Here are some facts you should know about medicine in Bible times:
*The Old Testament does not contain a single reference to a doctor or medicine used to heal the sick.
*There are references in the Talmud and Mishnah. The Talmud and Mishnah are two sets of writings about Jewish civil and ceremonial law. The Mishnah was oral tradition and makes up the first part of the Talmud. These writings are not part of the Bible, and they were written by Jewish scholars as late as the 5th century AD. The Talmud and Mishnah references are not complementary to doctors calling physicians “the trades of robbers.” This reminds us of Mark 5:25-26, which describes a woman with a blood disorder who had “suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all she had, and was nothing bettered but grew worse.” Another statement in the Talmud says that physicians are destined for Gehenna, a place of torment, or hell.
*Rabbis counted 248 “limbs” in the human body and 365 “sinews.” This corresponds to the 248 positive commandments in the Old Testament and the 365 negative ones.
*Egypt had an extensive medical system with dentists, doctors of the eyes, doctors of the abdomen, and doctors of the anus. They had no brain doctors and referred to the brain as “stuffing for the head.”
*In the New Testament, Paul refers to Luke as “the beloved physician” in Colossians 4:14. Luke was not Jewish, and he did not use medical vocabulary in his gospel or the book of Acts.
*In New Testament times, people used frankincense and myrrh as medicines.
*Laodicea was famous for eye ointments and prominent eye doctors. In Revelation 3:18, Jesus counsels the Laodicean church to get “salve to put on your eyes, so you can see” referring to their spiritual blindness.
*Christians became noted for supporting medicine by 200 AD as physicians were listed among the Church’s most famous martyrs. By the late 300s AD, hospitals were being created by Christian leaders.
These facts about medicine in Bible times came from The Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity.
— John N. Clayton © 2020