Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Sickness and Health

The God of Israel, in his covenants with his people, promised good health and longevity to those who followed his commandments and illness and death to those who did not. In Deuteronomy 28:15 we read: "But if you will not obey the voice of the LORD your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command you this day, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.” According to Deuteronomy 28, illness is not caused for any arbitrary reason. In Psalm 38, the petitioner describes his condition as one caused by the anger of the God of Israel. Luke is not reluctant to attribute to God the infliction of suffering or chastisement (Lk. 1:20; Acts 5:1-11; 9:1-18; 12:19-23; 13:6-12).

The God of Israel is also a healer. In Jeremiah 17:14, the RSV translates: “Heal me, Oh Yahweh, and I shall be healed. Later Jeremiah emphasizes in 30:17, “I shall restore your health and I shall heal your wounds.” “Indeed, I shall bring restoration and healing.” Jer. 33:6.

Is there any indication that the Temple had a role in the health care system? In Kings 8, we read: “. . . whatever plague, whatever sickness there is; whatever prayer, whatever supplication is made by any man or by all thy people Israel, each knowing the affliction of his own heart and stretching out his hands toward this house; then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and act, and render to each whose heart thou knowest, according to all his ways (for thou, thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men); . . .”

It was certainly customary or obligatory for a patient to present himself to a priest at the Temple after an illness. Lev. 13-14; 2 Kings 20; Isa. 38:9. Ezekiel attributes a possible therapeutic function to the future temple and garden. Luke tells us in Luke 5:13-14: “And he stretched out his hand, and touched him, saying, "I will; be clean." And immediately the leprosy left him. And he charged him to tell no one; but "go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to the people."

A more detailed study will have to wait for further research by me. What I am interested in is whether or not Luke, who is clearly a member of the "Deuteronomistic School", makes explicit use of any of the OT passages cited.

Copyrighted 2005


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