“Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.” (Matthew 17:15)

Ever since the ASV, modern versions have attempted to “rationalize” this verse by substituting epileptic for lunatick.

ASV “Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is epileptic, and suffereth grievously; for oft-times he falleth into the fire, and oft-times into the water.”

RSV “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; for often he falls into the fire, and often into the water.”

Where did modern version translators get the word epileptic? The word in question is seleniazomai. It is a passive or middle voice verb that is based on the word for moon, which is selene. In other words, it means moonstruck. For hundreds of years the whole English-speaking world has used the term lunatic to refer to the insane. Many who claim to be more rational have held the absurd notion that the moon does not actually effect behavior, but the truly rational have always known that it does. All anyone need do is observe the behavior of insane drivers during the monthly full moon days. Columbus, Ohio is a very dangerous place to drive in during a full moon. I almost always know when it is a full moon by observing the maniacal behavior of the drivers in that town.

Most grade school teachers will testify that there is an observable increase in behavior problems during full moons. My mother was a grade school teacher for forty some years and she doesn’t need a psychiatrist to verify this for her. I have talked to prison employees who all know that the full moon period is the time when violence, suicide, and increased depression are most likely.

The reason for this is not certain, but some have theorized that this is due to the gravitational effects of the moon. The brain requires more water than any other part of the body. We know that the moon effects the tides, and the monthly menses of women. It also is thought that more babies are born during the full moon than during any other time. Others have suggested that it is related to the amount of light given off, however, the effects are just as pronounced during full moon days as full moon nights. Whatever the cause, we should ask why do these modern versions take such a perfectly descriptive, accurate, and solidly rooted word like lunatic, which is an exact translation, and translate it with a word for a disease that has only a superficial connection. There also could be a connection between heightened consequences of demonic possession and the full moon.

The translation of “epileptic” may be connected with a twentieth century attempt to rationalize demonic possession, or mantic states of being as sociologists of religion call it. Maxime Rodinson, for instance, presented a theory that Muhammad was an epileptic, and that was somehow responsible for his spiritual experiences from which the Qur’an was derived. This theory is particularly unsound when one considers how truly well written the Qur’an is on a stylistic level.

It is the standard for the modern language. Rodinson may have been influenced by a 19th century view that epileptic fits were signs of deep spiritual experiences. This view was expressed by Dostoevsky, Balzac, and other authors, but these views stemmed from mystical belief systems, which lack scientific validity. Victims of epilepsy rarely remember much of their fits, and they certainly would not be able to write anything during them, and there is no reason that an epileptic seizure would inspire any kind of poetic writing.1 Muhammad’s mantic state is better compared to those of H.P. Blavatsky, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, Alice Bailey, and other demon-possessed authors.

In short, this effort at guesswork on the behalf of the modern versions not only ignores the literal and quite descriptive meaning of the word, but it does so in a fashion that removes the demonic connection from the condition. As always, the modern versions have produced a less accurate and a less significant translation.


1 The author is well aware that Muslims do not consider the Qur’an to be a poetic composition, but its unique poetic style is undeniable.
Rodinson, Maxime. Mahomet. [Paris] Éditions du Seuil 1968.

John Hinton, Ph.D.
Bible Restoration Ministry
A ministry seeking the translating and reprinting of KJV equivalent
Bibles in all the languages of the world.