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Health and Hygiene in Biblical Times


Again we are only touching on this subject to simply whet your appetite for the topic. We are not being definitive nor are we saying that these authors are correct. We present them here to give you an idea of what was taking place in ancient times. We will probably limit the content of each section to just the Introductions and conclusions.

#1. LEVITICUS 16: ITS LITERARY STRUCTURE by ANGEL MANUEL RODRIGUEZ Biblical Research Institute Silver Spring, MD

Scholarly work on Lev 16 has been mainly interested in the

redactional history of the materials present in the chapter, and

consequently little interest has been shown in the literary structure of

this important passage. Questions related to the form and purpose of

the supposedly original and independent rituals that are now embedded

in the biblical text, as well as to the date for the creation or formulation

of the day of atonement, are still lacking final answers.l It is not our

purpose to look into those issues, but rather to explore the literary

structure of Lev 16 in an attempt to illuminate the way in which its

diverse sections constitute a single unity.2

It is no longer possible to argue, without introducing serious

modifications to the statement, that "It is evident at the first glance that

the chapter [Lev 16] is in its present form the result of a probably fairly

long previous history that has left its traces in a strange lack of

continuity and unity about the whole."3 Some scholars have found

evidence of literary structures and beauty in Lev 16 which suggests a

definite attempt on the part of the writer to integrate it into a whole.

For instance, John E. Hartley speaks of the "remarkable tapestry" of the

chapter, pointing particularly to the balance and unity created by the

constant reference to the sacrifices of the high priest and the

congregation and the objects of expiation (priests, people, and parts of

the sanctuary). He even finds a chiastic structure in Lev 16 based on

the general content of the passage rather than on linguistic parallels.5

Some scholars have found small chiasms within the chapter,6 but as far

as I know, none of them has attempted to carefully explore the literary

structure of the whole chapter.

Literary Structure of Each Section of Lev 16

A literary analysis of Lev 16 indicates that chiasms and

synonymous, antithetic, and synthetic parallelisms, complete and

incomplete, are found throughout. It is now well known in the study

of biblical texts that repetitions do have specific functions and purpose.

This is also the case in Lev 16, which is formed by legal materials

artistically constructed. Our reading of the chapter indicates that it can

be divided into five main sections, each one well structured. In order to

assist the reader, we will provide first the result of our study, followed

by comments and interpretations of the proposed findings.








The five main literary units are carefully structured and integrated

into each other through the use of specific terminology and by the flow

of the different ritual acts. But before exploring those units we should

define the function of the Historical Setting (vv. 1-2) and the

Concluding Remark (v. 34d). From the literary point of view they

form a literary envelope for the content of the chapter, singling it out

as a unit by itself that can be separated from its immediate context for

literary analysis.

At the end of the chapter we are taken back to the

beginning, hence informing us that the unit has come to an end. This

is done in two ways. At the beginning Moses is ordered by the Lord to

do something (dabber 'el 'aharon/"speak to Aaron"), and at the end we

are told that he did exactly as he was told (wayya'as k’aser siwwah

yahweh/”he did as the Lord commanded”). This "compliance report"7

closes the literary unit. In addition, we find in both sections the names

Yahweh and Moseh together, something that is not found throughout the

rest of the chapter. We find conceptual and linguistic connections

between these sections.

"The Historical Setting contains additional information that is

useful in determining its purpose. In its canonical form the

institutionalization of the day of atonement is dated to the period of the

Israelite Sinai experience soon after the death of Aaron's sons inside the

sanctuary. The possibility of dying inside the sanctuary was a real one,

even if the sin of Aaron's sons was not repeated.

The purpose of the

legislation is to avoid a similar experience in the sanctuary. This could

happen particularly whenever the priest would go into the adytum of 7 Hartley, 225. Formulas of compliance are common in Leviticus; see Baruch A.

Levine, Leviticus (New York: Jewish Publication Society, 1989), 110.

the sanctuary (yabo' . . . 'el-haqqodes). The implicit question raised in

vv. 1-2 is the one of the proper time for a rite of entrance,8 but it is not

answered until the end of the chapter. In addition we also find in vv.

1-2 terminology that will be used in other sections of the chapter, as,

for instance, the verb "to die" (mot), the nouns "adytum" (haqqodes),

kapporet, and "cloud" (anan), and the phrase "behind the veil" (mibbet

lapparoket). There is a clear terminological link between this section and

the rest of the chapter.

Introduction (16:3-5)

The structure of this section is identified by the use of synthetic

parallelism based on the repetition of the terms hatta’t/”sin-offering"

(A//A') and 'olah/"burnt-offering" (B//B). The parallelism is

incomplete because the C element is omitted in the second part and

there is no compensation for it. The reason for the omission is obvious:

The ritual act under C, the exchange of clothes by the high priest and

his ritual bath, takes place only once before the beginning of the

activities of the day. But the fact that this ritual is left without a balance

in the literary structure serves to emphasize its importance. The high

priest should wear this special vestment only in preparation to enter the

adytum. This type of vestment is directly related to the rite of entrance

during the day of atonement.

It would seem that the, introduction is primarily defining the basic

elements needed for Aaron’s rite of entrance. In 16:2 we were told that

"Aaron should not go into [yabo'] the haqqodes," but v. 3 begins, "With

this Aaron should go in [yabo']." The introduction shows interest not

only in the time element but also in the proper preparation for it (bezo't

yabo'/"with this he shall come in"). The rite of entrance requires the

use of a special priestly vestment and a specific number of sacrificial

offerings. It is important to observe that the burnt-offerings are included

in v. 3. The reason for this is that the Introduction provides also a

listing of the sacrificial victims that are going to be involved, in one

way or another, in the activities of the day.

General Observations

We have suggested that in Lev 16 we have three rites13 tightly

integrated to create a new ritual complex unit with a very specific

purpose. In its present form it is practically impossible to separate each

of these rituals from the total activities of the day of atonement without

damaging beyond repair the content of the chapter, its structure, and

purpose. At the beginning of the chapter we find short summaries that

are later on developed in detail, using the same terminology found in

the summaries and introducing new elements in the discussion. We

move from building block to building block until there is before us a

well-structured, all-encompassing ritual complex.

It is interesting to notice how a circle of activity is introduced and

then, at a rather slow pace, reaches its closure, taking us through a

process in which each one of its parts is very significant. For instance,

the circle of the burnt-offerings is initiated in 16:3, 5 and closed in

16:24, without any mention of it in between. The goat for Azazel is

introduced in 16:5; the selection of the specific goat is recorded in v. 10.

The laying on of hands, the transfer of sin to it, and the act of sending

it away to the wilderness are found in 16:20b-22. But perhaps the most

significant circle is that of Aaron's sin-offering. It is introduced in 16:3;

the sacrificial victim is presented in 16:6, slaughtered in 16:11; the blood

manipulation is described in 16:14, the burning of the fat in 16:25, and

the circle is closed with the disposal of the flesh of the victim in 16:27.

We find a similar situation with respect to the people's sin-offering,

which is introduced (16:5), then presented to the Lord (16:9),

slaughtered, the blood manipulation performed (16:15), its fat burned

(16:25), and finally the disposal of the flesh brings the circle to an end

(16:27).14 What was in the regular sin-offering a series of consecutive

steps in the sacrificial process (Lev 4) is intentionally separated in the

ritual of the day of atonement in order to make room for new details

in this sophisticated and complex ritual unit. Thus, the unity of the

chapter is emphasized.

In its present form Lev 16 combines, in a very well-balanced conceptual

symmetry, the rite of entrance, the cleansing rite performed with the two sin-

offerings, and the elimination rite. The rite of entrance makes it possible for

Aaron to have access to the adytum in order to perform the cleansing rite

through which sins and impurities are removed from the sanctuary on

behalf of the priesthood and the people of Israel; finally, through the

elimination rite the goat for Azazel takes them away to their place of origin,

to the wilderness. The distinction between cleansing the impurities of the

sanctuary through the sin-offerings and the sins of the people through the

live goat is hardly present in the text of Lev 16 in its present form.15 The

sin/impurity placed on the goat for Azazel is the totality of the people's

sin/impurity removed from the sanctuary through the cleansing rite. There

is here a clear and direct connection between the rite of entrance, the

cleansing rite and the elimination rite which contributes to the literary and

theological unit of Lev 16.

#2. The Levitical Dietary Laws in the Light of Modern Science Thomas D. S. Key and Robert M. Allen

Leviticus 11 presents dietary laws, specifying which animals are "clean"

( edible) and "unclean" (inedible). Nine major theories to account for these

dietary laws are described in this paper, giving arguments pro and con regard-

ing each. The theories discussed are the Obedience Testing, Arbitrary Divine

Command, Assertion of Divine Authority, Moral Discipline, Hygiene, Spiritual

Symbolism, Pagan Worship, Religious Badge, and Eclectic theories.

The authors conclude that more evidence is needed, especially from archaeology, to come to a definite conclusion regarding the validity of any of

these theories. They feel that if the original purpose of these dietary laws can be determined, then perhaps we can make modern applications of lessons from them.


One of the most obvious characteristics of orthodox

conservative Jews as well as of Moslems and of the

Christian groups who emphasize the Old Testament is

the influence of the Levitical dietary laws on their

eating habits. Yet, when one questions those who

adhere to these dietary laws about the reasons for

them, he receives a variety of answers.

Leviticus 11 describes "clean" animals (i.e., those

which may be eaten) as follows: any animals that

“part the hoof, are cloven-footed, and that chew the

cud." Also, all aquatic animals that have fins and

scales, and winged insects that leap (i.e., locusts,

crickets, and grasshoppers) are "clean" or permitted

for food.

"Unclean" animals (i.e., those that are forbidden

for food) were listed as follows: camel, rock badger,

hare, swine, aquatic animals lacking fins and scales,

eagle, ossifrages, osprey, kite, falcon, raven, ostrich,

nighthawk, sea gull, hawk, owl, cormorant, ibis, water

hen, pelican, vulture, stork, heron, crawling insects,

hoopoe, weasel, mouse, great lizard, gecko, land croco-

dile, bat, lizard, sand lizard, and chameleon.

While the Bible nowhere states specifically why

the dietary laws were given, several theories have arisen

to account for them. Below are brief descriptions of

nine1 of these theories, along with some arguments for

and against their acceptance.

Obedience Testing Theory

This view asserts that the choice of animals was

arbitrary, but that God's purpose was to evaluate the

spirituality of the faithful. The obedience testing theory

also considers the Tree of Knowledge of Good and

Evil (Genesis 2) to have been arbitrarily selected,

and that it was the act of disobedience that imparted

the knowledge of good and evil rather than any physio-

logical effect of the chemicals present in the fruit.

Pro: The Scriptures indicate in several places where

the faith of people was tested (Job, I Kings 19, Gene-

sis 2 and 3, etc.).

Con: The choice of animals does not appear to be

arbitrary as the animals classified are consistent in

certain ways as discussed below.


In the light of the above the authors conclude that

present evidence is not sufficient to warrant total ac-

ceptance of any one of the nine theories. More evidence

is needed, especially from possible future archaeological

discoveries. In the meantime, it would appear that, in

the light of the different kinds of dietary and other

"hygiene" laws given, that some eclectic interpretation

is probably correct.

It should be noted that many Christians feel that

it is no longer necessary to obey the Levitical dietary

laws as the Old Testament Law was our "schoolmaster"

to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24-25). Their in-

terest in them is primarily historical. Yet if we are

able to determine the original purpose of the laws,

perhaps we can make modern applications of lessons

from them. For this reason it is recommended that

further study be made on this subject.


IT is not always realized that Palestine belongs to the sub-tropical

zone, and lies farther south than not only every part of Europe but

also of most of Morocco and Algiers, of all Tunis, and of the whole

of the United States of America with the exception of Florida and

parts of Texas and Louisiana. The latitude of Jaffa (32° N.) is

practically that of Amritsar in India and Shanghai in China. Moreover,

in the great central rift of the Jordan Valley the climatic

conditions must be described as tropical.

The land as a whole is fairly well supplied with rain, but the

rainfall is very unequally distributed throughout the year, extending

as it does over little more than six months. January, February,

December and March are--in this order--the wettest months; there

may be fairly heavy showers in October, November, April and,

exceptionally, even in May. It is very unusual for any rain to fall

in June, July, August and--except quite at the end of the month--

in September. The amount of the rainfall is liable to considerable

annual fluctuations and varies with the altitude.

 In Jerusalem,

regular daily observations have been taken since 1860. The

heaviest season's rainfall was 42.95 inches in 1877-78, and the lightest

12.5 inches in 1869-70. The mean annual fall is about 26.5 inches.

There seem to be cycles of greater and lesser falls, dry spells and

wet coming in groups, but no definite rhythm has been observed.

In the Maritime Plain, observations have been taken at Jaffa (P.E.F.)

and at the German colonies of Sarona and Wilhelma, and in the

Jordan Valley at Tiberias (P.E.F.) and at the Jewish colony of

Melhamiyeh. The rainfall in the Maritime Plain is less than in

Jerusalem--perhaps about 25 per cent. less--and that in the neighbourhood

of the Lake of Galilee still less. Fortunately, these

regions are far less dependent upon rainfall than the mountain


We have no regular observations recorded in the Dead

Sea district, but the rainfall is very much less than in any other

part of Western Palestine. On the edge of the eastern plateau

there is a rainfall comparable with that on the highlands to the

west, but it is only a fringe of a few miles which is so benefited.

Where once the water-parting is passed and the gentle eastward

slope begins, the rainfall rapidly diminishes in amount, and it is

very scanty indeed east of the Hedjaz Railway.

In the late summer heavy clouds come up from the west, and

during many nights the higher lands--especially in the north--are

drenched in "dew" which does much to fatten the grapes and olives.

As far as health is concerned there is not much wrong with

well-stored cistern water. It is a little "flat" but has none of the

disagreeable taste of rainwater in European cities, which is contaminated

by a smoky atmosphere. Careful people ensure cleanliness

of the roofs by allowing the first day's rainfall in each season to run

away for a few hours. Cisterns must be periodically cleaned out,

but it is surprising how small is the sediment deposited in even the

largest cistern, where only the roof-water is collected.

Most cisterns

are rock-cut and carefully cemented with an impermeable cement,

in the making of which the ground-up fragments of broken--often

ancient--pottery are used. Water so stored, if originally pure, keeps

sweet and good for a long while and, when the sediment is settled,

is quite bright and clear, although a Pasteur filter shows that there

remains constantly a small quantity of undissolved earthy impurity.

In some respects, the system of private cisterns is probably safer

than a doubtfully-managed public supply. A water-borne disease,

such as enteric fever, cannot be carried all over the city.

The Syrian native esteems "living" (spring) water very highly,

but I have known people, accustomed to the soft rainwater of

Jerusalem, who were digestively upset by drinking from the beautiful

springs of Nablus, the water of which is very hard from a high

percentage of lime and magnesium salts.

In the villages water is, if possible, brought from springs, even

at a considerable distance, for drinking purposes, but in the late

summer in many places the fellahin and bedawin have to make

shift with water of a very inferior quality, obtained from anywhere

they can get it.

The most characteristic and important of the diseases of Palestine

is Malaria in its various manifestations. Practically speaking, it

occurs all over the land and affects every class of its inhabitants.

It is very prevalent in Jerusalem, especially in late summer.

Recent investigations have shown that during these months (August

to October) 27.30 per cent. of all the children actually attending

school have malarial parasites in their blood; and on examination,

the blood of 7,771 persons of all classes and conditions revealed

parasites in 26.7 percent. The percentages were remarkably divided,

being 40.5 per cent. among the poor Jews, 31.1 per cent. among

the Moslems, 16.4 per cent. among the native Christians, and 7.2

per cent. among the Europeans.

Practically, the percentage is an

index of social environment and hygienic surroundings, the Europeans

in particular having learned the lesson of prevention and early

cure. Malaria occurs, though as a rule to a lesser extent, in all the

towns and villages in the mountain region, especially those bordering

on the Jordan Valley.

Five species of the sub-family Anophelinae have been identified in

Palestine, all of which are probably malarial-parasite carriers, viz.,

Anopheles Maculipennis (the common Anopheles of Jerusalem), Pyretophorus

Palestinensis, Pyretophoris Sergentii (only as yet identified in

Galilee), Myzorhynchus Pseudopictus (common in the Huleh marshes),

and Cella Pseudopictus. Of these the first two are the most widely

distributed and important.

The usual situations of breeding of the

larvae of these mosquitoes are the marshy pools and sluggish streams

of the low lands; in the neighbourhood of Jaffa and at many places

on the coast, especially around Caesarea and the neighbouring

district, such semi-stagnant pools occur in numbers. In Jerusalem,

the larvae of the two first-mentioned varieties breed in countless

numbers in the semi-closed rainwater cisterns attached to almost

all the houses, and it is therefore little wonder that malarial fevers

are there continuously propagated. There are many villages and

small towns where there are no suitable breeding grounds, and in

such places malarial fevers are rare.

Enteric fever, always endemic, at times occurs in epidemics.

It is particularly fatal to Europeans; doubtless many of the native

children suffer from mild attacks in infancy and are, later in life,

more or less immune. Of other fevers, typhus, influenza, and (on

the coast) Dengue fever all occur in epidemics. Sporadic cases of

Malta fever are seen at times, and also Spirillum (relapsing) fever.

Measles, rubeola, mumps, whooping-cough, and chicken-pox are

almost always to be found among the children; the first-mentioned

at times bursts forth with startling severity.

Smallpox when it sweeps through the land, has a very high

mortality; vaccination is but half-heartedly carried out even in the

large towns, and scarcely at all in the villages. I have known cases

of unvaccinated Europeans-travellers and residents--being fatally

attacked. Inoculation is still resorted to at times, with terrible


Scarlet fever appears to have been recently introduced, and

its toll of victims in the towns has been enormous.

Diphtheria occurs from time to time, but probably less so--

paradoxically enough--than in the more sanitary cities of Europe.

Dysentery is most commonly a complication of malarial attacks,

but acute (amoebic) dysentery also occurs not infrequently, a large

proportion of the cases being fatal. Tropical abscess of the liver is

by no means uncommon, as a sequela of dysentery.

Cholera, known to the natives as howa el-asfar ("the yellow

wind"), appears in severe epidemics at intervals, with an enormous

mortality. In nothing does the fatalism of the ignorant natives

appear more prominently than in their attitude towards this

disease. In spite of all warnings, they will wash the clothes of

cholera patients in the village water-supply; at Tiberias, during the

terrible epidemic of 1902, many of the people could not be induced

to drink the boiled water freely and liberally supplied to them by

the resident Scotch doctor, but used this for washing their clothes

and drank of the sewage-infected lake-water at their doors.

It is

not wonderful that the epidemic decimated the town. Fortunately,

epidemics of this disease have been rare during the last half-century.

Plague. has not occurred in epidemic form in Palestine since

the first third of the nineteenth century, though sporadic cases

have been detected and isolated at the ports; in earlier ages it

swept over the land with terrible effect.

Erysipelas is by no means uncommon among the town-dwellers,

many cases contracting infection at the site of the "issues" the

people make and keep permanently open on their arms and elsewhere

with the idea of benefiting their chronic eye-diseases. Tetanus

occurs occasionally, and cases of hydrophobia from the bites of

camels, jackals and cats, as well as pariah dogs, occur annually. The

Turkish Government, through the local authorities, assist all such

cases, when needing financial help, to go to Egypt or Constantinople

for treatment by the Pasteur method, and just before the war the

“International Health Bureau” established a small "Pasteur Institute"

in Jerusalem, but the fellahin have but little belief in any

European assistance in this disease.

Acute rheumatism is fairly common, and is responsible for

a large proportion of the cases of valvular disease of the heart.

Such cases do badly on account of the poor food, the anaemia produced

by malaria, and, in the cases of women, the very youthful

age of marriage, frequent child-bearing, and hard life generally.

The closely allied disease, chorea (St. Vitus's dance), is not uncommon.

Chronic rheumatoid arthritis is commoner among the Jews

and other European residents than among the fellahin. Next to

malaria the disease germ most responsible for death in Palestine and

Syria to-day is Tubercle.

Cases of

Phthisis (consumption) are often exceedingly acute, even when

pure air and a semi-outdoor life are secured. This is due, doubtless,

in many instances, to the mistaken kindness of friends, who quietly

allow patients to refuse nourishment when there is a disinclination

for food. There is a growing dread of infection in this disease,

and many poor sufferers are shockingly neglected by their relatives,

who are afraid to associate with them.

Leprosy is not a common disease but it infects all classes--

Moslems, Jews and Christians: there are in all Palestine not more,

perhaps, than 250 lepers, most of them segregated in Jerusalem,

Ramleh, Nablus, or Damascus, where they live in houses provided

by the Government. The fact, however, which the writer has

recently observed, that a good many cases are to be found unsuspected

among the villagers in some parts of the land, makes the

above estimate a little uncertain. The disease occurs very sporadically

without any evident cause.

Rickets is a disease by no means uncommon in the towns,

particularly among some classes of Jews. Infantile diarrhoea is a

cause of great mortality. Syphilis, while by no means so prevalent

as in European lands, is not uncommon among the town-dwelling

Moslems of the middle and upper classes, but on the whole it is of

rather a mild type. The relative infrequency of this disease has

without doubt much to do with the rarity of chronic nervous diseases

such as locomotor ataxia.

Diabetes appears to be peculiarly common among this people.

The writer has, however, seen several cases among Armenians and

also, to a less extent, among the native Syrian Christians and

even the fellahin. Diabetic gangrene is a common complication.

Reference has previously been made to the extreme prevalence,

among all classes, of chronic dyspepsia. Haemorrhoids (piles), due

to portal congestion, are very common, particularly among the Jews,

who are accustomed to the regular use of alcohol. Appendicitis is

a rare disease among the bedawin and fellahin; among foreign

residents it is quite as common as in home lands.

Round worms" occur in some individuals in such quantities as to

give rise to the most alarming symptoms--suggestive even of peritonitis.

Tape worm (Taenia saginala) is exceedingly common, and

difficult of real cure. It is introduced by means of under-cooked

(diseased) meat, and it is noticeable that the Jews, although their

meat is inspected by butchers certified by the Rabbis as competent,

are very liable to it. Hydatid disease, due to the Taenia echinococcus,

is by no means unknown.


By DR. E. W. G. MASTERMAN. (Continued from Q.S., 1918, p. 71.)

Belonging, doubtless, to really primitive beliefs, we have the

cult of the Evil eye, an influence which is to-day considered

by the majority in the land as the most potent of all causes of

disease and death. “The eye fell on him and he died,” is the way

a mother will narrate the death of her firstborn. In the Orient the

most dreaded eye is a blue one; the owner of such may, quite

innocently, bring misfortune, disease, or death at any time. A look

or a word of admiration bestowed, however casually, may prove

disastrous unless the owner of the eye checks the influence by

muttering the name of God. Children and horses are particularly

liable to fall under this curse. It is to avoid the glance of the

evil eye that many a child is kept unwashed, or dressed in the

shabbiest clothes--often only in garments given by or begged from

strangers. For fear of this or of a very similar malignant influence

not defined, children will be called by displeasing names, such as

"wolf," "jackal," “bear,” or "leopard," or given such names as

“forsaken.” In other cases a child will be allowed to remain unnamed,

being addressed as either “boy” or “girl,” as the case may


Sometimes the mother pretends to sell the child to another

woman, who gives her, perhaps, a sum equivalent to a farthing for

it. To guard against the evil eye, amulets are worn by most

children and by horses. In the latter case, bright blue beads are

considered sufficient; but around a child's neck there is frequently a

necklace of assorted charms--in some cases a veritable museum.

Thus, a large lump of alum is added to the collection because it is

a substance irritating to "the eye"; bright coins or beads are

employed because they attract “the eye” away from the child's

face; the bone of an owl because this bird's keen sight at night

invests its bone with peculiar virtue as a guardian; or we find such

objects as a hedgehog's hoof, the vertebra of a wolf or dog, or a

small dog's tail. Commonly, too, an amulet called a hajab, a small

metal or leather case containing an extract from the Kur'an, or a

cabbalistic charm, written by a kateb, is worn; in the Jerusalem

district it also often contains a piece of the black "stink stone" of

Nebi Musa. The Oriental Jews also frequently add small metal

plates with some Hebrew words, and metal, or other material,

moulded into the form of a hand--the "hand of might."


the special amulets, the fellahin adorn a child for whose safety they

specially fear with a cap (tukeyeh) of some bright colour--red,

yellow, or green-while the Oriental Jews further ornament such

a cap with blue beads, often arranged in a Hebrew device. All

these things may be considered as part of the prophylaxis against


Of the peculiar ideas regarding the causes of special diseases, a

few selected examples may be given here. Leprosy is considered

to be due to contact with the gecko, which, in consequence, is

known as Abu baras ("the father of leprosy"). Sore heads (ringworm,

etc.) are ascribed to the excrement of bats falling upon them

in the dark. Enlarged spleen is often due to swallowing fragments

of the finger nails, and this disease--known as tahal--is in turn considered

a cause of hernia.

Warts are said to be the result of trying

to count the stars. Haemorrhoids, or “piles,” called bowaser, are

considered as the source of troubles all over the body; for example,

a Druze woman under the writer's care asked whether her nasal

polypus was not due to reh bowaser (lit. "the breath of piles").

Rheumatism is called reh (lit. “wind”) in the joints. Tetanus,

epilepsy, and all forms of lunacy are ascribed to possession by evil


A person must never step across a child lying on the floor,

or it will cease to grow; if this has been done by accident, the

individual must carefully retrace his steps.

Belonging to another class are the "charms" made for particular

diseases, written by the sheikhs in a decoction of saffron or in ink.

The majority of these consist of little more than sentences of the

Kur’an, especially the fathah (opening sentences), repeated over and

over again, the spaces between the sentences being filled up with

scrawled Arabic letters with no meaning.

In some cases the patient

is directed either to wear the charm in the cap (e.g., in a case of

headache), or to wash off the ink and drink the liquid, to dissolve

the paper and swallow it, or, in yet other instances, to burn the

paper and inhale the smoke. Occasionally, the directions are to

dissolve one half and drink it, and to fumigate with the other half.

For all diseases the weltys and other sacred shrines are visited.

Vows and sacrifices are made for the recovery of the sick. The

plants from such shrines are considered valuable for fumigation of

the sick, and the dry earth from the neighbourhood is curative of

many diseases (cf. Numb. v, 17).

Many springs and wells are

credited with healing properties. Some, like 'Ain es-Sultan (Elisha's

fountain) at Jericho, are beneficial to all diseases; some are useful

for the cure of special diseases. Naturally, the hot springs at

Tiberias and at el-Hammeh are much resorted to: that there is a

supernatural influence believed to be present is shown by the fact

that the name of God must not, so it is taught, be uttered while


With regard to vegetable remedies, a number of indigenous

herbs are credited with curative virtues, but are of quite secondary

importance to amulets and the magic of the sheikhs. In the towns

a number of old prescriptions are used, by which such substances

as pepper, ginger, saffron, honey, and garlic are mingled in varying


More effective than these prescriptions is the method

of treatment known as el-‘ushbeh, which is used for Syphilis. The

patient is isolated for forty days in a tent or room, fed on unleavened

bread (without salt), honey and raisins, and is made to

drink great quantities of a decoction of sarsparilla, with which he

is also steamed. The method is also tried for other diseases which

have failed to yield to treatment.

In connection with childbirth there are many customs. The

most noticeable is that firmly and universally held in belief by Oriental

Jews of the danger threatening mother and child from the malignant

influence of Lilith, a female demon about whom there are innumerable

tales. To protect against her influences, mother and

child must not for a moment be left alone, but be watched night

and day, preferably, it would seem, by a noisy crowd of relations

and friends; copies of an amulet printed in Hebrew are hung on

the bed and about the room; a bunch of garlic, one of rue, a Passover

cake shaped like a hand, and some bright blue beads are also

commonly hung on the bed.

Among the fellahin the midwife is

usually responsible for the child the first forty days of its life.

When she cuts the navel cord the infant receives its name and,

with boys, in many cases the name of his future bride (the "daughter

of So-and-so") is also mentioned, such a betrothal being binding.



THE subject of the diseases mentioned in the Bible has always been a

difficult one and it is not expected that this present effort to elucidate

it will have anything of finality about it. The writer will be content

if he clears up some obscure points, and if incidentally he is able to present

to his readers a considerable mass of facts which have not hitherto been

co-ordinated. The basis of any correct views on the subject must be our

knowledge of the conditions of life in Palestine in Old and New

Testament times.

Though doubtless much may be gathered from

literature it is reasonable to suppose that the physical environment of

the modern peoples of this land as regards climate, food, houses and

mode of life being probably much the same as of old, a study of these will

be likely to prove at least as important. Then the diseases rife in the

land to-day may also be considered. It is quite possible that some

diseases have changed their type or even become extinct, and it is certain

that some diseases occur which were unknown before the Middle Ages,

but as some popular information on the modern diseases of Palestine may

be opportune at this time, this section will be complete in itself, though

necessarily brief.

Twenty years' residence in various parts of the Holy

Land in actual medical practice enables the writer to treat this part of the

subject with the authority of experience, and he does so with greater

assurance, inasmuch as he has discussed various points here mentioned

with other practitioners in the land, both personally and in conferences.

The literature of this subject was until recently extraordinarily scanty,

but in the last few years a number of medical papers from those practising

or making researches in the land have been published which do much to

add to our knowledge. This is notably the case with regard to tropical

diseases in which, thanks to the researches of the workers in the "International

Health Bureau," established in Jerusalem in 1913, we have

scientific reports of the greatest value. Although a full Bibliography will

be published at the conclusion of these papers1 I may mention here a few

recent papers which give information about diseases in modern Palestine

in a fuller manner than will be possible here:--

With regard to using modern scientific medical literature it must

however be always remembered that from the point of view of old

writings it is less helpful than might be hoped, as the scientific recognition

of many specific diseases is comparatively modern and until quite recently

such general terms as "fever," "consumption," "palsy," were used in

a broad and general sense, and each included what we now know to be

many varieties of disease. Perhaps more help will be found from study--

such as will be attempted here--of the primitive ideas of disease and its

cure, such as is still to be found abundantly among the people of the land.

Some light on the conditions of life and health in early times, which. may

be gathered from the results of Palestine excavations, will form the

subject of a special chapter.

Finally, an endeavour will be made to get as near as possible to the true

meaning of the various terms used in the description of disease and to

investigate the actual relation of the Mosaic laws to health. Here then

is a considerable body of Biblical and theological literature to which

reference will be made in the Bibliography.

The bedawin are popularly credited, on account of their

entirely open-air life, with great soundness of constitution, but it

cannot be said that this is the case with the nomads of Palestine.

They are exceedingly scantily clad, the poorest in actually nothing

but a shirt, and their skins are exposed to all the extremes of heat and

cold; their goat-hair tents are but little protection from the heat of

summer or the cold and wet of winter; while, during the latter

season, the atmosphere of their dwellings is commonly saturated

with the irritating smoke from wood or dung.

It might be supposed

that the smoke would at least afford some protection from insect

pests, but the truth is that, under such conditions, lice, mosquitoes,

and other insect pests are found in abundance. Doubtless, in the

days when the bedawin possessed considerable wealth of cattle,

camels, and horses, and were able both to feed well and to keep

themselves in good physique by martial exercises, they enjoyed

greater robustness, but now a large proportion of the bedawin of

Palestine are sallow in complexion, and constantly suffer from

malarial fever, and even from pulmonary tuberculosis (consumption),

from which it might bethought their out-door life would save them.

Even their nomad habits do not deliver them from epidemics of

small-pox, typhus, enteric, measles and whooping-cough; and the

mortality is very high, especially among the young. While it is

probably true that the great desert tribes are largely free from

venereal diseases, this is certainly not the case with the mongrel

bedawin in the neighbourhood of the towns of Palestine, who have

very low morals: syphilis and gonorrhoea are extremely common

among them, and it is said that the same is the case with some

of the nomads of Sinai.

The houses of the fellahin are

usually constructed of very loosely built walls, with flat mud roofs,

unprovided with parapets (Deut. xxii, 8), and in many parts of the

land without even chimneys. These ill-made walls, however, have the

advantage of allowing free ventilation even when, as is the rule, all

windows and doors are closed at night.

Most dwellings swarm with

vermin. In some parts of the land (e.g., Hattin, Banias, etc.) the

inhabitants sleep in booths constructed on the roofs during the

summer months, when the vermin are most active. A witness to

the commonness of the presence of body lice is supplied by the

exclamation frequently used in northern Palestine, "May God not

remove them [i.e., the lice] from me!" because the sudden departure

of these pests from anyone is considered a sign of mortal sickness.

The village streets are narrow and very irregular. Heaps of refuse

accumulate in corners, and a huge dung heap--the breeding-place of

countless myriads of flies--dominates the habitations.

There are,

with very few exceptions, no sanitary arrangements, and the whole

village is often surrounded by a narrow area of human excreta

which the fellahin never take the trouble to cover with earth,

and which, when the rains come, is, in many cases, carried into

the source of the water supply.

The fellah has the advantage neither of

the nomad's periodical migration to a clean site nor of the thorough

cleansing which the town-dweller is able to give periodically to his

stone-paved floor. From want of personal cleanliness and the

impregnation with sewage of the food, especially the salads, intestinal

worms are exceedingly common

The sanitary arrangements of all the towns are still extremely

primitive. Drain traps are practically unknown, except in European

houses and institutions. The “waterclosets" are usually in close

proximity to the front door, or the kitchen, or both; and the

entrance to the main drain or cesspool, where there is often an

accumulation of years, being quite untrapped, the effluvia is at

times almost unbearable.

In Jerusalem, which should be a place

easily drained, a water-carriage system of main drainage has been

made, ancient sewers being utilized, but as there is no system of

flushing these badly constructed, stone-built channels, sewage

stagnates in them during the whole dry season, poisonous gases

make their way freely into the houses and streets, and the liquids

impregnate the surrounding soil for a considerable distance, and,

without doubt, in places reach the neighbouring cisterns.


the heavy winter's rains fall, the accumulation of months is carried

down the main sewer, emerges in the valley of the Kedron just

below the village of Silwan, and flows down the valley in close

proximity to the Bir Eyyub (Job's well--the ancient ' en-Rogel), the

water of which is carried to the city for many domestic purposes.

Much of the fresh sewage is distributed over the gardens to the

south of the city, in which are grown quantities of the salads,

cauliflowers, and other vegetables supplied to the city. One effect

of these and such-like arrangements is the universal occurrence of

“round worms " among the native population, and here too we have

all the necessary antecedents for the propagation of enteric fever and


#6. The Rationale Of The Laws Of Clean And Unclean In The Old Testament

— Joe M. Sprinkle

Ritual cleanness and uncleanness (associated with the Heb. roots t£a„h and t£a„m)

represents a major theme of the Pentateuch. Purity rules describe the rituals, varying

according to the “severity” of the impurity contracted, for ceremonial uncleanness due to skin

disease, bodily discharges, touching unclean things, and eating unclean foods. The rationale

for these laws is never clearly spelled out, but several explanations probably have some

validity, including hygiene, the need to dissociate oneself from disgusting or pagan things,

various other ethical lessons, the association of Yahweh with life and wholeness rather than

death or disorder, the separation of worship from expressions of sexuality, and the need for

Israel to be separated from the Gentiles. However, this paper argues that the most important

message conveyed by these laws is that God is holy, and man, conversely, is contaminated

and unfit, in and of himself, to approach a holy God. All this, in turn, served to inculcate in

the mind of the ancient Israelite the sacredness of the tabernacle/temple space within the

conceptual “cultic topography” produced by the clean and unclean system.

According to the laws of the Pentateuch, the Israelite was to regard most things as

“clean,” but a person or thing could contract uncleanness in a variety of ways. Several broad

categories are found in Num 5:2: Anyone with a skin disease, or having a discharge of bodily

fluids, or touching something unclean such as a dead body was unclean. The other broad

category has to do with unclean animals and foods. These categories will now be discussed in

greater detail.

1. Skin disease. Anyone with a scale-like skin disease (s£a„r) was regarded as unclean (cf.

Leviticus 13–14). The term s£a„raà has been traditionally translated “leprosy,” but the

consensus of scholars is that the term is not limited to modern clinical leprosy (Hansen’s

disease); instead, this term covers a variety of skin diseases. 1 A garment or leather object in a

household or the house itself that contracts mold or fungus that looks like scale disease were likewise

deemed unclean (Lev 13:47–59; 14:33–57).

2. Discharge of bodily fluids. Bodily discharge refers primarily to natural and unnatural

genital flows, but not to open wounds from accidents. 2 Childbirth, via its association with the

discharge of the bloody placenta from the vagina, rendered a woman unclean for forty days for a male child, eighty days for a female child (Lev 12:1–8).

Onset of menstruation rendered

a woman unclean for seven days (15:19–24; cf. Ezek 36:17) and any unnatural genital flow of

blood rendered her unclean until seven days after that flow of blood ceases (15:25–30).

Ordinary marital intercourse rendered the couple unclean until evening (15:18; cf. Exod

19:15), while inadvertent intercourse with a menstruating woman rendered the man unclean

for seven days (Lev 15:24), and deliberate intercourse with such a woman, a practice Ezekiel

lists as a sin (Ezek 18:6; 22:10), made both subject to divine “cutting off ” (Lev 20:18).

3. Touching unclean things. Uncleanness conveyed by touch usually lasted until

evening, though touching a human corpse made one unclean for seven days (Num 19:11).

Touching the carcasses of unclean animals (Lev 5:1–3; 7:19, 21; 11:24–28, 44), or the unwashed person, contaminated chair, or bedding of a menstruating woman or of a man with

an unnatural genital flow conveyed uncleanness until evening (Lev 15:4–11, 19–24). An

unclean man could transfer uncleanness onto a clay pot by touch (15:12) and onto a person by

spitting (15:7).

Objects touching a carcass became impure (15:32), though certain objects—

springs, cisterns, plant seeds—were immune from impurity by touch (11:36–38). The contents

of an unclean vessel and anything touched by water from an unclean vessel were rendered

ritually unclean (11:33–34). Hosea states that “mourner’s bread,” that is, food contaminated

by being in the house with a corpse, defiles (Hos 9:4), and Haggai affirms that man

contaminated by a corpse transmits uncleanness via touch (Hag 2:13).

4. Unclean animals and food. Animals were either “clean” or “unclean,” a distinction

first made in the account of Noah’s flood (Gen 7:2), but elaborated in detail in Leviticus 11

and Deuteronomy 14.9 Some among the unclean animals are designated sOEeqe “cultic

abomination,” or to‚àe„b “abomination, abhorrence.” These transmitted an especially loathsome

form of uncleanness (Lev 11:10, 11, 12, 13, 20, 23, 41; Deut 14:3). Eating an unclean animal rendered a person unclean, in this case till evening, whether it be flesh from an inherently

unclean animal, flesh of a clean animal rendered unclean by death from natural causes (Lev

11:39–40; 17:15), or any food rendered unclean by contact with something else unclean (cf.

Hag 2:10–13). Nazirites like Samson were to take special care to avoid eating anything

unclean (Judg 13:4, 7, 13; compare Num 6:5–8). Pious Israelites such as Daniel would refuse

to defile (ga„áa ) themselves by eating non-“kosher” foods (Dan 1:8), whereas eating unclean

food such as swine and mice was an act of impiety condemned by Isaiah (Isa 65:4; 66:17).

These regulations imply that one should avoid ceremonial impurity, but the nature of the

rules given above shows that this, even by natural biological processes, was not always

possible. Everyone became unclean from time to time. Periodic states of uncleanness were


Where contraction of impurity occurred, it was obligatory that the unclean person avoid

that which is holy and take steps, involving the rituals for disposal of impurity, to return to a

state of cleanness. Uncleanness placed a person in a “dangerous” condition under threat of

divine retribution, even death (Lev 15:31), especially if the person were to approach the

sanctuary. Indeed, the largest body of laws of clean and unclean, Leviticus 11–15, is

bracketed (forming an inclusio)12 first by the account of the death of the two sons of Aaron,

Nadab and Abihu, for improperly approaching the sanctuary (Leviticus 10), and second by the

Day of Atonement ritual (Leviticus 16) where reference to the death of Aaron’s two sons (v.

1) is part of a warning against arbitrary entrance into the sanctuary (v. 2). That in turn leads to

a prescription to conduct an elaborate sacrificial ritual to cleanse the priest first, and then to

remove sin and uncleanness from both sanctuary and people (vv. 3–19). The community’s

uncleanness imperiled the whole nation, because uncleanness defiles the Lord’s tabernacle,

God’s dwelling place in their midst (Lev 16:16; Num 19:13, 20) as well as the land itself (Lev

18:27) and could make God’s continued dwelling in their midst impossible (Ezek 43:7–9; cf.


If unpurged, uncleanness could lead to a general outbreak of divine wrath and ultimately

the expulsion of the land’s inhabitants (Lev 18:25), as did in fact happen in the Babylonian

exile. Consequently, there must be through the various sacrifices a purging of uncleanness

from the altar and the sanctuary (Ezek 43:19–27; 45:19) to remove the contamination of both sin and

ceremonial impurity. Uncleanness and the danger entailed by it lingered upon those who did

not take the necessary steps to be purified (Num 19:12–13; Lev 17:16).

Complex religious and theological symbolism is conveyed by the system of purity and

impurity, though unfortunately in most cases the symbolism is implicit rather than explicit.

The interpreter must take the details and what interpretation the text provides in order to reconstruct the conceptual world of the

purity/impurity system.24

The following discussion surveys explanations of these laws from the least to the most

important, though in my view several categories are simultaneously applicable.

1. Hygiene. The explanation that I heard as a new Christian for the laws of clean and

unclean was that they had to do with health and hygiene.25 There is, to be sure, an incidental

contribution made by the laws of purity/impurity to hygiene. Certainly the exclusion from the

camp of those with possible symptoms of leprosy and gonorrhea (Leviticus 13–14; 15:2–15)

in effect quarantined these dangerous diseases and contributed to public health. The avoiding

of carcasses, or eating animals which died of natural causes, or contacting human sputum and

discharges would do the same

Hygiene, however, is at most a secondary explanation. Some animals which are

excluded have no association with disease: the camel, for example, is a delicacy for Arabs to

this day, and there is no evidence that the camel passes disease to humans. 26 Wild boars

rarely have trichinosis, and proper cooking of pork, in any case, generally makes its

transmission to humans rare. 27 Pork was a staple of Israel’s neighbors, so evidently they had

learned to prepare the meat in such a way as to avoid most ill effects. Poisonous plants are not

mentioned, though inclusion of “clean and unclean” plants would be expected were hygiene

the purpose of these laws. Furthermore, some of the clean animals present health hazards: the

ruminants of “clean” cud-chewing animals are host for a number of parasitic organisms.

2. Association with disgusting or pagan or demonic things. Perhaps some unclean

things were condemned because of an association with disgusting things and/or paganism. For

example, snakes (Lev 11:42) and camels (Lev 11:4; Deut 14:7) and certain predatory or slimy

or creeping animals may have been declared unclean because they awaken a natural aversion

in the minds of people.31 With snakes, this aversion may go back to the curse of the fall (Gen

3:14–15). The pig (Lev 11:7: Deut 14:8) and dog (cf. Lev 11:24), whose disgusting behavior

became proverbial,32 may have been unclean because they are scavengers that feed on refuge

(including corpses).33 Rodents such as the mouse (Lev 11:29) invoke disgust as they infest

and destroy human stockpiles of grain.

3. Ethical lessons. More plausible than the first two categories is that some laws of

purity are meant to promote ethical behavior. All the laws of purity, even where arbitrary,

cultivated in the Israelite the virtue of self-control, an indispensable first step in the attainment

of holiness. 38 Other regulations seem to have more specific ethical concerns. Eating meat torn

by wild beasts not only defiles ritually, but is contrary to ethical holiness by its dehumanizing

effect, reducing human beings to the level of a scavenger dog (Exod 22:31 [Heb. 30]). 39 It is

possible, though no text explicitly states this, that predatory animals (most unclean animals

are predatory) are regularly unclean because humans are not to be like them morally, that is,

destructive and murderous. 40 A similar moral explanation could apply to some specific,

repulsive species (pigs, snakes).

4. Association of Yahweh with life and wholeness rather than death and disorder. The

purity system arguably conveys in a symbolic way that Yahweh is the God of life (order) and

is separated from that which has to do with death (disorder). Corpses and carcasses rendered a

person unclean because they obviously have to do with death. Most (though not all) of the

unclean animals are somehow associated with death, either being predators/scavengers

(animals with paws rather than hoofs) or living in tomb-like caves (rock badgers). The pig in

particular, in addition to being a scavenger, was associated with the worship of chthonic or

underworld deities and/or demons among the Hittites, Egyptians, and Mesopotamians. 47 The

scale disease rendered a person unclean, because it made a person waste away like a corpse

(cf. Num 12:12: “Let her not be like a corpse,” referring to Miriam’s skin disease).

5. Separation of holiness from expressions of sexuality. In certain pagan cults, sexual

acts were sometimes performed as part of the worshiper’s devotion to a deity. For example,

there was in Corinth the famous brothel of Aphrodite, and according to Herodotus (1.199),

though perhaps significantly not confirmed by cuneiform sources, every woman in Babylon

(and similarly at Cyprus) was obligated to prostitute herself once at the temple of a goddess

(Ishtar?). A once common but more recently challenged scholarly reconstruction is the

hypothesized pagan practice of sacred prostitution in which fertility was conveyed to the land

through ritualized sexual intercourse at the cultus in a form of sympathetic magic.54 For Israel,

in contrast, all expressions of sexuality rendered a person unclean, and hence unfit to

approach a sanctuary. Priests were to wear breeches and altars were to be made without stairs

to avoid even the hint of sexual impropriety in worship (Exod 28:42; 20:26). Since sexual acts

rendered a person “unclean,” sacred prostitution for the observant Israelite would have been


6. Separation from the Gentiles. One clear purpose of the laws of purity was to separate

Israel from the Gentiles. The separation of sexuality from any form of worship just mentioned

would have the effect of separating Israel from at least some of her pagan neighbors. More

directly, the clean/unclean system divided animals, people, and land into three categories. In

the animal realm there are clean animals that could be sacrificed on an altar, clean animals

(wild game, fish) that could be eaten but not sacrificed on an altar, and unclean animals that

ritually defiled the eater and could not be sacrificed (and some among the unclean animals are

further called sOEeqes“cultic abomination” or to‚àe„ “abomination, abhorrence”: Lev 11:10–13,

20, 23, 41; Deut 14:3). This separation among animals parallels that of people.57 Priests were

“holy” and separated from other Israelites for service in the sanctuary, ordinary Israelites are

“clean” and separated from non-Israelites, leaving non-Israelites as “unclean” (and some, such

as Canaanites, with especially wicked idolatrous practices are an abomination: Lev 18:26–30;

Deut 7:1–5, 25–26; 20:17–18). There is a similar system of separation of space: the tabernacle

(associated with priests) is holy, the land (associated with the Israelites) is clean, and the rest

of the world (associated with Gentiles) is unclean.58 Thus the purity system symbolically

reinforced teaching elsewhere that Israel was a “holy nation” (Exod 19:6) set apart from all

others. 59 In keeping the food laws, the Israelite was thus acknowledging that God had chosen

and saved them from the nations.

7. Holiness of God/contamination of man. The most important explanation of the rules

of purity is that they teach the concept of the holiness of God. The account that forms the

preface to the laws of purity in Leviticus 11–15 is that of the death of Nadab and Abihu, the

sons of Aaron who where struck dead for improperly approaching the sanctuary (Leviticus

10). God explains that through this incident “I will show myself holy among those who are

near me, and before all the people I will be glorified” (10:3, RSV). Likewise at the end of the

food laws, God comments that the Israelites were to be holy and show that holiness by not

eating unclean “swarming things” (11:44). God had brought them out of Egypt, so that “[y]ou

shall therefore be holy, for I am holy” (11:45). At the end of the purity laws comes the Day of

Atonement ritual. In reference to the death of the two sons of Aaron, God warns against

coming into the “most holy place” (Lev 16:1–2). This bracketing of the laws of clean and

unclean with the death of Aaron’s two sons and the idea of the sanctuary’s holiness suggests

that the most important lesson conveyed by this system is that God is holy (i.e. “set apart”).

As one approaches the new covenant, in one sense the idea of sacred space has been

abolished along with the purity laws. The temple, though still utilized in the book of Acts by

the early Christians (Acts 2:46; 3:1; 5:21, etc.), was doomed to destruction (Matt 24:2), a fact

that anticipates a new day in which emphasis on that sacred space would by necessity be

abolished. Similarly, Jesus tells the Samaritan woman that what is essential for worship will

henceforth not be a particular sacred space, but sacred heart attitude, worshiping God “in

spirit and in truth” (John 4:21–24). Instead of a tabernacle in the wilderness symbolizing

God’s dwelling among his people, in the new covenant Christ tabernacles among us (John

1:14), so wherever two or three gather in his name, there he is in our midst (Matt 18:20).

Whereas the purity/impurity laws symbolized both sacred space (land, temple) and sacred

community (Israelites, priests), under the new covenant sacred space has been supplanted by

sacred community.70 The sharp division between “clean” Israelites and “unclean” Gentiles has

broken down as indicated by the breakdown, under the new covenant, of the clean/unclean

system for food, persons, and space that these laws had symbolized.

Nevertheless, arguably some principles of the purity laws and sacred space are still

applicable. Even in the OT cleanness and uncleanness metaphorically symbolized moral

purity and impurity, and moral purity is still a Christian ideal. Moreover, the “place” where

two or more gather in Christ’s name becomes, by that fact, “holy ground,” and as holy ground

can be defiled, not by ceremonial, but by ethical impurity. It remains true that those who

would metaphorically ascend the hill of the LORD at the sacred places where believers

gather, must have (ethically) “clean hands and a pure heart” (Ps 24:3–4) lest that sacred time

and place be defiled.

The evangelical Church would benefit if it devoted more attention to themes

underscored in the laws of clean and unclean. Christians should still disassociate themselves

from that which is disgusting, deadly, or dehumanizing. Instead they should affirm selfcontrol,

especially sexual self-control, and that which is wholesome and life-promoting.

Though separation from Gentiles is obsolete for Christians, separation from the world is not.

Though the sacred space of the temple is no more, the very fact that we build churches with

“sanctuaries” is an indication that we sense the need psychologically of having sacred spaces

even today.

But if, by analogy, we, like Israel of old, produce sacred spaces for our sacred communities to gather, ought we not, by

that same analogy, guard the sacredness of such spaces from all defilements or improprieties

that could profane that place for worship? Perhaps the low level of “sacredness” associated

with evangelical sanctuaries comes not so much from Christian liberty as from our failure to

reflect in our worship truths found in the laws of clean and unclean: the great holiness of God

and its incompatibility with the defilement of man.


By MORRIS JASTROW, University of Pennsylvania.

THE composite character of the two chapters--Leviticus

13 and 14--comprising the laws and regulations for the

diagnosis and treatment of various skin diseases, and of

suspicious spots appearing in garments and houses, together

with the purification rites, has long been recognized.1


the mere enumeration of the variety of subjects treated

of in these two chapters, which form a little code by

themselves, furnishes a presumption in favour of the view

that the chapters represent a gradual growth. A closer

study of the two chapters not only confirms this presumption,

but also shows that the growth betrays an

even more complicated process than is the case in other

little groups of laws and regulations, such as Lev. 1-5.

We not only find that the two chapters may be subdivided

into numerous smaller sections, each representing a supplement

added to the basic stock of the little code, but that

within these sections, glosses, comments, and illustrations

are introduced which point to a treatment of the older

Hebrew codes, not unlike that accorded to the later Code of

Judaism, known as the Mishnah, and which by the addition

of a steadily-growing commentary and continuous elaboration,

known as the Gemara, grew into the Talmud. In

other words, we can distinguish in Leviticus 13 and 14

(as in other groups within the Priestly Code) elements

which correspond to the division between Mishnah and

Gemara in the great compilation of Rabbinical Judaism,

and we can also trace in the growth of the two chapters

the same process which produced the Gemara as a superstructure

to the Mishnah.

The intrinsic importance of the

two chapters, and the frequency with which they have

been treated because of their medical interest,2 justify

the endeavour to carry the analysis by a renewed study

somewhat further than has yet been done, particularly

as this analysis is a conditio sine qua non for an understanding

of the medical aspects of the chapters.


it is not my purpose to discuss in detail these medical

aspects, I shall touch upon them at the close of this article,

chiefly with a view of showing the manner in which they

should be considered, and also to furnish the reasons for

the conviction that I have gained that physicians who

have occupied themselves with these two chapters have

approached them from a wrong starting-point, and hence

have reached conclusions which, are correspondingly


To put it bluntly, before discussing the

fundamental question whether sara’at is ‘leprosy’ or not,

one must settle which verses of the two chapters deal

with sara’at.

Eerdmans,162 to be sure, would go much further and

place the entire two chapters in the pre-exilic period, but

his argumentation is not convincing because he underestimates

the complicated character of the composition of

Lev. 13-14. The fact, e. g., that the style and language of

the section on marks in garments, &c. (Lev. 13. 47-59),

agree with Lev. 13. 1-46 is due to direct imitation precludes

its use as an argument for the unity of Lev. 13; and in

the same way, Lev. 14.33-53 ('marks' on walls of houses)

imitates Lev. 13, and intentionally introduces so far as

possible the same terms.

Even if my analysis of Lev. 13-14

should not prove to be correct in all details, I feel safe

in saying that the existence of an original sara'at legislation

consisting of Lev. 13, 2-3; 9-11 (with some additions),

45-6, and followed immediately by a ‘purification’ or

‘dismissal’ ritual, Lev. 14. 1-8 a, has been definitely

demonstrated. No less significant is the fact that has been

proved163 of the distinction between a ritual performed

outside of a sanctuary and one that is to be performed at

an altar. This points not only to a very early age for the

original sara’at legislation, but also to a considerable interval,

of time between the age of the two rituals.

 Moreover, the

'sacrificial' ritual is based on a totally different point of

view. The fact that provision is made for carrying out

the later sacrificial ritual in Jerusalem only, without regard

to occurrences of sara’at in other parts of the country, is

due, of course, to the theoretical basis of the Priestly Code

that there is only one legislative centre at which sacrifice

can be brought. Instead of concluding, as Eerdmans does,

that the legislation originated in pre-exilic days in sole

connexion with the sanctuary at Jerusalem, because a post

exilic legislation would necessarily have regard to Jewish

settlements outside of the capital, the more obvious deduction

would be that the Priestly Code is to a large extent

an 'ideal' compilation made with the express purpose of

adapting the older and younger practices to a theoretical


That animal sacrifices were brought in pre-exilic

days, and at a very early period must, of course, be admitted,

and the emphasis on the 'tent of meeting’ in the ritual of

Lev. 14. 10-31 may be taken as an indication that the

basis of the ritual is pre-exilic; but the frequent substitution

of ‘before Jahweh’ in the section would have no meaning

unless one assumed that it represents the endeavour again

to apply older practices--considerably elaborated and

transferred to Jahweh's one and only legitimate sanctuary

at Jerusalem; so that we are once more brought face to

face with the distinctly post-exilic ideal that underlies the

legislation of the Priestly Code in its present form.

It is

characteristic of the gradual growth of legislation to retain

in a conservative spirit the language and the form of earlier

legislation, even when inconsistent with later conditions.

Just as laws are never actually abrogated in ancient

codes, but carried along with modifications that at times

totally change the character of ancient statutes even 'to the

point of virtually abrogating them164 so formulas are carried

over and given a new interpretation through glosses or

explanatory comments.

The substitution of ‘before Jahweh for ‘tent of meeting’, together with the frequent addition

of the one phrase to the other is, therefore, an illustration

of the way in which the old is carried over and combined

with the new.

It is impossible at this point to enter into

further detached criticism of Eerdmans's position, but enough

has been brought forward, I think, to make it clear that, while

he has shown more satisfactorily than his predecessors how

much in the Pentateuchal legislation is old, his main contention

that the critical theory associated chiefly with the

names of Graf, Kuenen, and Wellhausen165 must be set

aside because based on erroneous assumptions, is not acceptable,

partly because he has not carried the analysis of the

Pentateuchal laws far enough, and, therefore, under-estimates

their complicated character, and partly because he draws

untenable conclusions from the material itself even as he

has set it forth.

The critical theory is of course subject to

modification through further researches, but its basis rests

on too firm foundations to be seriously menaced by the

recent attacks made upon it.