Bible Articles on the Topic of Illness

The following articles have been compiled and indexed by inWORD Bible software.

What Are Demons?

To “have a demon” was the same as to “have an unclean spirit”, which is a Bible way of saying that something was wrong or “unclean” about a person’s way of thinking or mental capability. In short, a person with a demon was a person with a mental illness.

When Demonology Fails: Strategies of Denial

It is significant that many Christians who profess a belief in demons, act as if they do not. They usually treat illnesses as if they were natural in origin (rather than supernatural), including those illnesses which the New Testament writers apparently attributed to demonic possession. Additionally, they interpret certain New Testament passages which appear to be speaking of illness caused by demonic possession, as if the passages are speaking of mental illness. This method of interpreting the text is known as ‘demythologization’, and it is ironic that Christians who believe in demons typically denounce such a method as invalid, whilst employing it themselves and denying this undermines their case.

Unclean Spirit

“And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us?  I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.  Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him.” (Mark. 1:24)

The Prayer of Faith

Comment is made on pp. 478, 480 and 481 on the two Greek words for “sick,” and the interpretation of the passage given in the article depends heavily on the distinction drawn between the two words. It is claimed that “sick” in James 5:15 “relates particularly to the mental state of the sick person” (p. 480), and a meaning is given to the passage which is not its obvious meaning on face value. Not of course that we should refrain from looking beneath the surface of words to ascertain the meaning accurately, but if this distinction is to be sustained against the more obvious meaning of the passage it must be clear and unequivocal in the original language.

Seizure’s Lament: An Epileptic’s Documentary

Background: A Seizure’s Lament was first commissioned by the 2011 Deep Wireless Festival in Toronto and aired on CBC Radio’s Living Out Loud. It later aired on CBC Radio’s Tapestry and was featured at the Third Coast Filmless Festival in Chicago and PRX’s How Sound show.

Note on Diabolical Possession

In the New Testament, disease, except when it is a special visitation from God (Hebrews 12:6), is regarded as the work of super-natural forces (Matthew 9:32, 12:22; Luke 11:14, 13:16; Acts 10:38, etc.). In particular, nervous diseases and insanity are represented as due to diabolical possession. This was the universal belief of the time, and our Lord, in using language which implies it, need not be regarded as teaching dogmatically that there is such a thing as possession, devils or demons. There were strong reasons why He should seek to ‘accommodate’ his language to the popular theory. (1) The insane persons whom He wished to heal, were firmly convinced that they were possessed by devils. This was the form assumed by the insane delusion, and to argue against it was useless. The only wise course was to assume that the unclean spirit was there, and to command it to come forth. (2) It was our Lord’s method not rashly or unnecessarily to interfere with the settled beliefs of his time, or to anticipate the discoveries of modern science. The belief in demonic possession, though probably erroneous, was so near the truth, that for most purposes of practical religion it might be regarded as true. He, therefore, did not think fit to disturb it. He tolerated the belief and left it to the advance of knowledge in future ages to correct the extravagances connected with it.

The Language of Accommodation

John Walton said it particularly well in a lecture: “Nowhere in the Bible does God ever ‘upgrade’ the Israelites’ understanding of the world.” Meaning: He doesn’t tell them the world is a sphere; He doesn’t tell them that the sun is bigger than the earth or that most stars are bigger than the sun. He doesn’t expound the germ theory of disease. He doesn’t explain the causes of mental illness. He doesn’t give them any new technology—including steam engines, but also including, say, soap; etc., etc. He takes them as He finds them, and expounds to them theological ideas only.

Sick; Sickness

sik, sik ́nes (חלה, ḥālāh (Genesis 48:1, etc.), חלי, ḥŏlī (Deuteronomy 28:61, etc.), תּחלא, taḥălu' (Deuteronomy 29:21, etc.), מחלה, maḥălāh (Exodus 23:25, etc.), דּוה, dāweh (Leviticus 15:33, etc.), אנשׁ, ‘ānash (2 Samuel 12:15, etc.); ἀσθενέω, asthenéō (Matthew 10:8, etc.;. compare 2 Maccabees 9:22), κακῶς ἔχων, kakṓs échōn (Luke 7:2), κακῶς ἔχοντας, kakṓs échontas (Matthew 4:24, etc.), ἄῤῥωστος, árrhōstos (Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 7:35; Matthew 14:14, etc.), ἀῤῥώστημα, arrhṓstēma (Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 10:10, etc.), with various cognates, κάμνω, kámnō (James 5:15); Latin morbus (2 Esdras 8:31)): Compared with the number of deaths recorded in the historical books of the Bible the instances in which diseases are mentioned are few. “Sick” and “sickness” (including “disease,” etc.) are the translations of 6 Hebrew and 9 Greek words and occur 56 times in the Old Testament and 57 times in the New Testament. The number of references in the latter is significant as showing how much the healing of the sick was characteristic of the Lord’s ministry. The diseases specified are varied. Of infantile sickness there is an instance in Bath-sheba’s child (2 Samuel 12:15), whose disease is termed ‘ānash, not improbably trismus nascentium, a common disease in Palestine. Among adolescents there are recorded the unspecified sickness of Abijah (1 Kings 14:1), of the widow’s son at Zarephath (1 Kings 17:17), the sunstroke of the Shunammite’s son (2 Kings 4:19), the epileptic boy (Matthew 17:15), Jairus’ daughter (Matthew 9:18), and the nobleman’s son (John 4:46). At the other extreme of life Jacob’s death was preceded by sickness (Genesis 48:1). Sickness resulted from accident (Ahaziah, 2 Kings 1:2), wounds (Joram, 2 Kings 8:29), from the violence of passion (Amnon, 2 Samuel 13:2), or mental emotion (Daniel 8:27); see also in this connection Song of Solomon 2:5; 5:8. Sickness the result of drunkenness is mentioned (Hosea 7:5), and as a consequence of famine (Jeremiah 14:18) or violence (Micah 6:13). Daweh or periodic sickness is referred to (Leviticus 15:33; 20:18), and an extreme case is that of Luke 8:43.