Of all extenuating information that could have been included, Mark decides to tell us that the woman with the issue of blood had the problem for 12 years. This woman touches Jesus while he's on the way to heal a 12 year old girl. What's the reason for tellings us this correlative info if any? See Mark 5:21-43.


John Dominic Crossan explains in The Birth of Christianity, page 106, that there is wide agreement that Mark 5:21-43 is an example of Markan intercalation. Intercalation, a literary structure also simply known as 'sandwich', is a technique used more effectively by the author of Mark's Gospel than by any other known author in antiquity. Intercalation involves three events, as in this passage, which we can call A1, B and A2, with B sandwiched into the storyline A. The intended effect is that each story reinforces the other.

5:21-24 is event A1 - Jairus pleads for Jesus to help his daughter.

5:25-34 is event B - the woman who had an issue of blood for 12 years and was healed.

5:35-43 is event A2 - the daughter, who we learn is 12 years old is feared dead but raised by Jesus.

The reason for explaining the presence of an intercalation is to demonstrate that Mark was quite intentionally creating interaction between the two otherwise independent stories. Part of this interaction was to add the trivial detail of 12 years in each case.

  • The same "intercalation" takes place in Matthew and Luke, which provide the same account. All three Evangelists note that the woman had the issue for 12 years. Mark and Luke both note that the girl was 12 years old.
    – user33515
    Dec 15 '17 at 18:48
  • @user33515 You may be aware that critical scholars have long been aware that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were substantially based on Mark. Dec 16 '17 at 23:37
  • I think you mean something like "have a theory that ...". Or have they somehow conclusively proved this?
    – user33515
    Dec 17 '17 at 0:39

The two healings bring together an adult man, his child, and an adult woman. This calls to mind the family unit and allows the two healings to function symbolically and represent the restoration of a family separated by disease and the law.

Under the law, the woman with an issue of blood was unclean as was anything she sat or lay upon (Leviticus 15:19-27). If her uncleanness was known and enforced, then she would have been an outcast from the community. The 12-year period of her illness is the same as the age of the child, which is the length of time the father has been responsible for his daughter:

  • The woman has been isolated from the community for 12-years
  • The father has been responsible for his daughter for 12-years
  • The child has been under the control of her father for 12-years

The intertwined stories create the picture of the restoration of the family unit. The symbolism works better if the man and woman were unrelated. In this case, there are two families which have been restored. The woman is now free of the condition which has kept her away from her family, and the man will have his daughter restored to his family.

There is additional element to the story. While it is unlikely the man and woman are husband and wife, the man is described as a ruler of the synagogue. So his authority functions on two levels:

  • Father: responsible for his daughter
  • Ruler: responsible for the synagogue

Just as the man was responsible for his daughter, he would be responsible for keeping the woman from entering the synagogue, or responsible for making it unclean, if he allowed her to enter. As with the restoration of family, the symbolism works better if he was not the sole ruler, or the ruler for the entire 12-year period. In that case, his responsibility to the synagogue was shared with other rulers, just as the responsibility for raising the child was shared with his wife. If the healed woman was Jewish, then in fact she has been restored to her "faith" family and may enter the synagogue.

Finally, some understand the Babylonian Talmud to show a girl reaches the age of accountability at 12-years. If this were true at the time, the story has an ironic twist: the girl is dying at the very age she should be freed from the control of her father. So the father is pleading for her life, which if given, will result in her being free to leave her father.

It is customary to recognize a child reaching the age of accountability by celebrating a Bar/Bat Mitzvah at a special synagogue service on a Sabbath close to the child's birthday. Traditionally, the child will lead parts of the service.1 If this custom was in place at the time, then the two healings would unite all three in the community of faith. The man as ruler of the synagogue permits the woman to enter the synagogue and as father attends his daughter's Bat Mitzvah. Then both the woman and the man are led in the Sabbath service by the girl who for this one Sabbath, relieves the synagogue ruler(s) from some of their regular responsibilities.

  1. Barney Kasdan, God's Appointed Customs, Lederer Books, 1996, p. 39

Attempting to ascertain the root of the question, the following observations can certainly be made.

First, they are "intertwined" on the basis of timing. Jesus was on the way to heal Jairus' daughter, and was interupted. Then, in v35, while he was still speaking (apparently to the woman who interrupted his journey), Jairus is told his daughter is now dead, hence, the incorpration of one with the other.

Second, the Gospel writers routinely include additional information. The man by the pool had been there for 38 years (John 5:5). In Mark 9:21, Jesus is seen asking about the historical context of the condition. In Luke 8:30, Jesus is also seen asking information from the person, and from the context, it appears he spent a while. Other examples of specific details abound (blind from birth, John 9:1; etc). It appears it was not unheard of to acquire this information, even in the course of casting out spirits, as well as in the reporting of them. I don't know that could establish much beyond the fact that they did inquire and report this information. Background information concerning those healed, including things like "from whom he had cast out seven spirits" seems all too common to see any deeper meaning.

As for any correlation between the two numbers, if there is such a correlation, it certainly escapes me. It does not appear that there is any reason to assume one here, unless something absolutely jumps out at you, particularly.

The reason for reporting the extra information would be the same as the reason for reporting it in the other cases. The reason for the "intertwining" appears to be to explain the delay in v35. I don't think you could construct an indisputable argument for the correlation between the 12's to mean anything specific in this case.


Is it possible that the #12 is for government? Jesus was teaching his deciples how his kingdom would operate? Maybe the woman with the issue represents Israel, and the girl the church. Could Christ be saying to the church we need to resurrect the young people of the church, since They leave the church at the age of 18, and very few return. There are some people you need to leave behind you (faithless) in order to reach your potential. How could Christ go into the room of a dead person, being the high priest? Would he not be defiled? Ceremonially, Ok I get it now, he was touched first by the unclean woman which the issue of blood, when she touched the Tzitzit or wing Mal 4/2 Did she get revelation and know this was the Savior? Just wondering.

  • This answer is a list of loosely connected speculations rather than a well-written answer the to OP's question supported by references and citations as expected on this cite. I imagine that that is the reason that it was down-voted by someone else.
    – user17080
    Jan 28 '18 at 12:34

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