The Bible has much to say about disabilities and disabled people, far more than people realize. But the Bible’s message about disabilities is complex. Much harm has been done by simplistic and misinformed readings of the Bible.
Here are five things to consider when reading what the Bible says about disabilities.
- The Bible is written with the perspective of ability as normal. The authors of the biblical books most likely saw disability as in a sense “abnormal” and that is reflected their writings. That doesn’t mean that God sees disability as “abnormal” and there are hints of an openness to a diversity of physical and developmental experiences. We should not try and place modern understandings of disability into the mind of the original authors.
- The Bible describes healing of disabilities and acceptance of people with their disabilities. Sometimes people with disabilities are healed of their impairments. But there are plenty of teachings about what justice for people with the ongoing experience of disabilities looks like.
- The Bible does use certain disabilities, especially blindness and deafness, in metaphorical ways. This may bother modern readers, but the Bible does use these disabilities as images for spiritual problems.
- Many prominent figures in the Bible had disabilities. Examples, such as Moses and Sarah, are described as having disabilities. It is also likely that Paul, and in another sense, Jesus, had disabilities. Disabled voices can be heard if we listen carefully.
- The Bible doesn’t speak with one unified voice when it comes to disabilities. There is a multitude of voices, some that may comfort and some that may disrupt our comfort. We need to let all those voices be heard.