Reading for Inclusion: The Girl from Galilee (Luke 8:40-56)

Allen, Rev. Dr. Amy. “Reading for Inclusion: The Girl from Galilee (Luke 8:40-56).” Journal of Childhood and Religion 7, (2017): 1–17.

Review for CTM Web page 21.09.2017

The Girl from Galilee – or as she more paternalistically known, Jairus’ daughter- lived through an extraordinary, life-renewing, encounter with Jesus. It is this encounter, as related by Luke, that Amy Allen helps us to revisit, taking the child, rather than the adults involved, as the guiding perspective.
I found this an excellent example of how a child-grounded approach to scripture can bring fresh exegetical and interpretative insights and one that is all the more to be welcomed as it comes with open access via the free on-line Journal of Childhood and Religion, JCR:
The JCR, now in its seventh volume is an excellent source of well-researched and varied studies and I commend it to any with Child Theology interests.

Like all good exegesis this specific narrative is approached with due reference to its cultural and its literary contexts. What makes the study particularly stimulating for me is the way in which Dr. Allen allows the child’s experience, set alongside the experience of the woman with the haemorrhage, to become the central dynamic of the interpretative process. A girl on the cusp of adolescence and a woman at least old enough to have born a child of her own age, both finding the possibility of a new beginning with Jesus, when to adult eyes every pathway had been explored and every option exhausted.
Highlighting Luke’s repetition of θυγατηρ, ‘daughter’ as a descriptive of both woman and girl, she develops an understanding of the passage that sees both girl and woman with equal rights to claim inclusion in the community of Israel- the people of Kingdom. This in spite of the child’s not yet having attained adult status (twelve years-old and living in her father’s house) and the woman rendered ritually unclean and hence living in a state of chronic (though perhaps hidden and hence self-imposed) exclusion from the socio-religious life of the people of God. In what is a fresh and persuasive treatment, it is perhaps surprising that she fails to make reference to the further and explicitly inclusion-ist use of the attribution of daughter-hood to the healed woman in the uniquely Lukan narrative of 13:10-17. In this miraculous and restorative narrative, Jesus describes the woman, (and indeed justifies the restorative act as appropriate to the covenant ‘day’ of Israel) as ‘daughter of Abraham’- 13:16.
The author also highlights Jesus’ respectful interaction with both child and woman, treating both as ‘subjects’ and looking for a positive response to his approach and action from each:
“The woman, both because of her status and the degree of her illness (the girl being already dead), is able to approach Jesus more directly. However, the story does not let the girl’s position (even in death!) define her into passivity. He does not touch the hem of her garment and declare to her father that his daughter is well; rather Jesus takes the girl by the hand and demands action from her: “Child, get up!” vs54. – Pg.9
She returns to emphasise the importance of allowing the child, subject-status, on page 12 writing:
“…for the Lukan author, {faith} is to respond with open ears and obedient action to the word of God. The Galilean girl in this unit embodies her faith by resting her hand in the palm of Jesus as he guides her up.”
She argues, not unconvincingly, that the response to the appeal for faith made by Jesus at vs.50 is in fact found in the girl’s acceptance of the hand of Jesus rather than in Jairus’ actions, especially since the description of wailing and derisive laughter could equally well include Jairus and his wife along with the crowds outside the house, concluding that Luke’s presentation links:
“… the belief and salvation to the girl herself, (rather than her father) and from there suggests that the faith of this child indeed models a response for all Christians in the light of the Christian teachings about a shared death and resurrection with Christ.”
The study is through-going, makes footnoted reference to scholarly literature in support of her arguments and is enlivened by well-worded and sometimes provocative statements such as her affirmation of the impact and import of the story from the girl’s perspective:
“At only twelve years of age, she is as much a part of God’s salvation as anyone else!” Page 9.
What particularly commends the treatment to me, however, is that it goes beyond a purely child-focused concern, and allows the perspective of the child, as subject in the dynamics of the Kingdom, to inform and bring fresh understanding of the other actors in Luke’s narrative of Kingdom re-envisioning and renewal.
“Once again, comparing this girl’s experience to that of the male youth in Nain, we then see the thread of wide-sweeping inclusion of the young continue to expand across Luke’s narrative. This narrative strand follows suit with the broader theme of inclusion of the outcast, and indeed the reversal of fortunes in Luke’s narratives…Whilst Tannehill sees such acceptance drawn primarily in relation to gender and class, the application of a child-centred lens to both the same narrative units opens the possibility for a reading that also includes the acceptance of all people- child or adult- among the community of Jesus followers”- Page 15.

Readable recommended reading!

Stuart Christine. 29.08.2017 Manchester.UK

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