Theologized Medicine

crazy doctor

The priest is to examine him, and if the sores have turned white, the priest shall pronounce the infected person clean; then he will be clean. (Leviticus 13:17)

Way back in the good old days the practice of medicine and religion were the same thing. The sick person didn’t go to a doctor, he went to the priest. He probably made an appointment with the priest’s receptionist. When the day came for his appointment, he went to the priest’s office, reported in, and was directed to take a seat in the waiting room. If the sick guy lived in a bigger city, the office most likely sported a number of priests, each with his own specialty. For example, there would be a priest who specialized in sin offerings and internal medicine. There might be a priest who focused on free-will offerings and orthopedics. There would also probably be a priest whose fields were temple utensil sanctification and dermatology. Altar cleansing and proctology would probably have paired up nicely too.

Unlike health care today, which is mostly a political issue (unless you happen to actually be sick in which case it’s a health issue), back in Old Testament times health care was a religious deal. If somebody was sick or maimed or had a bad case of acne, he could be excluded from nearly all social functions. He would be banished outside the city along with all the other sickos. (This the is the original, rather brutal meaning of out-patient.) There he had to sit and wait until God saw fit to either fix him or let him die a lonely sicko death. No breakfast in bed, no bed primping by a nurse, no television on the wall. Being sick back then really sucked.

So there the guy patiently sitting in the priest’s waiting room. He reads an old Hebrew Monthly and flips through an even older Better Tents and Tabernacle magazine. He tries to work a Temple Times crossword that some other bored patient had started and left unfinished, but he was never any good at spelling from right to left. He listens to the faint bleat of goats and the occasional bellow of a cow. The receptionist has disappeared somewhere. He shuffles through the periodicals again and finds a dingy pamphlet titled, Is YHWH One or Three? It’s published by some group called the Trinity Society. He begins to read when he hears his name being called. Finally, the priest will see him.

He shuffles into a small room that smells a lot like poultry. And waits some more. There aren’t even old magazines in here, just a nasty looking meat hook and a well-thumbed copy of Leviticus. After another long wait, the priest enters. His beard is matted with dried blood and his robe stinks to high heaven. “What?” is all he asks. The sick guy pulls up his sleeves and holds out his arms. The priest wrinkles his nose and peers closely. “Clean,” he says. On his way out he says over his shoulder “Bring me two live clean birds, some cedar wood, and some scarlet yarn. Oh, and don’t forget the hyssop.” Then he’s gone.

The formerly sick guy heads home to get the stuff. It’s good to be clean again. He’s grateful for the Hebrew health care system. What’s a little sacrifice for peace of mind? Especially when the Canaanites are the ones paying the bills.


One Response

  1. My original post was riddled with typos which I had to discover and fix. Geez, people. Where are my careful and helpful readers? Do I have to do everything myself?

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