Maybe the Bible writers got it wrong, and just didn’t know how to diagnose mental illness, so they blamed it on demons. That seems to be the consensus in the scientific and skeptic community, but is it true. A reader wrote in with a question that I’m going to go ahead and address for everyone.
Before we get started, if you have a question about anything in the Bible, feel free to use the “Ask Anything” page to submit your question. I get 6-10 questions per day, so please be patient when waiting for your reply.
“These are some of the things I think are possibly going on where these demons are concerned. I truly believe there are also a lot more people that are mentally ill/demon possessed than what most people realize or wish to admit. You never read of a bible story of anyone being mentally ill, they are possessed with a deaf, dumb, blind, or mute spirit or a mean evil spirit and some of them get healed, some not.” – Michele (website reader)
Michele left this comment on a previous post, Demons – Where Are They Coming From, so I thought I’d make an attempt at addressing it. I’ve actually heard many non-Christians make the argument that demon possession is just mental illness. The part I want to address for Michele is the statement that we don’t see a story of any mentally ill people in the Bible. I believe that the Bible does make a distinction between the two in the Gospels.
“And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.” – Matthew 4:24
Here in Matthew, if we read carefully, we see that those with divers (many) diseases and torments, those possessed, those that were lunatic, and those with palsy were brought to Jesus for healing. The Greek makes a very clear distinction between physical ailments and demonic possession. Here are the words and their meanings in Greek.
- Sick: kakos – sick, ill
- Diseases: nosos – disease, infirmity, sickness
- Torments: basanos – tortured (physically or mentally)
- Possessed With Devils: daimonizomai – under the power of an evil spirit.
- Lunatic: seléniazomai, which means “controlled by the moon”. It also referred to people with epilepsy.
- Palsy: paralutikos – paralyzed
We can see that the above list is not just lumped into the category of demonic possession. The Bible clearly makes a distinction between the physically sick, tortured (physically or mentally), mental illness, paralysis, and demonic possession.
This is just a little bit of “ammunition” for those that may encounter the argument that people back then didn’t know the difference between demonic possession and mental illness. They definitely did.
For a more in depth study on demon possession, check out my book, Beyond Flesh and Blood: The Ultimate Guide To Angels and Demons.
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