The middle of Mark 8 records an incident in which Jesus healed a blind man in a village called Bethsaida.
The end of Mark 10 records another healing of a blind man. This one was half-identified as being someone’s son (Bar-Timaeus).
Exegetical insights in the text of Mark reveal that these incidents are part of a larger subsection that essentially constitute the conceptual middle of Mark’s gospel — which is, on one level, a documentary creation. Some say that these “twin” healings of blind men form an inclusio or “sandwich” structure, part of an overall emphasis that includes the three “passion predictions” in chapters 8, 9, and 10. The first healing is the one in which the vision came in two stages — first, out of focus, then just read. The second healing is a bit more pointed in its spiritual implications. Mark appears to be saying something about the relationship of 1) physical sight and 2) spiritual sight as he paints his overall picture of those — the Master’s disciples — who follow Jesus “along the way.”
John 9 has for decades been a favorite chapter. It recounts the healing of another blind man and presents powerful portrayals of various characters, including the Jewish leadership, the blind man, and the man’s parents. I wrote rather extensively, although not particularly conclusively, about that chapter here. The focus in John 9 ends up on spiritual sight. I would ask you at least to read Steve’s very meaningful comments on that post, written several months ago.
Moisés Silva¹ has said some important things about historicity of the gospels:
1. [Speaking of the notion that the “religious teachings” of the Bible may be affirmed while “rejecting its historical claims”]: “the resulting incoherence is logically unbearable.”
2. “In the case of the Gospels, every indication we have is that the writers expected their statements to be taken as historical.” A contrast is subsequently drawn between general events and parables. In addition, John’s gospel famously includes testimonials that affirm historicity:
“The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true.” (Jn 19:35)
“Jesus did [emphasis mine -bc]” other things that were not recorded. (Jn 20:31)
3. There is, still, substantial difference between a) the historical sensibilities of ancient authors and b) the stress placed on “clear and strict chronological sequence” by our contemporary concepts of historicity.
Believers accept that the healings of blind men really occurred. That historicity is is a given for me, but layers of truth may be present. While I’m not sure that the Mark healings have quite the same symbolic significance (physical sight ≈ spiritual sight) as the John story has, all three of these show something astounding about our Jesus.
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Thus ends a month of blogposts with a “two” motif.
For February, I have in the preparation stages a few essays on aspects of scripture.
At some point by March, I want to share some proseuchlations² about sight and focus, sort of picking up where the above post left off.
¹Moisés Silva, “‘But These Are Written That You May Believe’: The Meaning of the Gospels,” in An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics: The Search for Meaning, Walter C. Kaiser and Moisés Silva, p. 106.
² I’m coining the difficult-to-pronounce (and probably-better-left-unprounced) term proseuchlation, using part of the Greek root for pray, to describe a prayer-ish contemplation.