The Messiah's Spittle

Miraculous powers and divine healing are one thing, but did you really have to spit in my eye? What's up with the spittle?

When Yeshua arrived in Bethsaida, He did not want His presence known. Nevertheless, those who knew where to find him brought a blind man before him. Apparently, the blind man had come some distance seeking the healer. They implored Yeshua to touch the man, but He did not want to perform a public miracle that would become a spectacle. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village and out of public view. When they came to a discreet place, He spat in the man’s eyes and laid His hands upon them.

It seems strange that the Master healed a blind man by spitting on his eyes. Similarly, He healed the mute man (Mark 7:33) by touching spittle to his tongue. In John 9:6 He made mud out of His spittle to apply to another blind man’s eyes. Why?

Yeshua sometimes healed without touching or even seeing the person. Once while staying in Cana, he healed a sick man at distant Capernaum. Likewise, He did not need to enter the centurion’s house to heal His servant. Many sick found healing from simply grasping the tzitzit tassels that hung from the four corners of his cloak as He passed by. Those types of healings, however, were the exceptions to the norm. The Master typically used more tactile methods, touching the sick, laying His hands upon them, and in many cases, administering physical tokens of remedy such as spittle.

In the days of the Master, Jewish folk-medicine believed that human spittle remedied eye trouble and other ailments, sometimes in combination with a charm or invocation. For example, the Talmud tells an amusing story about how Rabbi Meir asked a woman to spit in his eyes to relieve eye irritation. In addition, some of the sages considered the spittle of a firstborn son to possess medicinal qualities. In the following quote from the Talmud, the rabbis submit the healing quality of a man’s spittle as evidence in a rabbinic court to establish the man’s firstborn right of inheritance:

A man once came before Rabbi Chaninah and testified to him, “I am sure that this man is the firstborn.” Chaninah asked, “How is it that you are certain of this?” The man said, “Because when sick people came to his father he would tell them, ‘Go to my son Shikchat. He is firstborn and his spittle heals.’” … there is a tradition that the spittle of the firstborn of a father heals. (b.Bava Batra 126b)

Yeshua of Nazareth was the firstborn of his family, and He is the firstborn of His Father in Heaven. In the New Testament, “Firstborn” is one of the titles of Messiah.

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