patty kirk

patty kirk lying down, getting up, sitting at home, walking down the road doing deuteronomy 6:7

Thursday, February 21, 2013

more on jesus' healings

I want to take you today to Matthew’s one-sentence summary of Jesus’ initial healings: “and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them” (Matthew 4:24 NIV). He healed, in other words, people suffering from severe pain, demon-possession (arguably mental illness in modern terms), epilepsy, and paralysis.

Interestingly, there’s no mention of the more dramatic healings—for observers, at least—of the blind or deaf. And no bringing of dead people back to life, as we will see later on. Nevertheless, on the basis of these healings, Jesus’ fame quickly spread throughout Syria, we’re told, and he accrued followers from all over: not only Galilee, where he began his healings, but Jerusalem, Judea, Syria, the largely Greek and Roman cities of the current day Jordan area known as “The Ten Cities” (The Decapolis), and even the region beyond Jordan.

Just for fun, let’s go to two of the earliest English translations of this same summary sentence. In Wycliffe’s 1382 translation of Jerome’s Vulgate Bible (itself, I should emphasize, a translation from the original biblical languages into Latin), he writes, “and they brought to him all that were at mal-ease, and that were taken with diverse languors and torments, and them that had fiends, and lunatic men, and men in palsy and he healed them."

I don’t know about you, but the language here evokes the modern condition rather than what I imagine the illnesses of Jesus’ time—or the late 300s CE, when the Latin Vulgate was written or even Wycliffe’s time—to be. Languors, torments, and fiends all suggest, to me, mental rather than physical illness. They’d also be less impressive healings than, say, the sores of leprosy or a withered hand.

Tyndale, writing a century and a half later, translated directly from the original Hebrew and Greek texts, and here’s what he came up with for the same sentence: “And they brought vnto hym all sicke people that were taken with divers diseases and gripinges and them yt were possessed with devils and those which were lunatyke and those that had the palsie: and he healed them.”

Gripinges, devils, and lunatykes—again, people suffering largely from insanity rather than physical ailments that would have been more observable in the healing.

Of course, not only the English language but also medical understanding and terminology have changed in the centuries since any of these translations were made. Still, much, it seems to me, might be understood about the similarities between those times and now. Then, as now, our most compelling grievances were mental rather than physical.

Heal my daughter of her griping and malaise, my son of his debilitating languor and lack of motivation, my wife of her perpetual rage, my husband of his many demons, his porn addiction, his alcoholism, his gambling, I imagine them pray-worrying in those days as they left their homes in pursuit of this purported healer, just as many of us pray-worry to Jesus now. Heal us all of our unhappinesses, our inner struggles, our stress.

And Jesus began what he began by addressing, first of all, these most essential human troubles.


  1. I watched another video on Nick (the guy with no arms or legs) recently: . He is an example of how much more important mental health (a healthy outlook) is than physical perfection. What an amazing blessing he is! Praise you, God!

  2. I'm doing this forty day yoga/meditation/healthy eating project with my yoga class. I've never meditated before. The thought of trying to not do anything and not even think for even a few minutes is terrifying to me. My yoga instructor recommended offering it to God, the requisite five minutes. Just set the timer and be present for those five minutes and let God do what he wants with them. What a little gift that has been, so far, as has--despite my initial reservations, the whole project. That's not what I started out wanting to say, though. We're using a book written by a guy who grew up in a yoga-teaching, health food eating family in Berkeley who ended up becoming a Christian. As such, the book is full of quotes from Jesus but also from others, including this one from the atheist Voltaire: The most important decision you can make each day is to be in a good mood. Sounds like your Nick's approach.

  3. My Nick? ;-) My buddy Ted died recently from ALS - confined to a wheelchair and struggling for breath - always with an amazing smile on his face. My Ted? ;-) Absolutely, but I think God gave Nick and Ted not just to me but to a miserable world.

    I have thought that meditation would be good to practice - that I might hear God if only I could keep my mind still. On the other hand, who can still God's voice if he wants to be heard?