In 1860 Phineas Quimby wrote in an essay on “Jesus’ Healing and His Mission” :
“Suppose a person believes he has a tumor in his left side. His knowledge (or error) believes in the idea of tumors, independent of his knowledge. He thus admits an error to begin with. Now his knowledge gives direction to the matter, and the matter is formed. This is proof that there is such a thing as a tumor. No one will deny that one is a phenomenon brought about by false knowledge, and true knowledge (or science) can destroy that tumor (or idea) and establish a knowledge of truth that will prevent a person from ever being deceived into that error again. All will admit that a person can be deceived into a belief and his belief make him sick. They will also admit that to correct his error (or belief) will make him well.
“This process is all that Jesus ever intended to convey to the world. This is a science and can be learned. Its opposers are ignorance and error. Its science is in unlearning what ignorance and superstition have bequeathed to man. Our belief makes ideas out of our identity of a body. Our bodies are nothing but an idea of matter that is under the control of error (or false knowledge), and happiness or misery is the wages of our investigation. If truth (or science) reigns – all goes well. If error reigns – the wages is death; for all the acts of error lead to death. Death is an idea (or matter), and all the acts of science destroy death and lead to life and happiness.”
When we speak of “Jesus’ method of healing”, what do we mean? To answer this question, we must examine the biblical evidence. None of it seems to support Quimby’s conclusions.
In the earliest records we have, the genuine letters of Paul, there is no mention of Jesus performing any miracles let alone healing anyone. Surely, if there had been any talk of Jesus healing, Paul would have mentioned this at least once. This leads to a conclusion that the stories must have developed later.,
Jesus and his followers were Jews. Following the crucifixion, Spong concludes that the followers went to their synagogue on the Sabbath and met together on the next day. At these Sunday meetings they began building stories relating their beloved leader to the Jewish heroes according to the stories they had heard in the previous day’s liturgy. In this way, stories of Jesus performing miracles matching those, in particular, of Moses and Elijah/Elisha developed.
It is quite possible, though not necessarily so, that Jesus was an itinerant healer. From the above indicators, we must conclude that the biblical stories provide unreliable (at best) evidence of what healing he performed or how he achieved it. We cannot know Jesus’ method of healing from the gospel accounts.
What can we know? We must look beyond the bible itself to find any clues.
Crossan, following the distinctions of medical anthropology, differentiates between sickness, illness and disease:
- disease refers to a malfunctioning of the biological and/or psychological functions.
- illness refers to the psychosocial experience and meaning of perceived disease.
- sickness is a condition of society that can exacerbate illness and disease.
With these distinctions, anthropologists speak of curing disease and healing illness. “Doctors are better at curing, Shamans at healing.”
It seems to me that, through his teaching, Jesus might have brought about healing of illness amongst those who listened to his message. This does seem present in several of the miracle stories which, even if not literally true, might reflect an actuality. Quite clearly, Jesus’ message of a new way of being had the potential of removing the sickness from the Roman dominated society in which he lived.
Jesus taught that the Divine Realm is within each one of us. In New Thought that concept is developed as affirmative prayer. Through affirmative prayer, healing takes place. Was this Jesus’ method of healing? Perhaps, but we cannot know.
Funk, Robert W., and The Jesus Seminar, The Acts of Jesus: What Did Jesus Really Do? (HarperSanFrancisco, 1998)
Spong, John Shelby, Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World (HarperOne, 2011)
Spong, John Shelby, Resurrection: Myth or Reality (Harper Collins, 1994)
 Spong, John Shelby, Did Jesus Really Do Miracles? (email Newsletter, 17 April 2014)
Crossan, John Dominic, The Birth of Christianity: DiscoveringWhat Happened in the Years after the Execution of Jesus (HarperSanFrancisco, 1999)
Crossan op. cit.