Saturday, 13 November 2010

Biblical medicine #1: How to be cleansed from leprosy

An occasional series on medical nonsense in the bible (I've met a couple of colleagues who are biblical literalists, both of them seemingly excellent docs but thankfully neither infectious diseases specialists).

(thanks to for the Leviticus reference).

The cleansing ritual is necessary to "make atonement for him that is to be cleansed because of his uncleanness". I wonder how many religious doctors, guided by the bible or its even wackier interpretations such as Christian Science, see their patients' illnesses as consequence of sin.

Cleansing ritual from leprosy:
Get two birds. Kill one. Dip the live bird in the blood of the dead one. Sprinkle the blood on the leper seven times, and then let the blood-soaked bird fly away. Next find a lamb and kill it. Wipe some of its blood on the patient’s right ear, thumb, and big toe. Sprinkle seven times with oil and wipe some of the oil on his right ear, thumb and big toe. Repeat. Finally find another pair of birds. Kill one and dip the live bird in the dead bird’s blood. Wipe some blood on the patient’s right ear, thumb, and big toe. Sprinkle the house with blood 7 times.
– Leviticus 14:2-52


  1. It's rather disingenuous of you to portray this as a "miracle cure" of the Bible. If you read the entire passage (, you will see that this is a cleansing ritual, not a cure. This was done to reinstate someone who had been healed of a skin disease as "clean" and able to worship in the temple.

    Calling out the Roman Catholic Church in re prophylaxis is a straw man, as that pronouncement is extra-biblical and not at all related to leprosy or cleansing rituals. It's also not applicable to those who are not Roman Catholic. Take some logic classes before you try to pick apart someone's Holy Scripture.

  2. Guilty. Post amended. Nonsense cleansing ritual a rather sinister indication that disease a result of sin, an abhorrent idea.