Jesus & Medicine

Why don't Jesus and the Apostles ever recommend going to a physician? They certainly do not get around to each and every individual, and there are no claims of curing an entire group of people. Are they entirely ignorant or have no faith in ancient medicine? Such a suggestion is included in the Book of Sirach, Ecclesiasticus 38: 1-15. Also in 2 Chronicles 16:12, King Asa resorted to physicians for gangrene. In Mishnah Kiddushin 4:14, the best among physicians are destined for Gehenna.

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Gospels focus on Jesus/God as ultimate healer.

We can only speculate about why Jesus or others did not do something, for the Gospels don't reveal much of their motives or reasoning. I don't see signs of particular ignorance/superstition on their part, but there could have been some distrust or skepticism toward those in their world who presented themselves as physicians. At least, the way Mark's Gospel describes a woman suffering from a hemorrhage (Mark 5:26) suggests that the author of that Gospel might have been distrustful of doctors (compare the less severe statement in Luke 8:43). The Gospels portray Jesus as aware of healers/physicians (see Mark 2:17), but apparently not interested in making referrals. As your references to different ancient Jewish texts indicate, there were a range of opinions toward doctors. Some sources from near the first century refer to doctors as expensive and so only accessible to some people. Other sources describe medical techniques that we'd regard as horrifying (and "ignorant," from our view). The miracles stories in the Gospels have, it seems to me, an overarching aim that is less interested in criticizing ancient physicians and more interested in proclaiming God as the only truly effective healer. Jesus, in fact, does display an ability to heal groups in one fell swoop (as in Luke 17:11-14), but the Gospels don't draw much attention to that. The Gospels nevertheless depict him performing healings without techniques and at a scale that "an ordinary physician" in his day wouldn't be able to match. Perhaps in the view of the Gospels Jesus makes those physicians unnecessary. Don't take this as medical advice for today!


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Author: Matthew L. Skinner
Miracles were the narrative.
The Bible gives us a record of some of what Jesus said and did but not everything. The end of John’s Gospel (John 21:25) tells us that if everything that Jesus did was recorded the world could not contain the books that would be written. The Gospel writers were seeking to convince their audience that Jesus was God’s anointed. One of the ways they did that was to tell of His miracles. John’s Gospel actually calls the miracles “signs,” which is exactly what they were. They were signs that Jesus had within him the power and authority of God.
Jesus may well have prompted people to see a doctor or to use various types of medical remedies of the day, but recording those conversations would not have fit with the mission of the Gospel writers. It would just be good advice that anyone might have given and they wanted to highlight the things that set Jesus apart from others. If Jesus were somehow opposed to traditional medical practice, we might expect Luke to mention it, since many scholars believe Luke was a physician himself.
Rev. Anne Robertson
Executive Director
Massachusetts Bible Society
God was the ultimate healer.

It must be remembered that however effective ancient doctors and/or medicine may have been, it was always God who was the ultimate source of effective healing, whatever form that healing may have taken.





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