Paralytic (παραλυτικός, παραλελυμένος), a class of sick persons named in the Gospels in connection with daemoniacs and epileptics (see Mt 4:24; comp. Ac 8:7), as being deprived of the power of motion, and borne for cure on couches to the Savior (Mt 9:2; Mr 2:3; Lu 5:18; comp. Ac 9:23). Elsewhere we find paralysis mentioned as a consequence of apoplexy (1 Maccabees 9:55). In our version the word παραλυτικός is rendered "sick of the palsy," and so other versions. Modern physicians understand by paralysis or palsy the loss of power over the voluntary muscles; sometimes accompanied with the loss of sensibility in certain parts of the body, in which the muscles affected are relaxed and slack. This last symptom seems to distinguish paralysis from catalepsy and the various kinds of tetanus, in all of which the muscles are rigid and contracted. During palsy the circulation, the animal heat, and the usual secretions continue. The attack is often very sudden, following an apoplectic stroke; but sometimes comes on slowly and imperceptibly; and in either case the cure is exceedingly difficult (see Sprengel, Instit. Pathol. Spec. 4:441; comp. the Berliner Medicin. Encyclop. 21:16 sq.). But the ancient physicianis understood paralysis in a much wider sense, and, according to Richter's careful investigations (see his Dissert. quat. Med. Gotting. 1775), applied the term to every disease which destroyed the power of voluntary action, without regard to the condition of the muscles; thus including under it both tetanus and catalepsy. He adduces in confirmation of this view, besides other passages of ancient physicians, the treatise of Coelius Aurelianus (Morb. Chron. 2:1), who distinguishes two kinds of paralysis — the one marked by spasms, the other by flaccidity of the muscles. This would serve to explain the case (Mt 8:6) of a paralytic who was in great suffering (see Ackermann, in Weise's Material. fur Gottesgelahrth. 1, 2:57 sq.). But pain is rarely experienced in the disease now called palsy; and when it does occur it is not severe, being merely a pricking or itching sensation. On the other hand the paralysis a conductione, or convulsive palsy of Coelius Aurelianus (or, as the moderns term it, the contractura articulorum, spasm of the joints), is an exceedingly painful disease. It is certain that the words used to denote diseases in the Gospels are to be understood as used, not with scientific definiteness, but like other words in the language of common life, as including various symptoms more or less allied to each other. It is not therefore necessary, in any case, to understand the case spoken of by Matthew as one of tetanus or lockjaw (as Choulunt. Spec. Pathol. u. Therap. p. 711 sq., 2d ed.), a disease more common in not than in temperate climates, and in Africa than in the East; and often followed quickly by death. Some, again, interpret the case of the woman who was bowed together (Lu 13:11) of the tetanus emprosthotonos, that form of the disease which bends forward stiffly the neck and the whole body. But an arthritic contraction of the body may also be meant (comp. Wedel, Exercitat. Med. Philol. p. 4 sq.).
On the other hand, the case of Alcimus, spoken of in 1 Maccabees 9:55, was probably one of sudden tetanus, which would account for the severe pain mentioned, a symptom not found in apoplexy, as well as for the sudden death. The tetanus (which receives its common name of lockjaw from its effect on the organs of speech) attacks and disables the body suddenly; is connected with severe pain in the muscles affected, and sometimes results fatally within thirty or fifty hours. Yet it is possible, with Ackermann, to refer such cases to apoplexy, understanding by the "torment" (βάσανος) the suffering which bystanders, from the visible symptoms, suppose the patient to suffer. The victim of this disease is motionless; his breathing is slow and interrupted, accompanied by a rattling sound; foam often appears in the mouth; the face is swollen and red; the eyes protrude, and are fixed, and the extremities cold (see Conradi, Handb. d. spec. Pathol. 2:531). It is well known that apoplexy often kills in a few minutes. See further, on the varying views which medical men take of the palsy of the New Testament, Bartholini Paralytici N.T. Medico et Philol. Commentarii, illustr. (Hafn. 1653; 3d ed. Leips. 1685); Wedel, Exercit. Med. Philol. dec. 5,p. 6 sq; dec. 8, p. 17 sq.; Ader, Enarrat. de Eegrotis in Evany. (Tolos. 1723), p. 10 sq.; Baier, Animadv. physico-med. ad loca. N.T. Spec. 2:30 sq.; Medic.-hermen. Untersuch. 109 sq. (extracted from Ackermann).
The passages which speak of a withered hand (1Ki 13:4; Mt 12:10; Mr 3:1) remain to be noticed. This (Gr. χεὶρ ξηρά) in the last two passages can be understood either of atrophy of the limbs (see Ackermann, in Weise's Material. 3:131 sq.; comp. Conradi, op.
cit. 2:212) or of palsy (Wedel, Exercit. dec. 8, p. 24 sq.; comp. Ader, Enarrat. p. 69 sq.; Schulthess, in Henke's Museum, 3:24 sq.). The case of Jeroboam (1Ki 13:4), whose hand was suddenly so affected that he could not draw it back to him, is either one of palsy, or perhaps of tetanus, as Ackermann thinks (l.c.). SEE PALSY.