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Jesus Heals a Leper: Mark 1.40-45 and Egerton Gospel 35-47

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image of Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus

While recent historical Jesus studies often appreciate the role played by Jesus’ characteristic activities, debate continues over the historicity of specific examples of such activities. This essay examines the story of Jesus healing a leper as a specific example of Jesus’ activity of healing. In particular it shows the contribution to be made by analyzing the account in the Egerton Gospel 35–47 alongside Mark 1.40-45. The nature of leprosy in the ancient Mediterranean world and the sociocultural realities of a frst-century Jewish context contribute to this analysis. The essay concludes that within the bounds of historical probability Jesus healed a leper (not Hansen's disease but a flaking skin condition). Jesus responded to the man's request by anticipating the priestly declaration that he would be clean and making this possible by curing the man's disease (i.e., his bio-medical condition) by means of verbal command and probably also through touch. Jesus instructed the man to seek a priest's declaration of cleanness in order to heal his illness (i.e., his socio-cultural condition) which Jesus had anticipated would be the result of his response.

Affiliations: 1: McMaster University Hamilton, ON, Canada


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