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Why did Jesus not heal her? (The Chosen Season 4 Controversies)

Updated: Feb 27

SPOILER WARNING: This article discusses a major twist in Episode 3 of The Chosen Season 4. Please watch the episode before reading. By the way, you can find my recap, review, and analysis of Episode 3 here.


Jesus in The Chosen Season 4
Jesus in The Chosen Season 4

Episode 3 of The Chosen Season 4 has generated a lot of debate, even among fans of The Chosen. The decision to kill off Ramah - and especially to have Jesus present and not heal her - has been criticized from multiple angles. I’ve already discussed the controversy a bit on the latest episode of The Bible Artist Podcast and in a YouTube short, but I wanted to think a little more deeply. Below, I consider the death of Ramah from multiple perspectives, including biblical-history, theology, gender politics, and storytelling.


Ramah’s Death Through the Perspective of Biblical-History

Perhaps the most common critique of the decision to kill off Ramah has come from a biblical-historical perspective. The argument goes something like this:


  • At many points in the Gospel, we’re told that Jesus healed “all” or “every” sick person that he encountered [e.g. Matthew 4:24, Matthew 8:16-17, Matthew 14:36; Mark 6:56; Luke 6:19].

  • The Bible specifically mentions Jesus raising the dead [e.g. Mark 5:21-43; Luke 7:11-17; John 11].

  • When the Bible explicitly describes Jesus not doing miracles, it is in response to unbelief [e.g. Matthew 5:38].

  • The Bible does not mention Jesus withholding miracles due to timing.

  • Therefore, the decision to have Jesus not heal Ramah in Episode 3 is historically inaccurate.


I have a few issues with this argument:


  • The passages which describe Jesus healing “all” the sick are describing specific moments in which Jesus healed everyone who was brought to him. This doesn’t mean that he always healed everyone in every place he went. Clearly there were still many sick people left in Jerusalem for the Apostles to heal in Acts. 

  • The biblical data suggests that raising the dead was a less common form of miracle. In John, the raising of Lazarus is presented as the climactic sign that precipitates Jesus’ execution. Perhaps this is why, in the synoptics, Jesus keeps the raising of Jairus' daughter a secret.

  • Jesus actually does (temporarily) withhold a healing miracle for the sake of timing. After receiving word of Lazarus' sickness, Jesus could heal him from a distance with a mere word. Instead, he waits until it's the right time to demonstrate his power - even though that means he has to let his friends, Mary and Martha, suffer the agony of bereavement for four days. I suspect this story is the main biblical source that inspired the creators of The Chosen to have Jesus withhold healing from Ramah.


In spite of these issues, I would agree that the end of Season 4 Episode 3 is implausible from a strictly historical perspective. The biblical authors would almost certainly have included such an important moment in the ministry of Jesus.


But here’s the thing: by now it should already be clear to viewers that The Chosen is not trying to be a hyper-realistic, historically-plausible reconstruction of the ministry of Jesus. Sure, there’s a lot of historical research that’s gone into the depiction of the setting and various cultural practices. But there are also plenty of transparently a-historical elements: anachronistic slang, modern ways of thinking about marriage, family planning, and grief, and an ordering of events (e.g. the death of John) that doesn’t completely fit with what we see in the Gospel accounts.


Like all mainstream historical shows and movies, The Chosen is a blend of history and fiction that is designed to help modern viewers connect with events that took place in a very distant time and culture. If you’re not on board for that approach, The Chosen is not the right show for you. But if you do accept the basic premise of The Chosen, you’re going to have to accept that some events in the show will be historically implausible. Still, that doesn’t mean that you can’t criticize the event from a theological perspective.


Ramah’s Death Through the Perspective of Theology

Starting with the same basic biblical-historical data, there are several ways to critique the decision to have Jesus not save Ramah from a more abstract, theological perspective. The least convincing of these arguments goes like this:


  • The Gospel data shows that Jesus had the power to heal all diseases and injuries and that he had the compassionate desire to do so for all who believed in him.

  • In The Chosen, Ramah and Thomas clearly believed in Jesus.

  • Therefore, Jesus would have been compelled to heal Ramah.


This argument fails because it proves too much. Christians believe that Jesus still has the power to heal all diseases and injuries and that he has a compassionate desire to do so for all who believe in him. If this argument was true, believers would never suffer from sickness, injury, or death. And yet we all know that’s not the case - we live in a world where even the most faith-filled Christians you’ve ever met must suffer. Occasionally, Jesus provides miraculous healing - but most of the time he does not. Throughout history, Christians have acknowledged that there must be factors (other than belief) that influence whether Jesus provides healing or not - one of them being God’s mysterious will/timing. This is precisely what The Chosen suggests in its portrayal of the death of Ramah.


But you could make a more sophisticated theological arguments, along these lines:


  • During his earthly ministry, Jesus proved his divinity by miraculously healing all who believed in him.

  • Withholding healing from Ramah would have undermined belief in Jesus’ divinity.

  • Therefore, Jesus would have been compelled to heal Ramah.


Thomas and Ramah in The Chosen Season 4
Thomas and Ramah in The Chosen Season 4

Or you could argue:


  • During his earthly ministry, wherever he went, Jesus brought a foretaste of the eschatological new creation by miraculously healing all who believed in him.

  • In the new creation, there will be no sickness, suffering, or death.

  • Therefore, Jesus would have been compelled to heal Ramah.


These are better arguments because they provide time-bound reasons for why Jesus would have had to respond with miraculous healing during his earthly ministry but no longer needs to do so today. Still, both arguments have issues. 


I find the proof-of-divinity argument unconvincing because avoiding bad PR rarely seems to be a concern of Jesus in the Gospels. If the death of a disciple caused some to doubt or even fall away, he might even see that as a feature, not a bug. After all, Jesus often says or does things intentionally designed to winnow out those with superficial faith from those with true faith. He clearly didn’t seek to remove or avoid all causes of doubt or unbelief.


I find the new creation argument a little more persuasive. In the Gospels, Jesus’ miracles aren’t mere proofs; they’re signs and foretastes of the age to come. And yet the miracles are just signs, not the thing itself. Jesus’ first coming clearly didn’t usher in the fullness of the new creation, even in the specific places where he ministered. People still sinned, poverty and oppression remained rampant, and the Devil still held power. Jesus brought a taste of the new creation, but it was limited to specific moments by his own mysterious purposes. Theologically speaking, it’s completely possible that the resurrection of Ramah simply didn’t align with those purposes. 


Ramah’s Death Through the Perspective of Gender Politics

I haven’t seen any fans of The Chosen accuse the show of fridging Ramah, but it’s an issue that’s worth addressing. Fridging is a term to describe how, in many comic books, movies, and shows, female characters often exist solely to be killed off/harmed in order to motivate the actions of the male characters. This literary trope dehumanizes women and suggests that they have no inherent value or agency. The argument that The Chosen has fridged Ramah would go like this:


  • Ramah is a minor character with relatively little development.

  • The main function of her death in the story of the show is to provide motivation for Thomas’ doubt, Kaphni’s anger, and Quintus’ demotion.

  • Therefore, Ramah was created and killed off simply to advance the story of male characters.


I don’t think this argument is completely fair, however. If the creators of The Chosen wanted to kill off a character, they didn’t really have many choices other than Ramah. Canonically, we know that all the male disciples will live up until the arrest of Jesus. There are a few minor male characters who could have been killed off (e.g. Jairus), but none within the immediate circle of the disciples. Also, although Ramah is a minor character, the show has made efforts to give her agency and a story of her own. While the main effects of her death are on male characters, it also serves as a tragic but fitting conclusion to her own arc.


Ramah’s Death Through the Perspective of Art & Storytelling

The final criticism of Ramah's death that I've seen is mostly subjective. Some fans found the moment too painful and were disappointed that the show killed off a character that they had grown to love and appreciate. I sympathize with this feeling - I know I've gotten mad at shows or movies for killing off my favorite characters. But the job of a storyteller isn't to serve our subjective preferences. It's to tell a good story. And sometimes good storytelling demands sacrifice.


I'm sure the creators of The Chosen have grown attached to the character of Ramah over the past three and a half seasons. Killing her off wasn't easy for them. But they believed it served a worthy purpose in the story that they were telling. So far, I believe they were right, but we'll have to wait in order to make a definitive conclusion.




Ramah's Death & the Value of Biblical Adaptation

If I was one of the creators of The Chosen, I’m not sure if I would have chosen to kill off Ramah. At the end of the day, however, I’m glad that the show had the freedom to do so, because moments like these demonstrate the unique value of biblical adaptation. If you read a biblical commentary or a systematic theology or if you listen to a sermon or lecture on a biblical passage, you can get a deeper understanding of what the Bible is actually telling us about Jesus and his ministry. The Chosen provides this type of commentary in many places - but it also offers something distinct, which you won’t find in traditional forms of exegesis or theology. 


In moments like the end of Episode 3, The Chosen functions as a work of speculative theology. That is, it imagines situations that aren’t described in Scripture in order to prompt us to ask theological questions we might not have otherwise considered. How many of us had ever asked the question: if one of Jesus' disciples was murdered, how would he respond? Questions like these force us to reflect more deeply on our understanding of God and other aspects of the biblical worldview. Simple proof-texting won’t provide us with an answer. Rather, we have to balance a variety of biblical and theological principles and consider the complex ways that they might apply (or not apply) to the novel situation presented to us.


You might not agree with the actual decision to let Ramah die in The Chosen. That’s kind of beside the point - as long as the show prompted you to reflect more deeply on the nature of Jesus, suffering, etc. in order to come up with your own understanding of what would have happened. This is how we’re meant to engage with The Chosen - no as an authoritative revelation but rather as imaginative speculation that prompts deeper meditation and engagement with Scripture. Theologians certainly can and should evaluate whether The Chosen provides the best possible answers to the questions that it raises. But - unless the show goes completely outside the boundaries of historic orthodoxy - we should be able to disagree with some of the specific outcomes presented in the show without rejecting The Chosen itself.


 

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If you liked this post, you might want to check out some of my other posts on The Chosen and Bible adaptation. I have Bible studies/discussion guides for each episode of The Chosen Seasons 1-4, blogs exploring how The Chosen adapts key biblical figures, and articles exploring the controversial nature of adaptation. I hope you enjoy them!


The Chosen Season 4


The Chosen Season 3


Adapting Biblical Characters Series


Artist Interviews (The Bible Artist Podcast)


Exploring The Chosen with Youth or Small Group [Discussion Guides]

Season 4

Season 3

Season 2

Season 1

Specials


The Chosen Controversies Series


How to Discuss The Chosen - and Why


Themes & Theology of The Chosen [Exclusive for BMC Members]

Season 4


Season 1

Specials


Mailbag Q&R


The Chosen Thematic Viewing Guides


Beyond The Chosen


Other Bible Adaptations

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