We now come to PW’s fourth argument against the deity of Christ in Mark’s Gospel and for the increasing deification of Jesus in the later Gospels.
4) Jesus did not know the identity of a woman who touched him and had to ask his disciples for help (Mark 5:30),
Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’
But see Matthew’s redaction in 9:20-22:
Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages [sic] for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, ‘If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.’ Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, ‘Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.’ And instantly the woman was made well.
In the earlier Gospel of Mark Jesus is ignorant of who had touched him. This shortcoming is eliminated in Matthew’s improved version where Jesus immediately identifies the woman.
With this argument we see a return to PW’s favored method, a method he was happy to abandon in order to make the previous argument, which, for all that, still ended up being a nonstarter. One thing we learn from this is that PW determines his method on any given occasion based on the conclusion(s) he wants to reach. It hardly needs to be said, but this is not what we call good scholarship.
In the argument presently before us then, PW once again assumes Markan priority, Matthean redaction of Mark, and an ability to divine Matthew’s motives. It has already been pointed out that PW has not attempted to argue for these assumptions even though his argument hinges on them. As usual, even if we give PW a pass here, as I will again do in what follows, the argument he tries to build on these assumptions still does not work.
Even though it would hardly be problematic to say that Jesus, who is not only God but God incarnate, did not know something according to this account, for then it would only be speaking from the perspective of his true humanity, in which He also hungered, thirsted, slept, wept, and died, it is hardly necessary to take such a view, for this pericope gives a clear perspective on His divinity even as other passages in Mark do on His humanity. It is a well-known feature of Mark’s gospel that Jesus often asked questions as a foil for rhetorical and/or teaching purposes, not because He did not know the answer Himself (q.v., Mark 3:33, 5:39, 8:12, 17, 27, 29, 12:16, 23). Such questions are not proof of ignorance on the part of Jesus. Several indications in the context show that Jesus’ question in Mark 5:30 – “Who touched my clothes?” – was just this sort of question.
In the first place, the disciples in the account are nonplussed that, in spite of being pressed on all sides by the crowd, Jesus asked who touched His clothes (v. 31: “You see the crowd pressing in on You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’”). In other words, the disciples were ignorant that someone touched Jesus’ clothes with the intent of being healed and that power went out from Him, but Jesus was not (v. 30: “Immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that the power proceeding from Him had gone forth…”). This is already an evidence of Christ’s supernatural knowledge (and power), for He knows not only that power has gone from Him but that it was by means of someone touching (in faith) the hem of His garment.
Secondly, although PW takes the unusual view (at least when he thinks it is convenient) that English translations have priority over the inspired Greek text (as witness his overly bizarre insistence on this in the case of Mark 6:50), a position PW shares with some that he would put down as the worst sort of fundamentalists, most will recognize that this is entirely wrongheaded. Accordingly, if we put this poorly thought out notion to the side and look at the actual Greek text of Mark 5:32 it tells us that Jesus was not merely looking for someone in general whose identity He did not know; rather, He was specifically turning in order to see THE WOMAN who touched Him, which wouldn’t be the case if Jesus only knew that He was touched and not who it was who touched Him. This is not clear in the NRSV that PW appears to be using, which says “He looked all around to see who had done it (v. 32),” but the NASB, as well as other translations, gets the Greek right. Here it is in context:
25 A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years, 26 and had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse— 27 after hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak. 28 For she thought, “If I just touch His garments, I will get well.” 29 Immediately the flow of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. 30 Immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that the power proceeding from Him had gone forth, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My garments?” 31 And His disciples said to Him, “You see the crowd pressing in on You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’” 32 And He looked around to see THE WOMAN who had done this (καὶ περιεβλέπετο ἰδεῖν τὴν τοῦτο ποιήσασαν). 33 But the woman fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. 34 And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction.” (Mark 5)
No doubt PW will be tempted to start talking again about how the NRSV and many other translations render it in a way that helps his argument, and how the Greek text, which decidedly uses a singular feminine relative pronoun or article together with a feminine participle (ten touto poiesasan), is of no account since a lot of people on committees with official name tags sat down and agreed on the rendering PW likes, but I trust most readers will have good enough sense to see that this is as desperate as any argument can get. Far better than PW’s interpretation is on offer in Alexander’s commentary, which says:
And he looked round (about is a mere adjunct of the English adverb, to which nothing separately corresponds in Greek) to see the one, or the woman (as the article is feminine) having done (or who had done this) i.e. who had touched his garment for the purpose before mentioned. Here again it is not said that he looked round to see (i.e. discover) who had done it, but to see her who (he knew) had done it; for the very gender of the article and participle (τὴν ποιήσασαν) shows that he looked round not in doubt but at a definite and certain object. This distinction is by no means unimportant, as it sweeps away the ground of the assertion that our Lord is here described as merely feeling that some influence had gone forth from him, and then trying to discover what it was or who had been affected by it; an interpretation equally irreverent and ungrammatical. (J. A. Alexander, Mark, A Geneva Series Commentary (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Banner of Truth Trust, , 1984), pp. 130-131.) (Italics original)
The words of the widely renowned commentator R. C. H. Lenski are also worth noting:
And he was looking around to see her that had done this, not indefinitely: who had done this. Jesus knew who the woman was. Whereas the imperfect “he was looking around” described his action, the aorist ἰδεῖν intimates that his eyes all at once rested upon the woman. She had not been able to slip away. (Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Mark’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 1961), p. 224.) (Bold emphasis original)
And so, as remarkable as it is, a passage PW hoped would prove that Jesus was “ignorant” actually stands forth as yet another example from the Synoptic Gospels, and Mark’s Gospel at that, of Christ’s supernatural knowledge. This observation puts Mark’s longer account in perfect alignment with Matthew’s shorter account, with both attesting to Christ’s prior knowledge of the identity of the woman. Accordingly, PW’s claim of Mark’s “shortcoming” being eliminated in Matthew’s “improved version” is long on rhetoric and short on reality. In light of this, the reader is invited to consider whose ignorance has been exposed or brought to light by this passage: the Lord Jesus Christ's or Paul Bilal Williams'?
This fits perfectly with the fact that it is followed by idein, ἰδεῖν, an infinitive of purpose, which is to see “the [one] having done this,” which I have already pointed out is feminine in Greek. In other words, Jesus was not casting about looking for some vague object or as yet unidentified and unknown person, but was turning for the express purpose of intently gazing upon the woman who touched his clothes. So much for PW's argument.
After writing this article a friend of mine, Dr. Edward Dalcour, who is an exemplary Christian apologist and whose proficiency in Greek well exceeds my own, pointed something out to me that I missed. Here is his insight in my own words.
The term peri-blepw, used in Mark 5:32 (Gr. periblepeto, “He looked around”), is used only six other times in the New Testament. All occurrences of this word, with the exception of Luke 6:10, are found in Mark (i.e. 3:5, 3:34, 9:8, 10:23, 11:11). In addition, all occurrences in Mark (and the one occurrence in Luke), except for Mark 9:8, relate to the Lord Jesus Christ. So this is obviously a very important term for Mark, and it has special relevance to Jesus.
The importance of this appears in what follows: the six times the word is used for Jesus it denotes a looking around in observation, not in ignorance or discovery. Furthermore, in all of its occurrences, including Mark 5:32, i.e. the passage in question, it is in the middle voice, which indicates the personal interest for the thing or person(s) upon which Jesus is “intently gazing.”