'The Falling Sickness' in Literature

Jeffrey M. Jones, MD, Neurology of Battle Creek, Battle Creek, Mich.

South Med J. 2000;93(12) 

In This Article

The Bible

The Bible is an appropriate place to begin a review of literature and epilepsy. Not only is it the all-time best seller, but also it is one of the oldest works. In Mark 9:14-29 (also in Matthew 17:15-16 and Luke 9:37-43), a man brings his small son with epilepsy to the disciples, but they fail to cure the boy. The picture of an epileptic in those days was that of a person who was seized as if by an evil spirit. This is how the father describes the child's episodes:

Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not. (Mark 9:18) [2]

Jesus arrives and succeeds in making the "[epilepsy] spirit come out." The disciples thought they had done everything right and did not understand why they failed. Later, when the disciples ask Jesus why they were unable to cure the boy, Jesus replies that this kind of spirit can "come out by nothing, save by prayer."

Just as the disciples found that there is no "cookbook" method of salvation, there is likewise no cookbook method of treating epilepsy. Only through the active application of medical knowledge can one hope to adequately address seizure disorders.

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