Sunday, September 11, 2011

Religion of Healing - Dr. Michael Brown


[. . . .] in a very special way, Christianity was the religion of healing.214 Beginning with the miracle stories in the Gospels that were offered as proof of the messiahship of Jesus215 and continuing on through the preaching of the apostles,216 the message was always the same: God through his Son had procured and proclaimed liberty for the captives.217 According to M. Kelsey, "the practices of healing described in the New Testament continued without interruption for the next two centuries,"218 and the apologetic testimony of Justin Martyr is typical:
For numberless demoniacs throughout the whole world, and in your city, many of our Christian men exorcizing them in the Name of Jesus Christ . . . have healed and do heal, rendering helpless and driving the possessing devils out of the men, though they could not be cured by all the other exorcists, and those who used incantations and drugs.219
Even more striking is an account from the apocryphal Acts of John, wherein the apostle reacts with shock when he hears that, out of the women in Ephesus older than sixty years.

only four [are] in good bodily health; of the rest, some are paralytic, others deaf, some arthritic and others sick with divers diseases." And John on hearing this kept silence for a long time; then he rubbed his face and said, "Oh, what slackness among the people of Ephesus! What a collapse, what weakness towards God! O devil, what a mockery tou have made all this time of the faithful at Ephesus! Jesus, who gives me grace and the gift of confidence in him, says to me now in silence, 'send for the old women who are sick, and be with them in the theatre and through me heal them; for there are some of those who come to this spectacle whom I will convert through such healings as have been beneficial.'"220
Even Augustine, who in his early writings "stated quite specifically that Christians are not to look for continuance of the healing gift," decidedly changed his views while completing his magnum opus, The City of God.221 Therefore he wrote:

Once I realized how many miracles were occurring in our own day and which were so like the miracles of old and also how wrong it would be to allow the memory of these marvels of divine power to perish from among our people. It is only two years ago that the keeping of records was begun here in Hippo, and already, at this writing, we have nearly seventy attested miracles.222

The early rabbinic writings also preserve some indirect references to the healing prowess of the early messianic Jewish223 believers, commending one Tannaitic sage who died before he was able to receive healing in the name of Jesus from the "schismatic"224 [. . .] identified as Jacob of Kefar Sama (t. Hul. 2:22-23),225 while reproving another sage who was healed by a min in Jesus' name.226 It is also possible that Rabbi Akiva's exclusion from the world to come (m. Sanh. 10:1)227 of "he who whispers over a wound and says, 'I will put none of the diseases upon you which I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord your Healer" (Exod 15:26)"228 was directed against the contemporary Jewish followers of Jesus.229 In any event, the testimony of the rabbinic sources cited here led S.T. Lachs to conclude, "In Jewish literature these disciples and those who followed them were best known through their healing activity in the name of Jesus."230


-Michael L. Brown, Israel's Divine Healer p. 64-65 (notes from pgs. 292-293)




214. See especially Kelsey, Healing and Christianity; cf. also Jakobovits, Jewish Medical Ethics, 1. As stated by Sigerist, Civilization and Disease, 140, "Medicine was faith healing in the early Christian community."
215. Cf. J.D.G. Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1975), 69-76; see below, ch. 5 for further discussion and bibliography.
216. Cf. the sources gathered in E. Frost, Christian Healing: A Consideration of the Place of Spiritual Healing in the Church Today in the Light of the Doctrine and Practice of the Anti-Nicene Church (London: A.R. Mowbray & Co., 1940), and more concisely, Kelsey, Healing, 104-99. Mueller states, "Not only did Jesus heal the sick and drive out demons, the early church as a while was a movement which turned its attention to the situation of the sick in a significant way" (Sickness and Healing, 182).
217. See H.C. Kee, Miracle, 146-73 for the apocalyptic significance of miracles of deliverance; see also Mueller, Sickness and Healing, 116-19; cf. below, 5.2.2, on the Jubilee pronouncement in the gospel of Luke.
218. Kelsey, Healing and Christianity, 129, n. 1.
219. Second Apology to the Roman Senate, cited in ibid., 136. Out of many similar testimonies that could be cited, see Tertullian , To Scapula 4 (in ibid., 137): "And how many men of rank (to say nothing of common people) have been delivered  from devils, and healed of diseases!"
220. Trans. by K Schaferdieck, in W. Schneemelcher, ed., New Testament Apocrypa, trans. R. McL. Wilson (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1992), 2:177. Regardless of the authenticity of this account, it does, of course, reflect the attitude that for the NT church, divine healing was thought of as an expected norm. Cf. further P.J. Achtmeier, "Jesus and the Disciples as Miracle Workers in the Apocryphal New Testament," in E.S. Fiorenza, ed., Aspects of Religious Propaganda in Judaism and Early Christianity (Notre Dame: Univ: of Notre Dame Press, 1976), 149-86.
221. See Kelsey, Healing and Christianity, 184-88
222. Augustine, City of God, 22.8, cited in Kelsey, ibid., 185. See also the important statement in Augustine's Retractions, 1.13.7 (also 1.14.15), cited in ibid., wherein he specifically revises his earlier views.
223. G. Boccaccini has recently argued that "Christianity" be recognized as a "Judaism" (see his Middle Judaism: Jewish Thought, 300 B.C.E. to 200 C.E. [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991}, with some strictures in the foreword by J.H. Charlesworth, xviii), citing the judgement of scholars who underscore the "Jewishness" of early Christianity (see esp. 13-18; see also the challenge of G. Vermes, Jesus and the World of Judaism [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983], 87-88 for a new "Schurer-type religious history of the Jews from the Maccabees to AD 500 that fully incorporates New Testament data." For further bibliography of related works, cf. M. L. Brown, Our Hands Are Stained with Blood: The Tragic Story of the "Church" and the Jewish People [Shippensburg, Pa.: Destiny Image, 1992], 233-34, 237-38). Because Christianity quickly developed into a predominantly Gentile religion, at times hostile to its Jewish roots, I believe scholarly references to "Jewish Christianity" may present an unnecessary oxymoronic problem. Terms such as "Messianic Jew/ish" and "Messianic Judaism" may be more appropriate, descriptive and in fact accurate when applied to the first followers of Jesus.
224. Although dated, the standard collection of the relevant rabbinic material is R.T. Herford, Christianity in the Talmud and Midrash (London: Williams & Northgate, 1903); for more recent discussion, cf. L.H. Schiffman, Who Was a Jew? Rabbinic and Halakhic Perspectives on the Jewish-Christian Schism (Hoboken, N.J.: Ktav, 1985); C.J. Setzer, Jewish Responses to Early Chrisitians: History and Polemics, 30-150 C.E. (Minneapolis: Ausburg Fortress, 1994).
225. Cf. Schiffman, Who was a Jew?, 68-71 (on the scurrilous name "Yeshu' ben Patira," see the literature cited on pp. 100-101, n.5).
226. See below, nn. 228-229; cf. also t. Hul. 2:21, cited in Schiffman, Who was a Jew?, 64: "We are not healed by them, neither healing of property nor healing of life." (According to one view, this means neither healing of animals nor healing of humans; the other view interprets the phrases in question [. . .] to refer to healing in cases where there is no mortal danger vs. healing in cases involving mortal danger; see p. 99, n. 79.) It is not clear whether miraculous healings by the minnim are included here, or whether the prohibition only countenances medical treatment by the minnim. To this day, the Orthodox rabbinic community has strongly discouraged Jews from receiving ministry from Christian "faith healers" (including Gentile Christian faith healers), seeing that faith in Jesus would be involved. Note the end of a relevant responsum of Rabbi Y.Y. Weiss: "How right were our sages in forbidding us to be cured by a cleric in an unnatural way, even in life-threatening situations. May God send a complete recovery to all the sick in Israel" (see A.Y. Finkel, The Responsa Anthology [Northvale, N.J.: Jason Aronson, 1990], 178). Weiss states emphatically that the Jew "should use only qualified physicians, prayer to God, and charity," rather than utilize the services of a minister such as Rev. Tony Agapo of Manila, who, according to Rabbi Weiss's questioner, "cures all diseases and plagues and performs surgery without making incisions, just with his hands."
227. This seems to be a later addition; cf. Schiffman, Who Was a Jew?, 41-46, who identifies the core of m. Sanh. 10:1 as a pre-A.D. 70 censure primarily directed against Sadducees.
228. [. . . .]
229. [. . . .]
230. S.T. Lachs, A Rabbinic Commentary on the New Testament. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke (Hoboken/New York: Ktav/Anti-Defamation League of B'nai Brith, 1987), 178, on Mt 10:1, see H. Strack and P. Billerbeck, Kmentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud un Midrash. For a structural-genre analysis of the Talmudic and NT healing stories, cf. D. Noy, "The Talmudic-Midrashic 'Healing Stories' as a Narrative Genre," Koroth 9, Special Issue (1988): 124-46.



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