Leprosy in the Bible: Quarantine or Ritual?


| Introduction | Defining Leprosy | Diagnosing Leprosy | Curing/Reinitiation Rituals |
| Biblical Interpretation | Conclusion | Works Cited |

Introduction

Biblical leprosy was one of the many scourges that the Israelites believed God had inflicted upon mankind in retribution for sins committed.  Bearing a mark of leprosy often meant a life of alienation because lepers were forced to live meager existences on the outskirts of civilization. (Study Light) However, exactly what condition leprosy referred to is debated.   Today, biblical scholars agree that leprosy in the Bible and modern leprosy refer to completely different conditions.  It was also understood that within the Bible, leprosy was a blanket term referring to various skin ailments along with mildewing of fabrics and home walls (Leviticus 13-14).  To further complicate matters, biblical leprosy could also refer to harmless and healthy outcasts, such as those inflicted with white leprosy, with leprosy representing a social affliction instead of a purely medical one.  Regardless, lepers were cast out of society and expected to repent for whatever sins were the cause of the leprosy.  Was the exile of lepers from civilization an intentional social-engineering precursor to quarantining the diseased, or was it primarily a religious appeasement of a deity?  The different forms of biblical leprosy need to be described in their medical and sociological aspects.  Why leprosy today is not leprosy in the Bible also needs to be explained.  This will shed light on the social and medical implications of leprosy in history.  Then the procedures and techniques associated with determining the status of lepers will be analyzed to determine their relation to biblical society and relgion.

Arm infected by plaque psoriasis. Allegedly  exhibits some similarities to biblical leprosy. (Source)

Alan Shen
NES 263