WHAT DOES THE ’Ekklsia HAVE TO DO WITH THE ’Asklhpieion? A Study in the Healing Ministry of the Early Church/Paul W. Cheung

Paul W. Cheung





A major departure of Pauline literature from the Gospel narratives and Acts is the lack of healing accounts, or accounts of healing miracles, aside from the mentioning of “gifts of healing” in 1 Corinthians 12:9, 28, 30. Paul’s attitude to his own physical ailments and the ailments of his coworkers does not reveal much regarding the existence or exercise of a healing ministry. This makes the references to such a ministry within a short span of text all the more interesting. The paper will survey the culture of illness and healing the Greco-Roman world in general and in Roman Corinth in particular. We will argue that the mentioning of “gifts of healing” in 1 Corinthians is not incidental but rather directly related to and in competition with the culture and practice of the healing cult of Asklepius at Corinth. The immediate verbal contexts of idol worship (12:2), cursing of Jesus (12:3) and the use of the body-parts metaphor (12:12-27) all point toward a situation where it is likely that Paul perceived the work of the Spirit as restorative to both the community body of Corinthian believers as a whole and the physical bodies of individual believers, thus displacing and eliminating the need of believers to visit the Asklepieion for cures.