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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Bartimaeus

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BARTIMaeUS (Βαρτίμαιος).—Named only in Mark 10:46-52, where he is described as a blind beggar who was cured by Jesus as He left Jericho on His last journey to Jerusalem. But there can be little doubt that we have also accounts of the same miracle in the closely parallel narratives Matthew 20:29-34, Luke 18:35-43. There are, however, various divergences between the three narratives which have caused difficulty. Thus St. Matthew, while agreeing with St. Mark that the miracle took place on the Lord’s departure from Jericho, speaks of two blind men as having been healed; but St. Luke, reverting to the mention of a single sufferer, says his cure took place as the Lord drew nigh to the city. And again, while St. Mark is content to describe the healing as the result of a word of comfort, ‘Go thy way, thy faith hath made thee whole,’ St. Matthew tells us that it was effected by a touch, ‘Jesus … touched their eyes’; and St. Luke assigns it to a direct command, ‘Receive thy sight.’ The divergences, no doubt, are very considerable, and have taxed the ingenuity of the harmonists both in ancient and modern times. Thus it has been supposed that St. Matthew combines the cure of one blind man at the entrance into Jericho (so St. Luke) with the cure of another at the departure from Jericho (so St. Mark), or that Bartimaeus, begging at the gate, became aware of Jesus’ entrance into the city, and, seeking out a blind companion, along with him intercepted the Saviour the next day as He was leaving Jericho, and was then healed. But it cannot be said that any such explanations are very satisfactory. And it is better simply to content ourselves with noting the divergences between the three accounts as an additional proof of the independence of the Evangelists in matters of detail, without, however, abandoning our belief in the genera trustworthiness of their narratives. There are few miracles, indeed, in the Gospel story better vouched for than the one before us, authenticated as it is by the triple Synoptic tradition and by the preciseness of the details, while the very mention of the name of the healed man has been regarded as a proof that he must still have been known in the time of the Apostles (‘valde notus Apostolorum tempore Bartimaeus,’ Bengel).

It has been conjectured, indeed, that Bartimaeus is not really a proper name, but a designation derived from an Aramaic root samya, ‘blind,’ so that ‘Bartimaeus the son of Timaeus’ might mean no more than ‘the blind son of a blind father’ (see Lightfoot, Hor. Heb. on Mark 10:46; and for the various derivations that have been proposed, Keim, Jesus of Nazara, English translation v. p. 61 f.). But the word, as St. Mark interprets it for us, is clearly a patronymic (cf. Βαρθολομαῖος), and the defining clause ὁ υἱὸς Τιμαίου is quite in the style of the Second Evangelist, though it is placed before the patronymic and not after it as usually (cf., however, v. 48; and see Swete, St. Mark, p. 228).

It is unnecessary to recall further the details of the Gospel narrative; but, from whatever point of view we regard it, it is full of instruction. Thus, in the case of Bartimaeus himself, we have a notable instance of a determination that resolved to let no opportunity of being healed escape it; of a perseverance that continued its efforts notwithstanding the difficulties placed in its path; of an eagerness that cast off all that hindered its free approach; of a faith that recognized in Jesus the Divinely-appointed Messiah (‘Thou Son of David’) before and not after the cure; and of a thankfulness that showed itself in ready obedience and triumphant praise when the cure was complete (‘followed him, glorifying God’). And if thus the narrative has much to tell us regarding Bartimaeus, no less does it throw a vivid light on the character of our Lord Himself, when we remember the sympathy with which, notwithstanding His own approaching sufferings, He regarded the beggar’s cry; the readiness with which He placed Himself at his disposal (‘What wilt thou …?’); and the saving power with which He bestowed on the sufferer even more than he asked.

Literature.—In addition to the relative sections in the well-known works on our Lord’s Miracles by Trench, Laidlaw, and W. M. Taylor, see, for the above and other homiletic details, S. Cox, Biblical Expositions, pp. 155–167, and The Miracles of Jesus by Various Authors (J. Robinson, Manchester). We may refer also to Longfellow’s poem ‘Blind Bartimaeus.’

George Milligan.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Bartimaeus'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/b/bartimaeus.html. 1906-1918.

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