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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

Outside of the Gospels little attention is paid to sickness in the apostolic writings. This is very noticeable if one compares these writings with the OT or even the Gospels. Only five particular kinds of disease are specified: palsy ( Acts 8:7;  Acts 9:33); impotence ( Acts 3:2); a digestive trouble (πυκναί ἀσθένειαι,  1 Timothy 5:23); dysentery ( Acts 28:8); abdominal disease associated with worms ( Acts 12:21 ff.). In addition we have those suffering from nervous disorders ( Acts 5:16; cf. also  Acts 16:16-18,  Acts 19:12). Individuals are, in general terms, ‘sick’ (Dorcas [ Acts 9:37], Epaphroditus [ Philippians 2:26-27], and Trophimus [ 2 Timothy 4:20]), yet no symptoms are mentioned by which the nature of the illness may be defined.

The terms in which other references to sickness appear are extremely indefinite: ἀσθενής (cf.  Acts 4:9), ἀσθένεια ( Acts 28:9), ἀσθενέω ( James 5:14), ἀδύνατος ( Acts 14:8), κάμνω ( James 5:15), ἄρρωστος ( 1 Corinthians 11:30). The meaning here may be only lack of strength, or it may be an infirmity caused by sickness. In all these cases of specific diseases the trouble is described popularly by its leading symptoms, with the exception possibly of the ailment of Publius’ father.

The only attempt to account for the cause of any sickness alluded to is by St. Paul in his advice to the Corinthians concerning the Lord’s Supper. He there intimates that sickness and even death are a Divine judgment on their flagrant abuse of the Eucharist. One may compare this with the theory of the supernatural cause of disease in Hebrew and Greek circles. A connexion between sickness and disease is suggested by Jesus in  John 5:14. Two other implications as to the cause of abnormal conditions are contained in the Acts, both associated with nervous derangement, yet without any conscious diagnosis or effort to account for the fact. In accord with the notions of the time, evil spirits are reported as going out from those whom they had possessed ( Acts 19:12), a particular instance of which is in  Acts 16:16-18. Because the spirit Python possessed the damsel she became a ventriloquist-soothsayer. The demon was cast out by a word from St. Paul and the maid restored to mental equilibrium.

The treatment of sickness in the Apostolic Church, so far as suggested by the NT, is medicinal, therapeutic, psychotherapeutic, and miraculous. The practice of anointing with oil ( James 5:14; cf  Mark 6:13) is not indeed without a magical association-‘in the name of the Lord’-but its long history connects it with a healing virtue; wine also possesses medicinal properties ( 1 Timothy 5:23). The medicines used on the island of Malta are not specified, nor are the results of their use stated. The therapeutic treatment of disease certainly underlies St. Paul’s advice to the Corinthians. Psychotherapy is to be appealed to with reference to the healing of nervous disorders (cf.  1 Corinthians 12:28;  1 Corinthians 12:30, ‘gifts of healing’). The cases of cure which are not otherwise accounted for are regarded by the apostles as miraculous (cf.  Acts 4:16;  Acts 9:40).

Literature.-J. R. Bennett, The Diseases of the Bible3, 1896; T. H. Wright, article‘Disease,’ in Dict. of Christ and the Gospels; A. Macalister, article‘Medicine,’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols); see also Literature under Physician.

C. A. Beckwith.

King James Dictionary [2]


1. Nausea squeamishness as sickness of the stomach. 2. State of being diseased. I do lament the sickness of the king. 3. Disease malady a morbid state of the body of an animal or plant, in which the organs do not perfectly perform their natural functions. Trust not too much your now resistless charms Those age or sickness soon or late disarms. Himself took our infirmities, and bore our sicknesses.  Matthew 8 .

Webster's Dictionary [3]

(1): ( n.) The quality or state of being sick or diseased; illness; sisease or malady.

(2): ( n.) Nausea; qualmishness; as, sickness of stomach.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [4]

See Disease; Health Heal; Suffering

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [5]

(usually some form of חָלָה , To Be Worn Down; Ἀσθενέω ). The climate of Palestine and the adjoining countries is, on the whole, conducive to health (Tacitus, Hist. V, 6, 2), and with regularity of habits the natives do not suffer much from maladies (Niebuhr, Beschr. p. 129). When these do occur they are usually of short duration. A list of the more severe diseases occurs in  Leviticus 26:16;  Deuteronomy 28:22. In summer dysentery prevails ( Acts 28:8); in spring and autumn fever ( Matthew 8:14;  Luke 4:39;  John 4:52;  Acts 28:8; comp. Josephus, Life, ii; see Russel, Aleppo, ii, 137; Burckhardt, Arab. p. 615; also the Medic.-Hermn. Untersuchungen, p. 348 sq.). The latter is specially designated as דִּלֶּקֶת , Dalleketh, Πυρετός , or Inflammation ( Deuteronomy 28:22). A peculiar name is קִדִּחִת , Kaddchath ("'burning ague,"  Leviticus 26:16; "fever,"  Deuteronomy 28:22), which the Sept. renders Ἴκτερος , some acute disease (see Schleusner, Thesaur. iii, 106). Mention is also made of consumption ( שִׁחֶפֶת , Shachepheth, Leviticus Loc. Cit.), apoplexy ( 1 Maccabees 9:55 sq.), sunstroke ( Judith 8:3. [? 2. Kings 4:19]; comp. Joliffe, Trav. p. 7), hypochondria ( 1 Samuel 18:10); but epilepsy, paralysis, and especially cutaneous disorders (See Leprosy), as likewise blindness, were very common. The most destructively raging was the plague (q.v.) Mental diseases (madness, שַּׁגָּעוֹן , of a melancholy type; comp.  1 Samuel 16:23) were prevalent in New-Test. times. (See Possessed).

The venereal disease, which prevailed in the Old World, although in a milder type than since the Crusades (Hensler, Gesch. d. Lustseuche [Altona, 1783]; Sickler, in Augusti's Theol. Blitt. i, 193 sq.), has been thought to be indicated in the form of Gonorrhea virulenta in  Leviticus 15:3 (see Michaelis, Mos. Recht, 4: 282 sq.; Oriental. Biblioth. 22: 2 sq.; Hebenstreit, Curce Sanitatis Publ. Ap. Vett. Exempla [Lips. 1779], ii, 15 sq.) and in  2 Samuel 3:29; but this is a strained interpretation. (See Issue).

Another disease of the private parts is mentioned in 1 Samuel 5 (see Beyer, De Haemorrhoidibus ex Lege Mos. Inmpur. [Lips. 1792]; Sprenge],Pathol. iii, 29). (See Haemorrhoids).

Jehboram's disease ( 2 Chronicles 21:12 sq.) probably was a severe chronic dysentery of a bloody character. The Sept. seems to indicate the Cholera in  Numbers 11:10 by the word זָרָא (seeWamruch, Disquis. Med. Cholerce, Cujus Mentio in Sacris Bibliis Occurrit [Vienna, 1833]); but the term denotes nausea in general. The Mishna occasionally notices various maladies, e.g. in Yoma, 8:6 the bulimmia ( בולמיס ), or greediness, which is a frequent concomitant of other diseases. For the bite of a rabid dog '( כלב שוטה ), the caul of the liver of the animal seems sometimes to have been used as a remedy (see Cohn, De Medicina Talmud. [Vratislav. 1846]; of no account is Goldmann, Diss. de Rel. Med. V. T. [ibid. 1845]). Ill general, see Wedel, Exercitatt. Med.-philolog. Sacrce: et Profanae (Jen. 1686,.1704); Schmidt, Bibl. Moedicus (Ziillichau, 1743); Reinhard, Bibelkrankheiten (Frankf. and Leips. 1767, 3 vols. 8vo) Michaelis, Philologmata Medica (Hal. 1758); Mead, Medica Sacra (Lond. 1749); Ackermann, Erldut. d. Krankheiten im N.T. (in Weisse's Material. Gottesgel. u. Relig. [Gera, 1784], ii, 57 sq.; iii, 124 sq.; 4:73 sq.); Shapler, Short Exposition of Diseases in the Sacred Writings (Lond. 1834). (See Disease); (See Medicine).