Thursday, December 31, 2009

Spreading Fame

Matthew 4:24-25
(24)  So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them.
(25)  And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

(24) καὶ ἀπῆλθεν ἡ ἀκοὴ αὐτοῦ εἰς ὅλην τὴν Συρίαν· καὶ προσήνεγκαν αὐτῷ πάντας τοὺς κακῶς ἔχοντας ποικίλαις νόσοις καὶ βασάνοις συνεχομένους καὶ δαιμονιζομένους καὶ σεληνιαζομένους καὶ παραλυτικούς, καὶ ἐθεράπευσεν αὐτούς.
(25) καὶ ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ ὄχλοι πολλοὶ ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας καὶ Δεκαπόλεως καὶ Ἱεροσολύμων καὶ Ἰουδαίας καὶ πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου.

Jesus had something of a rockstar following here.  When I read ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ ὄχλοι πολλοὶ I get an image of a combination of U2 and the Grateful Dead on tour because the word πολλοὶ means "much, many, large," which modifies ὄχλοι (crowds).  But what else would you expect?  After all, He was healing people from conditions for which the people had no cure.  They hadn't heard about what it means to follow Him yet (come back tomorrow), so they were interested in the show and what He could do for them.

There are a couple of ways I can go with this.  First, I think about how many today follow Jesus simply because of what they hope He will do for them.  They don't care about His glory or serving Him, but about the peace He brings or other benefits they hope to get.  As we'll see in the next three chapters, that is not where we should be.

The other thing I think of is how He healed.  The Greek καὶ δαιμονιζομένους καὶ σεληνιαζομένους καὶ παραλυτικούς can literally be translated as "those being with demons and those being epileptics and those being paralytics."  It's also possible that instead of "and" separating those words you could insert "even" as that is one of the things that και can mean.  I'm not going to crack open my Wallace for this, but I can tell you that I find it fascinating to read about how our medical science is so much better now that we can treat these conditions with drugs, but in that premodern era they would have attributed these diseases to supernatural forces.

This is particularly interesting with the case of demon-possession.  I realize that there are various known diseases today that will cause epileptic seizures and paralysis.  However, if the Bible says that Jesus cast out demons then that is good enough for me.  In other words, I think maybe we're a bit quick to prescribe drugs for conditions that may be related to powers of darkness rather than some kind of pathology in the body.

It's just something to think about.  I'm not a doctor, but it's something I've thought a lot about with respect to various psychological diagnoses.  I think there are some persuasive arguments from medicine, but it's hard to argue with Scripture.  In fact, to be quite literal and blunt, I'd say that it would be damned stupid.

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