736. The Roof Broken Up

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Mark 2:44And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay. (Mark 2:4). When they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.
See also Luke 5: 19.
From the second verse it appears that the crowd of people was so great as to fill, not only the court, but the porch. (For description of the court, see note on Matthew 26:6969Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. (Matthew 26:69), #720; and of the porch, see note on Matthew 26:1111For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. (Matthew 26:11), #721.) The precise position of the Saviour is not stated. He may have been in the general reception-room, which opened into the court at the side opposite to the porch, with the people behind him in the room, and before him in the court; or, if the house were two stories high, he may have been on the gallery which surrounded the court, the people thronging the gallery as well as the court below. See note on Esther 1:55And when these days were expired, the king made a feast unto all the people that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king's palace; (Esther 1:5) (#387). Nor are we told how the four bearers of the sick man contrived to get him to the roof. Some suppose that they carried him up by the stairs which led from the court; but, if the house was so crowded as to leave no room even at the door, it is hard to tell how they could get him through the porch into the court, and thence to the stairs. If the house was joined to others in the same street, they might have taken him through the adjoining building, and lifted him over the parapet which divided the roofs of the two houses, and thus have placed him on the roof of the house where Jesus was teaching; or there may have been a flight of external stairs by which they could ascend from the street to the roof. See note on Matt 24:17 (#705).
Several explanations have been given of the manner in which they found access to Jesus after they reached the roof. Mark says that they “uncovered” the roof, and “broke it up.” Luke says, “they let him down through the tiling.” Tile-roofs, however, are not common in Syria, though Greek houses are usually covered in this manner. This fact has led to the suggestion that Luke, being probably a native of Greek Antioch, may have used the word “tiling,” not in reference to the material of which the roof was made, but because it was to him the most familiar term which signified roofing. See Phillott in Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, s. v. Tile. Both evangelists undoubtedly mean the covering which was over that part of the house where Jesus was. The following are the principal explanations which have been given of the manner in which the roof was uncovered: 1. That the sick man was let down through the scuttle, or ordinary opening in the roof; this opening being first made large enough for the purpose by breaking the roof around its edge. This is Dr. Lightfoot’s explanation. See Hone Hebraicae on this text.
2. That the court, where Jesus and the people were assembled, was covered by an awning. See note on Esther 1:66Where were white, green, and blue, hangings, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble: the beds were of gold and silver, upon a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black, marble. (Esther 1:6) (#388). The friends of the sick man, on reaching the roof, loosened this awning, and then let the paralytic down into the court. This is the opinion of Dr. Shaw. See Navels, p. 211.
3. That the ordinary roof of the house was actually broken up, the sticks, thorn-bush, mortar, and earth, of which it was composed, being thrown aside, until an aperture was made large enough to let the sick man through. (For structure of roofs, see note on Psalm 129:66Let them be as the grass upon the housetops, which withereth afore it groweth up: (Psalm 129:6), #452.) This view, which is adopted by many commentators, is advocated by Dr. Thomson. He states that the roof could easily be broken in this manner, and easily repaired; that, as a matter of fact, it is often done for the purpose of letting down grain, straw, and other articles. He says: “I have often seen it done, and done it myself to houses in Lebanon, but there is always more dust made than is agreeable” (The Land and the Book, vol. 2, p. 7). The doctor, however, supposes that in the case referred to in the text the roof may have been made of materials more easily taken up, such as coarse matting, boards, or coarse slabs.
4. That the Saviour was in the gallery while he addressed the people around him and in the court below, and that it was the roof of this gallery which the friends of the sick man broke up. This is the opinion of Dr. Ditto. He says: “They had only to take up two or three of the loosely-attached boards forming the covering of the gallery, and there was a clear and sufficient opening through which to let their friend down to the feet of our Saviour” (Daily Bible Illustrations, vol. 7, p. 260).
This last theory seems to us to present greater probabilities of correctness than any of the others, though every one of them shows how the incident recorded in the text was possible.