Was Jairus' daughter already dead or still alive?


Was Jairus' daughter dead or not? If the Bible can't get this right, doesn't this bring into question the death of Jesus as well?


Matthew 9:18: While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, "My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live."

Mark 5:22-23: Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet and implored him earnestly, saying, "My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live."

There really is no discrepancy between Matthew and Mark when you consider the use of a composition tool found in normal communication. Matthew is merely saying the young girl would be dead by the time Jesus arrived to heal her. We observe this in today’s language as well. One can watch any number of old movies and see a sheriff draw a gun and say to a man still alive, "You're a dead man," and then pull the trigger.

This understanding is likely also because the Greek in Matthew may properly be read “just came to the point of death” (arti eteleutesn) and the Mark passage may be translated as “is dying” (eschates echer). Indeed, the Greek term arti in Matthew doesn't always mean a present reality, but an inevitable one (cf. Matt. 3:15; 23:39). As Albert Barnes explains:

The Greek word, rendered "is even now dead," does not of necessity mean, as our translation would express, that she had actually expired, but only that she was "dying" or about to die. Compare Genesis 48:21. It is likely that a father, in these circumstances, would use a word as nearly expressing actual death as would be consistent with the fact that she was alive. [1]

Furthermore, as inferred in your question, Jairus' daughters' death and the death of Jesus are related — God can raise the dead! After Jesus was battered, beaten, and bruised he literally died upon a cross (Matt. 27:50; Mark 15:37; Luke 23:46; John 19:30). To ensure he was dead, a soldier pierced his side with a spear (John 19:34 ). He was buried in a borrowed tomb (John 19:38-42). His tomb was sealed and a guard was stationed outside it (Matt. 27:66). Three days later the stone in front of the tomb was found rolled-away, not so Jesus could get out, but so we could look in (Luke 24:1, 3; John 20:1). Jesus rose from the dead (Matt. 28:6; Mark 16:6; Luke 24:6). Even though the stationed guard lied about the resurrection of Jesus, thousands of others witnessed it (1 Cor. 15:1-4). There is no question that Jesus died and rose again. (Please see "Isn't faith blind, irrational and without reason?" below.)


[1] Barnes, Albert. Barnes Notes, Matthew 9:18 (https://biblehub.com/commentaries/barnes/matthew/9.htm). Last Accessed 14 Nov. 2018.

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Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).