Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Satan Myth: "Lunatick" boy and the "dumb spirit".


While we read the Bible, we flow with the narrative and our own preconceived ideas, rather than approaching the scriptures studiously. One of the outstanding examples for this tendency is that of the passage where Jesus heals a boy supposedly possessed by a "dumb spirit".

Let us gather the information about the boy from all the three synoptic gospels.
Mat 17:15 Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.
Mar 9:17 And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit;
Mar 9:18 And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away:...
Luk 9:39 And, lo, a spirit taketh him, and he suddenly crieth out; and it teareth him that he foameth again, and bruising him hardly departeth from him.

  • The event happened as Jesus and disciples were returning after the transfiguration.
  • It is the same father and the same son.
  • There is no uniformity in the words uttered by the boy's father or Jesus, across the 3 synoptic gospels.
  • In Mat 17:15 the boy's father says his son is a lunatick (moonstruck).
  • In Mar 9:17 the boy's father says that his son has a dumb spirit.
  • Luk 9:39 almost matches Mar 9:17.
Now, let us note down the symptoms of the boy's disease:
  • he falls into fire and water
  • he foams (drools)
  • he gnashes (grinds) his teeth
  • he pineth away (becomes rigid)
  • he screams
  • he injures and bruises himself (by falling down)

If this list of symptoms is presented to a qualified medical practitioner, it is more than likely that you will be informed that the boy is an epileptic. It is not just a coincidence that Bible translations like ESV, ASV, ISV and RV have "epileptic" instead of "lunatic" in Mat 17:15.

About lunatic & epileptic.

None of the educated folks living in this 
21st century would consider epilepsy as a mental disorder. There were many great thinkers, emperors, writers and musicians who were epileptics. Some of the familiar names would be Socrates, Julius Caesar, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Susan Boyle and Vladimir Lenin.

For us a lunatic is different from an epileptic. Whereas epilepsy is a neurological disorder, lunacy (insanity) is a psychological disorder. This was not the case with the ancient people.

The English word lunatic is derived from the Latin word "Luna" which means moon. Likewise, the Greek word translated as lunatick - selēniazomai (G4583) - is derived from another Greek word selēnē (G4582) which also means moon.

In ancient times it was believed that bouts of epilepsy happens due to the influence of moon or moon goddess (selēnē) and hence the name selēniazomai(lunatic). Modern medical science do not see much connection between epilepsy and the phases of moon.

Yes, the boy's father said that the boy had a dumb spirit, and it is said that Jesus cast out the spirit from the boy. Knowing that there are no accepted, standardized cure for epilepsy till recently, it is not a small feat that Jesus could heal an epileptic in the first century, without any medicine or any equipment. In fact, it is the undeniable proof that Jesus is the Son of God.

If epilepsy has anything to do with devil, how can it be healed by lobotomy (removal of a lobe or part of the brain)? How do the doctors know in which of the lobes of the brain devil is hiding himself? OR is there a fixed place in the brain where devil hides?


No matter whether devil, demon or Satan is mentioned, the boy was cured of his epilepsy, and epilepsy is a neurological disorder and not demon possession. Please, bear in mind that the Bible is not a scientific treatise. The usage of the words lunatic, dumb spirit and devil in the passage has more to do with the prevalent superstitions among the contemporary people, than with the existence of devil.

In Christ,
Tomsan Kattackal

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