Practical Revelation

I spotted this on Reddit:

I’ve blogged about this before. It is a good reason for concluding that the Bible is the work of human beings who were not given scientific knowledge beyond what was available in their own time. The alternative is to say that God chose not to reveal some basic facts that could have saved countless lives. I can’t imagine why any conservative believers would prefer to defend their extrabiblical doctrine about the nature and authority of the Bible, at the price of depicting God as a diabolical monster, rather than accept the Bible as it shows itself to be.

  • susanburns

    And yet there is evidence that the protocol used by the medical profession evolved from purity ritual of temple worship. Only the high priest was allowed into the Holy of Holies after mikvot ritual bath. He wore seamless garment without decoration and covered his head. After he became ritually pure he could not be touched by anyone. If he were touched, the entire process would have to begin again. His “helper” would also have to be ritually pure. Only his purified helper could hand temple products to the high priest but even he could not touch him. If the high priest should die while in Holy of Holies, nobody could enter to retrieve his body. That is why he would have to have a cord tied to his leg with the other end outside of the innermost sanctum.

    • Ian

      “And yet there is evidence that the protocol used by the medical profession evolved from purity ritual of temple worship” – can you point to the evidence of such evolution, or any historian of medicine who thinks that modern scrubbing up is an evolution of second temple ritual practice?

      I suspect it is just equation by similarity. The two look a bit alike in some vague aspects, so they must be related.

      OR Pagan’s inversion seems much more likely: there are practical constraints and innate psychological traits that independently influenced the nature of both purity practice and modern medicine and many other things besides.

      • susanburns

        Pagan’s inversion? Ya just funnin’ me ain’t ya?

        From Jewish Virtual Library:
        The uniqueness of biblical medicine lies in its regulations for social hygiene, which are remarkable not only for their period but even by present-day standards. Hygiene and prophylaxis became religious dogmas intended for the welfare and preservation of the nation. Of the 613 commandments, 213 are of a medical nature. Prevention of epidemics, suppression of prostitution and venereal diseases, frequent washing, care of the skin, strict dietary and sanitary regulations, rules for sexual life, isolation and quarantine, the observance of a day of rest. These and other provisions inhibited the spread of many of the diseases prevalent in neighboring countries.

        The Hebrews were aware of the fact that contagious diseases are spread by direct contact as well as by clothing, household utensils, etc. To prevent the spread of epidemics or infectious maladies they therefore compiled a series of sanitary regulations. These included precautionary or temporary isolation, quarantine, burning or scalding of infected garments and utensils, thorough scrubbing and smoking out of houses suspected of infection, and scrupulous inspection and purification of the diseased person after recovery (Lev. 13–14). Anyone coming into contact with a corpse or carrion, or suffering from purulent discharges from any part of his body, also required a thorough cleansing of himself and his belongings before being allowed back into the encampment (Num. 19:7–16; Lev. 15:2–13). The garments, weapons, and utensils of soldiers returning to the camp after a battle had to be thoroughly cleansed and/or burned to prevent the spread of diseases possibly picked up during contact with the enemy (Num. 31:20, 22–24). The danger of infectious bowel diseases spreading through excrement was also recognized and the Bible instructs how to keep the camp clean (Deut. 23:13–14).

        With the one exception of the incurable serpent bite (Num. 21:9), biblical remedies and treatments are all of a rational character and do not involve incantations or magic rites, nor do they include the so-called “filth pharmacy.” Biblical therapeutics consisted of washing; the use of oils, balsams, and bandages for wounds and bone fractures; bathing in therapeutic waters (II Kings 5:10), especially in the case of skin diseases; sun rays, medicated drinks, etc. The modern method of mouth-to-mouth artificial respiration was also known, as testified by the accounts of Elijah and Elisha (I Kings 17:22; II Kings 4:34–35). The only surgical operations mentioned are circumcision and castration, and these were not specifically Jewish practices. Specialists as known in Egypt did not exist. However, the Talmud names two types of physician, rofe and rofe umman (“skilled physician” and “surgeon”). Patients visited the physician in his home and not, as in Greece, in the marketplace. A special regulation was therefore enacted which required anyone renting premises to a physician to obtain the prior agreement of his neighbors, since the cries and noise of visiting patients might disturb them (BB 21a). *Hospitals were apparently nonexistent in this period, although certain temple halls, and later on, parts of the poorhouses and synagogues, were set aside for the sick. However, mention is made of operation rooms, which had to be walled with marble for cleanliness – “battei shayish.” There were communal or district physicians, whose duties included assessing the character and extent of any physical disability sustained in cases of injury in order to determine damages (Sanh. 78a).

        Also read “The Symbiosis of Judaism and Modern Medicine”
        “Medicine in Ancient Hebrew and Jewish Cultures”

        I could go on and on and on…

        • Gary

          You said it, “With the one exception of the incurable serpent bite (Num. 21:9), biblical remedies and treatments are all of a rational character and do not involve incantations or magic rites”…try my favorite, Lev 14. A little lamb’s blood on your right ear lobe, right thumb, and right big toe does wonders for me. Conclusion, no more than primitive voodoo. You are reading too much into stupid rituals.

        • Ian

          You said “there is evidence that the protocol used by the medical profession evolved from purity ritual of temple worship” – either you’re going to show that evidence or not. Flinging even more grand claims to avoid backing up a previous one isn’t impressive.

          “Pagan’s inversion? Ya just funnin’ me ain’t ya?” And then what you quote bears no relation to either my point or “OR Pagan”‘s response to you.

          “I could go on and on and on…” – I’m quite sure, but I wouldn’t be optimistic you’d ever get around to responding to what I actually wrote.

    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding
    • http://twitter.com/jonhendry Jonathan W. Hendry

      The protocol used by the medical profession is a very recent development: 19th century.

      Ignaz Semmelweis suggested that doctors scrub with disinfectant, as this would drastically reduce the deaths of women post-childbirth. Some doctors found the very suggestion to be offensive. And as this was before the development of germ theory, Semmelweis had little explanation for why washing the hands would help.

      The full development of aseptic technique came even later.

  • O.R. Pagan

    @Susanburns: You know, that makes sense. Many religious rituals could have originated from practical considerations. In the first lecture of my yearly pharmacology course I give a similar example. I speculate that in many cultures the shaman gives the medicine and is no uncommon that the”treatment” is accompanied by chanting, dancing or simply raising your arms in worship. Now, those additional activities raises the hear rate, which may make medications work faster… My 2 1/2 cents… (:-)

  • susanburns

    I think temple purity protocols may have something to do with beekeeping. The ancient Israelites produced honey on an industrial scale and hive collapse must have been a constant concern. Transfer of bacteria could easily wipe out an entire colony. It would make sense to allow only one sterilized person into inner sanctum. Even the word for Holy of Holies is related to Hebrew word for bee.


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