synoptic gospels : with alternative readings from the manuscripts and noncanonical parallels. 5th ed. Nashville: T. Nelson.
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Whitefield, George. 1714 -1770. Selected Sermons of George Whitefield: Blind Bartimaeus, CCEL Subjects. Grand Rapids: Christian Classics Ethereal Library Publishers.