Original Research - Special Collection: Africa Platform for NT Scholars

A reading of the leper’s healing in Matthew 8:1–4 through ethnomedical anthropology

Fednand M. M’bwangi
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 77, No 1 | a6803 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v77i1.6803 | © 2021 Fednand M. M’bwangi | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 May 2021 | Published: 26 August 2021

About the author(s)

Fednand M. M’bwangi, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Pwani University, Kilifi, Kenya; Department of New Testament and Related Literature, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

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Scholars offer several options for Matthew’s value of the leper’s story in his narrative that range from revealing Jesus’ attributes of compassion and sympathy, manifesting God’s empire, to portraying Jesus’ function as a temple. Although these suggestions aptly portray Matthew’s rhetorical use of the leper’s healing in his narrative to address societal concerns of his time, for lack of referring to the social setting of the narrative, they do not capture the holistic healthcare system embodied by Jesus in Matthew’s narrative that portrays Jesus as a superior healer to the rest of the other healers in the Roman Empire. The findings of the research for this article establish the argument that employing ethnomedical anthropology as a lens to read the leper’s healing narrative in Matthew 8:1–4 in the context of Matthew’s social setting reveals Matthew’s ideology for a transcendent and immanent Christology. The aim of the article is to demonstrate the effectiveness of medical anthropological theory in explaining the dynamics of health and healing reflected in biblical texts.

Contributions: This article contributes to the interdisciplinary approach to the study of religion by employing a ethnomedical anthropological perspective to read the leper’s healing in Matthew 8.1–4 in reference to the first century CE health systems in the Roman Empire. This approach procured that Matthew’s immanent and transcendent perspectives of Christology is crucial in demonstrating the text’s function in constructing and sustaining the identity of Matthew’s community in antiquity.


ethnomedical anthropology; Christology; healing; ideology; Matthew 8:1–4; Roman Empire; leper


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