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  • Writer's pictureGODVERSITY

Epilepsy, Demon Possession?

QUESTION: I have heard other churches use Matthew 17:14-18 to speak of epilepsy as demon possession. What does your ministry say about this passage?

Thank you for finding our ministry. That teaching you heard was completely untrue and not supported by the passage they quoted. Let us show you why.

The passage reads this way in about half of our English translations: Matt. 17:15 “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and is very ill; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water.

In the other half of our translations, it reads this way: Matt. 17:15 “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is epileptic, and suffers grievously; for he often falls into the fire, and often into the water. 

The Greek word translated lunatic or epileptic is the word seleniazo, which literally means “moonstruck.” Obviously, this is a euphemism in Greek, so the translators of our English Bibles had to decide how to translate that Greek euphemism into a literal, English equivalent. In other words, what are the symptoms of being “moonstruck"? Some translators chose a very literally translation (i.e., lunatic), which comes from the Latin word “luna” meaning moon. Other translators chose the term “epileptic” referring to a state of paralysis caused by seizures, which is the general idea of being moonstruck. 

Neither word is entirely accurate, however, which is why I think the NIV offers the best translation here:

Matt. 17:15 “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water.

This is a somewhat less literal translation to the original Greek, nevertheless it’s a more accurate rendition of the verse’s intent. Also, it avoids unnecessarily connecting the boy’s condition with the modern medical condition of epilepsy, which is an entirely different condition. 

Unfortunately, the men you heard preach were poor workman. They suggested a biblical rule (i.e., epileptics are always demon possessed) that is neither accurate to the text nor consistent with our experience. Such teaching reflects an ignorance of the proper rules of interpretation and an inability to understand the original language of the Bible. 

We hope you find the answers to your questions. God answers all those who seek Him. If you or your friend has a question, please do not hesitate to ask us. Write us an email at or write via comment box below.



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