Matt 8:7

Iver Larsen iver_larsen at
Fri Aug 10 17:58:42 EDT 2001

> >
> > All the translations I have checked interpret it as a straightforward

> > statement: I shall come and heal him.
> >
> > My problem is that this does not fit with the fronted EGW, nor
> does it fit
> > well with the context.
> Iver,
> Actually it fits quite well with the context. The tension  in
> this pericope,
> around which the action is developed, is the tension between Jesus
> statement: EGW ELQWN QERAPEUSW AUTON and the centurion's reply. Without
> Jesus' straight forward statement of intent to come to the
> centurion's house
> the tension evaporates and the story looses its force.

Well, I wouldn't agree with this. There is the wider context of how Jesus
normally reacted to non-Jews who came and asked for healing. I am not
thinking of the demonized whom Jesus sought out, because they were not
themselves able to ask for healing. I am thinking of the woman from near
Sidon who is mentioned in Matt 15:21ff and Mark 7:24ff. The background is
that Jesus was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. When non-Jews
came to be healed, Jesus was initially very reluctant to do anything, but
when they persisted, he commended their persistent faith (Matt 15:28).
The same happens here in 8:10, and Jesus goes on to say that many Jews will
not enter the Kingdom because of lack of faith, whereas many non-Jews will
do so because of their faith (8:11-12). I think this is an important theme
in Matthew's gospel. First he looks at the scene from a Jewish point of view
which would be that of course the Jews have first priority to God's
blessings and the Gentiles are not even invited to share. It seems to me
that Jesus goes along with this notion to a certain point, but when the
Gentiles show greater faith than the Jews, then he uses that to make a
comment on how the Gospel will eventually reach beyond the Jewish nation,
exactly because of their lack of faith.
Therefore, I think it makes better sense in the context of Matthew as a
whole if Jesus at first seems reluctant to go.
> I don't see what you are trying to make out of the fronted EGW. You will
> need to expand on that a little. The presence of EGW is significant, it
> makes explicit that Jesus intends to do this in person, he
> himself will come
> to the centurion's house.The offer to come in person sets the
> stage for the
> drama. It is against this backdrop that all the rest of the story makes
> sense. But the position of EGW only highlights the significance
> of his offer
> of personal presence.
> I see no problem with the conventional understanding of this text. I think
> it is correct.

I used to think so, too. Upon your request, I'll expand a little.
The reason that I see a problem where you don't is probably our different
understanding of the function of word order.
The fronted EGW suggests a contrast between Jesus and someone else. This is
why I don't think the statement option fits as well as the question option.
Who else was going to heal him? He always came in person, so why not here?
Why would Jesus focus on the fact that he himself was the one to do the
healing? No one else did such things. How does it sound in English if Jesus
were to say "I am the one who is going to come and heal him?" The
traditional interpretation and translation ignores the fronted EGW. If you
were to translate it back from English to Greek, there would be no EGW.
It was normal expectation that a touch was needed for healing. Distant
healing by just saying a word was unheard of. Notice how Jesus went and
touched Peter's mother-in-law in 8:15 and how the synagogue leader in Matt
9:18 asked Jesus to come and lay his hand on the sick daughter, and how the
woman with the bleeding touched Jesus.
It is significant that the Roman officer does not suggest that Jesus should
come and lay his hand on the servant. He would probably be shouted down by
the crowd had he suggested it. (I am aware that Luke has a slightly
different way of telling the story, but he does not have the Jewish audience
in mind that Matthew has.)
The strategy of Jesus is then to ask him: "Do you really want ME - a Jew -
to enter your house and lay my hands on him and heal him?" One can hear all
the Jews think: "Of course not. What a thing to ask of Jesus from a Roman!"
At the same time, Jesus is testing his faith. Matthew is setting the scene
for the disciples to flunk another test of faith soon on the lake (8:26).
The Roman stood the test by saying that Jesus could heal without even coming
to touch the sick person. No Jew had so far shown that kind of faith (But
the Canaanite woman experienced the same kind of healing by distance). The
Roman is very humble and accepts that the Jews look down upon him as an
unclean person that one could not visit. He was a God-fearing Roman, maybe a
proselyte, but a Gentile nevertheless, and a representative of the hated
occupation force. I am imagining the scene if Jesus was healing people in
Jerusalem today and a military Palestinian leader from Hamas or Jihad came
to ask that Jew to heal his sick servant. What would happen to that leader?
And what would happen to Jesus if he straightaway volunteered to follow that
leader into the Arab quarters? (Excuse me for speculating. I am trying to
put myself in the shoes of the people who were there with Jesus in Capernaum
as well as the shoes of that Roman officer.)

So I suppose my feeling is that the statement option became the tradition
because it was Gentiles who translated Matthew into English. A Jew would
assume that Jesus could not volunteer to enter into the house of a Gentile.

I don't have access to Dr. France's commentary. Otherwise, I would have
checked his reasons.

I am not saying that the traditional interpretation is not possible. I just
wanted people to consider the other option, too. Some Greek editions of the
text have a question mark, FWIW. Nestle-Aland does not identify who they

Iver Larsen

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