Take the 2-minute tour ×
Christianity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Having a bit of holiday over Christmas and New Year I'm going over some notes I've made of topics I want to look at.

One such question regards the use of terminology such as "Jesus took our illnesses upon himself on the cross".

I've read a little and seen that there's a variety of perspectives (from perhaps "sickness is something that shouldn't affect Christians" to perhaps a focus on the full-application being in the future kingdom) that this statement could cover, but I'd be interested to see if anyone could give me the background texts to support such a statement (one would not have to agree with the exegesis to present the texts used to support the doctrine).

One commonly referenced text would be Isa 53:4-5 which concludes

and with his wounds we are healed

I'm interested in seeing what is the range of ideas that "Jesus took our illnesses" covers and what key texts are used to build up that argument.

I hope that's reasonably clear!

share|improve this question
According to google, the only usage of that full phrase (with the cross reference) is you: this question here, and on meta.hermeneutics –  Marc Gravell Dec 31 '11 at 17:13
I salute your nerdiness. Change the word "illness" to "sickness" and get a couple of hits. If you just search for the expression -Jesus took our sickness on the cross- then you'll get a quick idea of the range of ideas out there. But I don't want to throw the focus on anyone out there. –  Dave Alger Dec 31 '11 at 19:56
Did you guys know you can throw an * in a phrase search on Google to get all possible matches for filling in the blank? It seems 'sin' and 'punishment' are the most popular choices. –  Caleb Jan 9 '12 at 21:18
How do you explain Mathew 8:17? –  user1354 Feb 27 '12 at 0:29
Gary, that's a good verse to bring up here. Looking at e.g. the NLT rendering "“He took our sicknesses and removed our diseases.”" could clearly be used to build the sort of statement I used. If you put this in an answer I'd have voted it up. As for your question: I'd have to say I start with questions about what Matthew was doing and trying to communicate here and why he uses a wording which is at odds with how we'd normally tend to translate Isaiah. But it was a good verse to look at here, thanks! –  Dave Alger Mar 10 '12 at 9:34

2 Answers 2

In Isa 53, the word you are translating "illnesses" is more often translated as "transgressions" or "iniquities." Both of those words highlight the fact that Jesus took our sins with him on the cross, and by the wounds he suffered, we were healed - from the iniquity of sin.

The basic idea of salvation in Christainity is often summarized as this -

  1. We are sinners

  2. Because of this sin, we deserve eternal death - separation from God

  3. Jesus paid the penalty for that sin by dying on the cross, thus we are healed and given eternal life.

(For the purposes of this answer, lets not get into all the different ideas of atonement, etc... I'm going for the overview here!)

The point is "illness" is not a physical thing here, but a legal one. (Indeed, I've never seen that translation before - perhaps its just being confused with iniquities? An iniquity is an evil, a cause of suffering and distress, not necessarily a bodily thing.) We are "suffering" from sin, and the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 pays for that sin, so we are healed.

Beyond that, I've never seen a promise that Christians would never get sick. Even the early church recognized that believers would still die. The Good News, however, is that in our resurrected state, there would be no more corruption in our bodies - i.e. no sickness - but that's on the other side of the Jordan, not this one!

share|improve this answer
Sorry if I was unclear but I am not translating anything "illnesses". I'm simply saying that some Christians will use the phrase I've given. I've also seen people develop that from their understanding of texts like Isa 53. Just to be clear I'm not asking for an analysis of Isa 53, I'm looking for what sort of range we have for understanding that comment and any biblical backing they would produce (ideally beyond Isa 53 - much for the reasons you give). –  Dave Alger Dec 31 '11 at 10:26
The repeat of Isa in Matthew seems, in many translations, to relate to illness: mobile.biblegateway.com/passage/… –  Marc Gravell Dec 31 '11 at 18:01
This is a reasonable answer -- but to a different question. I don't think it engages the issue posed in the question. I'd love to see an overview of different takes on this and how people fill in the blanks to fit various doctrinal frameworks. I think it's a phrase used in a lot of ways and it would be useful to be aware of the range. –  Caleb Jan 9 '12 at 21:21

Isaiah 53 is not just about sin. Much more so, it is certainly not just about disease.

It is a picture of Christ on the cross, so all history leads up to this and all the future feeds back to this. The whole 'curse' of Adam was placed upo Him, and from Him the whole 'blessing' of Abraham is made. This is nothing less than the fall and return to paradise. So in a sense all salvation is here in its primitive kernel.

Even Rabbinic sources before Christ took the Messiah to undergo physical suffering and that would include the healing of physical diseases, not just sin. This can be seen from the Talmud identifyng th Messiah as the 'leperous one'.

Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 98b): "Messiah ...what is his name? The Rabbis say,' The leprous one'... for it says, 'Surely he has borne our sicknesses' etc. (Isa.53,4)."

From the New Testament view:

16When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. 17This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.” (Mathew 8:16-17)

This makes it sufficiently clear that these words include demon possession and illnesses of body.

24He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 25For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:24)

This also makes it clear that this means he would take away our sins.

So the idea seems to be that that Jesus is the great Messiah, the Healer, Comforter, Sin Bearer and killer of all; sin, hell, sorrow, death, and sickness, through his atonement. This does not mean all sickness and death is removed now, for salvation in history had developments and the full achievement of Christ’s work is in the future. All sorrow and suffering and sickness will not be removed until his future return to judge the living and the dead. However, when God met mankind, in the God-Man, it was impossible for the bizarre situation not to drive all sickness and demon possession away. The same will be true when he returns in glory:

16Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Rev 7:16-17)

This is the final dimension of Isaiah 53.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.