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Healing in the Gospel of Matthew

Healing in the Gospel of Matthew: Reflections on Method and Ministry

Walter T. Wilson
Copyright Date: 2014
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  • Book Info
    Healing in the Gospel of Matthew
    Book Description:

    Although healing constitutes both a major theme of biblical literature and a significant practice of biblical communities, healing themes and experiences are not always conspicuous in presentations of biblical theology. Walter T. Wilson adopts an interdisciplinary approach to the healing narratives in the Gospel of Matthew, combining the familiar methods of form, redaction, and narrative criticisms with insights culled from medical anthropology, feminist theory, disability studies, and ancient archaeology. His focus is the New Testament’s longest and most systematic account of healing, Matthew chapters 8 and 9, which he investigates by situating the text within a broad range of ancient healing traditions. The close exegetical readings of each healing narrative culminate in a final synthesis that pulls together what can be said about Matthew’s understanding of healing, how Matthew’s narratives of healing expose the distinctive priorities of the evangelist, and how these priorities relate to the theology of the Gospel as a whole.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-8977-4
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. 1 Methodology
    (pp. 1-36)

    As recent scholarship has made abundantly clear, the First Gospel is a complex document and healing is a complex topic. In order to appreciate the nuances of both, it is necessary to adopt an approach that is interdisciplinary in nature. The survey that follows sketches the basic methods and assumptions that will inform the analysis of Matthew 8–9, the target text for this study.¹ No attempt is made to be comprehensive, either in terms of the methodological procedures themselves or in terms of their impact on the history of biblical scholarship. Instead, my approach is selective and strategic, integrating...

  6. 2 The Living Temple: Matthew 8:1–4
    (pp. 37-50)

    In the first triad of miracle stories, Jesus encounters people who in Jewish society would have experienced different kinds of social marginalization: a leper (8:1–4), a Gentile (8:5–13), and a sick woman (8:14–15). For a sense of the isolation endured by the first of these individuals, we can turn to theAgainst Apionof Josephus, a text written around the same time as the Gospel of Matthew:¹

    He [Moses] prohibited lepers from staying in a city or living in a village, requiring that they travel about alone, with their clothes torn; and he regards as unclean anyone...

  7. 3 From East and West: Matthew 8:5–13
    (pp. 51-64)

    In the Gospel of Mark, the story of Jesus and the man with a scale-disease (Mark 1:40–45) is immediately followed by a story that takes place in Capernaum, the healing of the paralytic (Mark 2:1–12). The author of the First Gospel postpones the account of this healing to Matthew 9:1–8 (see Chapter Eight) and in its place inserts a story that also occurs in Capernaum, though for this he draws not on the Second Gospel but on the Q source.¹ This is the healing of the centurion’s servant, which in its prior literary setting immediately followed the...

  8. 4 The Uninvited Healer: Matthew 8:14–15
    (pp. 65-80)

    For the third miracle story of the first triad in chapters 8–9, the author of the First Gospel returns to Mark:

    It is best to begin an analysis of this passage by looking back and seeing how the evangelist has situated the story within the context of Matthew 8:1-15. This is critical since, as noted earlier, he has exercised considerable freedom in editing not only the content but also the order of the material in this section:

    In contrast to Mark, in Matthew the story of Peter’s mother-in-law now comes after the story of the man with a scale-disease....

  9. 5 Houses, Healing, and Prophets: Matthew 8:16–17
    (pp. 81-94)

    As we have seen, the various forms of narrative “contraction” evident in Matthew’s manner of rewriting and recontextualizing the story of Peter’s mother-in-law draw attention both to the private nature of her encounter with Jesus and to the domestic setting in which this encounter occurs. The seeming breach of cultural norms attending the evangelist’s re-envisioning of the scene lends the story a distinctive character. In concert with this, the previous chapter showed how Matthew 8:14–15 can be understood to function as a kind of narrative hinge, serving both as the third of three stories (Matt. 8:1–4, 5–13,...

  10. 6 The Other Side: Matthew 8:18–27
    (pp. 95-116)

    With this passage we encounter the first miracle story in the second triad of miracle stories preserved in Matthew 8–9. From a form-critical perspective, this is the most varied of the triads, consisting of a nature miracle (8:23–27), an exorcism (8:28–34), and a healing story with elements of a controversy story (9:1–8). For the contents of the triad, Matthew relies on Mark, though his order of the miracles differs from that of his source material, with the story of the paralytic (Matt. 9:1–8; cf. Mark 2:1–12) now coming immediately after rather than well before...

  11. 7 On the Way, Before the Time: Matthew 8:28–34
    (pp. 117-138)

    As we learned in Chapter One, from a structural standpoint the pericope in Matthew 8:28–34 is of central importance for our study, representing as it does the middle story in the middle triad of miracle stories in chapters 8–9. With this episode, then, we reach the compositional heart of the evangelist’s miracle discourse, an appropriate position given that what it reveals is nothing less than the underlying conflict informing Jesus’ mission of healing. As we shall see, what is revealed about this conflict includes both the nature of the opposition that Jesus faces as healer and the nature...

  12. 8 Practicing Healing in Community: Matthew 9:1–8
    (pp. 139-160)

    In this passage, an important theme for the theology of the First Gospel makes its first appearance in the narrative of chapters 8–9: the theme of sin.¹ While Matthew 9:1–8 may introduce a new theme, however, it does not introduce a new section. Rather, it constitutes the third miracle story in the second triad of miracle stories within our unit. The context provided by 8:18–34, then, is of critical importance for understanding the particular perspective on sin, forgiveness, and healing that the evangelist wants to cultivate for his readers, a perspective that has at its center the...

  13. 9 Unexpected Guests: Matthew 9:9–13
    (pp. 161-180)

    As we have just learned, those who would “follow” Jesus (8:19, 22) and the example that he sets in Matthew 8:18–9:8 are encouraged to see themselves as participants in an unfolding eschatological drama. Accordingly, they approach the dynamics of sin and forgiveness not as matters of individual concern but as fundamentally social realities, that is, as realities in which all humanity is implicated. One of the consequences of this commitment is that those who would follow Jesus’ example ashealersimplicate themselves in communal practices of forgiveness (e.g., 6:12–18; 18:15–22; 26:26–29). After all, before beginning his...

  14. 10 Things Old and New: Matthew 9:14–17
    (pp. 181-194)

    In chapter 9, Jesus engages in debates with the scribes (9:1–8), with the Pharisees (9:9–13), and, now, with the disciples of John (9:14–17). Structurally, this triad of consecutive controversy-laden stories helps to connect the triad of miracle stories in 8:23—9:8 with the triad of miracle stories in 9:18–34. Thematically, the stories in 9:1–17 have a notable cumulative effect: the rift between Jesus and the “old” order (9:16–17) is substantive, wide-ranging, and expanding. The healing ministry of Jesus generates debate and, ultimately, rejection (9:34).

    Matthew 9:14–17 continues from 9:10–13 with no indication...

  15. 11 Daughters in the Borderland: Matthew 9:18–26
    (pp. 195-226)

    A triad of stories defined by controversy (9:1–8, 9–13, 14–17) gives way to a triad of stories defined by the miraculous: the story of the official’s daughter and the woman with a flow of blood (9:18–26), the story of the two blind men (9:27–31), and the story of the mute demoniac (9:32–34). While in each of the previous triads of miracle stories (8:1–15; 8:23—9:8) Jesus cured a total of three individuals, in this triad, the total increases to five. In addition, one of these episodes (9: 18–19, 23–26) involves a...

  16. 12 Sensing the Son of David: Matthew 9:27–31
    (pp. 227-262)

    In the ancient Mediterranean world, eye ailments were treated by a range of healthcare systems.¹ The goddess Isis, for example, was thought to aid her devotees through nocturnal visions:

    For standing above the sick in their sleep she gives them aid for their diseases and works remarkable cures upon such as submit themselves to her; and many who have despaired of their physicians because of the difficulty of their malady are restored to health by her, while those who have altogether lost the use of their eyes or some other part of their body, whenever they turn to this goddess,...

  17. 13 Healing Every Disease: Matthew 9:32–38
    (pp. 263-288)

    In this chapter we examine two units, an account of an exorcism (9:32–34) followed by a transitional paragraph (9:35–38). With the former, we reach the third miracle story in the third triad of miracle stories preserved in Matthew 8–9. If the previous episode drew attention to the power of hearing, this episode draws attention to the power of speech. It is noteworthy, then, that in contrast to the first two stories of the third triad (9:18–26 and 9:27–31), in 9:32–34 Jesus is not represented as saying anything (cf. 8:14–15). Instead, attention shifts to...

  18. 14 Conclusion
    (pp. 289-320)

    As we have just seen, the final miracle story in Matthew 8–9 recounts the exorcism of a mute demoniac (9:32–34). In terms of the physical ailment involved, comparison can be made with the following testimony from a fourth century BCE inscription found at Epidaurus cataloguing various cures attributed to the god Asclepius:¹

    A voiceless boy. He came as a supplicant to the Temple for his voice. When he had performed the preliminary sacrifices and fulfilled the usual rites, thereupon the temple servant who brings in the fire for the god, looking at the boy’s father, demanded he should...

  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 321-344)
  20. Index of Authors
    (pp. 345-350)
  21. Index of Subjects
    (pp. 351-360)
  22. Index of Biblical and Ancient References
    (pp. 361-367)
  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 368-368)