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Giornale Italiano di Dermatologia e Venereologia 2005 December;140(6):733-7

Copyright © 2005 EDIZIONI MINERVA MEDICA

language: English

The biblical leprosy

Ben-Noun L. 1, El-On J. 2, 3

1 Department of Family Medicine Faculty for Health Sciences Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-sheva, Israel 2 Laboratory of Parasitology Soroka University Medical Center, Beer-Sheva, Israel 3 Department of Microbiology and Immunology Faculty for Health Sciences Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-sheva, Israel


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Diseases such as schistosomiasis, leishmaniasis, malaria, and pediculosis have been known since ancient times. By studying instances of these diseases from ancient history, modern physicians can understand their origin more comprehensively. This report aims to evaluate the biblical and historical aspects of leprosy from a scientific point of view. All biblical texts and verses relating to leprosy were studied. Other available texts on the history of leprosy were closely evaluated. In spite of conflicting data on the origin of leprosy, the Middle East vs the Far East, it is most likely that lepra originated in India. The absence of scientific evidence that leprosy was present in biblical times can not indicate the absence of the disease. It is most likely that biblical Miriam was afflicted by scarlet fever, Naaman by psoriasis or scabies, Gehazi by scabies or leishmaniasis, and Uziah by neurodermatitis or psoriasis. The term “tzara’at” in Hebrew is not leprosy at all. It is most likely that diseases other than leprosy afflicted the biblical characters.

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