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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Physician (2)


1. Luke, the physician.—It is a fact of special importance, in reference to Christ’s miracles of healing, that one of the four Evangelists was himself a physician (Colossians 4:14). Traces of this fact appear in his Gospel (ct. [Note: contrast.] Luke 8:43 || Mark 5:26), and still more in Acts (cf. Hobart, Medical Lang. of St. Luke). His training would probably be Gentile (Colossians 4:11; Colossians 4:14, cf. Eus. Historia Ecclesiastica iii. 4), and his medicines, like Gentile food, would be unclean in Jewish eyes. See, further, art. Luke.

2. Jewish physicians.—Priests were inspectors of leprosy (Matthew 8:4, Luke 17:14), but they were not the regular physicians. (a) The physicians whom a sufferer had consulted before she was healed by Christ are alluded to in one case (Mark 5:26 || Luke 8:43). Elsewhere physicians are mentioned in proverbial sayings only (Matthew 9:12 || Mark 2:17, Luke 5:31; Luke 4:23): there is no censure of them in Christ’s words, on the contrary He implies that the sick should resort to the physician; but Mark 5:26 probably gives a fair impression of their general value. (b) References to remedies are few: e.g. a lotion (Luke 10:34), an anodyne (Mark 15:23), both, we may assume, customary amongst Jews, but in neither of these cases administered by them; operations (circumcision, Luke 1:59 etc.; castration, Matthew 19:12). The language of Matthew 18:8 f. || speaks of mutilation rather than of surgical amputation. Superstitious cures were much sought; cf. the addition to John 5:3, which Westcott (ad loc.) describes as ‘a very early note added while the Jewish tradition was still fresh.’ (c) A special defect of Jewish medical science was the want of anatomy, necessarily involved in the ceremonial uncleanness of contact with the dead (cf. Matthew 23:27), i.e. (as explained in Jewish Encyc. art. ‘Medicine’) contact with a complete corpse, or an ‘anatomical unit’ (a bone covered with its soft parts), or a collection of bones equal in bulk or number to more than half a skeleton. An illustration of this want may be seen in the fact that a young criminal’s corpse was dissipated by long boiling, in order that the bones of the skeleton might be counted (ib.). The inspection of the bodies of animals slaughtered for sacrifice or food could be no real compensation for this want.

3. Christ, the great Physician.—Such a title is not found in the Gospels, but is at least suggested by Luke 4:23; Luke 5:31 || Luke 13:32. [The word ἰάομαι is used (literally) 20 times in NT, and always, except in Acts 28:8, directly of Christ]. Indeed, the word ‘Saviour’ implies it (Matthew 9:21 f.). The following points are observable in Christ’s healings:—(a) Variety: blindness (Matthew 9:27 ff; Matthew 20:29 ff. ||, Mark 8:22 ff., John 9), deafness (Mark 7:31 ff.), palsy (Matthew 9:1 ff. ||), withered hand (Matthew 12:9 ff. ||), issue (Matthew 9:20 ||), dropsy (Luke 14:1 ff.), fever (Matthew 8:14 ff. ||), leprosy (Matthew 8:1 ff. || Luke 17:11 ff.), wound (Luke 22:49 ff.), possession (Matthew 8:28 ff. ||, Mark 1:23 ff. || etc.); (b) purpose: not merely works of mercy (Mark 3:4, John 10:32), but also ‘signs’ (John 4:54 etc.), parables of a spiritual healing (Luke 5:24; Luke 5:31 f., John 9:25; John 9:39); (c) universality: without price (Matthew 10:8, ct. [Note: contrast.] Mark 5:26), without exception (Matthew 11:5, Mark 1:27; Mark 7:37, John 9:32), without fail (ct. [Note: contrast.] Mark 5:4; Mark 5:26; Mark 9:18); (d) conditions: (i.) on Christ’s part,—the (Divine) will (Matthew 8:3); in some cases is added the (human) prayer (Mark 9:29, John 11:41); (ii.) on the sick one’s or the petitioner’s part,—faith (Matthew 8:13; Matthew 9:2; Matthew 9:22; Matthew 9:28; Matthew 15:28 etc.) and (though seldom requiring mention) desire or will (John 5:6; Luke 22:50 ff. is altogether exceptional); (e) preliminaries: (i.) ordinarily an application, either personal (Luke 5:12; Luke 17:13; Luke 18:38) or intercessory—with (Mark 2:3; Mark 7:32; Mark 9:17) or without (Matthew 8:6, Mark 7:29 f., John 4:47 ff.) the presence of the sufferer; (ii.) often no application preceded (Mark 5:28, Luke 13:12; Luke 22:51—and so always in Jn., e.g. Luke 5:6, Luke 9:2 ff. [Luke 11:11]); (f) performance: usually immediate (Matthew 8:3 f., Mark 5:29), sometimes delayed (Mark 7:27 ff., Mark 9:21 ff.), rarely a gradual process (Mark 8:23 ff.); (g) accompaniments: a word (Matthew 8:8; Matthew 8:13; Matthew 12:13), never otherwise in the case of possession (Matthew 8:16; Matthew 8:31), a touch (Matthew 8:3, Matthew 9:18; Matthew 9:25; Matthew 9:29, Mark 5:28; Mark 6:56), a symbolic action (Mark 7:33, John 9:6 f.); (h) sequel: an assurance (Mark 5:34, Luke 17:19; Luke 18:42), a command (Matthew 8:4; Matthew 9:6, Mark 5:19; Mark 5:43), a warning (John 5:14). See also artt. Cures, Disease.

Literature.—In addition to the ordinary books of reference and those already mentioned, the following touch the subject: Ebstein, Die Medizin im NT und im Talm., Stuttgart, 1903; Bennett, Diseases of the Bible; Trench, Miracles. See also C. H. Spurgeon, The Messiah, 483.

F. S. Ranken.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Physician (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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