… there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” Luke 8:43-48 (ESV)
This is a story from the Gospels heard countless times. In it, we see a connection between faith and healing – but there are important details in this account often overlooked. What is the significance of the woman touching the fringe of Jesus’ garment? Is this just a minor detail recorded by the evangelist?
To start, let’s look at the Greek word for fringe: κρασπέδου. It can mean “border”, “corner”, or “fringe”. To connect this Greek word with its Hebraic origin, where can we see it used in the Septuagint? First in Numbers:
The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner. And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to chase after. So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God.” Numbers 15:37-40 (ESV)
Next, we see a similar command from God in Deuteronomy:
You shall make yourself tassels on the four corners of the garment with which you cover yourself. Deuteronomy 22:12 (ESV)
στρεπτὰ ποιήσεις σεαυτῷ ἐπὶ τῶν τεσσάρων κρασπέδων τῶν περιβολαίων σου ἃ ἐὰν περιβάλῃ ἐν αὐτοῖς. Deuteronomy 22:12 (LXX)
In both Numbers and Deuteronomy, God commands the people of Israel to wear what in Hebrew is called the tzitzit (צִיצִת) – the blue threaded cord worn on the corners of a garment which over time became known as a tallit. The purpose of wearing the tzitzit given in Numbers 15 was to constantly remind the individual of God’s commandments and promises.
In the later writings of the Prophets, we see a subtle connection between what was commanded to be worn with a passage in Malachi which came to be recognized as a Messianic promise:
But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in his wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. Malachi 4:2 (ESV)
What’s most interesting about Malachi 4:2 is that wings is the same basic Hebrew word (כָּנָף, “kanaph”) for corners used in Numbers!
Putting all of this together and re-reading the story of the woman healed in Luke 8, we find that the touching of the “fringe” of Jesus clothing is not simply a minor detail, but rather the most significant part of the story! For in these details, we see that the faith of the woman was not merely an abstract belief, but rather her acknowledgement through action that Jesus was in fact the promised Messiah of Israel who would literally bring healing in the “wings” of his tallit and tzitzit.