Jesus Heals a Man With a Withered Hand
James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). The Man with the Withered Hand (L'homme à
Where Science Meets Religion by Trent Dee Stephens, PhD, for the Come Follow Me lesson March 13–19: Matthew 11-12; Luke 11
I believe that Jesus performed miracles. I also believe that miracles follow natural laws, albeit, higher laws than what, for the most part, we have yet discovered. The Bible Dictionary states, “Miracles should not be regarded as deviations from the ordinary course of nature so much as manifestations of divine or spiritual power. Some lower law was in each case superseded by the action of a higher.”1 Science is the search for explanations of the natural phenomena we experience but cannot as yet explain – the search for those higher laws. I believe that we scientists should be looking to the miracles of Christ as clues to where some of those higher laws may reside.
One such miracle was recorded in Matthew 12:10-13, “And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him. And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.” This same story is recorded in Mark 3:1-5 and Luke 6:6-10. James Strong’s Englishman's Concordance, as cited at Bible Hub, defines “withered” as ξηράν(xēran): “Dry, withered; noun: dry land. From the base of xestes; arid; by implication, shrunken, earth.”2
I have had quite a bit of experience at examining and teaching about “withered” hands during my career. I prefer Strong’s definition of “shrunken” as opposed to “withered,” suggesting that the affected hand is diminished in size compared to the opposite, normal hand – and thus could be made “whole.” There are at least two ways, in my experience, wherein a person’s hand may be shrunken – or diminished in size. The most likely explanation for a diminished hand is that the defect is congenital, that is, present at birth and, therefore occurring during prenatal development. Especially if the defect is unilateral (occurring only on one side) as was the case with the man Jesus healed, that defect is, in my experience, part of a defect spectrum referred to as Poland anomaly. In this defect, apparently, the brachial artery, which supplies the chest, arm, and hand; becomes occluded at some time during development and insufficient blood reaches the hand and chest. As a result, the hand, especially the three middle fingers, is/are reduced in size. The pectoralis major muscle (the main muscle of the chest) is usually also reduced in size.
A second, less common reason for a hand to be withered is that during a person’s life, the nerve to the hand muscles is damaged so that the muscles are deprived of their normal nerve supply. The median nerve supplies the nerves to the muscles in the thenar region of the hand – the muscles at the base of the thumb, whereas the ulnar nerve supplies the nerves to the rest of the hand muscles. As a result of insufficient nerve supply, the affected muscles atrophy and diminish in size so that the affected part of the hand appears to be withered. By examining the hand and determining which muscles are diminished and have lost function, it is possible to determine where the nerve damage likely occurred.
No matter the cause of the withered, shrunken hand, it is clear that the affected hand has missing mass – a portion, in some cases a large portion, of the tissue is missing. So how did Christ add tissue, cells to the diminished hand? That is the great scientific question associated with this particular miracle, and this phenomenon may be a guide-post pointing us toward some, as yet undiscovered higher law of nature. If we truly believe that this miracle occurred, then we believe that mass, tissue, was literally added to the man’s hand.
At the meridian of time, and for the next eighteen hundred years, before the cell theory was proposed by Theodor Schwann in 1839, people only considered the human body as a single entity. Now we know that our bodies are comprised of some thirty to thirty five trillion cells. One of our hands contains more cells than there are stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. I have proposed in my books The Infinite Creation and The Immortal Messiah that our spirit bodies and our physical bodies look the same right down to the cellular and even subcellular levels. The Prophet Joseph Smith gave the following instructions at Ramus, Illinois, May 17, 1843: “There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes. We cannot see it, but when our bodies are purified, we shall see that it is all matter.”3 This definition of spirit is almost identical to the modern scientific definition of dark matter: it appears to be matter because it exhibits gravitational pull, but that’s all we know about it. We cannot see it or detect it at the present time. We also know that dark matter is about four times as common in the universe as regular matter. I do not have space or time here to discuss dark matter in detail, but I have discussed it in the two books cited above.
We are told in the book of Ether (3:6, 16), “And it came to pass that when the brother of Jared had said these words, behold, the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger. And the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord; and it was as the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood…Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh.” Furthermore, we are told in Alma 11:43-44, “The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time… and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now…” These two scriptures suggest to me that our spirit bodies are in the express image of our perfect, complete physical bodies. I believe, therefore, that the man with the deficient, withered hand had a complete, perfect spirit associated with that hand.
Therefore, the man with the withered hand had two hands, each comprised of a different form of matter, one, which was incomplete, made of normal matter, and one, which was complete, made of spirit – dark (?) matter. I propose that spirit matter is one form of dark matter, which may have many forms – just as normal matter can be broken down into 118 elements, so perhaps dark matter may also be divided. As I have elaborated in the books cited above, perhaps that spirit matter is entangled with the normal matter of our bodies, right down to the cellular and even molecular level.
In order for Christ to make an incomplete hand complete, additional normal matter would have been required. That extra matter had to have come from somewhere – that’s what is meant by miracles following natural laws – that extra matter didn’t come from nowhere. Now here is where there may be higher natural laws that we as yet have not discovered or even imagined: perhaps there is a way to convert dark matter into regular matter. Perhaps, under Christ’s direction, the man’s spirit hand attracted to it additional dark matter, which became entangled with it – heaven knows there is plenty extra of the dark stuff around. And then that dark matter was in some way converted into natural matter – filling in the missing gaps in the man’s withered hand. This is certainly a wild and crazy idea, but we will never discover those higher laws of nature without thinking outside the box.
Alchemists searched for the philosopher’s stone, a miraculous elixir that could not only turn lead into gold but could also cure illness. Alchemists’ searches led to the discoveries of modern chemistry and pharmacology where marvelous new discoveries, such as plastics and life-saving drugs, many of which are far more valuable than gold, have revolutionized our lives. If we truly believe that Christ pulled the extra matter from “thin air” to fill in the missing pieces of the man’s shrunken hand, then we should seek after the source of that extra matter. It turns out that thin air is not as thin as once thought. Alchemists believed that air was one of the four basic elements, until in 1774, when Joseph Priestly discovered that air contains a colorless and highly reactive gas, which he named “dephlogisticated air,” and to which Antoine Lavoisier gave the name “oxygen.”4 We now know that air contains a large number and amount of other gases. It also contains an even larger amount of dark matter. At present, our understanding of that dark matter is at an even more primitive level than the alchemists’ notion of air. If we take Christ’s miracle of healing the shrunken hand at face value, then we should be looking for ways to first identify and quantify dark matter and then find ways to convert dark matter into the healing flesh that can fill in the missing parts of incomplete bodies – sparking a new era of even more medical miracles. It appears that the spirit matter part of the missing tissue is still there – that should be a good starting point for young chemists/physicians to think outside the box as did Joseph Priestly – who was not only an unorthodox chemist but an unorthodox theologian and philosopher as well – a true illuminatus.
Please join me for my weekly discussions of Where Science Meets Religion – The Infinite Creation – 6 PM each Thursday at the Century Ward meeting house (at 4th and Fredregill, Pocatello). Last week we discussed the Microscopic Creation. This coming week we will discuss The Eons of Earth and anything else you want to discuss. I will also be Zooming the sessions: Meeting ID: 935 754 2152 Passcode: nka
Trent Dee Stephens
1. churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/bd/miracles?lang=eng; retrieved 29 January 2023
2. biblehub.com/matthew/12-10.htm; biblehub.com/greek/strongs_3584.htm; retrieved 5 March 2023
3. Doctrine and Covenants 131:7-8
4. Joseph Priestley and the Discovery of Oxygen; acs.org/education/whatischemistry/landmarks/josephpriestleyoxygen.html