Bible Review 8:2, April 1992

Biblical Leprosy

Is it really?

By Kenneth V. MullCarolyn Sandquist Mull

“Unclean! Unclean!”

That cry—the cry of the leper—struck terror into the hearts of passersby in Palestine at the turn of the Common Era.

In medieval Europe that cry separated the leper from everything he or she loved and enjoyed, condemning the leper to a kind of living death.

Today, even well-educated folk grimace at the sound of the word “leprosy” and shrink at the thought of a disease associated with all that is evil and terrible.

Yet, for most of us, leprosy is either very long ago or very far away. Often it has only biblical associations. We visualize Levitical priests examining people with ancient diseases, or Jesus healing people on society’s fringe—outcasts to both the medical profession and the religious establishment.

If we hear about leprosy today, it is almost certain to be in some foreign land we would be unlikely even to visit. Leprosy is a matter for missionaries and public health officials in tropical countries, if it still exists. Hasn’t it been eliminated by modern science, or at least controlled?

The answer is no!

Leprosy is one of the most widely distributed diseases in our time. It ranks among the ten most common diseases and among the top 20 in numbers of new cases. It is found in at least 140 countries.

Join the BAS Library!

Already a library member? Log in here.

Institution user? Log in with your IP address.