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 of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew [1] and Luke.[2]

According to the Gospels, a Roman centurion asked Jesus for help because his boy servant was ill. Jesus offered to go to the centurion's house to perform the healing, but the centurion suggested that Jesus perform the healing at a distance. When Jesus heard this, he said:

Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, whern there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.

And the boy was healed at that very hour.


Matthew 8:5-13 (TNVI)

Luke 7:1-10 (TNVI)


The centurion supported the Jewish community by building them a synagogue and showing love for the Israelite nation. Since Gentiles were considered unclean by Jews, the actions of the Jewish elders approaching Jesus to petition him to heal the centurion's servant who was critically ill and about to die provides evidence that this particular centurion was viewed in a different light than a typical Gentile. Out of humility and respect for Jewish custom regarding clean and unclean, the centurion did not want Jesus to come into his house and become unclean, so he sent out friends to meet Jesus as he was coming close to the house.

The faith of the centurion is highlighted by Jesus to the crowd that followed since he believed that Jesus only needed to speak the word, and his servant would be healed. This shows his absolute confidence in the power of Jesus's word over the power of sickness. Jesus could erase the sickness without even being physically present next to the servant child. The authority of Jesus is compared to that of a military commander that can command someone to go or to come and the instructions would be obeyed. Being a soldier, the centurion would be intimately familiar with the process of issuing and obeying commands. He had faith that Jesus could command and drive out evil powers because of his authority in the spirit world.[3]

For the local Jewish population, a Roman centurion is the principal representative of the Roman Empire in the area, both militarily and administratively. He is Rome as far as they are concerned, so the recognition of the Lordship of Jesus by this principle Roman representative of military power provides strong affirmation of the supremacy of Christ.[4]

Author John Clowes commented that the use of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob refers to the degree of blessedness by which people are admitted to the feast, in that Abraham signifies the celestial degree, Isaac the spiritual and Jacob the natural degree.[5]

Only Luke 7:2 refers to the servant as doulos, unambiguously meaning "servant". Elsewhere the term translated from the Greek as "servant" is pais, which can be translated in a number of different ways 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.[6]

According to James Neill, the Greek term "pais" used for the servant in Matthew's account almost always had a sexual connotation.[7] 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".[7] He sees in the fact that, in Luke's parallel account, the centurion's servant is described as "valued highly"[8] by the centurion an indication of a homosexual relationship between the two, and says that the Greek word "doulos" (a slave) used of him in Luke's account suggests he may have been a sex slave.[7] Daniel A. Helminiak writes that the word pais was sometimes given a sexual meaning.[9] Theodore W. Jennings Jr. and Tat-Siong Benny Liew 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-love" and that the centurion did not want Jesus to enter his house for fear 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",[10]

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,[11] 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.[12] Merrill C. Tenney in his commentary on John[13] and Orville Daniel in his Gospel harmony[14] also consider them two different incidents.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Biblegateway Matthew 8:5-13
  2. ^ Biblegateway Luke 7:1-10
  3. ^ van der Loos, Dr. Hendrik (1965). The Miracles of Jesus. E.J. Brill, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 536–538. 
  4. ^ Kyrychenko, Alexander (January 31, 2014). The Roman Army and the Expansion of the Gospel. Walter de Gruyter. p. 182. ISBN 978-3-11-034402-8. 
  5. ^ John Clowes, 1817 The Miracles of Jesus Christ published by J. Gleave, Manchester, UK page 27
  6. ^ Marston, Paul (2003). Christians, Gays and Gay Christians. Free Methodists. Archived from the original on 2006-04-27. 
  7. ^ a b c Neill, James (2009). The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations In Human Societies. McFarland. p. 216. 
  8. ^ Luke 7:2
  9. ^ Daniel A. Helminiak, ''Sex and the Sacred'' (Routledge 2012 ISBN 978-1-13657075-9), p. 192. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2013-04-10. 
  10. ^ "The Centurion in Matthew 8:5–13: Consideration of the Proposal of Theodore W. Jennings, Jr., and Tat-Siong Benny Liew". jstor.org. 
  11. ^ Fred Craddock: Luke, 2009 ISBN 0-664-23435-6, page 94
  12. ^ The Gospel according to Matthew: an introduction and commentary by R. T. France 1987 ISBN 0-8028-0063-7 page 154
  13. ^ Merrill Tenney: John, Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 9, Zondervan.
  14. ^ Orville Daniel: A Harmony of the Four Gospels, 2nd Ed, Baker Books Pub.