Abstract

The man who is healed by Jesus in Mark 2:1–12 is denoted in the text by the word παραλυτικός, which is usually translated 'paralytic'. The problem with this translation by transliteration is that it is by no means clear that the man in view was "paralyzed" in any modern sense of the word. A word study of παραλυτικός, along with related words παραλύειν and παραλύσις, in and beyond the NT shows the lack of etiological, diagnostic, and prognostic specificity that characterizes ancient medical language when compared with modern technical medical terminology. This means that in Mark 2, we do not know what was "wrong" with the "paralytic," other than that he could not walk. The possible causes of his condition are numerous: stroke, head injury, twisted or badly broken legs that did not heal properly, severe arthritis, or even a psychosomatic condition, to name but a few possibilities. All of these conditions and many others could easily result in a situation in which a person "cannot walk." A good translation of the word in this context, then, ought to be nonspecific and nontechnical by modern standards and ought not to draw attention to the cause of the man's condition. I, a paraplegic who uses a wheelchair, suggest that the word 'cripple' fits the bill but provide alternative translation possibilities for those who cannot countenance the use of this word, which comes across as offensive to many people.

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