(Acts 5:15) How could Peter’s shadow heal people?

CLAIM: Luke writes, “They even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on any one of them. Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed” (Acts 5:15-16). How could Peter’s shadow heal these people?

RESPONSE: A number of observations can be made:

First, the text never actually says that his shadow healed them—just that the people set out their sick so that Peter’s shadow would touch them. Verse 16 does say that all were being healed, but it doesn’t explicitly say that it was because of the shadow.

Second, it isn’t unheard of that miracles like this could occur. Paul’s handkerchief was used for healings in Ephesus (Acts 19:11-12), and a woman found healing by simply touching Jesus’ tunic (Lk. 7:1-10).

Third, this expression could be a euphemism for Peter “visiting” the sick. Bock writes, “Van der Horst (1977) observes that a person’s shadow was seen as an extension of that individual, and he presents numerous Greco-Roman citations and a smaller number of Jewish references supporting this idea.”[1]

[1] Bock, D. L. (2007). Acts (p. 232). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.