The Healing Tradition of the New Testament

By Douglas Ellory Pett

An analysis of healing in the New Testament and in early Christianity that aims to rediscover the spiritual basis of the healing ministry of the Church.

ISBN: 9780718893873


Healing is crucial to Christian theology and ministry and has a great evangelistic power. Over the last fifty years, there has been a radical shift in social attitudes towards sickness and healing. Though there has always been a clear ministry for spiritual and pastoral care, the responsibilities of those ministering to the sick – and even the definition of sickness itself – have been challenged. Meanwhile, the popularity of ‘alternative’ healing and magical cults has grown. There is certainly no lack of accounts of those who have ‘miraculously’ recovered from ‘incurable diseases’, even at the point of death – scientific proof, however, is often wanting.

It is frequently said that ‘healing is central to the Gospel’. In this book, Douglas Ellory Pett asserts that although this is inaccurate, the statement raises essential questions: how did the early Christians interpret the healings of the New Testament? Was the interpretation of the various writers always the same and, if not, which should be accepted? Did healing continue in the early Christian communities? What is the theological basis for the Church’s healing sacraments? The answers to these difficult questions are interwoven with our contemporary understanding of medical science and of society.

The Healing Tradition of the New Testament is a scholarly analysis of the New Testament texts about the healing ministry of Jesus and an examination of the evidence for healing in the first four centuries of the Early Church. By returning to these earliest sources, Dr Pett reveals the original spiritual significance of the healing miracles of Jesus. He shows how this understanding of the true healing tradition can enrich the practice of Christianity today, restoring the health of the Church, society and the individual.

Book of the Month for The American Journal of Biblical Theology, Febuary 2016.

Additional information

Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Pages 194

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Trade Information LPOD

About the Author

Dr Douglas Ellory Pett (1924-2005) was a clergyman, theologian and hospital chaplain. He was the sub-warden for the Guild of St Raphael and a regular contributor to their journal, Chrism. His other published works include The Parks and Gardens of Cornwall (1998).


Foreword by Revd Prof Helen L. Leathard
Editorial Preface by Mary Pett

1. Introduction
2. Healing in the Earliest Sources
3. Healing in Mark’s Gospel
4. Healing and Mighty Works in the Pauline Epistles
5. Matthew and Luke’s Revision of Mark
6. Healing in Matthew, Luke and John
7. Later Developments
8. Summary of the Tradition
9. Healing Today
10. The Principles in Practice

Afterword by Bishop George Hacker
Select Bibliography


Endorsements and Reviews

This masterly book makes a very substantial and timely contribution to the theological background to our understanding and practice of healing ministry within the church. Here, surely, is a worthwhile stimulus to further study and debate because, following a brief consideration of psychosomatic, sociological and relational impacts on health, Pett raises questions about current assumptions and practices in the Church’s ministry of healing that need to be addressed.
From the Foreword by Revd Prof Helen L. Leathard

This is a thorough and helpful survey of what the New Testament says about healing as a sign of the coming of God’s Kingdom. We badly need this kind of patient exposition: the Church can easily be caught between waves of uncritical optimism about healing and a sceptical and rather sterile attitude. Here we have a resource that will take the discussion to a deeper and far more informed level.
Dr Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury

[A] substantial and scholarly work on the healing tradition of the New Testament. … Here, surely, is a stimulus to further study and debate because Pett raises questions about current assumptions and practices on the Church’s ministry of healing.
Chrism, Vol 52, No 2

I began the book with misgivings and doubts, but was increasingly impressed. … Few books have attracted from me so many pencilled scrawls in the margins, most of them meaning ‘Amen to that!’
The Rev Dr Neil Richardson, in Methodist Recorder, 29 January 2016

…I feared that this might be a book by a well-meaning former hospital chaplain that has little relevance for the healing ministry today. I was wrong! Dr Pett obviously spent his retirement working carefully through the Gospel healing stories, unravelling the various strata in chronological order and reaching conclusions that are often origninal and immensely challenging.
Robin Gill, in Theology, Vol 119, No 4