Bible Proofs Part 1 – Medical Science

Recently I taught a class on one of the most convincing ways to prove that the Bible is from God. Basically, we look at several areas of study, such as medicine, astronomy, or geology and we compare contemporary secular and religious writings. We look at the common errors that are in each of these types of writings and then we look at what the Bible has to say. Does the Bible make the same errors? Does the Bible include information that could not have been known by the people that were writing it?

For this study I relied heavily on a book by Kenny Barfield entitled Why the Bible is Number 1. This is an excellent resource that sadly is currently out of print. Through a diligent search that required at least one Google search, I managed to track down the author, and with his permission I am including some outlines of the material that I presented. I hope that you will find it useful, and that it will help to strengthen your faith.

Section 1 – Contemporary Medical Knowledge

Ancient EgyptAncient Egypt:

The ancients praise Egyptian medicine. Homer’s Odyssey notes “In Egypt the men are more skilled in medicine than any other art.”

Here are highlights of some of their practices.

  • Much of their medical art consisted of fruitless rituals that, in many instances, intensified disease rather than cured it.
  • They claimed three out of ten children could survive to adulthood.
  • The average life-span was about 30.
  • For those with trembling in the limbs: The fruit of the dom palm, garlic, honey, copper, and verdigris. After you consume this mixture, a dog’s hide was to be placed on the patient and he was to be delivered to the gods for healing.
  • For treatment of embedded splinters: Mix worm’s blood and asses dung. Apply the resulting compound to the infected area. Dung is filled with tetanus spores among other things.
  • For treatment of eye problems: Cattle urine or pig bile as an eye wash
  • For sick children: Skin a baby mouse and give it to the infant to be consumed whole.
  • Cures for baldness, gray hair, and personal hygiene typically included urine and feces so often that medical historians call Egyptian practice “sewage pharmacology.”

Doctrine of Signatures

Find a cure shaped like the disease or afflicted organ.

  • Plant or flower shaped like an ear would be prescribed for an earache.
  • Yellow plants for jaundice
  • Red berries for a rash
  • Get hit with a spear in battle, here’s a leaf that looks like a spear

Witchcraft

    • They feared that even a drop of blood, a hair, or a toenail clipping in the hands of wizards could bring on disease.
    • They feared that combined with a wax image of the person, any number of things could be done.
  • All of this was happening at the same time and in the same location that Moses begins writing the Pentateuch.

Other Areas – We have looked at how the “best” handled medical science, how about others?

  • In Babylon, almost all diseases were thought to be brought about by demons. So, the prescriptions tend to be as disgusting as possible in hopes of disgusting the demon to cause it to seek more palatable surroundings.
  • Smear on things like swine’s fat, dog’s dung, and other sorts of excrement and urine.
  • Medicines were just as bad and included gall of the black ox, gall of scorpion, gall of pig, head of stork, human bones that had been reduced to ashes, and all types of human and animal waste.

Rituals, Omens, and Astrology

  • Preventative medicine relied on predicting the future.
  • Divination by the Liver
    • By looking at the liver of sacrificial animals, usually sheep, you could predict the health of a patient.
      • “If a flesh tumor is found at the bottom of the na (unidentified part of the liver), the patient will get worse and he will die…”
      • “If the gall bladder is long, the king will live long. If the processus pyramidalis is shaped normally, he who makes the sacrifice will be in good health and live long.”
  • Divination through Casual Phenomena
    • Place a drop of oil in a bucket of water.
      • “If the oil sinks and rises to the top again, it means misfortune for a sick man.
      • “If the oil forms a ring in the easterly direction, it means the sick man will recover.”


      Omens

  • If a man go to the house of a sick man and a falcon goes along at his right, that sick man will get well.
  • If the falcon goes along on his left side, that man will die.
  • If, in the morning, in the rear of a sick man’s house, a falcon proceeds from an enclosure at the right to an enclosure at the left, that sick man will speedily recover.
  • If, in the morning, in the rear of a sick man’s house, a falcon proceeds from an enclosure at the left to an enclosure at the right, his sickness will be protracted.
  • If, in the morning, in the rear of a sick man’s house, a falcon fly away, that sick man will die.
  • About 30 percent of the thirty thousand tables found at the library of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh are omen texts.


    Astrology
  • Graph of the zodiac and a knowledge of the planet in conjunction when the patient was born and/or when he became sick. By this, they could determine the cause and cure of any disease without even looking at the patient. You can imagine how well that went.Typical cures prescribed as the result of astrology.
    • The use of amulets.
    • The use of Incantations
    • The use of Substitution
  • Typical Cure From an Ancient Babylonian Text
    • “A suckling pig take and lay against the head of the patient. Tear out its heart and place against the heart of the patient. With the pig’s blood smear the sides of the sick bed. Cut up the pig and spread the parts over the patient. Give the pig as his substitute. Flesh of the pig for his flesh. Let the demons take it.
  • Chinese Medicine
    • Magic, along with other things already described.
    • “At birth, the placenta should be stored away in a felicitous spot under the salutary influences of the sky or the moon, deep in the ground, and with earth piled up over it carefully, in order that the child may be ensured a long life. If it is devoured by a swine or dog, the child loses its intellect; if insects or ants eat it, the child becomes scrofulous, if crows or magpies swallow it, the child will have an abrupt or violent death; if it is cast into the fire, the child incurs running sores.”

We have seen how advanced secular medicine was, how about so called religious writings?

Hindu Writings

  • All disease is ascribed to supernatural demonic powers that enter the body.
  • One writing says lightning was a demon that caused fever and cough and prescribed either covering the patient’s head with grass or heating an axe in water, then pouring the water over the head of the diseased person.
  • Earth from an ant hill as a cure for diarrhea.
  • Earth from a mole hill to relieve constipation.
  • And of course we have a return to dog saliva, slime, spittle, and rotten fish, in addition to bile and feces.
  • Signature again plays a part in shape and color. Arrow shaped leaves for arrow wounds; yellow for jaundice, etc.

Buddhist Writings

Since the goal is to ignore suffering and achieve nirvana, or nothingness, they are devoid of any medical knowledge in their writings.

Taoist Writings

  • Alchemy – They believed in an elixir of life, and searched for it adamantly.
  • A lot of taking of various metallic substances mixed with various compounds and consumed.
  • Joseph Needham compiled a lengthy list of Chinese emperors who probably died as a result of metal poisoning.
  • Charms and talismans for healing.
  • Magical diagrams were drawn, then burned and swallowed.

Islamic Writings

  • The Koran is virtually devoid of any medial writing.
  • Seems that they copied Greek and Roman medicine.

Non-inspired Jewish and Christian Writings (If non-inspired writings were able to get it right, it would weaken the argument that the Bible is inspired).

  • Many believed in false ideas about astrology.
  • Others had false ideas about the function and use of drugs.
  • Rabbi Jochanan, for example, advises the use of amulets, the digging of pits, the burning of vines, and the recitation of formulas to eradicate disease.

After looking at the state of ancient medicine throughout the world, we can come to two conclusions.

1)      Secular medical sciences were permeated with errors, inaccuracies, and absurdities.

2)      The “inspired” writings are likewise filled with inaccuracies.

Now let’s take a look at the Bible, keeping in mind our original two points.

1)      Does the Bible avoid these absurdities?

2)      Does the Bible show knowledge that the writers could not have had?

Keep in mind that Moses was writing at the same time as these other writers. Acts 7:22 shows us that he was likely aware of Egyptian medical practices. Therefore, you would expect the same errors or similar errors. Yet, when the Pentateuch was written, it did not recommend even one of the repulsive treatments so widely used by the medical establishment of the day.

Demons

1) Bible authors never imply or suggest that the demons were the only cause of sickness. When they are mentioned, the demons are described as afflicting the mind, which in turn caused physical problems.

2) Bible authors severely restrict the power of demons.

Bible authors state that demon involvement in human affairs was for a limited time.

Many verses rule out the value of divination

  • Ezek. 12:24
  • Deut. 18:10

The Bible rules out the use of Omens

  • Jer. 10:2

Miraculous Healing

  • While this does happen, it was for a limited time (1 Cor. 13:7-11) and was not required for healing:

–      Luke 10:30-35

–      Matt 9:12

The Bible is the only ancient writing touching on medicine that is free from the grotesque, unscientific perversions that were once passed off as medicine.

The Bible is “surprisingly rational,” as one medical historian notes.

  • Ointments, salves, baths were basic to treatment and they avoided excremental pharmacopeia.

Washing and Sanitation

  • It is easy to forget that sanitary precautions were once largely unknown.
  • In the 1800’s Ignaz Semmelweis had trouble persuading his fellow physicians in Vienna regarding the simple importance of washing hands as a preventive for the spread of disease.
  • Was concerned that one in six mothers died in child birth in what was supposedly one of the best hospitals in the world at that time. They thought this was caused by either fear or poisoned air.
  • He instituted washing hands before examining or working on a patient.
    • The mortality rate went to one in forty-two
  • If the rules in Numbers 19 and Leviticus 13-15 had been practiced, centuries of needless death and suffering could have been avoided.
  • These laws prescribe washing in running water, especially after having touched anything dead.

Soap

  • Num. 19:18

–      “According to the scriptural method, wet branches of hyssop were used to shower soapy water on the unclean person. Most authorities feel that hyssop refers to a type of marjoram plant. The sweet-smelling oil of marjoram contains about 50 percent carvacrol. Carvacrol is almost identical to thymol, an antifungal and antibacterial agent that is still used in the practice of medicine.?

Disposal of Wastes

  • Deut. 23:12-13 and Lev. 17:13 – Waste buried outside the camp.

Quarantine

  • The concept was totally foreign to the ancient world. The Hebrews were the first to recognize communicability of diseases.
  • The first theory of contagion from a scientific standpoint was not given until Fracastorius’ writings in the middle 1500s.
  • Laws in Lev. 13 and 14 include
    • The recognition and diagnosis of disease
    • The separation or isolation of the diseased person
    • The placing of a covering over the nose and mouth
    • The designation of anything that had been touched by a disease person as unclean
    • The process by which the unclean became purified
    • The destruction of those items that could not be cleansed.

I will be putting together part two of this study soon. I think that the outline so far shows that clearly the Bible avoids the errors of other cultures that surely would have influenced the writers, and also it shows knowledge which could not possibly have been known to the ancient writers.

 Read Part 2

 

 

Comments

  1. Really good post!

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