Healing the blind near Jericho

Jesus healing blind Bartimaeus, by Johann Heinrich Stöver, 1861

Each of the three Synoptic Gospels tells of Jesus healing the blind near Jericho, as he passed through that town, shortly before his passion.

The Gospel of Mark tells of the cure of a man named Bartimaeus healed by Jesus as he is leaving Jericho. The Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke include different versions of this story.

Narrative developmentEdit

The earliest version is in the Gospel of Mark (10:46-52) which tells of the cure of a blind beggar named Bartimaeus (literally "Son of Timaeus"). He is one of the few recipients of healing whose names evangelists let us know. Theologian Oleg Molenko (Uryupin) attributes this detail to the fact that these people had been definitely saved and served the Church in their lifetime unlike those whose names evangelists did not disclose. For example, in another instance of a man who had been an invalid for 38 years who waited for the movement of the water in a pool in the Gospel of John (5:2-15) and whose name remains unknown, Jesus cures that sick person and warns him about the consequences in case he reverts to doing things that brought him to the condition of infirmity of which he's now restored (5:14), as yet he might have had inclination towards sin. Unlike him, healed Bartimaeus follows Jesus immediately, which led the evangelist Mark to include his name in the narrative. Bartimaeus also teaches us a Jesus Prayer, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!", and, its result, an acquiring spiritual eyesight, the sign of which was his restored ability to see. [1]

As Jesus is leaving Jericho with his followers, Bartimaeus calls out: 'Son of David, have mercy on me!' and persists even though the crowd tries to silence him. Jesus has them bring the man to him and asks what he wants; he asks to be able to see again. Jesus tells him that his faith has cured him; he immediately regains his sight and follows Jesus.

Apart from telling a miracle story that shows the power of Jesus, the author of the Gospel uses this story to advance a clearly theological purpose. It shows a character who understands who Jesus is and the proper way to respond to him - with faith. The beggar, on being called to Jesus, discards his cloak, symbolising the leaving behind of possessions. And the use of the title, 'Son of David' - the only occasion on which this is used in the Gospel of Mark - serves to identify Jesus as the Messiah.[2]

The Gospel of Matthew has two unnamed blind men, sitting by the roadside; Jesus is 'moved by compassion' and touches their eyes. 20:29-34 A version of the same story is told earlier in the narrative, when Jesus is preaching in Galilee. On this occasion, he asks the blind men if they believe he can cure them, and when they assure them they do, he commends their faith and touches their eyes, restoring their sight. He warns them to tell nobody of this, but they go and spread the news throughout the district. (Matthew 9:27-31)

The Gospel of Luke 18:35-43 handles the story in a different way; there is one unnamed blind man, and the author shifts the incident to take place as Jesus is approaching Jericho, so it can lead into the story of Zacchaeus.[3]

Son of DavidEdit

Vernon K. Robbins emphasizes that the healing of Bartimaeus is the last of Jesus’ healings in Mark, and links Jesus’ earlier teaching about the suffering and death of the Son of Man with his Son of David activity in Jerusalem.[4][5] The story blends the Markan emphasis on the disciples’ 'blindness' - their inability to understand the nature of Jesus’ messiahship - with the necessity of following Jesus into Jerusalem, where his suffering and death make him recognizable to Gentiles[clarification needed] as Son of God (see Mark 15:39 where, at the crucifixion, the Roman centurion says "surely this man was son of God").[6]

Paula Fredriksen, who believes that titles such as "Son of David" were applied to Jesus only after the crucifixion and resurrection, argued that Mark and Matthew placed that healing with the proclamation "Son of David!" just before "Jesus' departure for Jerusalem, the long-foreshadowed site of his sufferings."[7] The title "Son of David" is a messianic name.[8][9] Thus, Bartimaeus' exclamation was, according to Mark, the first public acknowledgement of the Christ, after St. Peter's private confession at Mark 8:27–30.


The naming of Bartimaeus is unusual in several respects: (a) the fact that a name is given at all, (b) the strange Semitic-Greek hybrid, with (c) an explicit translation "Son of Timaeus." Some scholars see this as confirmation of a reference to a historical person;[10] however, other scholars see a special significance of the story in the figurative reference to Plato's Timaeus who delivers Plato's most important cosmological and theological treatise, involving sight as the foundation of knowledge. [11]


  1. ^ Father Oleg Molenko, theologian, sermon "How can a blind person recover his sight through the name of Christ? (Russian: Как прозреть слепому силой имени Христа?)", YouTube, minutes 18-20, Finland, September, 2017.
  2. ^ Stephen Ahearne-Kroll, The Psalms of Lament in Mark's Passion: Jesus' Davidic Suffering (Cambridge University Press, 2007) pages 138-140
  3. ^ Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke (Liturgical Press, 1991) page 283.
  4. ^ Jesus the Teacher: A Socio-Rhetorical Interpretation of Mark by Vernon K. Robbins 2009, ISBN 978-0-8006-2595-5. 41-43.
  5. ^ Vernon K. Robbins, “The Healing of the Blind Bartimaeus (10:46-52) in the Marcan Theology” Archived 2015-09-24 at the Wayback Machine, Journal of Biblical Literature 92 (1973), 224-243
  6. ^ Vernon K. Robbins, "The Reversed Contextualization of Psalm 22 in the Markan Crucifixion: A Socio-Rhetorical Analysis" [1] Archived 2018-12-21 at the Wayback Machine (1992)
  7. ^ Fredriksen, From Jesus to Christ, p. 181.
  8. ^ "Reflections: The blind Bartimaeus: Mark 10:46-52," October 24, 2009, The Manila Bulletin, The Manila Bulletin website Archived 2009-10-26 at the Wayback Machine, citing365 Days with the Lord, (St. Paul's, Makati City, Philippines) from St. Paul's website (dead link)[dead link], accessed October 28, 2009.
  9. ^ Barrie Wetherill, "Jesus cures blind Bartimaeus," from The Life of Jesus Christ, found at easy English Bible study. Accessed October 28, 2009.
  10. ^ Vincent Taylor. The Gospel according to St. Mark. 1966 St. Martin's Press Inc. p 448.
  11. ^ Mary Ann Tolbert, Sowing the Gospel: Mark's World in Literary-Historical Perspective 1996, Fortress Press. p189.

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