Wednesday, February 24, 2021by Reverend Dan on February 24, 2021
“For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the Lord.”
Back in 2017 there was a book released entitled, The Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity. Now before you get all excited and start googling Amazon, you probably need to know that the book is 1,818 pages long. Many distinguished authors contributed to the work, and it is the most comprehensive book on early church domestic life, technology (that’s right, technology), culture, laws, and religious practices there is. If you’re planning on reading it, however, you may want to block off a little more time than usual.
One unit of the book covers the area of “Medicine and Physicians” and there’s some interesting stuff there. For example, the Old Testament doesn’t have a single reference to a doctor or medicine healing the sick. But if you look in the Mishnah (a commentary written by early rabbi’s that put the oral traditions into writing) and the Talmud (again written by rabbi’s, it is the primary source of Jewish law and Jewish theology), they both make very positive comments about physicians and the healing profession. (Except for that one that says that even “the best physicians are headed for Gehenna”. Gehenna was a small valley in Jerusalem believed to be eternally cursed because that’s where the kings of Judah sacrificed some of their children. Oh, and then that one that lists the occupation of physician among the “trade of robbers”.)
Rabbi’s counted 248 “limbs” in the human body and 365 “sinews”. Which ironically enough corresponds to the 248 positive commandments and the 365 negative ones.
Paul calls Luke “the beloved physician”, but never once does Luke bring it up or use medical vocabulary in his Gospel or Acts and they were full of healing stories.
Frankincense and myrrh were among the most common medicines in Jesus’ day.
Egypt had an internationally famous medical system, with dentists, “doctors of the eyes,” “doctors of the abdomen,” and “doctors of the anus.” But they didn’t care about the brain, which they thought of as “merely stuffing for the head.”
When Revelation’s son of man tells the church in Laodicea to “buy from me salve to put on your eyes, so you can see”, it’s a reference to the city’s fame for ophthalmologists and eye ointments.
The earliest Christian theologians were so enthralled by the concept of the Great Physician that they were critical of other physicians. “Medicine and everything included in it is an invention,” wrote Tratian around A.D. 160–180.
Christians became pro-medicine by the 200s, as physicians were listed among the church’s most famous martyrs. Those who “accepted no silver in payment” were praised. By the late 300s, creating hospitals was a core part of a Christian leader’s work.
I found this section of the book timely to today’s issues, where for the last year doctors have worked around the clock caring for the patients with Covid-19. One of the greatest gifts God has given us is our intellect to use in the care and compassion of others, and this last year has proven that those gifted with healing hands are indeed incredible hero’s.
Thanks be to those who spend years of their lives learning so that they can be a vessel through which the Great Physician works.
Healing Father, just as under-shepherds care for Your flock spiritually, under-physicians care for and heal that same flock. Thank you for them in Jesus’ name, AMEN.