Bible Review 11:3, June 1995

Ancient Medicine

In case of emergency, contact your local prophet

By Hector Avalos

When an ancient Israelite got a raging bellyache, what did she do? Where could she—or he—go for help?

According to one recent scholarly study, the answer to the first question was “nothing”; to the second “nowhere”:

“In general a sick person had virtually no aids at his disposal worth mentioning, no physicians in the real sense, and no knowledge of medicine…In general he had access to no really recognized or tolerated healing procedures or practices including no ritualistic incantations or exorcism-related manipulations.”1

A closer look indicates that this negative view is untenable. Both the Bible and archaeology indicate that numerous options were available. Generally, however, cult and healing were closely related.

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