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Jairus' Daughter: Dead or Alive?
Mark 5:22-23 And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet, And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.
Matthew 9:18 While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live.

So then -- "mostly" dead (Mark) or completely dead (Matthew)?

Most commentators seem to regard this as one of those "freedom of composition" issues where Matthew, knowing that the girl would be dead by the time Jesus showed up, just telescoped the account. Along with this goes certain ideas about Markan priority which I would say are better solved by recognizing a common oral tradition.

Beyond that, Blomberg notes that to see a contradiction here... anachronistically to impose on an ancient text modern standards of precision in storytelling. What is more, in a world without modern medical monitors to establish the precise moment of expiry, there is not nearly so much difference between Matthew's arti eteleutesn in v. 18 (which could fairly be translated "just came to the point of death"; cf. Heb. 11:22) and eschates echer in Mark 5:23 (which could also be rendered "is dying").

Blomberg has a good point about the linguistic data. That first bit in Matthew ("even now" -- actually the Greek arti) has some connotations that suggest not always a present reality, but an inevitable reality. Note how it is used elsewhere:

Matthew 3:15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
Matthew 23:39 For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
1 Cor. 4:13 Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.

We are therefore justified in supposing that Matthew is relating the inevitability and certainty of Jairus' daughter dying rather than making a statement about her current condition. (Like in a Western where the bad guy pulls the gun on the sheriff and says, "You're a dead man.")



  1. Craig L. Blomberg, Matthew. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992, p. 160.