Madness


The NT also reflected the conviction of the ancient world that demons and devils were active agents behind all mental and emotional abnormality. When a man was deranged, he was described as being possessed; and there were many exorcists who practiced among the Jews, representing themselves as having power over the demons. Jesus’ experience in the country of the Gerasenes was typical. The madman lived among the tombs, being described as having an unclean spirit. This violent creature could not be restrained. After Jesus’ ministry to him, he was described as “clothed and in his right mind” (Mark 5:1-20).

The belief that the human mind was subject to the control of spirits is evidenced in many ancient cemeteries where the skulls which have been found were trepanned. A hole had been bored in the skull in many instances, and from subsequent bone growth and the smallness of the hole (too small to be of any surgical value), it is evident that the operation had been performed to let the evil spirit out. It is known that the disk of bone which was removed by such a surgical procedure often was worn as an amulet around the patient’s neck to ward off the return of the spirit. In one cemetery out of 120 skulls six had been trepanned which would show the intensity of the belief of the ancient world in the control of spirits over human minds. It was thought that there were seven and one half million such demons, one or more for every human malady.

See Diseases.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

halal, shagha`; mania):

1. In the Old Testament:


This association of madness with inspiration is expressed in the name "this mad fellow" given to the prophet who came to anoint Jehu, which did not necessarily convey a disrespectful meaning (2Ki 9:11). The true prophetic spirit was, however, differentiated from the ravings of the false prophets by Isaiah (44:25), these latter being called mad by Jeremiah (29:26) and Hosea (9:7).

The most interesting case of real insanity recorded in the Old Testament is that of Saul, who, from being a shy, self-conscious young man, became, on his exaltation to the kingship, puffed up with a megalomania, alternating with fits of black depression with homicidal impulses, finally dying by suicide. The cause of his madness is said to have been an evil spirit from God (1Sa 18:10), and when, under the influence of the ecstatic mood which alternated with his depression, he conducted himself like a lunatic (1Sa 19:23 f), his mutterings are called "prophesyings." The use of music in his case as a remedy (1Sa 16:16) may be compared with Elisha’s use of the same means to produce the prophetic ecstasy (2Ki 3:15).

The story of Nebuchadnezzar is another history of a sudden accession of insanity in one puffed up by self-conceit and excessive prosperity. His delusion that he had become as an ox is of the same nature as that of the daughters of Procyus recorded in the So of Silenus by Virgil (Ecl. vi.48).

2. In the New Testament:


See also LUNATIC.


mad’-nes.

See MAD, MADNESS.