Medical Metaphor and How They Relate to Sin

Medical Metaphor and How They Relate to Sin

Metaphors are a form of figurative language where a word or a phrase that designates one thing is used to designate another. Metaphors have been used in different literature works including the Holy Bible. Both the new and old testaments have made extensive use of metaphors and some people have found it difficult understanding the literal meaning in the most of the chapters. The use of figurative language and metaphors makes it possible to get an inner and deeper meaning of the underlying concepts. This paper will look at some of the metaphors in the scripture that relates to sin.

It is prudent to note that most people miss the deeper meanings of the scriptures especially in the Old Testament. This is because the bible uses some figurative language especially in reference to sin. Sin is in most cases compared to illnesses and use of this metaphor may make it difficult for some believers to grab the concept. To start with, in the Old Testament, there are different instances where the Bible speaks of the wounds. Wounds are painful and make patients to cry out in anguish. In reference to sin as wound, the bible asserts that just like the wounds cause pain to the patient, sins are a form of wounds in the soul.  Sin will cause spiritual pain to Christians and only divine intervention will help ease the pain. Just like a person with wound will seek a physician, when a sinner seeks spiritual intervention, then they are set free. This pain is expressed in the book of Psalms 38:8-9 ‘’ I have roared, by reason of disquietness of my heart; Lord, my desire is before thee, and my groaning is not hid from thee.’’ This is a clear indication of the pain in the heart of a sinner.

The bible continues and refers to sin as wounds. It is said that the soul that sins shall die. The explanation to this is that just like some wounds are mortal, sin also makes a mortal wound; ‘’the soul that sins shall die,’’ Ezekiel 18. Mortal wounds will lead to death and if Christians fails to seek God’s intervention and cleansing of their sins, then there are chances they will die sinners. There is cure for spiritual sores and wounds and only those who seek intervention of the Holy Spirit will get the healing.   If a wounded person fails to seek medical attention, then the wound will eventually lead to death.  In the book of Roman 8:13 ‘’ If you live according to the sinful nature, you will die.’’ This implies that a person with wounds, sin, and fails to seek medical attention will die. The bible also compares sin to smelling wounds. It is prudent to note that the wounds will tend to have a bad odor f hey are not properly dressed. The story of the leper and the lost son are good examples of smelling wounds. If as Christians we opt to live as sinners and stay away from God our healer, then we will be considered as patients with wounds and fails to seek medical attention.

Another medical metaphor in the Old Testament is found in the book of proverbs 17:22. The bible says’’ A merry heart does good like medicine’’.  From these scriptures, it is evident that medicine makes life better for the ailing persons. In the same spirit, people who are saved from sins will have a merry heart and consequently be healed. It important to note that it is difficult for a sinner to have a merry heart (Saint Benedict’s prayer book for beginners, 1993).  The metaphor wants to indicate that those who are relieved off their sins will be happy like those people who get healed after taking medicine. In the book of Isaiah 38:21, prophet Isaiah offers a prescription to heal Hezekiah’s boil. This was a clear indication that healing was essential and paramount just like it was important for sinners to seek repentance and cleansing.

The concept of medical metaphors is also evident in the New Testament. Jesus said in the book of Luke 5: 31 ‘’ those who are well do not need a physician, but those who are sick’’.  This was a reference to that Jesus came to this world for the sinners. Jesus compare sin to illness since only the sick needs a physician and in this case, it is clear that sinners and patients are alike. From this scripture, Jesus is the physician while Christians ‘’sinners’’ are the patients. It is only through accepting Him and repenting the sins that one can be cleansed or healed.

The same concept of metaphor is also clear in the st. Augustine’s confession. In his book, the use of figurative language and imagery has been extensively employed. He compares the body to the soul to ensure that it is easy to capture the concept. He asserts that, just like sick body needs nourishment, the soul also should be nourished and handled with care. By use of this metaphor, Augustine wants to create a sense of urgency and think of the soul the same way we treat our bodies. The metaphorical strength in the confession makes it easy to relate the spiritual disease with physical illness. Augustine is able to talk about his godlessness as if it were an affliction that was caused a lot of pain. ‘’ I felt no need for the food that does not perish, not because I had had my fill of it, but because the more I was starved of it the less palatable it seemed. Because of this my soul fell sick.’’ This is a clear indication that the use of spiritual disease in the confession helps us relate with physical illness and hence easy to grab the concept. Augustine will occasionally talk about the soul being nourished and healthy, but for the most part, he discusses how the soul is decrepit and dying (Saint Benedict’s prayer book for beginners, 1993). If the soul is like body and can get sick, then God is compared to a physician and can be the source of health to ailing soul.


In a nutshell, use of metaphors has been increasingly used in different forms of literature including the Bible and other religious books like the St. Augustine confession. The use of metaphors makes it easy for the audience to understand the deeper meaning of a concept. For instance in the Bible, there are different medical metaphors used to express sins. Sins are compared to wounds which can be fatal if not treated by a physician. This is the same case with sinners who are destined to die if they fail to seek repentance from God. In essence sinners are patients while God is likened to a physician. On the same note, St. Augustine’s confession compares the soul to the body that is likely to get ill if lacks the necessary nourishment(Saint Benedict’s prayer book for beginners, 1993). Through likening the soul to the body, it is possible to grasp the concept as it is easy for a body to get ill. In essence use of metaphors is essential for easier understanding of important aspects in life as demonstrated in the Bible as well as in the Confession by Augustine.



(2016). Retrieved 18 May 2016, from

Saint Benedict’s prayer book for beginners. (1993). York.


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