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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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σεληνιαζομενους , lunatici, Matthew 4:24 . Thus those sick persons were called, who were thought to suffer most severely at the changes of the moon; for example, epileptical persons, or those who have the falling sickness, insane persons, or those tormented with fits of morbid melancholy. Mad people are still called lunatics, from an ancient, but now almost exploded, opinion, that they are much influenced by that planet. A sounder philosophy has taught us, that, if there be any thing in it, it must be accounted for, not in the manner the ancients imagined, nor otherwise than by what the moon has in common with other heavenly bodies, occasioning various alterations in the gravity of our atmosphere, and thereby affecting human bodies. However, there is considerable reason to doubt the fact; and it is certain that the moon has no perceivable influence on our most accurate barometers. It has been the fashion to decry and ridicule the doctrine of demoniacal possessions, and to represent the patients merely as lunatics or madmen. And some think that this is countenanced by the calumny of the unbelieving Jews concerning Christ, "He hath a demon, and is mad," John 10:20 ; both possession and madness often producing the same symptoms of convulsions, paralysis, &c, Matthew 17:15-18 . But that they were distinct diseases, may be collected from the following considerations:

1. The evangelists, enumerating the various descriptions of patients, distinguish δαιμονιζομενοι , demoniacs, σεληνιαζομενοι , lunatics, and παραλυτικοι , paralytics, from persons afflicted with other kinds of diseases, Matthew 4:24 ; Mark 1:34 ; Luke 6:17-18 .

2. That a real dispossession took place, seems to follow from the number of these impure inmates. Mary of Magdala, or the Magdalene, was afflicted with seven demons, Mark 16:9 . "A legion" besought Christ's permission to enter into a numerous herd of two thousand swine; which they did, and drove the whole herd down a precipice into the sea, where they were all drowned. This remarkable case is noticed by the three evangelists most circumstantially, Matthew 8:28 ; Mark 5:1 ; Luke 8:26 .

3. The testimony of the demoniacs to Christ was not that of madmen or idiots. It evinced an intimate knowledge both of his person and character, which was hidden from the "wise and prudent" of the nation, the chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees. Their language was, "What hast thou to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to torment us before the time?" "I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God:" "thou art the Christ, the Son of God, the Son of the most high God," Matthew 8:29 ; Mark 1:24 ; Mark 3:11 ; Luke 4:34-41 . And they repeatedly besought him not to torment them, not to order them to depart into the abyss, Luke 8:28-31 . See DEMONIACS .

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Lunatics'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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