Did Jesus, in the Memory of His Earliest Followers, Ever Nurse the Sick?

Author Faculty (Discipline)


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Book Chapter

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Publication Details

This book chapter was originally published as:

Thompson, S. (2018). Did Jesus, in the memory of his earliest followers, ever nurse the sick? In S. Porter, & A. Pitts (Eds.), Christian origins and the establishment of the early Jesus movement (pp. 196-223). Boston, MA: Brill.

ISBN: 9789004372740

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004372740


220401 Christian Studies (incl. Biblical Studies and Church History)

Avondale Research Centre

Spirituality and Worship Research Centre

Reportable Items



An increasing stream of recent Gospel scholarship designates Jesus a healer.1 “Jesus should be put in the general category of being a healer, even though an equivalent noun is not actually used of him in the Gospels.”2 A widespread and almost unchallenged assumption in this scholarship is that accounts of Jesus’s healings were intended by Gospel writers and editors to be read and understood as miraculous. In the words of Maurice Casey, “The study of Jesus’s healing ministry has traditionally been dominated by the Christian agenda of miracle.”3 But was this what they intended? This pair of assumptions, that Jesus was presented primarily as a healer and that his healings were to be understood as miraculous, dominates current scholarship, to the neglect of other aspects of Jesus’s engagement with the sick. In his recent summary of this approach, Justin Meggitt declared, “Although subsequent generations of Christians would become almost fixated by Jesus’s reputation as a miracle worker … there are good reasons to look closely at the earliest records of this activity.”4 This chapter takes up Meggitt’s call for that closer look. It poses and answers the question, “did Jesus, in the memory of his earliest followers, sometimes administer basic nursing care to the sick, rather than always healing them?” While Synoptic healing pericopes remain under intense scholarly scrutiny, the thesis of this chapter, that Jesus sometimes provided basic nursing care for the sick, is not addressed. This chapter’s focus is thus very specific. It does not inquire whether the sick whom Jesus encountered were healed, either “miraculously” or “naturally.” Its goal is to answer the question, “did Jesus, in the memory of his earliest followers, ever provide basic nursing care for the sick?” After reporting the results of a fresh examination of selected Synoptic Gospel passages against their most relevant Jewish and Hellenistic backgrounds, the chapter will then conclude there is some limited Gospel evidence that, in the memory of his early followers, Jesus on occasion provided basic nursing care for the sick.


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