Illness & Healing

The Bible sees folk healing as idolatrous.

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Ancient Judaism acclaimed God as source of health and illness, with sickness a divine-mandated punishment for individual and communal sins.

In the Bible, God is viewed as responsible for all healing, and the magical healing practices of the surrounding nations were associated with idolatry. Over time the physician was increasingly accepted as a healer who worked in partnership with God, although elements of folk healing always existed alongside.

The Hebrew prophets understood "healing" to be both physical and spiritual. Some spoke of individuals being healed through a return to God, mediated by those who understood the connection between healing and God--the priests and prophets. They would invoke God's help through sacrifice, prayer, repentance, and fasting as well as priestly purification rituals.

Traditional scholarship contrasted these biblical healing practices with the pagan exorcism practices of local cultures whose goal was to combat evil powers through jewish healthcarespells or incantations. Recent scholarship, however, contends that Israelite communities influenced by Egyptian, Midianite, or Roman cultures used local healing practices, including magical spells, incantation, and exorcism.

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