Ancient Wisdom For A Modern Pandemic

It is written:

Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare; and he shall cover his mustache, and cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ (Leviticus 13:45)

The scientific and medical knowledge of the Bible is truly incredible.

In Leviticus 13-17, the Bible talks about how the people of Israel are to deal with the reality of infectious diseases. Those who were sick with such an illness were to cover their mustache (i.e., their upper lip) and warn people to avoid their presence. This seems to be a precaution against the infected person spreading the disease through droplets. This seems to be confirmed later in Leviticus, while Moses continues his discussion of infectious diseases that may be spread through various means:

Leviticus 15:8-If he who has the discharge spits on him who is clean, then he shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening.

Speaking of this text, Butt notes:

“It is of interest that the covering of ones mustache would prevent spit and spray from the mouth of the individual to pass freely through the air, much like the covering of one’s mouth during a cough. Concerning such quarantine practices, S.E. Massengill wrote in his book A Sketch of Medicine and Pharmacy: In the prevention of disease, however, the ancient Hebrews made real progress. The teachings of Moses, as embodied in the Priestly Code of the Old Testament, contain two clear conceptions of modern sanitation—the importance of cleanliness and the possibility of controlling epidemic disease by isolation and quarantine (1943, p. 252). In regard to the understanding of contagion implied in the quarantine rules in the Old Testament, McGrew noted in the Encyclopedia of Medical History: “The idea of contagion was foreign to the classic medical tradition and found no place in the voluminous Hippocratic writings. The Old Testament, however, is a rich source for contagionist sentiment, especially in regard to leprosy and venereal disease” (1985, pp. 77-78). Here again, the Old Testament exhibits amazingly accurate medical knowledge that surpasses any known human ingenuity available at the time of its writing.” (Kyle Butt, Behold! The Word of God, 1345-1364 (Kindle Edition); Apologetics Press; Montgomery, Alabama)

Thus, we find here in Leviticus an indication that the spread of infectious diseases may be minimized by “masking” the mouth. Certainly, the Bible’s teaching regarding such quarantining methods have been recognized by doctors through the ages:

“Was Moses “inevitably a child of his time”? Did he provide the Hebrews with a spell to stop epidemics? Read his ancient prescription: “As long as he has leprosy… he must live alone outside the camp” (Lev. 13: 46). There was not even a trace of superstition. This ancient order clearly states the modern concept of quarantine. One historian notes, “The laws against leprosy in Leviticus 13 may be regarded as the first model of a sanitary legislation.” 5 Indeed, the biblical method makes a radical break from all ancient concepts of disease. No superstition. No leprosy demons. No animal dung salve. Maybe we should seriously consider Moses’ claim to have received these teachings directly from God…“In 1873, however, Dr. Armauer Hansen looked through a microscope at a slide from a leprosy patient. The tiny red dots he saw thrust the world out of the Dark Ages of leprosy. The tiny red dots were the leprosy bacteria. Finally, people realized that leprosy was an infection. It was passed from person to person. Millions of leprosy bacteria live in the nose. 7 You can catch leprosy from a simple sneeze in the face. Leprosy bacteria can even live dried out for several days. 8 Thus you can even catch leprosy from eating off an unwashed plate. After 3,500 years, science had discovered the secret of quarantine. Separating infected patients would stop the spread of leprosy. Norway enacted the Norwegian Leprosy Act, requiring strict enforcement of the biblical precautions. In less than sixty years, Norway’s leper count dropped from 2,858 to 69. Eventually the great discoveries of science allowed Norway to wipe out leprosy. Many countries began to practice God’s command. “As long as he has the infection… he must live alone outside the camp” (Lev. 13: 46). Soon much of the world was free of leprosy—a disease that had ravaged humanity for centuries. Dr. Rosen notes: The church took as its guiding principle the concept of contagion as embodied in the Old Testament…. This idea and its practical consequences are defined with great clarity in the book of Leviticus…. Once the priest had diagnosed leprosy, the individual had to live in protective quarantine, segregated from the community. Following the precepts laid down in Leviticus the church undertook the task of combating leprosy;… [and] it accomplished the first great feat… in methodical eradication of disease. 9 They experienced the promise of God: “If you will give careful attention to the voice of the Lord your God… I will put none of these diseases upon you….”. (S.I. McMillen MD & David E. Stern MD, None of These Diseases: The Bible’s Health Secrets for the 21st Century, 269-298 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Revell)

In our own day and age, numerous scientific studies have confirmed the efficacy of this Bible mandate.

“The scientific evidence supporting universal mask-wearing is substantial an advancing rapidly…A number of studies on closely related viral infections confirm the effectiveness of masking. Leung and others studied how seasonal coronaviruses, influenza viruses, and rhino viruses are transmitted in the exhaled breath of those with an accurate respiratory illness…“A recent MIT study of respiratory emissions associated with the coronavirus showed that these emissions can take the form of a turbulent gas cloud that can travel up to 23–27 feet, depending on factors such as the person’s physiology and the environment’s humidity and temperature. 2 This finding underlines the importance of both masks and social distancing in reducing transmission. Another study used a laser-light-scattering methodology to investigate the amount of expelled droplets generated in different contexts. It found that the amount of droplets generated varied with the loudness of speech and increased with coughing. 3 However, when a slightly damp cloth cover was placed over the mouth, the number of droplets was reduced to background level. The need for universal mask-wearing is driven by clinical evidence that 30 to 40 percent of those infected are asymptomatic or presymptomatic, and symptom-free infected individuals are as infectious as those experiencing symptoms. A study done at a community treatment center in Korea compared the infectivity of 303 symptomatic and 110 asymptomatic infected patients and found that the asymptomatic patients had similar viral concentrations in their upper respiratory tracts to those who were symptomatic….These findings point to the need for source control-such as masking-to reduce the amount of droplets and aerosols exhaled by those infected. They also point to the need for universal masking, since almost half of infectious transmission involves infected individuals who do not have symptoms…“You have probably heard that wearing a mask is more effective in protecting other people than protecting the wearer. Here’s why. If a person without a mask exhales the droplets, these airborne particles rapidly shrink in size from evaporation while in the air. Because the droplets become much smaller once in the air, those particles—now tiny—can make their way through a cloth mask that someone else is wearing. Wearing a mask blocks a higher proportion of the larger droplets that are exhaled by a masked person, stopping the droplets before they evaporate into tiny particles that could penetrate someone else’s cloth mask. It may not be necessary to wear medical respirators with higher filtration rates than those provided by cloth masks. An extensive review of the scientific and medical literature by an international consortium of scientists concluded that if at least 60 percent of people wore masks that are 60 percent effective in blocking viral transmission, similar to the expected performance of a two-layer cotton mask, then the coronavirus pandemic could be stopped. 9 It should be emphasized that the current scientific evidence has only shown the effectiveness of nonmedical masks for source control. Stately simply, cloth masks protect those near the wearer. Only limited evidence supports the possible protective role of nonmedical masks for wearers themselves.Dean Hashimoto MD, The Case for Masks: Science-Based Advice for Living During the Coronavirus Pandemic, 963-1057 (Kindle Edition); New York, NY; Skyhorse Publishing)

When I first heard the suggestion during the coronavirus pandemic that wearing masks could help to slow the spread of the coronavirus, it did not surprise me: true science always backs up the Bible!

Furthermore, if we are able to wear a mask (realizing that some are NOT able to do so), and if by doing so we could save the life of others (as the Bible and science confirm), then shouldn’t we do so?

Would this not be one way to follow the teaching of God’s law that we should love our neighbor as ourself (Leviticus 19:18; Romans 13:8-10)?

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

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