Jesus as a Healer: Investigating The Healing Miracles of the Gospel of John and Their Background

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Theology (Th.M)


Historical Theology


In order for readers today to understand how Jewish people in the first century viewed Jesus' miracles, one must examine the Old Testament prophetic healing and first- century backgrounds. This thesis will situate Jesus' miracles in the Gospel of John within their Old Testament background of prophetic healing and within the culture of healing in first-century Palestine.

To accomplish this, this paper considers the following questions: What are the Old Testament and first-century backgrounds to Jesus' healing miracles? What is particular to the miracle accounts in John? How does Jesus fit the mold of a first-century Palestinian healer, or does he at all? What does the background of Jesus' miracles reveal about how those in the first century saw him? Finally, how should readers today see Jesus as a healer in the Gospel narratives? The chapter on the Old Testament includes an in-depth word study of XEl1, the Hebrew word for healing, an examination of healing in general in the Old Testament and healing in the ancient Near East, and an evaluation of two individual narratives of Elisha's prophetic healing. Another chapter addresses Greco-Roman healing along with several Jewish aspects of healing. It delineates the categories of physicians, folk healers and remedies, and magic. The final chapter examines the Gospel narratives of healing in John, their particularities, how the miracle accounts are related to John's purpose, and an evaluation of the narratives against the previously discussed backgrounds.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus performed healing miracles to demonstrate the need to return to God's covenant, and to reveal the love God still had for his people and the care he wished to provide for them. John included signs, of which these healing miracles were a part, because he believed they revealed God's glory and Jesus' divinity. Therefore, those in the first century would have noticed that he was similar to a folk healer, but his purpose for healing related directly to God's purpose for healing disease in the Old Testament. This paper will argue that Elisha took on the kingly responsibility for caring for his people when the Israelite king walked away from God. The purposes of Jesus' healing miracles are closely related to this fusion of prophet and king. In a time when the poor Jewish people of Palestine did not have access to means of healing, Jesus was a healer who could heal their diseases; he took on the prophetic, kingly role of caring for his people.


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