Moses was mad

An examination of the sanity of Jesus.
Was he crazy?

From Don Havis, San Mateo, California. Published in "Secular Nation" April-June 2001.

The first that can be said about the title and content of this treatise is that any attempt to make reasonable and accurate determinations of a person's sanity, whether or not they lived more than 2000 years ago, is absurd.

It is the author's opinion that all of Christian mythology is just that - mythology. Certainly, the divine three-in-one Jesus, born of a virgin etc. never existed. However, the question of whether there was a human being around whom Christian legends revolved is still open and will have to be discussed for a long time. So whose sanity is this treatise - the non-existent mythical Jesus or the ancient human Jesus? It is the mythical Jesus.

"But how can that be possible?" you will ask. The answer is that if I can persuade the reader to accept an egregious and admittedly irrational premise, it can be a "hypothetical" investigation. Here it is: The Christian Holy Bible is the inspired Word of God! Obviously, as the "inspired word of God" it must be perfectly true. So let us do exactly what Christians expect us to do. We want to accept that everything in the Bible happened as it is recorded and was recorded without change. We allow some drifts if we allow everything written down to be subject to the reader's special interpretation. For example, when it is said that an angel spoke to or appeared to Jesus, we take the liberty of admitting that Jesus was thinking or imagining that an angel was speaking or appearing to him. He reported exactly (or others reported exactly) what he believed to be true. There is no need for the writer to investigate this himself. Various authors have asked the question of Jesus' sanity from the ground up. There was a deluge of such research and writing in the latter half of the 19th century and the first two decades of the 20th century. This was the time of intense interest in the new field of psychology. Since then, however, there has been a strange silence on this question. Some contemporary psychologists and psychiatrists have written on the general subject of religion and its implications for mental health. The most famous among these was Dr. Albert Ellis. However, I have not been able to find any modern mental illness specialist who would have written specifically about Jesus' sanity. The most recent article I found on the state of mind of the biblical Jesus was by E. Haldeman-Julius and was titled "Crazy Jesus" (Mad Jesus) published in 1925. I would appreciate feedback from readers who have discovered more recent writings, particularly psychiatrists, on the subject. There was a recent mention of Jesus' morbid state of mind by the modern psychiatrist Dr. Clifford Allen in an American Atheist Press brochure. Dr. Everyone is quoted as saying that he would classify "Jesus as a paranoid schizophrenic". There was neither a footnote nor a date on this quote, so I was unable to verify.

I would now like to list a number of the most famous authors who have tackled the question of Jesus' sanity and present the sum of their opinions. Probably the most famous critic of the last 200 years was David Friedrich Strauss. In his first book "The Life of Jesus" by 1835 he was of the opinion that Jesus was simply a "religious fanatic". In his second book, "The Life of Jesus" from 1864, he stated that Jesus' fanaticism "borders on madness".

Another work was Oskar Holtzmann's "Was Jesus an Extatic?" from 1903. Yes! He felt that it was him! "Ecstatic" is a nice way of saying that Jesus wasn't in close touch with reality.

Emil Rasmussen wrote in 1904: "Jesus, A Comparative Study in Psychopathology" (Jesus, a comparative study in psychopathology). He concludes that Jesus was an epileptic. He points to two types of epileptic seizures, a minor one in Gethsemane and a major one in the purification of the temple. He offers other minor evidence as well; however, his book is rejected by most of the other authors on the subject.

Another author was Dr. George de Loosten, who wrote his book: "Jesus Christ from the Standpoint of a Psychiatrist" (Jesus Christ from a Psychiatrist's Point of View) published in 1905. De Loosten explains Jesus' bizarre behavior with poor inheritance that made him "a degenerate with certain delusions". Of course, Dr. de Loosten not very popular among Christians. His ideas did not find widespread acceptance.

Dr. Charles Binet-Sanglé took up the question of Jesus' spiritual health. His book: "La Folie de Jesus" (The insanity of Jesus) was published in Paris in 1910. The title says it all. Dr. Binet-Sanglé describes Jesus as crazy. He describes his illness as "religious paranoia". His psychiatric study of Jesus places particular emphasis on various events from which the doctor concludes hallucinations. He identified 7 hallucinations - 2 as purely visual and 5 as visual along with hearing voices. In 1912, prominent New York psychiatrist Dr. William Hirsh: "Religion and Civilization - Conclusions of a Psychiatrist" (Religion and Civilization - Inferences of a Psychiatrist). Dr. Hirsh lists various incidents of deviant behavior on the part of Jesus. He agrees with Binet-Sanglé on the hallucinations and points to his "megalomania, which increased incessantly and immeasurably". Dr. Hirsh's findings are entirely logical. He says Jesus was "paranoid," simple and easy. He adds, "everything we know about Jesus fits so perfectly with the clinical picture of paranoia that it is difficult to accept that people question even the accuracy of the diagnosis". I find this statement a bit dogmatic, especially when made by a psychiatrist.

Shortly after Dr. Hirsh had published his book, wrote the famous Dr. Albert Schweitzer his "Psychiatric Study on Jesus". It was mainly a listing of what Dr. Schweitzer - always a defender of Jesus - felt as irresponsible and unjustified attacks on Jesus' state of mind. He makes some good points. It is unfair to isolate events from the context of culture and superstitions of the time in which they probably took place. Furthermore, I find his defense of Jesus' sanity skewed. A notable part of his book, however, is that it lists pretty much all of the arguments of Jesus' critics.

The most recent book I found on the subject, and one of the most helpful, published after the initial spark in the early 20th century, is "The Psychic Health of Jesus" (The Mental Health of Jesus) by Dr. Walter Bundy (1922). Dr. Bundy is like Dr. Schweitzer an ardent follower of Jesus. However, Dr. Following Schweitzer's 1913 work, he is a better summarizer of what he calls the "psychopathological books" that were earlier written about Jesus. He concludes that "a pathography of Jesus is only possible on the basis of a lack of knowledge of the direction and implications of the New Testament - criticism and an amateurish application of psychiatric science." It is interesting that Dr. Bundy accused various respected psychiatrists in Germany and the USA of "amateurish" conclusions. Throughout his book, it seems that these other researchers, with the exception of Dr. Schweitzer just wasn't smart enough or wasn't aware of the facts, like Dr. It was Bundy.

Jesus' diagnosis in eight categories

It is now time to provide evidence to support the biblical Jesus' diagnosis of mental illness. Many of the scribes referred to quotations from the New Testament to prove their research into Jesus' state of mind. In order to present at least some of this material in a concise manner, it is necessary to select a few categories of possible pathological symptoms and then list citations that support the diagnosis of mental illness. All biblical quotations were taken (for the German translation) from the Luther Bible of 1903 and come exclusively from the four Gospels, the authoritative reports on Jesus' life and spiritual mission.

In a personal communication (1996), Dr. A. J. Mattill Jr. presented 14 categories within which most of the points made by the various authors about Jesus' state of mind could be classified. The categories included Jesus' "chronic drifting" and "habitual retreat into solitude". To save space, I've left out these and other categories. Also because it could be argued that some of these habits, though strange, are not necessarily indicators of mental illness. That is why I am listing only eight categories, as these are the most cited in the literature and are most closely related to the problem of mental illness. Here are the categories in random order:

  1. Jesus' hallucinations, visions and voices
  2. Jesus cleansing the temple
  3. Jesus' curse of the fig tree
  4. Jesus' verbal explosions and calls to violence
  5. Jesus' relationship with his family
  6. Jesus' unstable state of mind from the perspective of his family and others
  7. Jesus' messianic self-confidence and his megalomania
  8. Jesus' call to self-mutilation

Category 1: Jesus' hallucinations, visions and voices

The hallucination most cited is that of John the Baptist during Jesus' baptism.

In Matthew 3; 16-17: "And when Jesus was baptized, he immediately went up out of the water; and, behold, the heaven was opened over him. And he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming over him And, behold, a voice from heaven said: This is my dear son, in whom I am well pleased.

In Luke 22; 43-44: "An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And it came that he struggled with death and prayed more violently. But his sweat was like drops of blood that fell on the earth".

In Matthew 4; 1-11 we are told that the devil appeared to Jesus and led him into the holy city and placed him on the battlement of the temple. (This experience could have ended painfully for Jesus, but the biblical report reports no health consequences). He was later transported up an "excessively high mountain" but refused to be attempted to worship the devil, we are told.

In John 12; 27-33, when Jesus foretold his death in Jerusalem, he hears "a voice from heaven; I have transfigured him and I want to transfigure him again". Others apparently shared these hallucinations, for John 12:29 explains to us: "Then the people, who stood by and listened, said: It thundered, the others said: An angel spoke to him".

In Mark 9; 2-8 Peter, James and John testify: "Jesus transfigured himself before them. And his clothes became light and very white as snow, that no dyer on earth can make them so white. And Elijah appeared to them with them And Moses and they were talking to Jesus. And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Rabbi, it is good to be here; let's make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. But he did not know what he was talking about, because they were And there came a cloud that overshadowed them. And a voice fell from the cloud and said, This is my dear son, you shall hear him. And soon afterwards they looked around and saw no one else but Jesus with them ". Schweitzer argues that this incident was a hallucination by Peter and John and it would be unfair to impose them on Jesus. Numerous other incidents and voices that spoke to Jesus can only be explained as hallucinations. It is interesting that most fundamentalist Christians view these situations as true but refer to them as visions. It sounds far less crazy to say of someone - except in a state of great religious fervor - that they have a vision rather than a hallucination.

Category 2: Jesus' temple cleansing

This incident relates to Jesus' emotional outburst in Jerusalem when he entered the temple "and drove out all the sellers and buyers in the temple and knocked the changers' tables and the pigeon-merchants' chairs". Matthew 21; 12. In the version of John (2; 15) he had and used a scourge made of ropes. This does not seem to be the behavior of a completely rational person.

Category 3: Jesus' curse of the fig tree

Although this category only one Incident, but featured prominently in all inquiries into Jesus' state of mind, it deserves a special mention. Interestingly, this incident is described only a few verses later (Matthew 21; 19) after Jesus "freaked out" in the temple. Apparently still angry, he felt hungry the next morning and on his way to the city with some of his disciples he saw a fig tree: "And he saw a fig tree by the road and went to it and found nothing on it, because only leaves (According to Markus 11; 13: ... "because it was not yet the time that figs should be". Note from the translator.) And said to him: Now never grow any fruit on you. And the fig tree withered immediately. " His followers have always emphasized that this is just a "parable" to illustrate the power of faith. Jesus explains this in the next verse: "Truly. I say to you: If you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do this with the fig tree, but you will say to this mountain: Get up and throw yourself into the sea ! So it will be done. " Matthew 21; 21. This explanation of the power of belief is a little crazy. To date, we have no reports of any Christian with a deep and pure faith enough to do that bit of telekinesis.

Category 4: Jesus' verbal explosions and calls to violence

The most frequently cited biblical passage in this category is Matthew 23. Almost all 39 verses are devoted to Jesus' reproaches, at the beginning a large number against the "scribes and Pharisees. He calls them" hypocrites "," deluded leaders "," fools ", "Whitewashed graves", "snakes" and "breeds of vipers". One gets the beautiful thought that he does not love them. In this environment of calls to violence is the often quoted Matthew 10; 34-36: "You should not imagine that I have come to send peace to earth. I did not come to send peace, but the sword. For I have come to excite man against his father, and the daughter against her mother and the daughter-in-law against her in-law. And man's enemies will be his own housemates. "We find the same advocacy of family quarrels in Luke 12; 51:53:" Do you think that I came here to bring peace on earth? I say no, but discord ". (Verse 53 like Matthew 10; 35). That is clear to me! In Luke 22; 36 Jesus commands his disciples, knowing that problems will come his way:" ... but who will not has, sell his garment and buy a sword "and in verse 38:" But they said, Lord, here are two swords. But he said to them: It is enough. "Adding to his frequent appeals to his disciples to torment and afflict this or that group of unbelievers, Jesus apparently wants a particularly painful death for his enemies when he says:" Yes bring my enemies, who did not want me to rule over them, and kill them before me. "(Luke 19; 27) Jesus never tires of preaching about the horrific and never-ending torments that the unbelievers and morally The rejected in hell will suffer.

Some of the passages in the New Testament are given as evidence:

Matthew 3; 12:
And he has his scoop in hand; he will sweep his threshing floor and gather the wheat in his barn; but he will burn the chaff with everlasting fire ".

Matthew 5; 22:
"Whoever says to his brother: Racha !, is guilty of the council; but whoever says: You fool! Is guilty of the infernal fire".

Matthew 8; 12:
"But the children of the kingdom will be cast out into the darkness. There will be weeping and chattering of teeth."

Matthew 13; 40-42:
"As one now pulls up the weeds and burns it up with fire, so it will also be at the end of this world. The Son of man will send his angels; and they will gather all offenses out of his kingdom, and those who do wrong, and they will be in." throw the fiery furnace, there will be weeping and chattering teeth ".

Matthew 13; 49-50:
"So it will work at the end of the world.The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous, and will cast them into the furnace of fire; there will be howling and chattering of teeth ".

Matthew 22; 13:
"Then said the king to his servants: Tie his hands and feet and cast him out into the darkness! There will be weeping and chattering of teeth."

Matthew 25; 41:
"Then he will also say to those on the left: Go away from me you cursed ones into the eternal fire, which is prepared for the devil and his angels".

Matthew 25; 46:
"And they will go into eternal torment; but the righteous into eternal life".

Mark 9; 45-46:
"If your foot annoys you, cut it off. It is better for you that you enter into life lame, because that you have two feet and you will be thrown into hell, into the eternal fire, since its worm does not die and its fire does not extinguishes ".

Luke 12; 5:
"But I want to show you whom you should be afraid of: fear him who, after he has killed, also has the power to throw into hell. Yes, I tell you, be afraid of him".

Luke 13; 27-28:
"And he will say: I tell you, I do not know where you are from; all of you turn away from me, you evildoers! There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God , but pushed you out ".

Luke 16; 23-26:
“When he was in hell and in agony, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his lap. And he called and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus to do the utmost of his own Dip my fingers in the water and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame. Abraham said, Son, that you have received your good things in your life, and Lazarus, on the other hand, has received bad things, but now he is comforted, and you are tormented. And over all of this a great chasm is fortified between us and you, that those who wanted to go down from there to you could not, and also not from there, go over to us ”.

In Luke 16; 19-31 Jesus tells the parable of the death of an unrepentant rich man and Lazarus, a believing beggar. The rich man ends up in hell. He asks for a little bit of mercy to ease his pain. He asks Abraham: "send Lazarus to dip the extremity of his finger in the water and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame". No chance! As Jesus emphasizes in his parable, because in between there is a "great abyss" that prevents such a crossing. Then the rich man asks if Abraham could not at least send Lazarus to his five brothers to warn them "that they do not come to this place of torment". The rich man seemed convinced that "if any of the dead went to them, they would repent". The parable says that even this small gesture of kindness could not be allowed, for his brothers probably had many opportunities to "listen to Moses and the prophets" but no doubt, they had not heard. That is why Jesus says: "If you do not listen to Moses and the prophets, you will not believe whether someone gets up from the dead". Jesus' habit of appreciating the torments of Hell may not in itself be indicative of insanity, but it is also not very conducive to a healthy state of mind.

Category 5: Jesus' relationship with his family

Matthew 10; 34-36, already quoted above, shows how he thinks about family life: "And the enemies of man will be his own housemates". When one of his disciples asks him to allow him to go to his father's funeral, Jesus rebukes him and says: "Follow me and let the dead bury their dead". (Matthew 8; 22). To his own mother: "Woman, what have I to do with you?" (John 2; 4). In Luke 14; 26 Jesus says clearly that we should hate our family: "If someone comes to me and does not hate his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, and also his own life, he cannot be my disciple . " In Luke 12; 52-53 we read: "For from now on five will be divided in one house, three against two, and two against three." (See also Category 4). There are a number of passages which testify that Jesus' own family "did not believe" or did not "believe in him." For example Matthew 13; 57-58: "And they were angry with him. But Jesus said to them, Nowhere is a prophet less worthy than in his country and in his house. And there he did not do many signs because of their unbelief. " The same story about the unbelief of his family "in his own country" is reported again in Mark 6: 3-6, and also in John 7: 5: "For neither did his brothers believe in him." Finally, when Jesus is asked directly: (Matthew 12; 48-50) "Who is my mother? And who are my brothers? And stretched out his hand over his disciples and said: Behold, this is my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Heavenly Father, he is my brother, sister and mother. " Like all good cult leaders, he points out that his disciples are his family. So much for family values.

Category 6: Jesus' unstable state of mind from the perspective of his family and others

When Jesus asked a group of listeners why some did not believe him and were thinking of killing him, they replied, "You have the devil." (John 7; 20). Later, when he is asked again: "Are we not saying correctly that you are a Samaritan and that you have the devil?" Jesus replies: "I have no devil, but I honor my Father and you dishonor me." (John 8; 48-49). Continuing with John 10; 20: "Many of them said: He has the devil and is foolish; what are you listening to him?" His own family expressed his spiritual health: "And when his own heard, they went out and wanted to hold him, because they said, He is mad. But the scribes who had come down from Jerusalem said: He has him Beelzebub, and by the supreme devil he drives out devils. " (Mark 3; 21-22)

Category 7: Jesus' messianic self-confidence and his megalomania

Jesus believed himself to be the Messiah who would return in splendor and glory on the clouds. Ironically, Jesus wishes in the earlier Gospels (1-3) to regard this as a mystery, so in Mark 3:12: "And he pressed them hard not to make him revealed." Also in Mark 9: 9 he commands his disciples: "But as they came down from the mountains, Jesus forbade them that they should tell no one what they had seen until the Son of Man rose from the dead." (see also Mark 9; 2-8 in Category 1). Matthew 12; 15-16 tells us: "And many people followed him, and he healed them all and pained them that they did not report him". In contrast, Jesus continually proclaims his messianic dignity in the Gospel of John.

6; 29: "It is God's work that you believe in him whom he has sent."
6; 35: "But Jesus said to them: I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will not hunger; and whoever believes in me will never thirst."
6; 38: "For I came from heaven, not to do my will, but of him who sent me."
6; 40: "For this is the will of him who sent me, that whoever sees the Son and believes in him have eternal life; and I will raise him up on the last day."
6; 47-48: "Truly, truly I say to you: Whoever believes in me has eternal life. I am the bread of life."
7; 38: "Whoever believes in me, as the scriptures say, rivers of living water will flow from the body."
8; 12: "I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
11; 25-26: I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me will live, even if he dies soon; and whoever lives there and believes in me will never die. "
14; 6: "I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me."
14; 13-14: "And what you will ask in my name, I will do that, that the Father may be honored in the Son. What you will ask in my name, I will do."

Jesus' megalomania and delusion that he was the "chosen one", sent by his Father (God) to save the "chosen ones", seems to grow and grow. In a statement from AJ Mattill Jr. In "The Book Your Church DoesnŽt Want You To Read" we read: "The more someone thinks of the image of Jesus in the four Gospels believes the more difficult it is to discuss the state of mind of Jesus. " Dr. Schweitzer says: "Most casual readers of the fourth gospel must have the impression that here Jesus' words are exclusively self-centered. The word" I "is found six times more often in this gospel than in that of Matthew. The seven" I am "of Jesus we only find it with John ... With the Synoptics we find Jesus absorbed by the thought of the kingdom of heaven, but in John's fourth Gospel he is only occupied by his own ego. "

Dr. Schweitzer avoids commenting on this stumbling block on Jesus' state of mind by simply declaring the fourth Gospel "unhistorical". He puts forward the thesis: "The egocentric words from the mouth of Jesus in the fourth gospel are by no means words of Jesus but in reality the Christocentric confession of the fourth evangelist. And as such it cannot be used as a pathographic object of investigation for the diagnosis of paranoia." Kind! What?

Dr. Schweitzer treats the other Gospels in the same way. He states: "The gospel of Luke agrees mainly with those of Mark and Matthew. Whenever it goes beyond this, it is a questionable contribution, which is moreover of no great importance for the criticism of Jesus, and can therefore be disregarded. "

What does he say? Did I read that right? The Parts of God's Holy Word that we disagree with, can we just ignore? By the way, also Dr. Bundy uses the same arguments as Dr. Bundy in his book The Psychic Health of Jesus. Schweitzer.

Category 8: Jesus' call to self-mutilation

Matthew 19:12 is the most common quotation for this bizarre endorsement by Jesus for men who castrate themselves "for heaven's sake." It says: "... and some are blended who blended themselves for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can grasp it, grasp it!" Church father Origen and other early Christians, as well as modern followers of the Heaven's Gate cult, took this literally. Another call to self-mutilation is in Matthew 5; 29-30. Jesus' listeners are encouraged to get rid of all possible body parts that annoy them: "If your right eye annoys you, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you that one of your limbs should perish and not the whole body be thrown into hell If your right hand annoys you, cut it off and throw it away from you. It is better for you that one of your limbs perish and not your whole body be thrown into hell. " Obviously, annoying left eyes and hands are exempt from this fate. In Matthew 18; 8-9, Jesus repeats this invitation. Does it all sound rational? If there are still doubts about these calls for self-mutilation about the instructions to chop off limbs and tear out eyes - refer to Mark 9; 43-47 again.


I leave it to the reader to draw his or her own conclusions from reflections on Jesus' sanity. My opinion is that one can surmise - even considering the general lack of education and the superstitious nature of the times - that Jesus was at least a mentally deranged religious fanatic. If biblical accounts of visions can be interpreted as hallucinations and if the egomaniacal claims to a messianic mission in the Gospel of John are to be taken literally, then the judgment of a serious psychosis (madness) seems appropriate. On the other hand, if we admit, as Dr. Schweitzer and Dr. Bundy do it that large sections of the Gospels are implausible - "unhistorical", according to Dr. Schweitzer's word is to be used - then of course no conclusions at all can be drawn. Sure, nothing can be vouched for if it cannot be fully clarified which parts of the Bible are authentic and which parts were not simply plucked out of thin air. The question mark for most modern mental health professionals is enough to realize that it is wise to be extremely suspicious of someone who is displaying a quick-tempered being, having public and visual hallucinations, and is focusing on a specific one Called connection to the supernatural.

This excellent, wise piece of advice is as reasonable today as it was about 2,000 years ago.

Translation: Ruth Hofbauer