Wednesday, March 6, 2024

"A Power came-out from Him": Healing and Exorcisms in Luke

Last Sunday morning as the minister was reading the text I was following along in the Greek and was immediately struck by a statement in Luke 6:19, which only appears in Luke.

The whole crowd sought to touch him because power came-out from him and healed all.

What struck me was that Jesus was not portrayed as the source of the healing of the crowd, rather “a power (dunamis) that came-out from (para) him” brought-about the healing. Jesus was the source for the power but the power itself was the source of the healing. The same phrase appears in Luke 8:46, “a power had come-out from (apo) him,” and that is also the case in Mark’s parallel passage (Mark 5:30), “A power (dunamis) had come-out (ek) from him.” In this latter passage the woman had touched his garment, which triggered the emanation of power from him. Jesus did not know who had touched him and was only aware that power had suddenly emanated from him.1 It seems that the power operated independently of the will of Jesus (Mark 5:30-32).

            It appears that Luke conceived the power in Jesus as the power of God: “And there was a power of the Lord [present] for him to heal” (5:17). Again, it was not his power but the power of the Lord. This sentence is lacking in the parallel passages Mark 2:2 and Matt 9:1. In Luke’s source, Mark (1:25) reads “With authority he commands the unclean spirits,” whereas Luke (4:36) reads “With authority and power he commands the unclean spirits.” One might almost say: Jesus’ authority and God’s power. When Jesus sent out his disciples on a mission, Matthew (10:1) and Mark (6:7) read that Jesus gave them authority over unclean spirits. Luke (9:1), on the other hand, reads: Jesus “gave them authority and power over the unclean spirts.” In his second volume (the book of Acts) of his two-volume work (Luke-Acts) Luke makes a point of emphasizing the role of the power of God active in the community of Jesus followers (1:8; 10:38; compare Luke 24:49).

            In other healing or exorcism stories in Luke, it is not a power emanating independently of Jesus without his intentionally directing it that heals. Jesus heals by a laying on of his hands (4:40; 13:12-13), by a touch (5:13) by words or a word (5:24-25; 6:10; 7:14-15; 8:54; 9:42). In some cases, there is no description as to how he healed (14:4; 17:14). Once, the healing is at a distance but no description of how the healing occurred is given (7:9-10).

            Luke appears to conceive of this power of the Lord present in Jesus but not totally controlled by Jesus. It acts in a similar way to demons, and unclean or evil spirits, when they are exorcised. Luke describes the emergence of the power of the Lord from Jesus with the same expression that he uses in describing the exorcism of a demon or spirit: “it came/went-out from him” (4:35-36, 41; 8:33; 11:14; 11:24). Luke 9:42 does not contain the phrase: “it came/went-out from him,” but such is suggested by 9:40.

These descriptions of the activities of Jesus are simply another reminder2 to the reader that in Luke’s Gospel we are not reading a historical account of Jesus’ career as it actually happened but rather we read what Luke thought had happened from the disparate bits of oral tradition s/he gathered from oral reports, or that s/he had read in the written reports of others (Luke 1:1-4).3 And that brings me to the rubric “Word of God” used to describe the Bible. At its worst, the expression is a learned religious confession elevating the Bible to an iconic status in the religious community. At its best, it is a metaphor converting the human wisdom of its authors and texts into a divine guide for faith and practice. Nevertheless, calling the Bible the “Word of God” dismisses the human role in the production of the Bible.4

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1See W. L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark (NICNT; Eerdmans, 1974), 192-93.

2See Charles Hedrick Blog, Wry Thoughts about Religion: “The Challenge of the Proverb”:

And “Euphemisms in the Bible”:

3Modern scholars have identified three of those written sources as the Gospel of Mark, the hypothetical source Q, and Luke’s special source, dubbed “L” (written or oral is unknown”). See Vincent Taylor about sources in Luke, “Luke, Gospel of” in G. A. Buttrick, et al., The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (4 vols.; Abingdon, 1962), vol. 3. 184-85.

4See Charles Hedrick Blog, Wry Thoughts about Religion: “The Bible’s Story: A Brief Summary”; for the part of human beings in making the Bible a book, see:

And “Inspired Writings”:


  1. I love reading what you write!

  2. Thank you Anonymous! And thanks for posting.

  3. Hi Charlie,

    In the context of your article, please respond to the comments of Bob Funk in his 1999 summary of the Jesus Seminar work, "The Gospel of Jesus," 94, 101, and to the Jesus Seminar's conclusions in The Acts of Jesus.

    "Fellows were dubious that the story as Mark 5:6-11 (and Luke 4:33-37) report it is a description of a specific event. They therefore colored it gray (not historical), AS THEY DID ALL THE OTHER ACCOUNTS OF EXORCISM. Nevertheless, the Seminar concluded that Jesus did practice exorcism and that this story reflects that practice." (94)

    "Jesus probably cured one or more persons of blindness (Mark 8:22-26; Mark 10:46-52 and //s) 8during his career. The kind of blindness he was able to cure was subject to psychosomatic therapy; blindness that had an organic basis would have required magic for a cure and Jesus was probably not a magician." (101)

    Also listed by the Jesus Seminar as historical cures by Jesus are: woman with a fever (Mark 1:21-29 and //s), a leper (Mark 1:40-45 and //s), a paralytic (Mark 2:1-12 and //s), woman with a vaginal hemorrhage (Mark 5:24-34 and //s) [Acts of Jesus: What Did Jesus Really Do?, 1998, 566-567).

    Gene Stecher
    Chambersburg. Pa

  4. Hi Gene, as always, thanks for weighing-in. I may even be a little more skeptical than the seminar vote. I can rationally grant the possibility of a psychosomatic "illness," but if it is an illness that has a physical cause, I am more than dubious. The gray category for these healing stories is a bit more open. The Gray category did not describe something "not historical." Option one "I would not include the narrative information in the primary database, but I might make use of some of the content is determining who Jesus was." Option two: "This information is possible, but unreliable. It lacks supporting evidence." (Acts of Jesus, pp. 36-37).
    I do not think demons exist, hence the exorcisms are simply implausible, as driving out actual evil spirits.

  5. Hi Charlie,

    It seems possible to categorize the exorcisms under "psychosomatic" healing if we give them the modern definition of a type of mental illness. The term psychosomatic, in addition to "blindness" mentioned by Funk, in certain cases might also cover vaginal bleeding, as well as paralysis, as Mark's story connects the paralysis to sin. Fever and leprosy are harder to conceive as having a psychosomatic origin.


  6. I agree. Conceiving the demon-possessed as a type of mental illness, then the possession becomes more plausible as a type of malady that can be seen as psychosomatic, although on-lookers and even Jesus could have thought that a "real demon" was being exorcised.