Sunday, April 19, 2015

What about the woman who was bound by Satan for 18 years, Tomsan?


Whenever I tell people that there is no entity called Satan, they would start asking me: What about ____? What about ____? What about ____? All the time reminding me of Michael Jackson's Earth Song!

Many ask me: What about the woman who was bound by Satan for 18 years?
Luk 13:16 And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?
Yes, the word Satan occurs in the verse, no doubt; but, have you considered the context? Let us read the passage starting with the verse where the woman is mentioned for the first time.
Luk 13:11 And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit[G4151] of infirmity[G769] eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself.
Luk 13:12 And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity.
Luk 13:13 And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.
Many translators and scholars have a problem with the expression spirit[G4151] of infirmity[G769] and they decided that the talk is about an evil spirit. But, unfortunately, the word indicated by G769, ἀσθένεια (astheneia), is always infirmity, sickness, or weakness and never evil. So, the premise is wrong! The word combination used for "evil spirit" is G4190 (πονηρός, ponēros) and G4151, as can be verified from Act 19:15, 16.
Act 19:15 And the evil[G4190] spirit[G4151] answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?
Act 19:16 And the man in whom the evil[G4190] spirit[G4151] was leaped on them...

While reading the Bible, we need to bear in mind:

  • that it was originally written in languages like Koine Greek and ancient Hebrew which are obsolete now. Both these languages had only a limited vocabulary.
  • Languages change frequently. (For instance, the English word "gay" used to mean "colorful" and "jovial" till 1940's.) So, a 16th Or 20th century translator may not understand a 1st century text in exactly the same way as a 1st century reader of the text.
  • The Bible is not a scientific treatise. There may be things that are scientifically accurate in the Bible, but it is not about science.

The symptoms of the crippled woman.

I suggest that the woman in question had a mental disorder, though I am not a student of medicine or psychiatry. Let us read about her symptoms from Luk 13:11
Luk 13:11 And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself.
In medical science this condition is called as Conversion Disorder.
Conversion disorder can be triggered by extreme psychological stress, such as injury, death of a loved one, or a dangerous situation. For example, in wartime, some soldiers undergoing heavy bombardment but not wounded were hospitalized because they could not walk or speak after the battle. Conversion disorder under these circumstances has been called shell shock and battle fatigue. In other circumstances, the purpose of conversion disorder appears to be to help the individual avoid or escape from a highly stressful situation. (Read more about Conversion Disorder here.)
Some of us may have come across people who are of perfect health but are unable to move their limbs, after some kind of shocking event. I have a friend who had this disorder after a grenade exploded just beside him. He would not move his limbs or even blink his eyelids. It took another shock for him to come out of the condition. I have heard of a woman from India whose hands became stiff after some shocking incident. She was taken to a clinical psychiatrist, who in a swift move, pulled her dress as if he is going to strip her naked. The woman was startled and resisted with the same hands which were stiff till then!

Imagine yourself as a practically unknown person sitting among a huge crowd awaiting the address of the president of your nation. The president approaches the podium and the first thing he does is to say: I see Mr/Ms <<your name>> sitting in the back row. Then he invites you to the stage and hugs you in the presence of the crowd. Won't you be overwhelmed by emotions and be dumbfounded? What if it were Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the heir of David who did the same to you? I would say that Jesus act of calling the crippled woman and laying hands on her was startling enough to cure her Conversion Disorder.

Did not Jesus say that the woman was bound by Satan?

Yes, He did! Don't you use figures of speech all the time? While Jesus said of the scribes and Pharisees: 'Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel' (Mat 23:24) , could He have meant that they swallow camels? While He said: 'If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire' (Mar 9:47), could He have meant that only one eyed people would enter the Kingdom of God?

What if Jesus' usage of the word Satan in the verse a figure of speech? Does not the Bible use figures of speech extensively?

Consider this: 

Healing the crippled woman is not as difficult as raising the dead. Does it really take the only begotten Son of God to raise the dead? Have not Elijah (1Ki 17:17-24) and Elisha (2Ki 4:35) raised the dead? Have not the prophets healed the sick?

During the days of Jesus, Jews claimed that they were the children of Abraham (Joh 8:39). It is also said that they are the children of the prophets (Act 3:25).

If prophets of Old Testament could raise the dead and heal the sick, why these children of Abraham and prophets, why they couldn't heal the crippled woman? (You may ask me whether I can heal. For the time being I can tell you that I am not living in an age where genuine, provable healings happen.)

Were there not eminent persons and scholars in Judea during the days of Jesus? What was stopping someone like Caiaphas, Annas, Nicodemus or Gamaliel from addressing the crippled woman and healing her? Could they have even made an attempt?

It appears that the poor were ignored in the Jewish temples and synagogues. (Jas 2:2, 3; Luk 18:10-14). Probably, this crippled woman was seated in the back rows or in a corner. Had the elders of the synagogue cared for her, probably, she would not have suffered as a cripple for 18 years.

Whatever stopped them from doing good to her, I dare to say, was the Satan. It could be their religious elitism, their sense of self importance. The word Satan means: an adversary and someone who opposes.
1Th 2:14 For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews:
1Th 2:15 Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men:
If it be the will of God, we will go on to prove that their first century religion which was contrary to God and men was often mentioned as the Satan in the New Testament.


The symptoms of the crippled woman is that of someone having Conversion Disorder, which is a psychological disorder that can be cured by appropriate treatment, which rules out the necessity of a celestial monster to cause the condition. An expression of care and compassion could have healed her. The usage of the word Satan is either a figure of speech OR Jesus' oblique reference to the religious elitism of the Jews.

In my opinion the expression "spirit[G4151] of infirmity[G769]" should have been translated as "mental disorder".

In Christ,
Tomsan Kattackal

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