Healing the centurion's servant

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Healing the Centurion's servant by Paolo Veronese, 16th century.

Healing the centurion's servant is one of the miracles said to have been performed by Jesus of Nazareth as related in the Gospels of Matthew [1] and Luke. The story is not recounted by either John or Mark.[2]

According to these accounts, a Roman centurion asked Jesus for his help because his boy servant was ill. Jesus offered to go to the centurion's house to perform a healing, but the centurion suggested that Jesus perform the healing at a distance instead, "Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed," Matthew 8:8 (NIV); which he did. Jesus commented approvingly of the strong religious faith displayed by the soldier.


Matthew 8:5–13 (TNVI)

Luke 7:1–10 (TNVI)


The story of the Centurion does not exist in the Gospel of Mark. The accepted theory is that material not in Mark but found in both Matthew and Luke came from a now lost source known as Q. This passage is an anomaly as Q is believed to have been a sayings gospel, a list of sermons and quotations from Jesus with no other material, but this story includes background details. It would also be the only miracle story that originated in Q. One possibility is that only the dialogue was in Q, and both Matthew and Luke added the background details from a shared oral history.[3]

The Gospel of John narrates a similar account of Jesus healing the son of a royal official at Capernaum at a distance in John 4:46–54. Some, such as in Fred Craddock in his commentary on Luke,[4] treats them as the same miracle. However, in his analysis of Matthew, R. T. France presents linguistic arguments against the equivalence of pais and son and considers these two separate miracles.[5] Merrill C. Tenney in his commentary on John[6] and Orville Daniel in his Gospel harmony[7] also consider them two different incidents.


Only Luke 7:2 refers to the servant as doulos, unambiguously meaning "servant". Elsewhere the term he uses can be translated from the Greek as pais - which has a number of more ambiguous meanings including "child" (e.g., Matt 2:16; Luke 2:43,8:51-54 where it refers to a girl), "son" (John 4:51), "servant" (Luke 15:26, Acts 4:25), "male concubine", or be unclear.[8]

Homo-erotic connotations[edit]

According to James Neill, the Greek term "pais" used for the servant in Matthew's account almost always had a sexual connotation.[9] In support of this view, he remarks that the word pais, along with the word "erasthai" (to love) is the root of the English word "pederasty".[9] He sees in the fact that, in Luke's parallel account, the centurion's servant is described as "valued highly"[10] by the centurion an indication of a homosexual relationship between the two, and says that the Greek word "doulos" used of him in Luke's account suggests he may even have been a sex slave.[9] Daniel A. Helminiak agrees that the word pais could have a sexual meaning.[11] Theodore W. Jennings Jr. and Tat-Siong Benny Liew further write that Roman historical data about patron-client relationships and about same-sex relations among soldiers support the view that the pais in Matthew's account is the centurion's "boy-lover", and that the centurion therefore did not want Jesus to enter his house for fear perhaps that the boy would be enamoured of Jesus instead. D.B. Saddington writes that while he does not exclude the possibility, the evidence the two put forward supports "neither of these interpretations",[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Biblegateway Matthew 8:5–13
  2. ^ Biblegateway Luke 7:1–10
  3. ^ Craig S. Keener (1999). A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 264. ISBN 978-0-8028-3821-6. 
  4. ^ Fred Craddock: Luke, 2009 ISBN 0-664-23435-6, page 94
  5. ^ The Gospel according to Matthew: an introduction and commentary by R. T. France 1987 ISBN 0-8028-0063-7 page 154
  6. ^ Merrill Tenney: John, Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 9, Zondervan.
  7. ^ Orville Daniel: A Harmony of the Four Gospels, 2nd Ed, Baker Books Pub.
  8. ^ Marston, Paul (2003). Christians, Gays and Gay Christians. Free Methodists. Archived from the original on 2006-04-27. 
  9. ^ a b c Neill, James (2009). The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations In Human Societies. McFarland. p. 216. 
  10. ^ Luke 7:2
  11. ^ Daniel A. Helminiak, ''Sex and the Sacred'' (Routledge 2012 ISBN 978-1-13657075-9), p. 192. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2013-04-10. 
  12. ^ "The Centurion in Matthew 8:5–13: Consideration of the Proposal of Theodore W. Jennings, Jr., and Tat-Siong Benny Liew". jstor.org.