Does spirit of infirmity mean there is a demon for each disease?
Some have claimed that sickness is caused by demons. They claim there is a demon for every disease such as the common cold, cancer, pneumonia, and the COVID virus. Others claim that is not true. But is it possible that Luke 13:10-11 provides proof there is a demon for every disease? The King James Version (KJV) of Luke 13:10-11 seems to support that teaching since it refers to “a spirit of infirmity.” Does this mean there is a spirit of infirmity? The purpose of this article is answer the question, “Does spirit of infirmity mean there is a demon for each disease?” This article also answers the question, what is a spirit of infirmity?
Spirit of Infirmity
Luke 13:10-11 is translated differently by various Bible versions. The term “spirit of infirmity” can be found in Luke 13:10-11 in the KJV and NKJV Bibles.
And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself. Luke 13:10-11 (KJV)
This term “spirit of infirmity” is translated differently in other Bibles. For example, “sickness caused by a spirit” occurs in the NASB, “crippled by a spirit” is found in the NIV, and “disabling spirit” in the ESV. Here are three examples.
And He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And there was a woman who for eighteen years had had a sickness caused by a spirit; and she was bent double, and could not straighten up at all. Luke 13:10-11 (NASB)
On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. Luke 13:10-11 (NIV)
Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. Luke 13:10-11 (ESV)
We are told in every passage that the woman was bent over. She could not stand up straight. Notice two things. First, all four Bible versions (KJV, NASB, NIV, and ESV) state that an evil spirit is involved. The NASB and NIV imply an evil spirit was the cause of the woman’s sickness in some way. But the KJV and the ESV imply a specific demon caused a specific type of sickness. The KJV refers to the demon as “a spirit of infirmity” and the ESV describes the demon as a “disabling spirit.”
Meaning of Spirit of Infirmity
Second, the Greek phrase astheneia pneuma in Luke 13:11 is translated as “spirit of infirmity” in the KJV. The second word, pneuma, means “spirit.” But the key to understanding the phrase is the Greek word astheneia, which the KJV translates as “infirmity.” Astheneia occurs 24 times in the New Testament. Of these twenty-four times, the word has been translated as “weakness,” “illness,” and “ailments.” The word generally refers to a lack of strength, the opposite of power, or weakness. This word has a wide range of meaning. As a result, other Bible versions translate astheneia as “crippled” or “disabling.” That is, the word refers to sickness, illness or disease in general.
Therefore, the NASB translation of “sickness caused by a spirit” provides the more accurate translation of the Greek in this verse. It is clear from verse 12 that the woman was either demon possessed or only influenced by a demon. There are other passages that teach people can have an illness that is caused by a demon (Matthew 9:32-33; 17:14-18; Mark 9:17-27; Luke 9:37-42; 11:14). The book of Job tells us that the man Job had boils due to Satan.
Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. Job 2:7 (NASB)
But a few examples do not mean that every illness, sickness or disease is caused a specific demon.
Joel B. Green, in his commentary on Luke, provides one of the best summaries about the meaning of Luke 13:10-12. He writes,
From a biomedical perspective, this bent-over woman is thought by some to have protracted spondylitis anlcylopoietica, though hysteria has also been suggested. Luke, however, is not really interested in a biomedical diagnosis. He attributes her condition, instead, to a “spirit.” In doing so, he uses language that might be taken more generally as “a condition of weakness,” but in light of Jesus’ remarks in vv 12 and 16 it is more appropriate to regard Luke’s description of her crippled state as grounded in satanic bondage. This does not necessarily mean that Luke regards her as demon possessed, but it does underscore his more general perspective on the inseparability of physical malady and diabolic influence and, thus, on the inseparability of healing and liberation. .
The point is that a demon was responsible for this woman’s sickness. But this verse cannot be used to establish a principle that 1) there are specific demons for every type of sickness, illness or disease or 2) that every sickness is due to a demon.
Demons Cause Only Some Diseases
As we have discovered, Scripture clearly teaches that demons do cause some diseases or illnesses, but they do not cause all of them. Matthew 4:23-24 is an important example. As you read, notice that demons are mentioned only once in this long list of diseases or illnesses.
Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. Matthew 4:23-24 (NASB)
Notice that many different types of diseases and sicknesses are mentioned. Then we are told that some people suffer due to demoniacs or demons. That is, some illnesses are the result of either demon possession or demonic oppression, but not the majority.
Luke 8:40-48 is an example of an illness that is not due to demon possession. It is obvious that old age is not due to evil spirits, nor is every death due to evil spirits. There is not an “old age” demon that causes people to become old and eventually die. There is not a “death demon” that causes people to die. Therefore, the spirit of infirmity does not mean there is a demon for each disease.
Those who claim that every disease, sickness, or illness is due to demons have missed an important message from God, Himself, in Exodus 4:11,
The LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Exodus 4:11 (NASB)
Notice that God claims credit for making people mute, deaf, or blind. Demons or evil spirits do not cause all suffering. To claim so is to reject God’s statement.The biblical evidence is that 1) there are not specific demons for every type of sickness, illness or disease and 2) every sickness is not due to a demon.
1. Joel B. Green. The Gospel of Luke. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Eerdmans Publishers. 19199761. p. 521.
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