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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
Issue of Blood
ISSUE OF BLOOD.—One peculiarly distressing case of this ailment is mentioned in the Gospels (Matthew 9:20 αἱμορροοῦσα, Mark 5:25, and Luke 8:43 οὗσα ἐν ῥύσει αἵματος). The description indicates a very severe and obstinate form of uterine haemorrhage possibly arising from internal growth, for the patient had suffered many things of many physicians and only grew worse for the treatment; and she had endured the complaint for twelve years. The malady was in general regarded as incurable by medical treatment, and was handed over to be dealt with by magic charms and amulets. Its painful character, apart from its enfeebling and prostrating effects, was increased by the fact that it involved a rigorous isolation from society, and was looked upon with particular horror. All female discharges, even the normal monthly occurrences, were peculiarly repugnant to the Semitic mind, and came under the cycle of custom and legislation to which the Polynesian term taboo has been applied. The terror arose from the dread of supernatural penalties and of malignant agencies which were supposed to emanate from women at such times. Supernatural powers were believed to reside in the blood of the menses, on account of which it was itself held to be efficacious as a charm. The idea may have been modified before NT times, and yet would remain at least as a vague undefined repugnance and fear (see W. R. Smith, RS [Note: S Religion of the Semites.] , Note on ‘Holiness, Uncleanness, and Taboo’). The sufferer would further be compelled to perpetual celibacy.
Among Talmudic cures of this malady we find the following: ‘Let the patient sit at the parting of the ways with a cup of wine in her hand, and let some one coming up behind startle her by calling out, Be healed of thine issue of blood.’ And, ‘Take three measures of onions, boil in wine and give the patient to drink, at the same time calling out suddenly. Be healed of thine issue.’—An interesting anticipation of certain familiar features of modern therapeutics.
That our Lord’s healing of the sufferer was regarded as memorable and attained to a considerable vogue apart from the NT record, is evidenced by the legend that the votive figure at Bâniâs, supposed to be that of Christ, was erected by this woman out of gratitude to her Deliverer, and other kindred legends.
The chief feature of the miracle was the fact that the healing was gained surreptitiously, apart from the will and initiative of Jesus. Our Lord was pressing through the crowd on His way to the house of Jairus, when the woman, moved by a great expectation of healing, drew near to touch at least the fringe of His garment (in which special sanctity resided), assured that even this slight contact would remove her trouble. Having accomplished her object, ‘immediately she felt in her body that she was healed of the plague,’ and our Lord became conscious that ‘virtue’ had gone out of Him. The idea that healing power was resident in the body of Jesus, comparable to a charge of electric energy, is not to be entertained. The casual touching of His body by any sick person would have had no such result. We must emphasize (1) the touch of faith. The whole nature of the woman had been roused to activity and hopefulness. No labour of Jesus to create and evoke this essential condition of being healed was necessary or possible. The expectation existed at full tension, and she was prepared mentally and therefore physically to receive the healing power. And (2) corresponding to this exercise of faith is a Divinely great capacity for sympathy resident in the spirit and life of Jesus. While this capacity infinitely transcends the forces of human sympathy which exist in humanity, it still may be believed to operate on the same plane and to be not alien but kindred. The possibility of sympathetic relations being in existence between ‘mind and mind,’ quite irrespective of consciousness or will on the part of both or of either, is an ascertained fact, however it may be explainable. Various theories are put forward to account for the phenomena, but meanwhile the fact must be recognized—the power of mind to affect mind by other than the channels of sense. Moreover, (3), our Lord’s own teaching must be duly weighed, that His works were due to the indwelling Divine power. The nature of Jesus was strung to sympathy with the whole complex coil of human suffering and need. At the very moment of this occurrence His heart was full of intensest sympathy with the sorrowing ruler. Such a nature then would present, quite apart from the immediate exercise of will, a fitting instrument for the Divine healing energy. The Divine power utilized and made more efficacious these already powerful sympathies and expectations; but while this is to be freely recognized, the chief emphasis is to be laid on the holy will of the unseen Father, with whom our Lord was morally and essentially one.
Literature.—The Comm., and standard works on the Miracles; Ker, Serm. 1st ser. p. 186 ff.; Maclaren, Serm. pr. in Manchester, 2nd ser. p. 294 ff. On the telepathic powers of the subliminal consciousness see the relevant sections of F. W. Myers’ Human Personality.
T. H. Wright.
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Hastings, James. Entry for 'Issue of Blood'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/i/issue-of-blood.html. 1906-1918.