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It is commonly acknowledged that blindness and seeing play an important role in the theology of the Gospel of Mark. Typically, readers interpret “spiritual blindness” as the moral thrust of the discipleship discourse in Mark 8:22–10:52. While the disciples fail to see their teacher as the Christ, blind Bartimaeus appears to identify Jesus as the “Son of David” (10:46–52). However, centering blindness-as-vice not only plays on an unfortunate ableist binary but also renders Mark’s more marginal characters as insignificant. Research on blindness in antiquity demonstrates how socioeconomic status was a leading factor in determining social perceptions of the blind. This article contends that Mark’s Bartimaeus pericope should be read accordingly. Instead of serving as a metaphor for “spiritual blindness,” physically blind characters are raised to the status of insider as a condemnation of mistreatment of the poor—a motif found within the broader terrain of Mark’s moral landscape (6:30–44; 8:1–10; 12:38–44; 14:1–11).

In: Biblical Interpretation
In: Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte