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We read in Acts 5:15:

As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by.

We are not told by the Gospels if someone got healed by Jesus' shadow falling on him/her. The nearest we get is the case of the woman with the blood problem getting healed on touching the cloak of Jesus. The Acts too do not say if anyone got healed by Peter's shadow. One casts shadow by blocking the path of light . For that matter, a shadow is treated as a negative leftover ( Is 9:1). But here, we see a faith in the healing power of the Apostle, that transcends common logics. My question therefore, is : Why was the shadow of St Peter considered to have healing power ?

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What I think the short answer is: where he walked, miracles followed.

Throughout the Gospels and Acts, there are numerous accounts of miraculous healings performed by Jesus and the apostles. News tends to spread quickly when supernatural miracles occur. These acts demonstrated the divine power working through them to bring about physical and spiritual restoration. The people witnessing these miracles would have likely attributed such power to the individuals themselves and anything associated with them.

The act of laying the sick in the path of Peter's shadow was an expression of faith in his authority and in the power of God working through him.

I think we can also take into account the cultural context. For example, ancient Greek and Roman religions were polytheistic, with numerous gods and goddesses who were believed to influence various aspects of life.

gotquestions says:

People wanted to believe there was something special about Peter, and they began seeking proximity to him in hopes of having some power pass over them. It wasn’t the first (or last) time that people sought a special blessing through a physical object. The paralyzed man in John 5 believed that water in a certain pool could heal his lameness. Some Ephesians in Acts 19 believed that healing power was concentrated in articles of Paul’s clothing (cf. Matthew 9:21). Some people today put their trust in handkerchiefs that have been “prayed over,” in relics of the saints, or in holy water.

In Acts 3 God’s power was demonstrated through Peter and John when a lame man was healed. The news spread quickly, and a great crowd gathered in Solomon’s Colonnade, full of amazement. Peter spoke to the crowd, correcting their assumption that he and John had special power in themselves: “Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?” (verse 12). The apostle then goes on to point the crowd to Jesus: “It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see” (verse 16).

The scripture recounts that it was the people themselves who brought out the sick individuals. Peter did not instruct them to do so; rather, they acted of their own volition. The question arises: what prompted them to take such action? What unusual events might have occurred to foster the belief among these individuals that Peter's mere shadow possessed healing powers?

It was because: where he walked, miracles followed. As we see in the verses prior to this: Acts 5:12-14

12 And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch. 13 Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. 14 And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women,

(Also see: Acts 3:1-10, Acts 5:1-11)

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    On the subject of cultural context, the Golden Bough (Sir James Frazier) remarks on the converse need to avoid the shadows of people thought to be spiritually dangerous (such as mourners). In other words, this is influenced by what he defines as magic rather than religion. Mar 7 at 6:38
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Even in today's world, cultural beliefs continue to influence people's actions. Some individuals still hold the conviction that touching relics associated with saints or spiritual figures can bring them good luck. Remarkably, this belief might have been even more intense two millennia ago. In addition to Acts 5:15 that people believe Peter's shadow has healing power, there are two other incidences of similar nature;

  1. A woman who had been bleeding for twelve years believed that touching the edge of Jesus cloak would heal her. (Matthew 9:20-21)
  2. Paul's handkerchiefs and aprons were taken to the sick for healing (Acts 19:11-12)

When it comes to healing miracles, two essential conditions intersect:

  1. The Power of the Divine Spirit
  2. The Faith of the Recipient

Therefore it is not Peter's shadow or Paul's substances that effect healing. Instead, it is the synergy of the Holy Spirit working through Peter and Paul, combined with the unwavering faith of those who believe in Jesus through their preaching, that brings about healing.

In summary, miraculous healing transcends physical elements - it emerges from the intersection of faith and divine intervention.

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  • 2 Kings 13:21. A dead man was revived by touching Elisha's bones. So it's not just a cultural belief.
    – Mary
    Mar 10 at 3:29
  • @Mary - Not all words in the Bible are meant to be taken literally. It is essential to distinguish between metaphorical language and factual reality. The three incidents in my answer are factual. Mar 10 at 14:20
  • Your cultural beliefs are leading you astray. That passage is clearly NOT intended to be a metaphor.
    – Mary
    Mar 10 at 15:03

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