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Bible Dictionaries

Holman Bible Dictionary

Healing, Divine

God's work through instruments and ways He chooses to bring health to persons sick physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The Bible not only tells of people's spiritual status but is also concerned about their physical condition. This concern appears in the emphasis on healing, particularly in the ministry of Jesus and in the early church. Nearly one-fifth of the Gospels report Jesus' miracles and the discussions they occasioned. The gospels record fourteen distinct instances of physical and mental healing.

Jesus commissioned His disciples to continue His basic ministry, including healing (Matthew 10:5-10; Mark 6:7-13; Luke 9:1-6 ). In the Book of Acts the healing ministry continued.

Psychosomatic is a word which literally means “soul and body,” referring to the close relationship of body and spirit. The soul affects the body, and the health of the soul may be an indication of the health of the body. In the Bible John wished for his friend Gaius, “above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” (3 John 1:2 ). This was an anticipation of the emphasis of psychosomatic medicine: a person is a unity; body and soul cannot be separated. Christianity and health are inextricably intertwined.

Most Christians believe in healing through faith; but trying to decide what techniques are scriptural, decorous, and psychologically helpful confuses the believer. Jesus used different methods in His healing ministry. They included calling upon the faith of the person or bystanders to be healed, touching the sick person, praying, assuring forgiveness of sin, uttering commands, and using physical media. On several occasions the faith of the individual was an important factor in the healing. Speaking to the woman who was hemorrhaging Jesus said, “thy faith hath made three whole” (Mark 5:34; compare Matthew 9:29 ).

The faith of other people became a factor. Jesus stated to the father of the sick boy that healing was possible if people had faith, and the man responded, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:23-24 ). When the centurion sought Jesus to ask for healing his servant, the Savior responded, “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour” (Matthew 8:10 ,Matthew 8:10,8:13; compare Mark 2:5 ).

The most common methods of healing Jesus used were speaking words and touching the sick person with His hand. On occasions Jesus combined both of these. He used only words in the raising of Lazarus (John 11:43 ) and the healing of the ten lepers, (Luke 17:14 ). This was sometimes done at a distance as in the case of the nobleman's son (John 4:50 ) and at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:8 ).

Touching was important. When Jesus was in Nazareth He bypassed the unbelief of some (Mark 6:5 ). In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus used touch as the mechanism of healing (Luke 22:51 ). Healing also seems to have occurred as people touched either Jesus or His garments: the woman with the hemorrhage (Mark 5:27 ,Mark 5:27,5:29 ), and at other times in His ministry (Mark 6:56 ).

In three instances Jesus used saliva alone or with mud, a common healing medium in that day: with a deaf and speech afflicted man (Mark 7:33 ) and with blind men (Mark 8:23; John 9:6-7 ).

Apparently Jesus used oil, for when He sent out His disciples they “ cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them” (Mark 6:13 ).

On four occasions Jesus' compassion is specially noted in connection with healing the sick: the widow of Nain with her dead son (Luke 7:13-14 ). Similar situations are recorded in Matthew 14:14; Mark 1:40-42; and Matthew 20:30-34 .

We should notice Jesus spoke about the connection of sin to some types of illness as when He warned the man He had healed, “Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more “ (John 5:14 ).

Christians are often confused about the ministry of healing, but these biblical teachings clearly appear:

1) The Bible clearly states that Jesus believed in healing of the body.

2) Jesus spoke of doctors in a positive way as He compared those in good health who have no need of a physician with those who do, (Matthew 9:12; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31 ). God has often healed by the way He has led dedicated scientists into the discovery of body function.

3) The methods of healing Jesus used included prayer, laying on of hands, anointing with oil, and assurance of forgiveness of sins. The church continued to use these methods (James 5:14-16 ).

4) Jesus did not use healing as a means of gaining attention but tried to keep the experience private. “Bless the Lord who healeth all thy diseases” (Psalm 103:2-3 ).

John W. Drakeford

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Healing, Divine'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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