Date of Submission



This study is concerned with the interpretation of the story of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:21–24, 35–43) in the context of the first century CE. In modern scholarship, the passage is largely analysed in the context of the account of the healing of the bleeding woman (Mark 5:23–34). Some of the themes that routinely appear in analyses include ideas about gender and disease, attitudes to ritual impurity and notions of faith and fear. While treating 5:21–43 as a whole has yielded exegetical fruit, a common feature of these analyses is the privileging of the woman’s story. The account of the bleeding woman is often taken up as the main frame of reference for reading the entire episode, controlling how the story of Jairus’ daughter is understood. In addition, the woman is often depicted as the superior character in comparison to the synagogue leader and his daughter. While the dominant paradigm for reading 5:21–24, 35–43, some scholars nonetheless draw on alternative frames of reference to interpret the passage. These include other passages or sections in the Markan narrative, as well as references to the wider biblical tradition and/or the broader socio-cultural context. In shifting the interpretive frame of 5:21–24, 35–43, new perspectives are opened up for reading the account

To date, however, no attempt has been made to understand the story of Jairus’ daughter in light of the depictions of the body in the narrative of Mark’s gospel. It is my contention that throughout the narrative, the body can be understood to function as a vehicle for communicating ideas and attitudes. Bodies mediate meaning. This insight drives the aim of this study: to interpret the story of Jairus’ daughter with an awareness of the role and function of representations of the body in the first century CE. In line with recent studies that widen the vantage point for examining the story of Jairus’ daughter, I argue that we need to open up further ways of considering the passage.

The study takes the body of Jairus’ daughter—the body of a dying, deceased and restored female—as its focus. In so doing, I pose the question: What is the significance of the body in the raising of Jairus’ daughter and how might a hearer in the first century CE have constructed meaning about this story? To explore this question, I undertake an historical investigation that draws on a wide-ranging deposit of literary and material data from the early Roman Empire and late Second Temple Judaism to understand how the bodies of women and female children were depicted. The data indicates that images of women and female children, particularly dying and deceased females, were part of the landscape of the first century CE. The existence of these depictions, and the mindsets and attitudes they possibly communicated, would have influenced those who encountered them. In addition, the images suggest some of the perspectives that a hearer in the first century CE would have brought to their encounter with the story of Jairus’ daughter.

The images of women and female children that are brought into dialogue with the account of Jairus’ daughter, point toward observations about the importance of family and household in the passage. The depiction of the child-daughter in the account has agency in conveying ideas about the household. A hearer also encounters perspectives on Jesus’ role as the authority figure in the household. By widening the interpretive vista of 5:21–24, 35–43, the story of Jairus’ daughter can be understood to make a distinctive contribution to notions concerning who and what constituted the household and family. When situated in the broader narrative of Mark’s gospel, the passage illuminates ideas about the family, children and household amongst those who encountered the gospel.


School of Theology

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


368 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Faculty of Theology and Philosophy

Available for download on Monday, January 23, 2023