Jesus the Healer in the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and Early Christianity
By John Moles
Histos Vol.5 (2011)
Abstract: This paper argues that the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles contain sustained and substantial punning on the name of ‘Jesus’ as ‘healer’ and explores the implications for the following: the interpretation and appreciation of these texts, including the question of whether (if at all) they function as Classical texts and the consequences of an affirmative (however qualified): present-day Classicists should be able to ‘speak to them’, and they in turn should ‘respond’ to such Classical addresses, to the benefit not only of New Testament scholarship but also of Classicists, who at a stroke acquire five major new texts; the constituent traditions of these texts; the formation, teaching, mission, theology, and political ideology of the early Jesus movement, and its participation in a wider, public, partly textual, and political debate about the claims of Christianity; and the healing element of the historical Jesus’ ministry.
Within the writings of NT scholars, of ‘historical Jesus’ scholars and of Christian theologians, ‘healing’ is seen as one of the central components of Jesus’ ministry, and, often, as its defining characteristic (Jesus’ ‘healing ministry’ is a summary formula, in English, as in other languages). On the basic facts, few scholars doubt that Jesus had a big contemporary reputation as a healer, and recent scholarship emphasises that much of his healing falls within the capacities of traditional healers, especially very gifted ones, as Jesus certainly was. Physical healings are of course implicated in much larger religious perspectives, most of which appear in this paper.