Exorcising a boy possessed by a demon

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Exorcising a boy possessed by a demon from Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, 15th century.

The exorcism of a boy possessed by a demon is one of the miracles attributed to Jesus reported in the synoptic Gospels, involving the healing of a demonically possessed boy through exorcism. It appears first in the Gospel of Mark and is repeated, slightly amended, in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. In the Gospel narrative, this healing takes place following the Transfiguration.

Mark's account (Mark 9:17-29) describes how Jesus is surrounded by a crowd, one of whom asks for help for his son, who 'has a spirit that makes him unable to speak'. He explains that the spirit makes him foam at the mouth, grind his teeth, and become rigid. He tells Jesus that he had asked the disciples to cure the boy, but they had been unable to do so. Jesus responds by describing his followers as a 'faithless generation', and asks 'how much longer must I be among you?'.

When he is brought to Jesus, the boy immediately experiences a convulsion. Jesus asks the boy's father how long this has affected the child; the father replies that this had been since his childhood and asks Jesus to help if he can. Jesus tells him that everything is possible to one who believes, and the man responds, 'I believe; help my unbelief!'.

Jesus then commands the spirit to leave the boy, and it does. Seeing that he looks like a corpse, many in the crowd think he is dead, but Jesus helps him to his feet.

Afterwards, the disciples ask Jesus why they were unable to cure the boy and he explains, 'This kind can come out only through prayer'. [Some sources add, 'and through fasting'][1]

The version in Matthew's gospel (Matthew 17:14-18) is considerably shorter, and drops the reference to a crowd and (in most versions) the need for prayer. It also specifies that the boy is "moonstuck" (Greek: σεληνιάζεται, selēniazetai), translated as "a lunatic" in the Geneva Bible and the King James Version ("lunatick") and as "an epileptic" in the New King James Version and the Revised Standard Version. Strong's Concordance states that the condition of epilepsy was "supposedly influenced by the moon".[2]

The version in Luke's gospel is also shortened, but here mention of the crowd is retained.[3]

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