A Spoon Full of… What?! Medicine in the Bible.

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Season: 1
Episode: 3
Podcast: Digging Deeper 
Title: Medicine and the Bible

00:10 – Episode Summary: BARRY

  • Medicine and the Bible… it’s not a topic we discuss very often… but today on the podcast we talk poop… puss and all kinds of things that make me want to vomit all over my microphone! You’ll want to hear this… er… the conversation… not the vomit part… ok… just roll the open!

Before we start today, we want to talk about our sponsor, Memo Marketing. Recently, Appian Media has teamed with Memo Marketing to update our website as well as provide a number of other marketing ideas for helping us promote the work that we are doing. We are happy to have them onboard and will say more about them later in the program.

00:30 – Show Open: BARRY

  • Welcome to Digging Deeper, the podcast where we talk about the geography, archaeology, people, and cultures of the lands of the Bible. By exploring those areas, we hope to broaden your understanding of the Biblical narrative. You can learn more about all of us here at Appian Media and watch our free video series at www.appianmedia.org.

1:00 – Introduction of Dan Kingsley

  • Florida College, BS Auburn, 4 years med school, 3 IM, 3 H/O, 1 PM. Dan spends a minute or so telling everyone about his educational background and currently what he is doing in the medical field.   

2:00 – Question #1 Lot of schooling, has it always been this way to train doctors. 

  • Modern medical education really dates to about 1910 when Abraham Flexnor penned the Flexnor report which forced about half the American schools to close or merge and prompted increased standards for admission and graduation.
  • Prior  to that, medical education was performed in a variety of venues, colleges, schools, apprenticeships. Much has been discovered through the years and the center of great learning has continued to move. During the times of the New Testament, Greek Doctors were favored throughout the Roman Empire, with Galen (of Pergamon) being the most accomplished. His theories dominated Western medicine for 1300 years. Prior to him, the Greek physician Hippocrates (of the Hippocratic oath fame) lived in 4-5 century BC. and today is known as the Father of Medicine. 
  • During the OT period Egyptian doctors were favored. The famous historian Herodotus discussed King Darius (Medo-Persian) “to keep in attendance certain Egyptian doctors, who had the reputation for the highest eminence in their profession.” Xenophone also mentioned Cyrus was serviced by an Egyptian doctor. Homer in the Odyssey notes “In Egypt, the men are more skilled in medicine than in any [other art]”

4:00 – Question #2, speaking of Egyptian doctors, since Moses was from Egypt, do we see a lot of medical information in the Bible?

  • Since the Pentatuch was written down by Moses, we would assume we would see a large Egyptian slant to any medical information given. As Acts 7:22 tells us Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, as we would expect for someone raised by Pharaoh’s daughter.
  • While the Bible is not a medical textbook, we can look at it to see that Moses, while trained in the wisdom of the Egyptians had a much different opinion  than his teachers.
  • In Exodus 15:26 the Israelites were told that if they do all the commands and decrees that the Lord their God gave them, He would not bring on them any of the diseases of the Egyptians.
  • For example, The Egyptians (and other civilizations) did have prescriptions and remedies that could be helpful, they also had many that seem shocking. The Ebers Papyrus mentions 811 prescriptions, that includes 
  • To draw out splinters- Worm blood, mole and donkey dung
  • Skin diseases- one involves a hog’s tooth, cat’s dung, dog’s dung, aau-of samu- oil, berries of the xet plant, pound and apply as polture
  • Other remedies utilized, dried excrement of a child, farmer’s urine, hog dung
  • The urine of a faithful wife was good for sore eyes
  • Pus was good and laudable, so inducing infection was good and pus was a welcoming effect
  • Excrement even 500 years ago was tossed into the street, The Egyptians and many others used it for medicine. The Israelites were told in Deuteronomy 23:13,14 to bury their waste as God walks through their midst and they needed the camp to be Holy. God’s demand for holiness had a secondary health benefit. The spread of germs is minimized with this simple technique.
  • Sanitation is also seen in the fact that in Numbers 19, after handling a dead body the Israelites were unclean for 7 days and had to purify with running water on the 3rd and 7th day. The fact that humans could spread disease from a dead body was rediscovered almost 3300 years later when Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis in Vienna was dealing with a death rate of 18% from labor fever. He watched medical students perform autopsies on dead mothers, rinse their hands in a bowl of bloody water, wipe them off on a common shared towel, then immediately perform internal examinations of still living women. The death rate was 18% but the use of a midwife who did not perform autopsies had a death rate of 3%. He instituted strict handwashing in a chlorine solution after every examination and the death rate dropped to 1%.  How many deaths could have been prevented by following this injunction?

10:00 – Question #3, What is the water of purification?

  • Numbers 19 lists a seemingly unusual group of things, ashes of a red heifer, hyssop, cedar wood and scarlet.
  • Looking at them individually, we can see that it is a process to make antibacterial soap
  • Early pioneers in the US made their own lye soap, which involved pouring water through ashes to make lye and mixing with fat to form the soap
  • Hyssop contains the antiseptic thymol
  • Cedar is high in vitamin C and also does have antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties
  • Scarlet was likely from wool, and the fibers would have made the mixture like Lava soap according the McMillion and Stern
  • So washing in water with water of purification was an effective recipe for soap, thousands of years prior to knowing Germ theory

13:00 – Advertisement for Memo Marketing 

  • Barry: WE WANT TO TAKE A QUICK BREAK AND TELL YOU ABOUT OUR SPONSOR… MEMO MARKETING. THEY ARE A FULL SERVICE MARKETING COMPANY THAT SPECIALIZES IN WEB DESIGN… STRATEGIC MARKETING… SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGEMENT… THEY BUILD APPS AND DO A LOT MORE. 
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14:00 – Question #4 The law of Moses is known for its dietary laws, did they serve a medical purpose?

  • Truthfully, it appears the laws were put in place for helping the Israelites distinguish between clean and unclean animals, in the task of teaching them about being holy and set apart.
  • But, for a people who are travelling in the desert with little running water or wood, the laws do have multiple medical benefits. The laws set in place by God through Moses, without the input of clinical trials, microscopes, epidemiologists, microbiologists, or infectious disease experts. 
  • Examples include the fact Reptiles have a higher rate of carrying Salmonella bacteria than most mammals, up to 90% carrier rate. Contamination could be spread by touching something that has touched the reptile. Leviticus 11:32-34 mentions that objects that have been contaminated by the reptile are unclean.
  • Shellfish are edible, but if ill prepared (raw or partially cooked) can be potentially fatal, due to Vibrio vulnificus
  • Pigs eat practically anything and so often consume parasites. Pork needs to be well cooked to kill the parasites that live in their muscle. Trichinosis is a well know infection from undercooked pork. Pigs can also pass on tape worms, toxoplasmosis 
  • There was an interesting study done by David Macht at Johns Hopkins in 1953. He looked at different extracts of meat of animals, birds, and fish and those of Law of Moses prescribed clean animals were less toxic to growth of saplings than the extract of unclean animals. Does it mean much- I am not sure, but it is intriguing.
  • Many of the animals mentioned as unclean were scavengers or carried disease at a higher rate than the clean animals.

17:00 – Question #5 What about other requirements. Does circumcision serve a medical purpose? 

  • This was a sign of the covenant between God and Abraham set up in Genesis 17. It does help prevent early age UTI’s as well as risk of penile cancer and sexually transmitted disease. But for me the more amazing medical point is why the 8th day to circumcise? Other people groups circumcise but after different points in life. According to the  Holt Pediatric textbook, prothrombin (helps clotting) is about 90% of normal at the day of birth, drops to 35% on the 3rd day outside the womb, but then starts climbing. By the 8th day, it is about 110% of normal (20% higher than birth). Vitamin K (needed to make certain clotting factors, isn’t made in intestine until day 5-7.

19:00 – Question #6 Any other topics you would like to discuss

  • OH, there are lots of things we could talk about.
  • Seemingly minor words that take on much more meaning when you study the body and wonder how could they have known this without divine revelation
  • Psalm 139:15 is a favorite verse that states NIV My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
  • Frame/Substance is word “golum” which means to wrap or fold
  • If you study embryology, you realize the child does a lot of wrapping and folding while developing
  • Woven or wrought takes on new meaning when you study Histology and see how the ligaments, muscle and bone are actually woven together in an interlacing fashion.
  • And lastly, we should touch base about the sexual laws God has laid out. 
  • From its writing, the Bible was unique in laying out sexaul mores compared to the society of the day. It is still unique. Marriage between a man and a woman for life, with abstinence until marriage and monogamy after is what is laid out as God’s plan. Religiously, this is unique among many of the world’s religions, both then and even now. Today’s culture tells us if if feels good, do it. God’s word tells us sexual activity is wonderful, but only in the marriage relationship. How many issues could be halted by following these commands? Medically we could essentially stop all STD’s, limit disease like HIV to just blood transmission, stop cervical, anal and penile cancers. Moses and the other writers of the Bible were inspired by God to lay down moral laws that had many health benefits that took thousands of years for us to realize.

21:00 – Final Thought – DAN 

  • The Bible is not a medical text book, but those of us in the medical world can read it and see the health benefits of following God’s instructions. Occasionally we view the reason for the instructions as the medical benefits they provide. While those instructions are beneficial, that was not the primary reason for them. I feel the dietary laws that were given to the Jews at Mt. Sinai had health benefits for a people travelling through the desert, but the main goal was to have them focus on their being holy, and differentiating between clean and unclean. There were many other stipulations about many things in their lives that helped them focus on being set apart and sanctified. 
  • Today we can look at the laws that God has set up and either be upset and feel restricted, or we can rejoice that there are many benefits, health included, in obeying God’s commands, some that we might not realize until much later. 
  • But similar to the Israelites of the Old Testament, God is calling us to be holy and His regulations for us are designed with that in mind. We are to focus on living holy lives, as we are set apart by God. As His disciples and children, our joy should be in pleasing Him

Hard stop….a second of silence, then start end music.

22:00 – Wrap up/ Tease next show – BARRY

  • Digging Deeper is a production of Appian Media… we’re a non-profit media production company that is 100% crowdfunded. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can support Appian Media so we can continue to create more great… FREE content visit us at appianmedia.org/DiggingDeeper.
  • A special thanks goes to Craig, Stuart and Jet who have helped us put this episode together for all of you. And, of course, thanks always goes to those donors who make this podcast possible. 
  • Join us next time Dan is going to turn the tables on me and ask me a bunch of questions about weather and how it relates to the land and the stories in the Bible. 
  • Until then, thank you joining us and we look forward to being with you on the next episode of Digging Deeper.

 

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