Was Jairus' daughter alive or dead when he came to Jesus?

Matthew 9:18 and Mark 5:23

  1. Daughter was dead (Matthew 9:18) - "While He was saying these things to them, behold, there came a synagogue official, and bowed down before Him, saying, "My daughter has just died; but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live."
  2. Daughter at point of death (Mark 5:22-24) - "And one of the synagogue officials named Jairus *came up, and upon seeing Him, *fell at His feet, 23and *entreated Him earnestly, saying, "My little daughter is at the point of death; please come and lay Your hands on her, that she may get well and live." 24And He went off with him; and a great multitude was following Him and pressing in on Him."

This is a difficult discrepancy.  There are no textual variations in any of the Greek manuscripts so there is no copyist error.  The best explanation I can offer is that both statements were uttered by Jairus.  Jairus probably said his daughter was dying and then finally admitted she was dead.  He probably had traveled, in desperation, to find Jesus and said his daughter was ill.  Probably, someone informed him of his daughter's death and then he told Jesus this.

The problem with this explanation is that it is not based on anything revealed in the text.  Instead, it is conjecture.  For now, this is the best explanation I can come up with.

Does the lack of an airtight explanation mean that the Bible is to be discarded?  Not at all.  We do not discard physics because we cannot understand something in it.  Nor do we abandon science because of some unexplainable phenomena.  As with so many other "discrepancies" in the Bible, given time, archaeological discover of more manuscripts, etc., more and more biblical difficulties clear up.


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About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.