of early Christian healing
G. Patterson (Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, Second Edition,
edited by Everett Ferguson, NY: Garland Publishing, 1998, pages 511-512,
article on "Healing, religious"). The
entire article is very informative, but below are some representative
Overcoming bodily weakness or disease by divine power. Religious healing
was as persistent a feature of early Christianity as of the pagan
religious cults of the Greco-Roman world...
Accounts of healing,
from an early time (John 20:30f.), were designed to elicit faith or
were said to have done so (1 Cor. 2:4; 2 Cor. 12:12; Acts 2:43; 3:6-10;
5:12-16; 9:32-35; 14:3; A. Paul. 50-55; A. Jo. 38-45).
Healings by those awaiting martyrdom (e.g., Eusebius, Mart. Pal.
1.1; Pass. Perp. 9:1; 16:4) and by ascetics (e.g., Athanasius,
V. Ant. 80; Gregory of Nyssa, V. Gr. Thaum. [PG 46.916A];
Jerome, V. Hilar. 8.) were frequent. Bishop Novatian of Rome
was said to have been converted through being healed (Eusebius, H.E.
6.43.14). This phenomenon of healing was an important factor in the
growth of the church...
witness to God's purpose to free the whole creation for eternal life
with him. In general, early Christians assumed that healings were
manifestations of the redemptive power of God; they were more concerned
to keep them in this perspective than, as in our time, either to promote
healing as central to Christian experience or to deny their their
Ignacio Avalos (Health Care and the Rise of Christianity,
Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1999, page 83), writing about the practice
of Christian healing during the first four centuries of the Christian
era. The entire book is very informative, but
below are some representative excerpts.
of a theology based on the sufficiency of faith could be quite significant
in simplifying a therapeutic strategy. First, such a notion could
logically lead to eliminating the perceived need for pharmaceuticals.
Tatian, the noted Christian polemicist of the second century, confirms
the power of this logic in his portrayal of the whole pharmaceutical
enterprise as a Satanic artifice:
in all its forms is due to the same artificial devising. If anyone
is healed by matter because he trusts in it, all the more will he
be healed if in himself he relies on the power of God. Just as poisons
are material concoctions, so remedies too belong to the same substance."
[Tatian, Oracio ad Graecos 18]
Thus, for Tatian,
faith in the power of God should indeed eliminate the need for pharmaceuticals.
The other argument in Tatian is that remedies are as dangerous as
poisons because they presumably share the same material constitution...
A similar antipharmaceutical sentiment appears in Justin Martyr, who
praises Christians able to heal patients who could not be cured by
"those who used incantations and drugs." [Justin (100-165
A.D.), Second Apology 6; Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:190]
Companion to the Bible, edited by Bruce M.
Metzger and Michael D. Coogan, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993,
pages 507-509, "Medicine")
The entire article is very informative, but below are some representative
... Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the Israelite health-care
system depicted in the canonical texts is the division into legitimate
and illegitimate consultative options for the patient. This dichotomy
is partly related to monolatry, insofar as illness and healing rest
ultimately on Yahweh's control (Job 5.18) and insofar as non-Yahwistic
options are prohibited. Since it was accessible and inexpensive, prayer
to Yahweh was probably the most common legitimate option for a patient.
Petitions and thanksgiving prayers uttered from the viewpoint of the
patient are attested in the Bible (Ps. 38; Isa. 38.10-20).
included consultants designated as "healers" (2 Chron. 16.12:
Hebr. rope'im, NRSV: "physicians"), non-Yahwistic
temples (2 Kings 1.2-4), and probably a large variety of "sorcerers"
(Deu. 18.10-12). Warnings in the canonical texts, along with archaeological
evidence for fertility cults, indicate that such "illegitimate"
options were used widely in ancient Israel.
The foremost legitimate
consultants in the canonical texts are commonly designated as prophets,
and they were often in fierce competition with "illegitimate"
consultants... Unlike some of the principal healing consultants in
other Near Eastern societies, the efficacy of the Israelite prophets
resided more in their relationship with God than in technical expertise.
The demise of the prophetic office early in the Second Temple period
probably led to the wide legitimation of the rope'im (see Sir.
By the postexilic
period the Priestly code (P) severely restricted access to the temple
for the chronically ill (e.g., "lepers" in Lev. 13-14; cf.
2 Sam. 5.7 on the blind and the lame) because of fear of "impurity."
... The theology of impurity, as a system of social boundaries, could
serve to remove socioeconomically burdensome populations from society,
the chronically ill perhaps being the most prominent...
Perhaps the most
far-reaching consequence of the Priestly code was the growth of chronically
ill populations with little access to the Temple. Since Jesus and
his disciples appear to target these populations (Matt. 10.8; Mark
14.3), early Christianity may be seen, in part as a critique of the
priestly health-care system...
Keir Howard (Oxford
Companion to the Bible, edited by Bruce M.
Metzger and Michael D. Coogan, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993,
pages 509-510, "Medicine and the Bible"). The entire article
is very informative, but below are some representative excerpts.
and the Bible ...The Bible itself knows little of physicians
as such, and in the faith of Israel it was God alone who was the healer
and giver of life. Most references to physicians are uncomplimentary
(as in Mark 5.25-26, more temperately put in Luke 8.43) or at best
neutral. Other than the reference to Luke "the beloved physician"
(Col. 4.14), the only positive remarks about medical practitioners
occur in Sirach 38.1-15, where the reader is exhorted to "honor
physicians for their services." Even in this passage however,
the emphasis is on the need for confession of sin before any true
healing could take place and the role of God as healer...
In the Bible itself,
it is the religious component that dominates in a situation where
religion and medicine are inextricably bound together...
of such a causal relationship between disease and a failure to meet
religious and moral obligations was, in some sense, an attempt to
answer the unanswerable question, "Why me?"... Thus, consulting
a physician for help could be construed as a denial of the primary
role of God and evidence of lack of faith in him, as well as lack
of willingness to acknowledge personal sin (2 Chron. 16.12).
Many of these
concepts were perpetuated in Christianity, even though such a simplistic
viewpoint was challenged in the Bible (e.g., in the book of Job and
John 9:1-3). The early church, however, undoubtedly interpreted such
views too literally, and medical treatment was displaced by an emphasis
on prayer and fasting in order to chasten the individual. From the
Renaissance onward, however, medicine and theology became increasingly
divorced from one another, allowing the development of medicine along
the now-familiar lines of scientific principles from the sixteenth
or seventeenth centuries onward. Nonetheless, there has always been
in Christianity a healing ministry that has been seen as biblically
based (see, e.g., Luk 10.9). In general, this has not been considered
as in competition with orthodox medicine but rather as complementary
to it. Some more recent developments in healing ministries derived
from biblical literalism, however, seem to be an attempt to return
to a prescientific worldview, and will inevitably be in conflict with
modern medical practice.
Christian healing practices today
Baker Eddy (Miscellaneous Writings [Mis] and Science
and Health with Key to the Scriptures [S&H]). J. Kier
Howard (see last paragraph above) states, "There
has always been in Christianity a healing ministry that has been seen
as biblically based." Howard also refers to such ministry's conflict
with modern science. Below
are descriptions of a prime example of systematic efforts to responsibly
establish -- in the modern scientifically oriented world -- what Howard
describes as biblically literal healing ministry. Extended quotations
below are provided in the attempt to provide a balanced and fair representation
of Eddy's teachings, which often have been misrepresented and misunderstood
by both opponents and proponents.
It should be noted
that Eddy used relevant modern terms and analogies to enable today's
readers to better understand and appreciate biblical teachings, just
as did early Christian writers, such as Clement of Alexandria, Athenagorus,
Theophilus, Tertullian, and Origen did in the second century A.D. For
instance, when Eddy used the term divine Science or simply Science
(with an uppercase S), she was referring to the biblical term,
the Holy Spirit, which the Gospel of John also refers to as "the
Spirit of truth" (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13) and as "the Comforter"
(John 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7; variously translated as the Advocate, the
Counselor, the Paraclete, the Defense Attorney). In light of this, a
"Christian Scientist" may be considered to be anyone whose
practice of Christianity and Christian healing includes following Christ
in thinking, speaking, and acting as instructed and directed by the
Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth. In this sense being a Christian Scientist
is a way of life and is in no way defined by or limited to any denominational
affiliation. Thus, when reading Eddy's writings, one can understand
the intended biblical concept by silently substituting the phrase "Holy
Spirit" wherever one reads "Science" or "divine
Science" -- or in many cases where one reads "Christian Science."
In the same way wherever one reads, "Christian Scientist,"
one can silently substitute, "one who is a methodical disciple
of Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit." (See also http://www.bibletexts.com/terms/comforter.htm.)
man to know Life as it is, namely God, the eternal good, gives him
not merely a sense of existence, but an accompanying consciousness
of spiritual power that subordinates matter and destroys sin, disease,
and death. This, Jesus demonstrated; insomuch that St. Matthew wrote,
"The people were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them
as one having authority, and not as the scribes." This spiritual
power, healing sin and sickness, was not confined to the first century;
it extends to all time, inhabits eternity, and demonstrates Life without
beginning or end. [Mis 189:21]
the healing power of Truth is widely demonstrated as an immanent,
eternal Science, instead of a phenomenal exhibition. Its appearing
is the coming anew of the gospel of "on earth peace, good-will
toward men." This coming, as was promised by the Master [see
Joh 14:12, 25, 26], is for its establishment as a permanent dispensation
among men; but the mission of Christian Science now, as in the time
of its earlier demonstration, is not primarily one of physical healing.
Now, as then, signs and wonders are wrought in the metaphysical healing
of physical disease; but these signs are only to demonstrate its divine
origin, -- to attest the reality of the higher mission of the Christ-power
to take away the sins of the world. [S&H 150:4-16]
derives its sanction from the Bible, and the divine origin of Science
is demonstrated through the holy influence of Truth in healing sickness
and sin. This healing power of Truth must have been far anterior to
the period in which Jesus lived. It is as ancient as "the Ancient
of days." It lives through all Life, and extends throughout all
space. Divine metaphysics is now reduced to a system, to a form comprehensible
by and adapted to the thought of the age in which we live. This system
enables the learner to demonstrate the divine Principle, upon which
Jesus' healing was based, and the sacred rules for its present application
to the cure of disease. Late in the nineteenth century I demonstrated
the divine rules of Christian Science. They were submitted to the
broadest practical test, and everywhere, when honestly applied under
circumstances where demonstration was humanly possible, this Science
showed that Truth had lost none of its divine and healing efficacy,
even though centuries had passed away since Jesus practised these
rules on the hills of Judaea and in the valleys of Galilee. [S&H
Does the theology
of Christian Science aid its healing? Without its theology there
is no mental science, no order that proceeds from God. All Science
is divine, not human, in origin and demonstration. If God does not
govern the action of man, it is inharmonious: if He does govern it,
the action is Science. Take away the theology of mental healing and
you take away its science, leaving it a human "mind-cure,"
nothing more nor less, --even one human mind governing another; by
which, if you agree that God is Mind*, you admit that there is more
than one government and God. Having no true sense of the healing theology
of Mind, you can neither understand nor demonstrate its Science, and
will practise your belief of it in the name of Truth. This is the
mortal "mind-cure" that produces the effect of mesmerism.
It is using the power of human will, instead of the divine power understood,
as in Christian Science... [Mis 58:19-10]
Eddy used Mind as a synonym for God. She also followed Joh 4:24,
1Jo 4:8,16, and Exo 3:14 in using Spirit, Love, and the I AM as
synonyms for God. Some other synonyms for God that she used include
Soul, Life, Truth, and Principle, all for which she found biblical
justification. For more details see http://www.bibletexts.com/sh/by-phrase.htm.
Clement of Alexandria
(150-215 A.D.), a prominent early mainstream Christian, and some
other early Christians also referred to God as Mind. Clement, in
his Exhortation to the Greeks [ANF 2:199], wrote
around 195 A.D.:
For the image
of God is His Word, the genuine Son of Mind, the Divine Word,
the archetypal light of light; the image of the Word is the true
man, the mind which is in man, who is therefore said to have been
made "in the image and likeness of God," assimilated
to the Divine Word in the affections of the soul, and therefore
rational; but effigies sculptured in human form, the earthly image
of that part of man which is visible and earth-born, are but a
perishable impress of humanity, manifestly wide of the truth.
The spirit of
the prayer of the righteous heals the sick, but this spirit is of
God, and the divine Mind is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever;
whereas the human mind is a compound of faith and doubt, of fear and
hope, of faith in truth and faith in error. The knowledge that all
things are possible to God excludes doubt... [My 292:26-2]
accept our Master as authority, regard his sayings as infallible.
Jesus' students, failing to cure a severe case of lunacy, asked their
great Teacher, "Why could not we cast him out?" He answered,
"This kind goeth not out but by prayer..." This declaration
of our Master, as to the relative value, skill, and certainty of the
divine laws of Mind over the human mind and above matter in
healing disease, remains beyond questioning a divine decision in behalf
of Mind. [My 190:13]
We must learn
how mankind govern the body,--whether through faith in hygiene, in
drugs, or in will-power. We should learn whether they govern the body
through a belief in the necessity of sickness and death, sin and pardon,
or govern it from the higher understanding that the divine Mind makes
perfect, acts upon the so-called human mind through truth, leads the
human mind to relinquish all error, to find the divine Mind to be
the only Mind, and the healer of sin, disease, death. [S&H 251:15-24]
Obedience to material
law prevents full obedience to spiritual law,--the law which overcomes
material conditions and puts matter under the feet of Mind. Mortals
entreat the divine Mind to heal the sick, and forthwith shut out the
aid of Mind by using material means, thus working against themselves
and their prayers and denying man's God-given ability to demonstrate
Mind's sacred power. Pleas for drugs and laws of health come from
some sad incident, or else from ignorance of Christian Science and
its transcendent power. To admit that sickness is a condition over
which God has no control, is to presuppose that omnipotent power is
powerless on some occasions. [S&H 182:19-32]
of spiritual power over sensuous is the central point of Christian
Science. Remember that the letter and mental argument are only human
auxiliaries to aid in bringing thought into accord with the spirit
of Truth and Love, which heals the sick and the sinner. [S&H 454:29]
It is often asked,
"If Christian Science is the same method of healing that Jesus
and the apostles used, why do not its students perform as instantaneous
cures as did those in the first century of the Christian era?"
In some instances the students of Christian Science equal the ancient
prophets as healers. All true healing is governed by, and demonstrated
on, the same Principle as theirs; namely, the action of the divine
Spirit, through the power of Truth to destroy error, discord of whatever
sort. The reason that the same results follow not in every case, is
that the student does not in every case possess sufficiently the Christ-spirit
and its power to cast out the disease. The Founder of Christian Science
teaches her students that they must possess the spirit of Truth and
Love, must gain the power over sin in themselves, or they cannot be
instantaneous healers. [Mis 40:9-25]
If patients fail
to experience the healing power of Christian Science, and think they
can be benefited by certain ordinary physical methods of medical treatment,
then the Mind-physician should give up such cases, and leave invalids
free to resort to whatever other systems they fancy will afford relief.
Until the advancing
age admits the efficacy and supremacy of Mind, it is better for Christian
Scientists to leave surgery and the adjustment of broken bones and
dislocations to the fingers of a surgeon, while the mental healer
confines himself chiefly to mental reconstruction and to the prevention
of inflammation. [S&H 401:27-32]
If Christian Scientists
ever fail to receive aid from other Scientists, -- their brethren
upon whom they may call, -- God will still guide them into the right
use of temporary and eternal means. Step by step will those who trust
Him find that "God is our refuge and strength, a very present
help in trouble." [S&H 444:7]
and working, combined with self-immolation, are God's gracious means
for accomplishing whatever has been successfully done for the Christianization
and health of mankind. [S&H 1:6]
William Backus (The
Healing Power of a Christian Mind: How Biblical Truth Can Keep you Healthy).
Dr. Backus is a Christian psychologist and an ordained Lutheran clergyman.
As a good indication of the book's contents, he begins as follows:
in a while an unexpected event leaps serendipitously into your life
and points you in a new direction. Not long ago I received a letter
from a man I'd never met -- Dr. Daniel Fountain, a physician in Zaire.
Reading about Dr. Fountain's amazing discovery was, for me, one of
those exhilarating events.
introducing himself, Fountain launched into a description of a new
AIDS-treatment program which he oversees... He explained that the
AIDS epidemic had ravaged some African countries, including Zaire,
where doctors often do not have AZT and other AIDS medications at
their disposal. The situation is bleak indeed. But Dr. Fountain, a
man of faith, had a hunch. Since he lacked the resources to medicate
his patients, he wondered if he could help them treat themselves in
another way -- that is, by replacing the negative and depressing mind-set
that can accompany illness with life-giving spiritual truths.
caught my attention...
I am convinced that strengthening your spirit with the bold, encouraging,
life-giving truths that are revealed in the Bible -- God's Word --
will help you move toward physical wholeness and overall well-being.