39. Prayer and fasting, Mark 9:29
During 2000 the Lord called my wife to start a prayer ministry to help the families having a loved one involved with the occult and/or addiction to drugs or something else. We guide and empower the parents to intercede for their own and other children in the same predicament. During the years we witnessed many miracles of deliverance and healing.
One day a father came to me and asked: “Herman, what type of fasting should I do and for how long in order to have my son delivered from demons? In Mark 9:29 Jesus says:’ This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.’ Will a Daniel fast be sufficient? I am a diabetic and may not follow a complete fast.”
My NIV Bible mentions only prayer.
At once the direct words of Jesus became paramount. Did Jesus command fasting as precondition to accompany prayer, or is fasting optional?
Where Matthew records the same incident, in chapter 17, vs.21 (Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.) is written in the margin.
It is not about my personal preference, or what I would like to prescribe; nor that of some pious monk somewhere in the past. I had to discern what exactly Jesus commanded.
What would you answer?
As source I went to the Greek New Testament of the United Bible Societies where all variations in the manuscripts are recorded:
Mark 9:29, “prayer and fasting”:
|Witness:||Greek:||Translations:||Church Fathers:||Greek:||Translations:||Church Fathers:|
|301-400||א , B||1 Old Latin||W||Vulgate, Bohairic, Gothic||Basil|
|401-500||A, C, D||5 Old Latin, Syriac, Georgian|
|601-700||3 Old Latin Syriac|
|701-800||L, Ψ||1 Old Latin|
|801-900||Georgian||K, X, Δ, Θ, Π||1 Old Latin|
|901-1600||f1 f13 21 Minuscules||1 Old Latin|
Superfluously seen, the inclusion of this precondition should be included. Yet why would the United Bible Societies with an A-rating be convinced that Jesus had not said these words?
The manuscript evidence for seeing Mat.17:21 as an interpolation from Mark 9:29 is even stronger. Therefore I will only consider the question as seen in Mark, and apply it also to Matthew.
One manuscript that immediately calls for our attention is the Diatessaron of Titan, the Syrian. Around 170 A.D. he compiled a document combining all four Gospels into one narrative, including and discarding whatever he deemed necessary. His document had been quite popular and spread over much of the known world. Bear in mind that the canon had not yet been decided. When the Gospels had been duplicated separately, many of Tatianus’s variations were included. Therefore those manuscripts that escaped the influence of the Diatessaron is of paramount importance for the establishment of the very words of the original autograph.
Another norm to consider is that scribes would rather include words of which they are uncertain. We experience the urge to rather include that leave out something that Jesus might have said!
A third habit of scribes to consider is the addition of religious duties into manuscripts. It is common knowledge that fasting and chastising of the body was common practice in the monasteries, the very place where most duplicating of manuscripts were done.
Do you consider it a possibility that fasting could have been deliberately or by mistake included following the example as recorded in Acts 13:2 and Acts 14:23?
The above criteria have to do with the manuscripts and the duplication process. A next norm to consider with great care, is the delicate process to evaluate intrinsic criteria. Here we ask what Jesus typically would have said, by taking into account His very words and deeds as recorded in the Gospels.
1. Jesus spoke about fasting only thrice. The first was to warn against seeking attention or adoration. Fasting should be a private matter between the believer and God. (Mat.6:16-18) The second time was concerning the fact that His disciples did not fast like those of John the Baptist or of the Pharisees. How could they fast while the Bridegroom is with them? (Mat.9:14-15, Mar.2:18-20, Luke 5:33-35) In Luke 18:12 Jesus tells of the Pharisee who boasted in prayer about how good he was and how often he fasted. These three instances do not bring us nearer to an answer concerning question at hand.
2. Jesus fasted Himself, but the gospels tell only of the time at the beginning of His ministry when He was tempted by Satan. (Mat.4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-13.) Not once is it recorded that Jesus fasted Himself before driving out demons!
3. Except for the instance under discussion prayer and fasting are never handled together. Not even in Luke 18 where perseverance is discussed did Jesus stress fasting when it seemed as though God would not answer prayer.
4. When Jesus sent out His disciples, He gave them clear instructions. Inter alia He gave them power to drive out demons. Yet fasting had not been given as a prerequisite – it had not even been mentioned! (Mat.10:5-15, Mark 6:7-13, Luke 9:1-6)
When you look at Jesus’ own conduct and declarations in the Gospels, do you consider it would be typical for Jesus to mention fasting as a requirement for driving out demons?
Now looking at both the extern as well as the intrinsic criteria, do you consider “fasting” as authentic from Jesus?
What would you answer the parent if he requested an answer from you?
Please share your thoughts.
ue�Lnw��xЦfronted with is: “does the omission of this verse from Mark nullify this important statement and warning of Jesus?”
The answer is a clear NO! In the preceding verse 25 Jesus said:” And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” The word “and” with which vs.25 starts, binds it to vs. 24, making is one complete statement. Jesus stated that forgiveness is a definite precondition to receive the Father’s forgiveness. The interpolation of vs. 26 from Mat.6:15 causes it to stand on its own with no real function to either the sentence or the understanding of the cause under discussion. In Matthew this verse forms the second part of a couplet with vs.14, a well known figure of speech to emphasize the point made. In Mark it has no function.
By restoring the text to its original as Mark reported this incident, we are just removing the unnecessary tampering of the text by Tatian.
Forgiveness is not only a precondition for receiving our Father’s forgiveness, it is a wonderful relieving experience to be enjoyed by the Christian every day!
Don’t miss out on it.