Healing in the Early Church
The Church's Ministry of Healing and Exorcism from the First to the Fifth Century
Studies in Christian History and Thought
Imprint: Wipf and Stock
210 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 0.42 in
- Published: July 2009
- Published: July 2009
This monograph presents the most comprehensive investigation yet made into the healing activity of the Early Church. In contrast to early skeptics like B. B. Warfield, the author is convinced there was a vigorous healing ministry in the centuries that followed the apostles, though it fluctuated somewhat and changed its mode. Exorcism is prominently attested throughout the period. The pre-Nicene Fathers recognized its great apologetic value as a dramatic demonstration of the superiority of Jesus Christ over pagan gods. Interest in healing miracles per se appears to have been particularly characteristic of the less educated members of the Church and those who were chaste in their devotion to the cause of Christ. Amongst these groups gifts of healing were found, becoming rare it seems by the mid-third century, but well attested again later in monastic circles. In the pre-Nicene period anointing with oil (in the name of Christ) was clearly an avenue of healing and, though mentioned comparatively rarely, may have been widespread as part of the regular ministry of local clergy to the sick. Baptismal healing, physical as well as spiritual, also took place. In the post-Nicene Church the shrines of the martyrs became a prominent locus of healing. Devotion to this cult may have been encouraged by Church Fathers as an acceptable alternative to magical practices. But evidence suggests syncretism did occur and martyr's relics could be invested with quasi-magical awe. Most Fathers were positive about the medical profession, seeing it as an avenue of God's work, and in the late fourth century one pioneered the hospital which then spread throughout the eastern Mediterranean. In an appendix to his work, the author sets down nine "pointers" from the healing activity of the Early Church, and his own experience, to assist those engaged in the healing ministry today.
"Andrew Dauton-Fear presents an exhaustive and factual collection of evidence for the early church's ministries of healing and exorcism in the context of practices in Paganism and Judaism. His appendix 'Some Pointers for Today's Church' offers sober and practical applications. The result is a valuable addition to the literature on the early church and in the relation of Christianity to health care."
- Everett Fergusson, Distinguished Scholar in Residence, Abilene Christian University
"Healing in the Early Church is a scholarly and readable book for our time. The insights it contains will help us to recover the lessons learnt by the early church and apply them to the emerging church of today as a normal and effective part of its mission to build the kingdom of God within our broken and fragmented world."
-Russ Parker, Director, Acorn Christian Healing Foundation
"This is a very welcome high-quality study which deserves a wide readership in circles far beyond the reach of patristic studies, not least, we might hope, in that Majority World where increasingly the center of gravity of global Christianity resides."
- David F. Wright, Professor Emeritus of Patristic and Reformed Christianity, University of Edinburgh