Synoptic Parallel Accounts: The Paralytic


#1

I have a little exercise for you guys. Could you name the different and the similar details between the following accounts in the synoptics?

And when he entered Capharnaum again after [some] days, it was heard that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even by the door; and he was speaking the word to them. And they come, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four; and when they could not present him [to Jesus] because of the crowd, they removed the roof where he was, and when they had dug through [it], they lowered the stretcher on which the paralytic was lying, and Jesus having seen their faith says to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” But some of the scribes were sitting there and questioning in their hearts: “Why does this one talk like this? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God only?” And immediately Jesus, becoming aware in his spirit that they were questioning (like that) within themselves, says (to them), “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ’Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, (and) take up your stretcher and walk?’ But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on the earth”—he says to the paralytic—“I tell you, get up, take up your stretcher, and go to your house!” And he got up and immediately took up his bed and went out in front of them all, so that they all go out of their minds [in amazement] and glorify God, (saying,) “We’ve never seen anything like this!”

Mark 2:1-12

And it happened that on one of the days he was teaching; and there were Pharisees and Law-teachers sitting [there] (who had come from every hamlet of the Galilee and Judaea and Jerusalem), and the power of the Lord was with him to heal. And look! Men carry a person who was paralyzed on a couch, and they were trying to bring him in and place (him) before him; and not finding no [way] to bring him in because of the crowd, having gone up on the housetop they let him down with his little couch through the [roof] tiles into the middle [of the crowd], in front of Jesus; and having seen their faith he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this that speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” But Jesus, having become aware of their questionings, answering, said to them, “Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk?’ But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on the earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—“Get up, and having taken your little couch, go to your house!” And instantly he rose up before them, having taken up what he had been lying on, went out to his house glorifying God. And astonishment seized all, and they were glorifying God, and were filled with dread, saying, “We have seen incredible things today!”

Luke 5:17-26

And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. And look! They were bringing to him a paralytic lying on a couch. And Jesus having seen their faith said to the paralytic, “Have courage, child! Your sins are forgiven.” And look, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This one blasphemes!” And Jesus seeing their thoughts said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk?’ But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on the earth to forgive sins”—then he says to the paralytic—“Get up, take up your couch, and go to your house!” And he, having got up, went away to his house. Now when the crowd saw this, they were awestruck and glorified God who had given such authority to human beings.

Matthew 9:1-8

It would have been better if I had the Greek here, but not everyone knows Greek, so we’re gonna have to settle with this. (Anyone who does know Greek is absolutely welcome.) To give everyone a lead I will point out a single detail in the next post: the roof where the men let the paralytic through


#2

Mark’s version envisions actual Near Eastern houses. Houses in Roman Judaea were small, box-like buildings, usually built from hand-made and sun-dried day bricks or stone. Interior walls (or also the exterior if one could afford it) were covered with a mixture of soil, chalk and straw or lime plaster. Wide benches of mud brick or stone for sitting and sleeping, and shelves for storage, were built into the structure itself. Stairs or a wooden ladder led up onto the flat roof.

The roof was usually composed of timber covered with reeds, followed by a layer of mud and a dry mixture of chalk, earth and ash, which provided insulation. This layer was applied while the mud plaster was still damp. Finally a mixture of mud rich in lime was added to keep out water. A stone roller was then used to compact each layer. It was because of this mud that weeds sometimes grew on rooftops. In some areas where timber was scarce, another possible alternative was stone beams covered with plaster.

Since the interior of the house tended to be small and dark (due to the small and high windows, which prevented intruders and the cold from entering), the courtyard and/or the rooftop tended to be important parts of the house where work was done, since they were used for tasks that needed good light - such as spinning and weaving, and food preparation. The rooftop might also be used for sleeping at hot days, or for drying food or textiles, or even as a dining area, with temporary, tent-like structures were set up on it for shading.

http://img829.imageshack.us/img829/6826/5j4b.jpg

Mark’s account has the men “unroofing the roof” and “digging through” (exoryxsso, also used for the ‘digging’ of trenches or canals or even the ‘gouging out’ of an eye) it, boring a hole into the mud-thatch rooftop. Compare this with Luke’s version. He has the men lowering the paralytic “through the tiles” (dia tōn keramōn) - many Greek and Roman houses and buildings had tiled roofs. Some will try to harmonize these two accounts together in some way, but we can also just easily say that Luke had adapted the story by using imagery and language his audience will be more familiar with. In any case, both versions agree in that the paralytic was lowered through the roof of the house.

http://www.wimeuverman.nl/afbeeldingen/roman_house_shop_pompei.jpg

http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/jmarks/glory/Glory-images/Glory-Q8images/housecut.jpg


#3

Thank.you for your erudition. I realise that Biblical exegesis is important for the greater glory of God, however I am swept away with the proof of Christ’s Godhead, and His willingness to forgive our sins. To me, the glory is in the cleverness of the trapping proof. As a lawyer, I don’t look forward to my eventual cross-examination. AMDG


#4

I have not seen a single commentary that does not point this out, as do many study bibles.


#5

'Scool ain’t it? :cool:


#6

It was very temperate in that area, and even in the heat of the day, the water of the Galilee remained cool as it was fed from the Jordan, a mountain river at its source. The lake is in a sunken depression and what winds blew were cooled by the water.
The roofs were probably just bundled thatch.

OT- if you go to that area, it is interesting how parsed through the ancient towns of Capernaum and Bethsaida are. I think, Patrick, that you underestimate the amount of rock that was used in the walls. Rock is the best insulator and can be a source of heat during cool nights, and a sink for heat during the hot days.

Point being is that all you see, for the most part, in the well-combed ruins of those two towns are stacks of rocks where the walls were. You can bet that every archeologist and their mother has been to the sites over the decades looking for something that references Jesus or the Disciples.


#7

I have a couple of unrelated stuff to point out.

And he got up and immediately took up the stretcher and went out in front of them all, so that they all go out of their minds [in amazement] and glorify God, (saying,) “We’ve never seen anything like this!”

This is actually a single word in Greek: existasthai. The word existemi literally means “to stand out from” or “to displace.” It is used either in the sense of becoming mad (i.e. to be out of one’s mind) or to be hit with such astonishment (to the point of almost losing one’s wits) - in other words, to be ‘bowled over’, the closest expression we could get to it in English. (The word ‘ectasy’, BTW, comes from this same word via the noun ekstasis: a state of instense emotion.) The word is actually used in one other place in Mark’s gospel:

3:20-21 And they go home, and the crowd gathers together again so that they are not able to eat bread, and those near him when they heard [of this] went out to restrain him, since they were saying that: “He’s lost his wits!” (Exestē)

The other thing is in the Lukan account. Luke (and Matthew) uses the word klinē (‘couch’, ‘bed’) for the thing the paralytic was lying on. To be more specific, Luke uses klinē the first time and uses the diminutive form, klinidion for the rest:

And look! Men carry a person who was paralyzed on a couch (klinē), and they were trying to bring him in and place (him) before him; and not finding no [way] to bring him in because of the crowd, having gone up on the housetop they let him down with ** the little couch** (to klinidiō) through the [roof] tiles into the middle [of the crowd], in front of Jesus. …] “Get up, and having taken your little couch (to klinidion sou), go to your house!”


#8

Unlike Matthew or Luke, Mark uses the colloquial word krabattos (from the Latin grabbatus) for the stretcher. The word appears also in another passage in John’s gospel also involving a paralytic:

(5:1-14) After these [things] there was a feast of the Judaeans, and Jesus went up to Hierosolyma. Now there is in Hierosolyma by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethzatha, having five walkways. In these were lying a great number of the sick—blind, lame, paralyzed. Now a certain man was there who had had thirty-eight years in his sickness. When Jesus saw him lying there and when he knew that he had been [that way] a long time already, he says to him, “Do you want to become well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no man to throw me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another goes down [into the pool] before me.” Jesus says to him, “Get up! Take up your stretcher (ton krabatton sou) and walk!” And immediately the man became well, and he took up his stretcher (ton krabatton autou), and was walking. Now it was sabbath on that day, so the Judaeans said to the man who had been cured, “It’s the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry the stretcher (ton krabatton).” But he answered them, “The one who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your stretcher (ton krabatton sou) and walk.’” They questioned him, “Who’s the man who said to you, ‘Take [it] up and walk’?” But the one who was healed had not known who it is since Jesus had slipped out, a crowd being in the place. After these [things] Jesus found him in the temple and says to him, “See, you have become well! Don’t sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.”

Jesus’ command to the respective paralytics are quite similar:

John 5:8 Egeire, aron ton krabatton sou, kai peripatei “Get up, take up your stretcher and walk”

Mark 2:11 Soi legō, egeire, aron ton krabatton sou, kai ypage eis ton oikon sou “I tell you, get up, take up your stretcher, and go to your house”

Mark 2:9 Egeirou, [kai] aron ton krabatton sou, kai peripatei “Get up, (and) take up your stretcher and walk”

Matthew 9:5; Luke 5:23 Egeire kai peripatei “Get up and walk”

(Matthew 9:6 Egeire, aron sou tēn klinēn, kai ypage eis ton oikon sou “Get up, take up your couch, and go to your house”

Luke 5:24 Egeire, kai aras to klinidion sou porevou eis ton oikon sou “Get up, and having taken your little couch, be going to your house”)


#9

I took the trouble of making what is called a synopsis (an arrangement of the three synoptic gospels in parallel columns):

img708.imageshack.us/img708/5074/dvnk.png

Click on the pic for a larger version.


#10

Hi Patrick,

Could the use of “dug” also just mean pierce without it necessarily saying something of the material? It reminded me of two translations on on Psalm 21(22). One uses the hands being “dug” and another saying “pierce” when it comes to the Lord. In the context of the Psalm, I guess dogs dig holes, so they got pierced. But hands are not normally the material by which we would describe dogs digging holes in them. So I was wondering if maybe any creation of a hole or piercing would be described as it being dug (such as this case with the roof). What are your thoughts?


#11

I like the added details in Mark. Jesus is “at home.” The crowds are not just crammed in the house, but blocking the door. 4 people are carrying the stretcher.

This seems to be a pattern with most Synoptic miracle stories. Mark has more details than the Luke or Matthew. It makes them more suited to oral story telling, IMO, even with the less eloquent language. When reading to the Bible to my kids, all things being equal, I choose Mark for this reason.


#12

Well a few things. The Greek word used in Psalm 22 (21):16 is ōryxan (orysso “to dig”). The word used in Mark meanwhile is exoryxantes (ex- “out (of)” + orysso “to dig” = “to dig out/through”), so yes there’s those almost similar words.

Now IMHO the problem with adopting an ultra-literal reading of Luke’s version (the one with the tiles) is that at the time of Jesus, Capernaum was really just this small, modest Jewish village, without the trappings and the neatness of Greco-Roman architecture and town planning. (The description of Capernaum as a polis “city” or town IMHO could also be another contextualization by the evangelists, attempting to make the story more intelligible and relevant to their audiences. Or they are just using polis in a broader sense: “inhabited areas” as opposed to deserted places.) In fact, no roof tiles from the 1st century were found in Capernaum, Gamla and Yodefat (Josephus’ Jotapata): the evidence for roof tiles in the Roman period in the Galilee, especially in village contexts, is virtually non-existent until the 2nd century, after the Jewish revolts, when ‘Romanization’ became common. (Stamped roof tiles identifying them with the sixth Roman legion, Legio VI Ferrata, have been found in Kfar Hananya and Horvat Hazon. Tiles were found in Khirbet Qana - one of the candidates for biblical Cana - but they date at least to the 2nd or 3rd century.)


#13

I think you’ll notice from the synopsis that there is a difference in the sequence of events between Matthew and Mark and Luke.

Mark

Return to the Galilee: Jesus commences preaching (1:14b-15)

Calling Simon, Andrew, James, and John (1:16-20)
In Capharnaum, part 01: Jesus teaches with authority (1:21-22)
In Capharnaum, part 02: Demoniac (1:23-28)
In Capharnaum, part 03: Simon’s mother in law (1:29-31)
In Capharnaum, part 04: Healing demoniacs and the infirm (1:32-34)
In Capharnaum, part 05: Leaving Capharnaum (1:35-38)
Jesus preaches throughout the Galilee (1:39)

The leper (1:40-45)

The paralytic (2:1-12)
Calling Levi (2:13-17)
On fasting and wineskins (2:18-22)

Sabbath observance, part 01: In a wheat field (2:23-3:6)
Sabbath observance, part 02: Man with withered hand (3:1-6)

Jesus gets on a boat (3:7-9)
Jesus orders people to keep quiet (3:10-12)

Choosing the Twelve (3:13–19)

Matthew

Return to the Galilee: Jesus commences preaching, 01 (4:12b-17)

Calling Simon, Andrew, James, and John (4:18-22)
Jesus commences preaching, 02 (4:23-25

[Sermon on the Mount: 5:1-7:29]

The Sermon on the Mount: Jesus taught with authority (7:28-29)
The leper (8:1-4)

In Capernaum, part 01: The centurion’s servant (8:5-13)
In Capernaum, part 02: Simon’s mother in law (8:14-15)
In Capernaum, part 03: Healing demoniacs and the infirm (8:16-17)
The cost of following Jesus (8:18-22)

Calming the storm (8:23-27)
Gadarene demoniacs (8:28-34)

The paralytic (9:1-8)
Calling Matthew (9:9-13)
On fasting and wineskins (9:14-17)

The ruler’s daughter, part 01: A ruler asks Jesus (9:18-19)
The ruler’s daughter, part 02: Woman with issue of blood (9:20-22)
The ruler’s daughter, part 03: Raising the daughter (9:23-26)

Two blind men (9:27-31)
Exorcising a mute man (9:32-34)
Plentiful harvest but few harvesters (9:35-38)

Choosing the Twelve (10:1-4)

Luke

Hometown rejection (4:14-30)

In Capernaum, part 01: Jesus teaches with authority (4:31-32)
In Capernaum, part 02: Demoniac (4:33-37)
In Capernaum, part 03: Simon’s mother in law (4:38-39)
In Capernaum, part 04: Healing demoniacs and the infirm (4:40-41)
In Capernaum, part 05: Leaving Capernaum (4:42-43)
Jesus preaches throughout the Galilee (4:44)

Jesus gets on a boat (5:1-3)
The catch of fish and the call of Simon, Andrew, James, and John (5:4-11)

The leper (5:12-16)

The paralytic (5:17-26)
Calling Levi (5:27-32)
On fasting and wineskins (5:33-39)

Sabbath observance, part 01: In a wheat field (6:1-5)
Sabbath observance, part 02: Man with withered hand (6:6-11)

Choosing the Twelve (6:12-16)


#14

Y’know, I seem to have answered my own OP - unfortunately. Oh well.

Anyways, about the last post: you will see that Luke is pretty close to Mark’s order. Matthew, meanwhile, inserts the scenes which occur in Capernaum, the Sea of Galilee, and Gadara/Gerasa immediately after the pericope of the leper, whereas the former pericopes are placed before that of the leper in Mark and Luke while the latter passages are placed later in both gospels (Mark 4:35-5:20; Luke 8:22-39), the story of Jairus’ daughter (which occurs when Jesus returns by boat to the other side) immediately following them. Matthew on the other hand has merged the three Capharnaum passages - the paralytic, the call of Levi/Matthew, the question on fasting - with the story of the ruler’s (he does not name Jairus) daughter.

Plus, the comment that Jesus taught with authority in Mark occurs when He teaches in the synagogue in Capharnaum, but Matthew instead applies this comment to the Sermon on the Mount. Probably the reason why Matthew placed the leper first is because he wants to show a healing that shows Jesus’ fulfilling the Law immediately after the Sermon, but at the same time his approach produces what may be seen as a slight continuity error. Immediately after Jesus finishes talking for three chapters, Matthew notes that “great crowds followed him (Matthew really has a liking for crowds), and behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him.” The fact however that there are “great crowds” following Jesus in the scene would make His command of secrecy to the now-healed leper a little bit odd - the command may work better in Mark’s and Luke’s version of the story, where it seems that there is no one else present aside from Jesus and the ex-leper (at least, nobody else is referenced).


#15

…again good “stuff” patrick457:)

Can I get OT and maybe you or others can help me with this puzzle (to me) at least? Rebuke me if necessary, okay?:blush:

Jesus healed the paralytic because of the faith of the men who brought him. It was not the faith of the paralytic mentioned in any passage. is this right?

If so is there a significance to this? If this had been just a man with withered legs clawing his way to the presence of Jesus would it make a difference? Not of course of the reaction by those around Him and His telling them of his authority to forgive sins, but in a fuller meaning of the whole event? Sorry I can’t think of a better word than “fuller” at the moment.

It was the faith of men that would apparently have no need for (physical) healing present the paralytic to be healed.:confused:


#16

Well, the general structure of the story is:

[LIST]*]A paralytic is brought lying on a mattress to Jesus
*]Jesus declares the paralytic’s sins forgiven
*]Scribes present in the scene label this act as blasphemous
*]Jesus in turn questions said scribes which is easier: to say that the paralytic’s sins are forgiven or to order him to get up and walk
*]“So that [they] may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins,” Jesus commands the paralytic to stand up and walk back home
*]People are astonished by the miracle[/LIST]

“Their faith” would in context indeed mean the faith of the men who went through all the trouble bringing the lame man before Jesus, but some people (St. John Chrysostom for instance) thought that the paralytic is also included among “those” who had faith. This ain’t really the only instance of vicarious faith in the gospels, where one is apparently healed by the faith of another: I mean there’s the hekatontarch or ‘centurion’ (Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10; cf. the royal official in John 4:46-54), the Syrophoenician/Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28) and the possessed boy’s father (Matthew 17:14-19; Mark 9:14-28; Luke 9:37-42).


closed #17

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