108 PSYCHOTHERAPY : SCIENTIFIC AND RELIGIOUS chap.
long has he been like this ? ' This enquiry is interesting from two points of view : first, it shows that Jesus, like any other physician, wanted to know something of the previous history of the case ; and second, it suggests that Jesus did not attribute the trouble to ' possession ' as was commonly done. The father replied : ' From childhood it has thrown him into fire and water to destroy him. If you can do anything to help us, do have pity on us/ It is worth noting that Matthew, who describes the patient as moonstruck in accordance with some Talmudic teaching, puts it, ' He often falls into the fire and often into the water ' (xvii, 15), thus harmonizing the spirit of the answer with that of the question. Jesus challengingly and promptly answered the man : 'If you can ! Anything can be done for one who believes/ At once, the father cried, ' I do believe : help Thou my unbelief \ The narrative adds that Jesus checked the ' unclean spirit' and forbade it to return. Here there seems to be an inconsistency, since Jesus had not before spoken of the case in terms of demon possession ; and we are thus driven back upon the explanation advanced in the first story. Yet, again, there is no following up of the case, once Jesus had taken the boy by the hand and raised him up.
This story illustrates, better than any other, why, in this discussion, so much importance has been attached to Jesus' certainty and assurance. When an attempt to work a cure by methods of suggestion or faith-healing results in failure it is often the patient who is blamed. In this case the disciples quite naturally asked why they were unable to heal the boy and Jesus imputed the lack of faith to them. Faith, assurance or certainty is as necessary to the practitioner as it is to the patient. In fact, it is the practitioner's faith which inspires in the patient a spirit of confidence and expectation. Jesus