Healing in the New Testament: Insights from Medical and Mediterranean Anthropology

Article excerpt

Healing In the New Testament: Insights from Medical and Mediterranean Anthropology

by John J. Pilch

Fortress, Minneapolis, 2000. 180 pp. $18.00. ISBN 08006-3178-1.

IN THIS COMPILATION OF ARTICLES, Pilch proposes a synthesis of medical anthropology with Mediterranean anthropology as a hermeneutical tool for the study of the canonical healing stories in the Gospels and Acts. Western biomedical ethnocentrism has failed to provide a satisfactory theory for understanding the healthcare system of biblical antiquity. Medical anthropology is a relatively new discipline. Its goal is to enable meaningful cross-cultural comparisons, and in this study, cross-temporal as well (pp. 22-23). Medical anthropology relies on social-scientific criticism to expand linguistic and literary tools. Pilch applies his theory to examples such as leprosy and fever. He asserts that the healing of illness is a cultural phenomenon, while the curing of disease is a biological or psychological process (p. 13). According to these definitions, healing always occurs in the New Testament accounts, whereas curing rarely happens.

Pilch's book introduces a welcome new approach to the study of the charismatic element of the Jesus movement. …