Today, news of a new blog linked to the SDDS project.
Anyone familiar with the history of the Deaf community in the UK will know how influential the church has been in shaping attitudes towards the Deaf community. And anyone familiar with that church-influenced history will know that there’s one key passage in the bible that speaks about deafness and that comes up time after time. That passage is in the New Testament, in the book of Mark where, in chapter 7, there is a story of Jesus healing a deaf man.
In one version (the New International Readers Version), the story goes like this:
Jesus Heals a Man Who Could Not Hear or Speak
31 Then Jesus left the area of Tyre and went through Sidon. He went down to the Sea of Galilee and into the area known as the Ten Cities. 32 There some people brought a man to Jesus. The man was deaf and could hardly speak. They begged Jesus to place his hand on the man.
33 Jesus took the man to one side, away from the crowd. He put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34 Jesus looked up to heaven. With a deep sigh, he said to the man, “Ephphatha!” That means “Be opened!” 35 The man’s ears were opened. His tongue was freed up, and he began to speak clearly.
36 Jesus ordered the people not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were really amazed. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes deaf people able to hear. And he makes those who can’t speak able to talk.”
The passage itself is important in Deaf history. But it can be read in a number of different ways – so what is probably more important than the passage itself, is its ‘reception’ by the church and the deaf community. i.e.: how people have read it, and what they have said that it means.
As part of our project, we’re discovering that Mark 7 is everywhere… in stories, in teaching, in artwork… you even find the word ‘ephphatha’ in the names of magazines and organisations that were aimed at the Deaf community*. We’re having to think about this passage a lot… so my colleague John Lyons, who is the project manager and an expert on the reception history of the bible, has set up a blog specifically to think about Mark 7, and about its impact on the lives of Deaf people in Victorian England.
The blog is at http://gospelofmark73137.blogs.bristol.ac.uk/
* I’ve always found it funny that the word ‘ephphatha’ means ‘be opened’ – but produces the same kind of lip pattern… “fathafathafatha…” that Deaf people often use when imitating the impenetrable flapping of hearing people’s lips when they talk.