OED Entry Part of Speech Definition Appearance in Bible
Mad noun 1.) Mad people as a class.
2.) Fury, anger; a fit of anger
Mad adj 1.) Of an animal: abnormally aggressive; spec. (esp. of a dog) suffering from rabies, rabid.
2.) Of a person, action, disposition, etc.: uncontrolled by reason or judgement; foolish, unwise. Subsequently only in stronger use (corresponding to the modern restricted application of sense 4a, from which it is now often indistinguishable): extravagantly or wildly foolish; ruinously imprudent.
3.) Of a person: carried away by or filled with enthusiasm or desire; wildly excited; infatuated.
4.) Of a person: insane, crazy; mentally unbalanced or deranged; subject to delusions or hallucinations; (in later use esp.) psychotic
6b. Angry, irate, cross. Also, in weakened sense: annoyed, exasperated
7aOf a person: lacking in restraint; (wildly) unconventional in demeanour or conduct; marked by irresponsible gaiety; violently exuberant, outrageous, chaotic. Now freq. of an action, disposition, etc.
7b Characterizing a temporary state of fear, panic, etc.: frenetic, unrestrained, extreme.
3. King James Jer. 50. 38
Definition varies on version of bible.
KJV: Jer 1:38 It is the land of grauen images and they are madde upon their idoles.6b Bible (Great) Psalms cii. 8
“They that are mad vpon me, are sworne together agaynst me [similarly, 1611; the Hebrew word literally means ‘insane’].”

Bible (King James) Acts xxvi. 11
“And being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them euen vnto strange cities.”

Mad verb 1) To be or to become mad; to act like a madman, rage, behave furiously
2) To become infatuated
3) To make mad, to madden, make insane
1) Deeds xxvi 24: Festus with greet vois seyde, Poul, thou maddist, or wexist wood.
3) Deeds viii 11: Thei leaden him, for long tyme he hadde maddid hem with his witche crafts.
Madness noun
  1. 1. Imprudence, delusion, or (wild) foolishness resembling insanity; an instance of this.
  2. 2. Insanity; mental illness or impairment, esp. of a severe kind; (later esp.) psychosis; an instance of this.
  3. 3. Wild excitement or enthusiasm; ecstasy; exuberance or lack of restraint.
  4. 4. Uncontrollable anger, rage, fury.
Bible (Wycliffite, E.V.) (Douce 369(2)) Hosea ix. 7
Uses madman instead of mad
verb To be or to become mad; to act like a madman, rage, behave furiously. Acts. Early Version.
adj Of wind, a storm, the sea: wild, violent.

Evidence and Images

KJV, D-R, and Vulgate quotations from Unbound Bible. Middle English Wycliffe quotations from edition by Ford Madox Brown. Note: list of appearances of “mad(ness)” in Bible is incomplete.

Bible Chapter and Verse King James Douay-Rheims Vulgate Middle English Wycliffe Notes
1) Deuteronomy 28.28 The lord shall smite them with madness and blindness in an astonishment of heart. The Lord strike thee with madness and blindness and fury of mind. Percutiet te Dominus amentia et caecitate ac stupore mentis; The lord smyte thee with madnesse, and blyndnesse, and woodnesse of thouyt; The whole verse is basically saying if you don’t obey God you will be cursed. In this passage madness comes from disobeying God. So madness is a testament to God’s power. Very typical of a Deuteronomy passage.
2) Deuteronomy 28.34 So that thou shalt be mad for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see. And be astonished at the terror of those things which thy eyes shall see: et insanies in aspectu eorum, quae videbunt oculi tui. And wondrynge at the ferdfulnesse of tho thingis whiche thin iyen schulen se God is explaining directly that the magnificent sights will drive a man crazy; this passage describes being mad as insanity, not exactly rage. This is in the form of a threat from God, referencing the horrors they will soon witness.
3) 1 Samuel 21.13-15 And he changed his behaviour before them, and feigned himself mad in their hands, and scrabbled on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle fall down upon his beard.
Then said Achish unto his servants, Lo, ye see the man is mad: wherefore then have ye brought him to me?
Have I need of mad men, that ye have brought this fellow to play the mad man in my presence? shall this fellow come into my house?
So he altered his behavior in public and acted like a madman in front of them all, scrabbling on the double doors of the city gate and dribbling down his beard. And Achis said to his servants: You saw the man was mad: why have you brought him to me? Et ait Achis ad servos suos: “ Vidistis hominem insanum. Quare adduxistis eum ad me? N/A David is acting mad as a disguise. He is not truly mad but using it to cover up. David acts insane because he is afraid of the king. The king thinks David is insane and cursed by God and therefore doesn’t engage him.
4) 1 Corinthians 14.23 If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? If therefore the whole church come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in unlearned persons or infidels, will they not say that you are mad? Si ergo conveniat universa ecclesia in unum, et omnes linguis loquantur, intrent autem idiotae aut infideles, nonne dicent quod insanitis? Therfor if alle the chirche come togidere in to oon, and alle men speken in tungis, if idiotis, ether men out of the feith, entren, whether thei schulen not seie, What ben ye woode? Madness relates to ignorance and unfaithfulness.
5) 2 Kings 9.11 Then Jehu came forth to the servants of his lord: and one said unto him, Is all well? wherefore came this mad fellow to thee? And he said unto them, Ye know the man, and his communication. Then Jehu went forth to the servants of his lord: and they said to him: Are all things well? why came this mad man to thee? And he said to them: You know the man, and what he said. Iehu autem egressus est ad servos domini sui, qui dixerunt ei: “ Rectene sunt omnia? Quid venit insanus iste ad te? ”. Qui ait eis: “ Nostis hominem et loquelam eius ”. And Siba seyde to the kyng, hast comaundid to thi seruauntm so thi seruant schal do ; and Myphibosech, as oon of the sones of the kyng, schal ete on thi boord. Mad is referred to as a description of a person talking about something that they don’t understand.
6) 2 Kings19.28 Because thy rage against me and thy tumult is come up into mine ears, therefore I will put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest. Thou hast been mad against me, and thy pride hath come up to my ears: therefore I will put a ring in thy nose, and a bit between thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way, by which thou camest. insanisti in me, et superbia tua ascendit in aures meas. Ponam itaque circulum in naribus tuis et frenum in labris tuis et reducam te in viam, per quam venisti. for the hows of my fadir was not but gilti of deeth to my lord the kyng; sotheli thou hast set me thi seruaunt among the gesti of thi boord; what therfor haue y of iust pleynt, ether what may y more crye to the kyng?

Thou were wroth against me, and thy pride went up into mine ears; therefore I shall put a ring in thy nostrils , and a barnacle in thy lips (and a bit between thy lips) , and I shall lead the again into the way by which thou camest.
(Bible Gateway App)

A way of expressing hatred.
7) Mark 3.21 And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself And when his friends had heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him. For they said: He is become mad. Et cum audissent sui, exierunt tenere eum; dicebant enim: “ In furorem versus est ”. And whanne his kynnysmen hadden herd, thei wenten out ‘to holde him; for thei seiden, that is turned in to woodnesse The Middle English word relating to madness is “woodnesse” or as a base form, “wod.”Wod is used as an adjective for “mad” and “insane.”The word evolved from an old high German word “wuot” which is associated with rage.

The meaning of this verse is similar throughout the translations. All of them talk about people learning something about their friends, then accusing him of being insane or mad.

8) Proverbs 26.18 As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death As he is guilty that shooteth arrows, and lances unto death : Sicut insanit, qui mittit sagittas et lanceas in mortem, As he is gilti, that sendith speris and arowis in to deth; In this passage, the subject is being described as a “madman,” someone who is a vicious sinner, not as someone who has simply “gone crazy”.

Gilti (ME): guilty, culpable, blameworthy; ~ for, ~ in, ~ of, guilty of (an offense, sin, crime)

The man is described as guilty of a sin, not as being mad.

They say that people who shoot arrows and spears are madmen, or they are described as being guilty.

9) Acts of the Apostles 26.25 But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. And Paul said: I am not mad, most excellent Festus, but I speak words of truth and soberness. At Paulus: “Non insanio, inquit, obtime Feste, sed veritatis et sobrietatis verba eloquor And Poul seide, Y madde not, thou beste Festus, but Y speke out the wordis of treuthe and of sobernesse. This verse is a good way to interpret how the bible defines the word “mad”, as Paul tries to describe himself as the exact opposite of mad, whereas he says he is clear of mind and trustworthy. This also shows that during this time period you may have been looked upon as a radical madman for being a follower of Christ.

Madde (ME): extremely foolish, stupid, irrational; of an action: ill-advised; (b) harebrained, giddy.

Mad in this verse relates to being foolish, or not so trustworthy

10) Zechariah 12.4 In that day, saith the LORD, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness: and I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah, and will smite every horse of the people with blindness. In that day, saith the Lord, I will strike every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness: and I will open my eyes upon the house of Juda, and will strike every horse of the nations with blindness. In die illa, dicit Dominus, percutiam omnem equum in stuporem et ascensorem eius in amentiam; et super domum Iudae aperiam oculos meos et omnem equum populorum percutiam caecitate. N/A God says he will send the riders into insanity, so that they will be so mad that they will not be able to live their lives.
11) Hosea 9.7-8 The days of visitation are come, the days of recompence are come; Israel shall know it: the prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad, for the multitude of thine iniquity, and the great hatred.
The watchman of Ephraim was with my God: but the prophet is a snare of a fowler in all his ways, and hatred in the house of his God.
The days of visitation are come, the days of repaying are come: know ye, O Israel, that the prophet was foolish, the spiritual man was mad, for the multitude of thy iniquity, and the multitude of thy madness.
The watchman of Ephraim was with my God: the prophet is become a snare
of ruin upon all his ways, madness is in the house of
his God.
Venerunt dies visitationis, venerunt dies retributionis: sciat Israel! “Stultus — clamet — est propheta; insanus vir spiritalis”. Secundum multitudinem iniquitatis tuae multae sunt inimicitiae tuae.
Speculatur Ephraim, populus Dei mei, prophetam; laqueus aucupis super omnes vias eius, inimicitiae in ipsa domo Dei eius.
N/A Israel followed a false prophet out of Egypt. Moses was a false prophet and all of Israelites were delusional to follow.
12) Ecclesiastes 1.17 And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. And I have given my heart to know prudence, and learning, and errors and folly: and have perceived that in these also there was labour and venation of spirit. Dedique cor meum, ut scirem sapientiam et scientiam, insipientiam et stultitiam. Et agnovi quod in his quoque esset afflictio spiritus, eo quod And Y yaf myn herte, that Y schulde knowe prudence and doctryn, and errours and foli. And Y knew that in these thingis also was trauel and turment of spirit; All translations besides KJV refer to “errors” instead of madness.

Errour (ME): references heresy; deviation from truth and wisdom
Fol (ME): refers to foolish, stupid, ignorant (sinful/wicked)

13) Ecclesiastes 2.2 I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What doeth it? laughter accounted error: and to mirth I said : Why art though vainly deceived? Risum reputavi errorem, et gaudio dixi : Quid frustra deciperis ? And leiyyng Y arrettide errour, and Y seide to ioye, What art thou disseyued in veyn? Pleasure is temporary and futile, which is compared to madness.

Errour (ME): deviation from the truth

14) Ecclesistes 2.12 And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can the man do that cometh after the king? even that which hath been already done. I passed further to behold wisdom, and errors and folly, (What is man, said I, that he can follow the King his maker?) Transivi ad contemplandam sapientiam, erroresque, et stultitiam. (Quid est, inquam, homo, ut sequi possit regem, factorem suum ?) I passide to biholde wisdom, errours, and foli; Y seide, What is a man, that he may sue the king, his maker? Lying is a sign of madness.
15) Ecclesiastes 7.7 Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad; and a gift destroyeth the heart. Oppression troubleth the wise, and shall destroy the streght of his heart. Calumnia conturbat sapientem, et perdet robur cordis illius. for as the sown of thornes brennynge vndur a pot, so is the leiyyng of a fool. But also this is vanyte. Someone who is wise enough to realize he isn’t where he is destined to be is sure to be driven mad with thought, beyond just the need for money. Also be the best you can be and do good for others and good will come to you. Oppression drives wise men mad.
16) Ecclesiastes 7.25 I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness: 7.26 I have surveyed all things with my mind, to know, and consider, and seek out wisdom and reason: and to know the wickedness of the fool, and the error of the imprudent: Lustravi universa animo meo, ut scirem et considerarem et quaererem sapientiam et rationem et ut cognoscerem impietatem esse stultitiam et errorem imprudentiam. I cumpasside alle thingis in my soule, to kunne, and biholde, and seke wisdom and resoun, and to knowe the wickidnesse of a fool, and the errour of vnprudent men. Errour (ME): anger or rage, which is fairly accurate to the passage in English.
17) Ecclesiastes 10.13 The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness, and the end of his talk is mischievous madness. The beginning of his words is folly, and the end of his talk is a mischievous error. Initium verborum eius stultitia, et novissimum oris illius insipientia mala. The bigynnyng of hise wordis is foli; and the laste thing of his mouth is the worste errour. The moral of the story is to be humble and to think about what you’re saying before you say it because we are only mortal and all have sin.
Errour (ME): anger or rage, which is fairly accurate to the passage in English.
18) Jeremiah 25.16 And they shall drink, and be moved, and be mad, because of the sword that I will send among them. And they shall drink, and be troubled, and be mad because of the sword, which I shall send among them. et bibent et turbabuntur et insanient a facie gladii, quem ego mittam inter eos And thei schulen drynke, and schulen be disturblid, and schulen be woode of the face of swerd, which Y schal sende among hem. Disturb (ME): hindrance or an obstacle, which seems pretty similar to being mad, but could have variation in meaning.
19) Jeremiah 29.26 The lord hath made thee priest in the stead of Jehoiada the priest, that ye should be officers in the house of the lord, for every man that is mad, and maketh himself a prophet, that thou shouldest put him in prison and in the stocks. The Lord hath made thee priest in- stead of Joiada the priest, that thou shouldst be ruler in the house of the Lord, over every man that raveth and prophesieth, to put him in the stocks, and into prison Dominus dedit te sacerdotem pro Ioiada sacerdote, ut sis praefectus in domo Domini super omnem virum arrepticium et prophetantem, ut mittas eum in nervum et in vincula. and seidist, The Lord yaf thee the preest for Joiada, the preest, that thou be duyk in the hous of the Lord on ech man `that is trauelid of the fend, and profesiynge, that thou sende hym in to stockis, and in to prisoun. Mad people who pretend to be prophets are to be jailed.

Traule (ME): one who stammers.
Traunce (ME): unconscious or insensible state resulting from illness or injury; an ecstatic or dreamlike state, a trance.

Stammering/stuttering is seen as a disability.

Prophets are those who are said to see/hear visions/the word of a god. They could be seen as “mad” or in a “trance,” or “stammering” because they are unable to formalize their thoughts/visions in a comprehensive manner to those around them.

20) Jeremiah 50.38 A drought is upon her waters; and they shall be dried up: for it is the land of graven images, and they are mad upon their idols. A drought upon her waters, and they shall be dried up: because it is a land of idols, and they glory in monstrous things. Siccitas super aquas eius erit, et arescent, quia terra sculptilium est, et in portentis insaniunt. Drynesse schal be on the watris therof, and tho schulen be drye; for it is the lond of grauun ymagis, and hath glorie in false feynyngis. Madness is a dreaded/bad trait.

Middle English and Douay-Rheims both have glory. KJV changes it to mad.

Glory in false idols is changed in the KJV to reflect madness. Behavior is looked down upon in a way that those who behave that way must be mad.

21) Jeremiah 51.7 Babylon hath been a golden cup in the LORD’s hand, that made all the earth drunken: the nations have drunken of her wine; therefore the nations are mad. Babylon hath been a golden cup in the hand of the Lord, that made all the earth drunk: the nations have drunk of her wine, and therefore they have staggered Calix aureus Babylon in manu Domini inebrians omnem terram; de vino eius biberunt gentes et ideo insaniunt. Babiloyne is a goldun cuppe in the hond of the Lord, and fillith al erthe; hethene men drunken of the wyn therof, and therfor thei ben mouyd. Drunkenness leads to madness.

Mouen (ME): to mow or scythe.

22) Isaiah 44.25 That frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish; That make void the tokens of diviners, and make the soothsayers mad. That turn the wise backward, and that, make their knowledge foolish. irrita faciens signa divinorum, et ariolos in furorem vertens ; convertens sapientes retrorsum, et scientiam eorum stultam faciens ; and Y make voide the signes of false dyuynours, and Y turne in to woodnesse dyuynours, that dyuynen by sacrifices offrid to feendis; and Y turne wise men bacward, and Y make her science fonned. Power of the lord can make a wise man frightened or look foolish.

Fonne (ME): A stupid or ignorant person; a fool; a dupe
Offrid/Offrighten (ME): To be afraid; become frightened

23) 1 Samuel 21.13 And he changed his behaviour before them, and feigned himself mad in their hands, and scrabbled on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle fall down upon his beard.

Then said Achish unto his servants, Lo, ye see the man is mad: wherefore then have ye brought him to me?

Have I need of mad men, that ye have brought this fellow to play the mad man in my presence? shall this fellow come into my house?

And he changed his countenance before them, and slipt down between their hands: and he stumbled against the doors of the gate, and his spittle ran down upon his beard. Et immutavit os suum coram eis, et collabebatur inter manus eorum : et impingebat in ostia portæ, defluebantque salivæ ejus in barbam. N/A David becomes afraid of the king. The king thinks he is insane. King thinks he is cursed by being given a mad person.
24) Luke 6.11 “And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus.” And they were filled with madness; and they talked one with another, what they might do to Jesus. psi autem repleti sunt insipientia, et colloquebantur ad invicem, quidnam facerent Jesu. And thei weren fulfillid with vnwisdom, and spaken togidir, what thei schulden do of Jhesu. The context is linked to Jesus performing miracles. The scribes and Pharisees were plotting to kill Jesus because of the feats he could perform. In the Middle English translation madness is written as wisdom; the idea of plotting Jesus’ death was considered an act of wisdom.
25) Psalms 58.4 Their poison is like the poison of a serpent: they are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear; Their madness is according to the likeness of a serpent: like the deaf asp that stoppeth her ears: Venenum illis in similitudinem serpentis, sicut aspidis surdae et obturantis aures suas, 57.5 Woodnesse is to hem, bi the licnesse of a serpent; as of a deef snake, and stoppynge hise eeris. Part of a prayer to God for punishment of the wicked. This madness is equated to evil.

The phrase is uttered as a curse, which will be put upon someone for being wicked, and violent.

Wod (ME): mad or insane (anger/frenzy)

26) Psalms 102.8 Mine enemies reproach me all the day; and they that are mad against me are sworn against me. All the day long my enemies reproached me: and they that praised me did swear against me. Tota die exprobrabant mihi inimici mei, exardescentes in me per me iurabant. 101.9 Al dai myn enemyes dispisiden me; and thei that preisiden me sworen ayens me. Crying for help because their enemies have become mad with rage. “Mad” and “praised” are synonymous here, “mad” meaning “anger” and not “madness.”

Further Reading

Benfell, V. Stanley. “Prophetic Madness: The Bible in Inferno XIX.” MLN 110.1 (1995): 145–163.

Bhayro, Siam. “The Madness of King Saul.” Archiv Für Orientforschung 50 (2003): 285–292.

Chester, Stephen J. “Divine Madness? Speaking in Tongues in 1 Corinthians 14.23.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 27.4 (2005): 417-419.

Clark-Soles, Jaime. “Mark And Disability.” Interpretation: A Journal Of Bible and Theology 70.2 (2016): 159-171.

Doob, Penelope B. R. Nebuchadnezzar’s Children: Conventions of Madness in Middle English Literature. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974. 54-94.

Melcher, Sarah J., and Sarah J. Melcher. Biblical Interpretation: Disability in the Hebrew Bible: Interpreting Mental and Physical Differences. E.J. Brill, 2010.

Morrison, Melanie S. and Julia Watts Belser. “What No Longer Serves Us: Resisting Ableism and Anti-Judaism in New Testament Healing Narratives.” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 27.2 (2011): 153-170.

Scull, Andrew. Madness in Civilization: A Cultural History of Insanity, from the Bible to Freud, from the Madhouse to Modern Medicine. Princeton: Nature, 2015.

Scull, Andrew. “Madness in historical perspective.” Canadian Medical Association Journal (2016): 756+.

Yong, Amos. “The Bible, Disability, and the Church: A New Vision of the People of God.” Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology (2013): 68-70.

Lucas Acevedo; Rachel Anderson; Zie Angwafo; Shane Barlow; Peter Bradley; Matt Capone; Katie Carroll; Jonathan Diaz-Atto; Andrew Dunn; Lindsey Farnsworth; Kelly Flaherty; Maria Francisco; Zoe Frati; Rayna Graham; Drew Kerr; Brandon Lovely; Cheryl Meservey; Kristen Moon; Elizabeth Palmer; Andrea Paquette; Eliza Ramirez; Eric Ramos; Mark Ranalli; Brian Sackett; Frank Schembari; Connor Smith; Deandra Turner; all of Fitchburg State University

Submitted By
Kisha G. Tracy, Fitchburg State University