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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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The words rendered by "mad," "madman," "madness," etc., in the A. Vers., vary considerably in the Hebrew of the O.T. In Deuteronomy 28:28; Deuteronomy 28:34; 1 Samuel 21:13-15, etc. (μανία , etc., in the Sept.), they are derivatives of the root שָׁגִע, shaga', "to be stirred or excited;" in Jeremiah 25:16; Jeremiah 1, 38; Jeremiah 51:7; Ecclesiastes 1:17, etc. (Sept. περιφορά ), from the root הָלִל, hal', "to flash out," applied (like the Greek φλέγειν ) either to light or sound; in Isaiah 44:25, from סִכּל, sakkel', "to make void or foolish" (Sept. μωραίνειν ); in Zechariah 12:4, from תָּמִתּ, tamah', "to wander" (Sept. ἔκστασις ). In the N.T. they are generally used to render μαίνεσθαι or μανία (as in John 10:20; Acts 26:24; 1 Corinthians 14:23); but in 2 Peter 2:16 the word is παραφρονία, and in Luke 6:11, ἄνοια The term is used in Scripture in its proper and old sense of a raving maniac or demented person (Deuteronomy 28:34; 1 Samuel 21:13; John 10:20; 1 Corinthians 14:23), and may be medically defined to be delirium without fever. Our Lord cured by his word several who were deprived of the exercise of their rational powers, and the circumstances of their histories prove that there could neither be mistake nor collusion respecting them. See LUNATIC. How far madness may be allied to, or connected with demoniacal possession (as implied in one passage, John 10:20), is a very intricate inquiry; and whether in the present day (as perhaps anciently) evil spirits may not take advantage from distemperature of the bodily frame to augment evils endured by the patient is more than may be affirmed, though the idea seems to be not absolutely repugnant to reason (see Thomson, Land and Book. 1:213). (See DAEMONIAC).

The term "mad" is likewise applied in Scripture, as in common life, to any subordinate but violent disturbance of the mental faculties, whether springing from a disordered intellect (as by over-study, Acts 26:24-25; from startling intelligence, Acts 12:15; from preternatural excitement, Hosea 9:7; Isaiah 44:25; from resistance of oppression, Ecclesiastes 7:7; from inebriety, Jeremiah 25:16; Jeremiah 51:7; or simple fatuity, 2 Kings 9:11; Jeremiah 29:26), or from irregular and furious passion (e.g. as a persecutor, Acts 26:11; Psalms 102:8; from idolatrous hallucination, Jeremiah 1, 38; or wicked and extravagant jollity, Ecclesiastes 2:2). In like manner, "madness" expresses not only proper insanity (Deuteronomy 28:28, and so "madman," 1 Samuel 21:15; Proverbs 26:18). but also a reckless state of mind (Ecclesiastes 10:13), bordering on delirium (Zechariah 12:4), whether induced by overstrained intellectual efforts (Ecclesiastes 1:17; Ecclesiastes 2:12), from blind rage (Luke 6:12), or the effect of depraved tempers (Ecclesiastes 7:25; Ecclesiastes 9:3; 2 Peter 2:6). David's madness (1 Samuel 21:13) is by many supposed not to have been feigned, but a real epilepsy or falling sickness; and the Sept. uses words which strongly indicate this sense (ἔπιπτεν ἐπὶ τὰς θύρας ). It is urged in support of this opinion that the troubles which David underwent might very naturally weaken his constitutional strength, and that the force he suffered in being obliged to seek shelter in a foreign court would disturb his imagination in the highest degree. A due consideration, however, of the context and all the circumstances only serves to strengthen the opinion that it was feigned for obvious reasons (see Kitto's Daily Bible Illustr. ad loc.). "It is well known that among Oriental, as among most semi-civilized nations, madmen were looked upon with a kind of reverence, as possessed of a quasi-sacred character (see Lane, in od E. 2:346). This arises partly, no doubt, from the feeling that one on whom God's hand is laid heavily should be safe from all other harm, but partly also from the belief that the loss of reason and self- control opened the mind to supernatural influence, and gave it therefore a supernatural sacredness. This belief was strengthened by the enthusiastic expression of idolatrous worship (see 1 Kings 18:26; 1 Kings 18:28), and (occasionally) of real inspiration (see 1 Samuel 19:21-24; comp. the application of mad fellow' in 2 Kings 9:11, and see Jeremiah 29:26; Acts 2:13)."

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Madness'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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