I wrote this fairly long paper while in seminary, 27 pages, if I remember correctly. I had a great desire to investigate as fully as I could what was written about the gift of healing in the three centuries following what was written in the Bible, because the early church fathers directly followed the apostles, who were taught by Christ directly, and I thought they might have some insights as to how the gift of healing works.
This paper, alone, absolutely does prove that the gift of healing did not cease after the apostles left us, but that wasn’t my purpose in writing. And other books have covered this, but not nearly as thoroughly, to my knowledge. I haven’t checked in many years.
I did take a class entirely on Patristics (early church fathers) in seminary, and the professor didn’t once mention any of the miracles written about during that period. I asked him why during class, and he actually admitted he was a cessationist. A couple of other students then also spoke up, questioning why we were taught church history in such a censored way. I wrote this particular paper for another class and professor.
I would have posted this years ago, but the footnoting didn’t carry over into this format, nor did the bolding of many key words and phrases, which helps readability. So none of the footnote numbers are in the text, but the footnotes are listed at the end. Since I may not get around to solving this problem, I thought I’d post it anyway to at least get the material online, in case there is interest, and can help in some way.
God bless! May ‘ONE’ happen (Jesus’ desire for us in John 17:20-26), which I believe will likely include something like this: Sid Roth Interviews John Paul Jackson … Beyond-Asbury, ‘ONE’-Happens, All-Get-Healed REVIVAL!!!!!!!
“HEALING” — The III Centuries after “The Apostles”
Dr. John Woodbridge
Church History I
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
March 6, 1990
© 2013 Jeff Fenske
Healing has been a topic of great interest to me for most of my Christian life. For in 1974, while studying book of Acts (the catalyst of my conversion), it seemed clear to me that the gifts of the spirit that the apostles were practicing were both for then and now, that these gifts had not ceased. Then, in the early ‘80s, when I realized I had a healing need that doctors could not decifer or cure, I spent much time studying, praying, fasting, and even experimenting, in order to understand this subject for my own benefit and others.
One of the topics I desired to study at seminary was spiritual gifts in the church fathers’ writings. While I was doing research for this paper, I discovered that there was no thorough and detailed treatment of this issue in which an author had determined to extrapolate all that could be learned about healing from the church fathers, the writers who had lived during and shortly after the apostles had written the Scriptures.
The goal of my paper became: (1) to find as many texts as I could on this subject from extra-Biblical writings prior to A.D. 400 [I have found additional texts since]; (2) to exclude none of these texts, in order that as much as was possible, a complete representation of these writers’ views on healing would be given; (3) to include as much of the quotes as is practical, giving readers greater access to the source itself, so they can determine for themselves what is being said by any given quote; (4) to bold the print of what I think are highlights of these quotes, in order for readers to more easily and rapidly assimilate what is being stated; (5) to write a detailed analyses of every aspect of healing that I see portrayed in these writings; (6) and to emphasize what seem to be themes that were commonly held by the fathers as significant to healing.
The prophet Joel stated that God would pour out His Spirit in the later times, which process God the Father begun by placing His Holy Spirit on His one and only Son. From that day on, Jesus was thereby equipped to perform many diverse signs and wonders by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus later sent His own disciples out, and then the “72,” to do the same works He had been doing— by the power of that same Holy Spirit. Then, upon His departure, He promised to not leave His disciples as “orphans,” but that He would send the Comforter, the Counselor, that same Holy Spirit they had performed miracles by when Jesus Himself was with them. In Acts, especially, these disciples and many other Christians as well performed countless miracles. The frequencies were immense and the effects were staggering. For example:
Acts 2:43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.
Acts 6:8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs.
Acts 8:6,7 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed.
Acts 8:13 Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.
Acts 14:3 So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders.
Acts 15:12 The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.
Acts 19:11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, Acts 19:12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.
Acts 28:9 When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured.
But the data doesn’t end there. Early Christian literature demonstrates that miracles continued on into the fourth century, although they seem to have subsided greatly in the third and fourth centuries. The so called “church fathers” have left much for us from which we can glean. They report how the martyrs were empowered to die with boldness, how the blind received sight, how the dumb spoke, how those oppressed by demons were delivered, even how the dead were raised. Many of these miracles fit under the category called “healing”— miracles that cause human bodies to recover from various abnormalities and various sicknesses which may even be demon caused. The church fathers often used the term “healing” for all types of sicknesses, as does the Bible. And those who healed these abnormalities had what the Bible calls and what they reiterated— “the gift of healing” and/or the ability to drive out demons. The texts are rich with significant details as to the frequency of these healings, how they occurred, along with their results. Christ’s love was demonstrated in a very tangible way and as a result, many non-believers became believers, and God received much glory! I’ve arranged the following texts in chronological order.