WHAT IS THE “MADNESS” OF LUKE 6:11?
by Shawn Brasseaux
In the King James Bible, we read in Luke 6:11: “And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus.” What is this “madness?”
Confusion surrounds the passage because modern English versions departed from the centuries-old standard English reading as found in the Authorized Version. According to the King James, Christ’s critics were “filled with madness.” However, modern translations read “filled with rage” (NKJV), “furious” (NIV), and so on. Is Luke stressing their anger here? We think not! By tampering with this word, modern versions have watered down a salient truth, removing the thrust of the verse.
The idea being carried with “madness” is insanity. In Greek, it is “anoia,” literally “without understanding or mind” (related to “paranoia”). The word is found one other time in the New Testament, and it is rendered “folly” (foolishness) in 2 Timothy 3:9: “But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.” Whether the corrupt religionists in 2 Timothy 3:1-9, the Egyptian magicians opposing Moses in Exodus by counterfeiting God’s work, or Israel’s apostate religious leaders challenging Jesus, they are all spiritually senseless. They have been given over to the spiritual darkness and silliness they so preferred when they rejected God’s spiritual light and wisdom! Neither God nor His servants/preachers can reason with them.
As it was true of the Gentiles/nations at the Tower of Babel (Genesis chapter 10), as it is applicable of Bible-rejecters today, so Romans 1:20-25 is true of those unbelievers during Christ’s earthly ministry: “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.” (Verses 26-32 describe their additional nonsensical ideas and behaviors!)
Read the parallels of Luke 6:11. “Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him” (Matthew 12:14). “And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him” (Mark 3:6).They are irrational, and cannot be reasoned with. While they have their major political and religious disagreements, Jesus’ critics can all concur He needs to be taken care of. Too willfully blind to see their need for the Saviour, they are opposing the God-Man to the point of murdering Him!
In Acts 26:9-11, when the Apostle Paul is sharing his testimony, he recounts how he as Saul of Tarsus was another unbelieving Judaistic fanatic hell-bent on imprisoning and/or killing Jesus’ followers (cf. Acts 7:54-60; Acts 8:1-4; Acts 9:1-22): “ I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.  Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them.  And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.” Worse than Christ’s opponents in Matthew through John, Saul of Tarsus was also entangled with works-religion. Thankfully, Saul came to faith in Christ Jesus alone, throwing away his worthless self-righteousness and ridiculousness (Philippians chapter 3)!
For more information, refer to our “lunatick” companion study linked at the end of this article.
SUPPLEMENTAL: THE MADNESS OF MADNESS
Our English term “madness” can be traced back to the Middle English “medd, madd,” to the Old English “gemaed,” meaning “silly;” it is related to the Old High German word “gimeit,” meaning “foolish, crazy.” Although the Greek word is different (“mainomai”) from that used in Luke 6:11, the King James translators used “mad” to specify craziness as opposed to anger in five places:
- John 10:20: “And many of them said, He [Jesus] hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him?”
- Acts 12:15: “And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel.”
- Acts 26:24: “And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.”
- Acts 26:25: “But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.”
- 1 Corinthians 14:23: “If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?”
» What is a “lunatick?” Is it an “epileptic?”
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