Christ healed “Lunatics”?

So, I’m reading in Matthew, again from Monsignor Knox and I arrive at Chapter 4 verse 24 and I read,

“. . . and they brought to him all those who were in affliction, distressed with pain and sickness of every sort, the possessed, the lunatics, the palsied, and he healed them.”

Lunatics? I question.  That doesn’t sound exactly politically correct.  So I consult my NIV, also on my lap.

It says,

” those having seizures”

But down in the commentary it adds, “The Greek word for this expression meant “moonstruck” and reflects the ancient superstition that seizures were caused by the changes of the moon.”

Leon Morris’ commentary on Matthew says,

“All three Synoptic Gospels make a great deal of Jesus’ power over demons. Matthew goes on to lunatics (apparently different from the demoniacs); these are often held to be epileptics in modern discussions (NRSV and other translations have “epileptics”), and some of the cases may indeed be those of epilepsy.”,  But we should bear in mind that the word is the exact etymological equivalent of “lunatic” and that there is no reason for denying that meaning here.”

The Translator’s Notes- written for translators whose mother tongue is not English says,

“those having seizures: In the Greek this literally means “moon-struck people.” Many people believed that the moon was a spirit that caused this sickness in some people (Carlton). Several commentators or versions say this means “crazy” (Lenski, JBP, LB, KJV). But here in 4:24, it most likely refers to people who have a shaking sickness called epilepsy. The person suddenly begins to shake, then falls down and continues to shake for a short time. And then he becomes aware again of the things around him. In NT times there was no medicine to cure this sickness.

So. . . probably, but not emphatically, referring to epilepsy,  and  put right next to demon possession which many moderns would label insanity:  all in a context of Christ healing any disorder which caused pain; physical, mental or spiritual.

Post-Script- Can’t help it.  My mind just seems to make these jumps.  Then what about “moonstruck calves?”  I guess there are are others who have wondered about that.


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