What should one understand from the NT verse which says :... Jesus realised that power had gone out from Him" (Mark 5:30)? Is it a figurative narration ? Or, is it a casualty of translation ?

  • 4
    This might be better on Biblical Hermeneutics. Jun 27 '15 at 20:28
  • This sound like a job for Law
    – bradimus
    Dec 12 '17 at 0:53

And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone forth from him, immediately turned about in the crowd, and said, “Who touched my garments?” (RSV)

The word rendered as "power" is δύναμις (dynamis). Luke (8:46) recounts a slightly different version, but using the same Greek word:

Jesus said, “Some one touched me; for I perceive that power has gone forth from me.”

Although we think of "power" as some kind of energy or force, the word dynamis has a wider scope. It translated on many occasions as "mighty works" in the King James, RSV, and other versions:

Matthew 7:22 (RSV)

On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’

Mark 6:2

And on the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue; and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him? What mighty works are wrought by his hands!

Luke 10:13

“Woe to you, Chorazin! woe to you, Beth-saida! for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.

The power imparted to the woman in Mark 5:25ff is not "transferred" to her form some store of power that Jesus had, perhaps dispersed in some kind of quanta. It is imparted without depleting anything from the source. One Byzantine commentary drew a parallel with how "teaching" is imparted:

Power goes out from Christ, not travelling from one location to another, but rather imparted to others while remaining in Christ undiminished. It is the same with teachings, which remain with those who teach, and yet are imparted to those who learn.*

* Theophylact of Ohrid (ca 1055-1107), Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to St. Mark (tr. from the Greek, Chrysostom Press, 1993), p.46.


Mark 5:30 does not say that all Jesus power went out from him, but only that he felt some power go out from him:

Mark 5:25-34 (KJV): And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse, When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment. For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole. And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague. And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue [power] had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes? And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me? And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing. But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth. And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.

This passage is the central event (event B) of an intercalation, or literary sandwich, with 5:21-24 (Jairus pleads for Jesus to save his daughter) as event A1 and 5:35-43 (Jesus raises Jairus’ daughter) as event A2. When Mark uses intercalations, the purpose is to have each story reinforce the theology of the other so, in this case the amazing ability of Jesus to heal the woman merely by having her touch his clothes reinforces his amazing ability to raise Jairus' daughter merely by taking her hand and saying, Talitha cumi. Likewise, the story of Jairus' daughter reinforces the amazing story of healing the woman. This demonstrates that we have a good translation, and not a figurative narration. In the case of Jairus' daughter, Jesus said (Mark 5:40), before he even saw her, "The damsel is not dead, but sleepeth," and they laughed him to scorn. When the woman with the issue of blood touched his clothes, Jesus' powers of perception meant that he knew just what had happened.

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    I don't understand how the fact that this is the central event in a literary sandwich "demonstrates that we have a good translation, and not a figurative one." ? What does that have to do with translation, and how would translation be "figurative" (as opposed to "good"?)? (The OP did mention the possibility of "figurative narration" which makes more sense to me, but I'm not sure how any of your answer relates to the quality of translation.)
    – Susan
    Jun 28 '15 at 1:22
  • Oh, maybe instead of "good translation" you meant "historical narrative" or something like that? That would make sense.
    – Susan
    Jun 28 '15 at 1:27
  • @Susan I take your points. The OP asked (i) whether this was the result of mistranslation somewhere along the line (ii) whether this was a figurative narration, ie not meant to be taken literally. I have added some explanation of Mark's use of intercalations to show (hopefully) how parallels between one story and the other demonstrate that what we have is original, without evidence of scribal error or mistranslation. I meant to say "figurative narration", and have corrected my answer to say this. The story is not a figurative narration and was intended to be taken literally. Jun 28 '15 at 2:04

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