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Healing in the Bible

Theological Insight for Christian Ministry

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"Gaiser generates lively exegetical conversations by offering fresh insights on tough questions. . . . A careful, balanced, and imaginative work for anyone interested in Christian views of healing."--Martin W. Mittelstadt, Religious Studies Review
What does the Bible say about healing? In this volume, respected biblical scholar Frederick Gaiser offers a close theological reading of biblical texts on health and healing, engaging questions of contemporary theological and pastoral concern. Gaiser considers fifteen key Old and New Testament passages, examining their significance for the church's understanding of healing and its ministry today. He explores issues such as God's role in healing; the relationship between healing and prayer; the place of healing in biblical theology; God's healing and medical science; the healing work of Jesus; healing, salvation, and cure; the relationship between sickness and sin; and healing under the sign of the cross. The final chapter draws together insights from the various chapters and summarizes Gaiser's findings.

Healing in the Bible offers fresh insights for anyone interested in Christian views on healing, from professors and students in Bible, theology, and pastoral ministry courses to thoughtful lay readers and pastors.
1. Introduction and Method
2. "O LORD, Heal Me": The Primal Witness of Psalm 6
3. "I Am the LORD, Your Healer": The God of Healing (Exodus 15:22-27)
4. "Moses Made a Serpent of Bronze": Healing and Culture (Numbers 21:4-9)
5. "Hezekiah Wept Bitterly": Healing and Prayer (2 Kings 20:1-11; Isaiah 38:1-22)
6. "Please Accept a Present": The Cost of Healing (2 Kings 5:1-27)
7. "No Health in My Bones": Reflecting on Illness (Psalm 38)
8. "What God Is So Great as Our God?" The Healing Community (Psalm 77)
9. "Hannah Conceived and Bore a Son": The Place of Healing in Biblical Theology (1 Samuel 1:1-2:10)
10. "The Sensible Will Not Despise Them": Healing, Medicine, Human Wisdom, and God (Sirach 38:1-15)
11. "I Command You, Come Out of Him": Jesus and the Demons (Mark 9:14-29)
12. "He Spat on the Ground and Made Mud": Jesus the Shaman? (John 9:1-41)
13. "If I but Touch His Clothes": Healing and Touch (Mark 5:21-43)
14. "Your Faith Has Made You Well": Healing, Salvation, and Cure (Luke 17:11-19)
15. "Your Sins Are Forgiven . . . Stand Up and Walk": On Sickness and Sin (Mark 2:1-12)
16. "What I Have I Give You": Healing in the Name of Jesus (Acts 3:1-26)
17. "By His Bruises We Are Healed": Healing under the Sign of the Cross (Isaiah 53:4-5)
18. Healing in the Bible: A Summary


"Frederick Gaiser has written a book that everyone interested in the intersection of theology and health needs to read. This is the work of a skilled exegete who is intimately familiar with the biblical stories of God's healing acts. Gaiser reminds us that all of our theological reflection concerning health ought to begin with and account for the biblical narrative. I look forward to the opportunity to use this book in my own teaching and scholarship."--Joel James Shuman, coauthor, Reclaiming the Body; associate professor of theology, King's College

"Frederick Gaiser has a great instinct and gift for moving to and fro in the space between the contemporary world and the biblical text. He began this book in Africa, and although he does not keep referring to that, one can see the way it shaped and resourced the 'conversation' between our contemporary world(s) and the Bible's world. He keeps chewing at the text, seeking to be fully open to it, precisely because it comes from a different world and thus has the power to illumine our world. Every chapter is illuminating."--John Goldingay, David Allan Hubbard Professor of Old Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary

"What an enormous grasp of issues of health Frederick Gaiser demonstrates in this book as he moves easily between stories of Zimbabwe, biblical exegesis, and applications for twenty-first-century Christians. Gaiser's volume on the wide variety of literature in the Bible about healing is obviously the result of many years of committed research and contemplation; readers will be amazed at the range of his erudition and the depth of his faith. I am very grateful for his insightfully inspiring work."--Marva J. Dawn, author, Being Well When We're Ill; teaching fellow in spiritual theology, Regent College

"Fred Gaiser herein offers a collection of insightful essays on the difficult issues related to healing. These chapters bear the marks of long and deep reflection. Students and professionals alike will benefit from these close and clear studies. They ring true to the scriptural texts, are sensitive to the pastoral context, and bring a sure theological hand throughout."--Terence E. Fretheim, Elva B. Lovell Professor of Old Testament, Luther Seminary

"With his careful analysis of healing stories in the Bible, Professor Gaiser has given us a great gift. He reminds us that healing is always tied up in the mystery and wonder of relationships--with our self, with our community, and with God--and that health depends on the wholeness of both individuals and communities. As we work to reform and improve health care in America, we would do well to keep these lessons in mind."--James F. Hart, MD, director of the Executive Program in Public Health Practice and assistant professor, University of Minnesota School of Public Health

"Healing in the Bible is a bold, countercultural word for people of faith who struggle to understand how God heals even as they live in a society preoccupied with infinite expectations of health and health care. Traditional wisdom about healing from Zimbabwe, such as 'I am well if you are well,' is woven together with biblical insights about health and healing in new and fresh ways. Throughout this appreciative reading of biblical stories of healing, one theme is constant: the cross will color all Christian ideas of health and healing. Healing in the Bible is a book that informs and inspires and even heals as it transforms."--Herbert Anderson, research professor of practical theology, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and Graduate Theological Union

"In this book, Fred Gaiser, a first-rate scholar with a pastoral heart, offers no simplistic answers to complex questions about healing, but he will make you think. His comments are sane, balanced, and scriptural to the core and remind the church of its necessary healing ministry."--Klyne Snodgrass, Paul W. Brandel Professor of New Testament Studies, North Park Theological Seminary

The Author

  1. Frederick J. Gaiser

    Frederick J. Gaiser

    Frederick J. Gaiser (DTheol, University of Heidelberg) is professor of Old Testament at Luther Seminary, where he has taught for over thirty years. He is also the editor of Word & World, one of the top theological journals in North America.

    Continue reading about Frederick J. Gaiser


"This is an excellent work that reflects on healing in the Bible and its potential meaning for the healing ministry today. . . . [Gaiser ] draws a summary of the fundamental principles and values about healing that are reflected in the Scriptures and connects them in a thoughtful and practical way to the Christian ministry of healing today, both in its professional and scientific expressions and in more ordinary therapeutic encounters."--Donald Senior, CP, The Bible Today

"Gaiser generates lively exegetical conversations by offering fresh insights on tough questions. . . . Given the current political tensions from health care to global suffering, Gaiser produces a careful, balanced, and imaginative work for anyone interested in Christian views of healing."--Martin W. Mittelstadt, Religious Studies Review

"The author is at once a person of mature faith and a courageous thinker, comfortable with nuance, paradox, and mystery. . . . [Gaiser's] deep knowledge of Scripture (particularly of the Psalms and healing narratives); his professional experiences as pastor, teacher, writer, and editor; his early years as a pharmacist; his time in Zimbabwe; and his decidedly narrative approach to human experience here combine to provide the confidence needed to ask tough questions--historical, pastoral, and theological. . . . The book's clear organization provides a road map for readers who are not themselves biblical scholars, and helpful markers for those who are. The footnotes are themselves an education, and both subject and scriptural indexes are helpful in tracking down particular themes or biblical references. . . . Gaiser's writing is not only readable but frequently poetic. . . . I see no reason why this book could not be either read as a whole or used, chapter by chapter, in personal or group Bible study. . . . This text is more than a work of scholarship--it offers precisely the insight for Christian ministry suggested by its subtitle. . . . How refreshing it is to discover a scholarly book that consistently reflects both trust in God's promises and respect for scientific inquiry."--Janet L. Ramsey, Word & World

"Gaiser, a skilled scripture interpreter at Luther Seminary, offers a sober, accessible review of the biblical materials pertinent to our thinking about healing. . . . Gaiser is not a biblicist who wants to replace modern scientific medicine with faith healing. But he does insist that scientific medicine addresses just one dimension of a mystery of healing that invites other perspectives, hosts other dimensions, and admits of thick, complex thought that has a theological aspect. . . . When I read this book, it seemed to me a review of what I already knew. But I had never put what I knew together in the way Gaiser has. Thus the book is a consolidation of awarenesses that are urgent for the future health of our society."--Walter Brueggemann, Christian Century

"Weaving together careful biblical exegesis, insightful theological reflection, and practical pastoral awareness, [Gaiser] challenges readers to engage both the blessing and the burden found within biblical accounts of healing. . . . In reflecting on the selected biblical texts, he does not shy away from tensions and contradictions but rather views them as contributing to a more holistic view of healing. Readers engaged in pastoral ministry will appreciate Gaiser's ongoing attention to the church and to practical application for Christians in the twenty-first century. . . . He challenges congregations to incorporate rites of healing into their communal lives of worship in theologically sound ways, offering concrete suggestions for doing so. Throughout, he attends to ways in which illness and healing affect individuals, families, and communities with pastoral sensitivity and insight that will benefit anyone involved in the ministry of caregiving."--Jenny McDevitt, Interpretation

"One senses that this book has resulted from a lifetime contemplating these issues and this encourages the reader also to stop and think through implications offered, having benefitted from a wiser mind who has seriously considered some difficult questions before putting his thoughts into print. . . . The texts chosen become launch pads for discussions that lend themselves to sermons or at least to the contemplations that precede the best of sermons. . . . This is a valuable book for Pentecostals. . . . Precisely because of [Gaiser's] different context, Pentecostals may learn much to their advantage from his healing praxis and his theological reflections. . . . This is a book that should be read one chapter at a time and then time be given to reflect on what one has read, on one's own or with others."--Keith Warrington, Pneuma

"Whether he's digging through Bible texts he loves and knows so well, or tip-toeing through aspects of the current health-care debate in the United States, Gaiser leaves us in no doubt that spiritual healing is alive and well among 21st-century Christians."--Kim Shippey, Christian Science Sentinel